By DONNA L. HULL
Do summer crowds discourage you from visiting Glacier National Park? I have good news for Missoula boomers who enjoy hiking some of the park’s easier—and most popular—trails like Avalanche Lake or Hidden Lake Trail. The Going to the Sun Road has just closed for the winter and Glacier National Park’s historic lodges are only open for the next week or so, which means the crowds are almost gone. Now is the time for one last fall hike in a national park that’s practically in Missoula’s backyard.
Since Avalanche Lake Trail is accessed from the west side of Glacier, your best bet for lodging is Whitefish, Kalispell or West Glacier. Last week, when I made the 4-mile-round-trip journey with a Road Scholar hiking group, trail traffic was just busy enough to keep the grizzlies away—or at least that’s what I told myself.
Accessed from Trail of the Cedars, Avalanche Lake Trail’s rolling terrain offers an elevation gain of approximately 500 ft. The hike parallels Avalanche Creek with several opportunities to photograph the creek rushing through Avalanche Gorge.
Later, the quiet of old grow forest replaces the water’s roar. At the trail’s end, you’ll be rewarded by the view at Avalanche Lake. Take a seat on one of the logs by the shoreline, pull out your sack lunch and gaze at the waterfalls streaming down the steep cliffs that surround the lake on three sides. Sperry Glacier hides above a hanging valley, just out of sight.
Although Going to the Sun Road is closed for the winter, visitors from the east side of Glacier will still be able to drive the road to Logan Pass and Hidden Lake Trail as long as the weather cooperates. Make your headquarters in St. Mary, immediately outside the east entrance of the park. But, check before you leave home to see which properties are still open. St. Mary Lodge and Resort closes for the season September 30, 2012.
The scenic ride on Going to the Sun road is merely the prelude to what you’ll see on Hidden Lake Trail, which begins behind the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center. For a moderately easy hike, take the trail 1.5 miles (3 miles RT) to Hidden Lake Overlook. On part of the uphill journey (460 ft. elevation gain), you’ll be walking on a boardwalk, which protects the alpine landscape. But, it’s the 360 views of glaciated peaks that will halt your progress time and time again.
At the overlook, take a seat on one of the big rocks strewn about the mountainside for lunch with a view of Hidden Lake and Sperry Glacier. Last week, a mountain goat stood guard as I ate my sandwich.
Tell me where to go: do you have a favorite fall hike in Glacier National Park? Please share it in the comments section. I’m making a list for next fall.
Road Scholar provided my Glacier National Park hiking experience but the opinions are my own.
Donna L. Hull writes about active travel for baby boomers at My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel. She is also the author of My Itchy Travel Feet, Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas, available at Amazon Kindle, Nook and iTunes.
Flatlander to mountaineer could be the title of Donna Hull’s latest boomer adventure. The freelance writer and her photographer husband Alan (both baby boomers) have recently relocated from Arizona to the Missoula area for full-time living in the most beautiful spot in the world. Follow along as Donna writes about Western Montana travel fun that you may have forgotten about. Or, you might discover a new travel adventure waiting just down the road.
Donna Hull publishes My Itchy Travel Feet, The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Travel., the internet’s go-to site for active boomer travelers. Donna is also the author of My Itchy Travel Feet, Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.