I spent a lot of time in the woods and mountains as a kid; my family really loves hiking, camping, and seeking out scenic vistas. It’s certainly why I enjoy nature walks as an adult. I’m not really a hardcore hiker — I’m too partial to showers and smelling pleasant — but I do love gorgeous scenery and don’t believe there’s such a thing as too much fresh air. So when I was invited to take in the natural beauty of Glacier National Park this September, I jumped at the chance.
The leaves were just beginning to put on their autumn colors when we entered Glacier Country. Everywhere I turned there was something amazing to look at.
Some of the most jaw-dropping views in Montana — and, indeed, the US — can be found along Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road, which covers 50 miles from West Glacier to St. Mary. It’s worth the often winding, scary drive!
The mountains and rock formations in the Glacier area are a geological wonder. Over millennia, sedimentary deposits left by ancient inland seas and glaciers have created distinctly colorful layers of gray, red, green, yellow, purple, and white.
The varied rock layers have translated into smaller, but equally as colorful, pebbles in the lakes and rivers. The water is also remarkably clear, meaning it’s easy to see all the beautiful colors!
Because of all the rocks, cairn making (balancing stones on top of one another) is popular throughout the region. I didn’t have the time or patience to make one of my own, but we saw cairns at almost every lake and waterway, including this one at Bowman Lake.
Speaking of lakes, there are approximately 200 of them in Glacier, all crystal clear to a depth of around 30 feet. Lake McDonald is the largest and one of the most popular for boating.
We enjoyed an afternoon of kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding on Lake McDonald courtesy of Great Northern Glacier Park Raft. I thought I could get to the other side, not realizing until later that the lake is ten miles long. I don’t think I even made it half a mile.
Everywhere you look you’ll see mountains and that big Montana sky. I could have sat and watched the cloud formations all day, but there was so much more to see!
Believe it or not, Glacier Country, for all its mountainous terrain, is also the lush, green home of the United States’ easternmost forest of western hemlocks and red cedars. These trees are extremely old, with some of them dating back to the Protestant Reformation. You can walk in their deep shade on the Trail of the Cedars.
As mentioned in our Weekend Getaways article, one of the most unique ways to explore the beauty of Glacier Country is on horseback! These two sweeties are waiting for you at Swan Mountain Outfitters. Give them an apple for me.
From the town of St. Mary on the eastern side of Glacier National Park, you can enter the Blackfeet reservation, a 1.5 million acre piece of land that stretches all the way up to Canada. We saw this gorgeous view while off-roading with Blackfeet Outfitters.
We never got close enough to any wildlife for me to take a decent photo, but rest assured there’s plenty to be had. The area is full of animals, and we spotted big horn sheep, black bears, marmots, deer, and all kinds of birds. Down by a creek on our off-roading adventure, we were lucky enough to snap a shot of moose tracks.
Fall in Glacier Country is gorgeous, no doubt, but I have a suspicion that it’s always beautiful there. I’m already planning my next trip — maybe with a bit more hiking.
The author received an all-expenses paid trip to Montana from Glacier Country Tourism. All opinions are the author’s own.
All photos courtesy of the author.