National Parks in the United States of America are filled with many types of diverse beauty.
Parks like Biscayne National Park in Florida present a watery wonderland of turquoise lagoons, emerald islands, mangrove forests and coral reefs, while the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is home to Triassic skeletons and petrified forests.
Glacier National Park in Montana is one of the most beautiful and expansive parks in North America and it takes a few days to explore the many hiking trails, lakes, and other attractions.
If you only have a few hours to spend in Glacier National Park, you can get a snapshot and experience one of its most unique attractions by driving along the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
The Going-To-The-Sun Road is a winding mountain road that traverses the entire National Park, it’s breathtakingly scenic at every curve with views of mountain peaks, melt water waterfalls, and colorful montane meadows.
The road was completed in 1935 and it’s the first national park project built specifically to accommodate automobiles. Nearly 100 years later, the Going-To-The-Sun Road is still an exhilarating drive.
While driving the road alone is already scenic enough, Glacier National Park is best experienced by hiking and luckily there are a few short hikes just off the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
The Trail of the Cedars is one such hiking trail accessible from the road, it’s a raised boardwalk path that passes through a forest of tall cedar trees as well as a channeled stream that flows through a deep mossy gorge.
The trail continues all the way to Avalanche Lake, a quiet lake that’s fed with meltwater from the Sperry Glacier; Avalanche Lake is a scenic spot to sit on a rock or tree stump and relax before making the trek back to the road.
Continuing along the curves of the Going-To-The-Sun Road you slowly drive higher into the Rocky Mountains, you’re greeted by the panoramic sights of montane meadows sprawling across the valley floor, waterfalls that gently cascade down the mountain face, snow-capped peaks in the distance and towering pine trees.
The road eventually arrives at Logan Pass, its highest point and a popular starting point for hiking and backpacking trips.
The Logan Pass Visitor Center has bathrooms, drinking water, exhibits and information about the history of the Park, and a souvenir shop.
You could continue driving along to the end of the Going-To-The-Sun Road at Saint Mary Lake, instead we remained at Logan Pass and took a short hike to the Hidden Lake Outpost; one of the most popular hikes in the park.
The trail was abundant with wildlife as we trekked through the alpine meadows known as the Hanging Gardens. Hoary Marmots sat on rocks in the distance, while mountain goats crossed the trail to graze just meters in front of us.
I scanned the distant mountains for mountain lions or grizzly bears since they’re both fairly common in the park, but none were out that day.
The view from Hidden Lake Outpost was spectacular and worth the short walk. Hidden Lake looked like a blue mirror glimmering behind the rugged peaks of Bearhat Mountain.
After heading back down the Going-To-The-Sun Road, we headed to the shores of Lake McDonald for a quick picnic before leaving and we then headed to Whistling Andy Distilling to sample some moonshine and bourbon.
Driving on the Going-To-The-Sun Road was fun, and if you only have one day in Glacier National Park it’s the perfect thing to do.
If you are planning to visit this National Park, cater to be there for at least three days since there are so many scenic trails to hike as well as other activities.