Glacier National Park (Montana)

Geology

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Visit 1.2 million acres of stunningly beautiful terrain that was carved out by giant glaciers approximately 4,000 years ago and that continues to be shaped by active glaciers.

Overview

Glacier National Park, Montana

If you are looking for spectacular scenery filled with visible reminders of the Ice Age that once covered and reshaped much of the earth´s surface, Glacier National Park in northwest Montana and adjacent Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, will not disappoint. Here, you will see 1.2 million acres of rugged, yet stunningly beautiful terrain that was carved out by numerous giant glaciers approximately 4,000 years ago and that continues to be shaped by active glaciers.

While smaller glaciers exist today and from the not too distant past (in 1850 there were 150 active glaciers, and today 26 remain), the effects on the landscape are much the same, just different in scale. Broad U-shaped valleys, craggy peaks, and lake-filled basins dot the landscape as glaciers move, melt, and cut across the area. Miles of beautiful trails through acres of forests, cascading waterfalls, and 200 pristine lakes offer much enjoyment for explorers of all ages.

Other interesting remains from the Ice Age exist throughout the park, including "hanging valleys," which are formed when a smaller glacier feeds into a bigger valley cut by a larger, deeper glacier. Later, as snow melts and flows, it often results in magnificent waterfalls as the water drops into the larger valley.

Large boulders, known as erratics, can be spotted throughout the park. These occurred either when glaciers picked up large boulders or boulders fell on top of the glacier from the surrounding mountains. The glaciers moved these boulders many miles away before the glacier melted away. Some are even the size of a house.

Whether exploring this area by trail, tour bus, car, skis, boat, or horseback, there is much to see and learn about the effects of the Ice Age on this beautiful landscape.

Points of Interest

Two Medicine Valley

Somewhat off the beaten path, the Two Medicine Valley provides visitors with some of the best hiking and incredible examples of plants and geological formations. If you hike to the center of the valley, you will find several lakes and waterfalls, including Running Eagle Falls, which is also known as "Trick Falls." The water seems to pour out of the face of the rock than over the top of it. When the spring waters flow, it sometimes completely hides the lower falls.

Two Medicine Lake

Going to the Sun Highway

A drive on this 50-mile (80.5 km) winding highway through the interior of the park offers some of the most breathtaking sights. Download from the park's website, a podcast which points out some of the highlights you will encounter along the way. From the road you will get good views of numerous waterfalls, such as Bird Woman Falls. If hiking some of the trails, take special precautions since this is bear country. Bring along bear spray.

Bird Woman Falls

Helpful Tips

  • Main website: https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm
  • Go on a hike. Carry water, a first-aid kit, sun protection, bear spray, and a map. Be sure to bring a friend along. Common sense is your best protection on the trail. Trail of the Cedars is a beautiful 0.7 mile (1 km) loop nature trail, which is wheelchair accessible
  • Many of the roads are closed off during the winter, but conditions are perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
  • The park offers podcasts that you can download from its website (www.nps.gov/glac/photosmultimedia/podcasts_gtsr4.htm), which will help you plan your trip to Glacier National Park. Be sure to bring along your MP3 player with you or burn them to a CD. If driving along the historic Going-to-the-Sun Highway, be sure to follow along with that podcast.
  • You will probably read or hear claims that global warming is causing many of these glaciers to melt. Some claim that at the present rate of glacier shrinkage, there will be no glaciers in the park in 30 years. Hear a balanced view on this hot topic by viewing Global Warming: A Scientific and Biblical Expose of Climate Change, a DVD by Answers in Genesis.
  • Let your family learn about the wildlife at Glacier National Park. Use resources such as animal checklists at https://www.nps.gov/glac/learn/nature/animals.htm.
  • Planning your visit (including directions, tips, hours, fees, and brochures): https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/index.htm and http://www.glacierparkinc.com/explore-glacier/

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