Glacier belongs on everybody’s bucket list, and the sooner you see it the better. Photos from 150 years ago show that there were then 150 active (moving) glaciers. Today there are only 25. Two of them, Jackson and Blackfoot Glaciers, are visible from a distance on the Going to the Sun Road. The others are accessible to those willing to take a long hike or fund a helicopter ride. You don’t have to believe in global warming to see that the glaciers are melting. Lakes appear on current maps that were not there fifty years ago, thanks to the high melt rate of these old glaciers. Estimates vary, but nearly all of them suggest that the last glacier will be gone sometime between 2020 and 2030. Go now before they have to change the name to Ice Water National Park.
Here’s another reason to go sooner rather than later: your knees, ankles, and back. Glacier is a one-road park. It’s a good scenic road, but you can only see so much from the pavement. 95% of the park is accessible only by foot or boat. Elevation gain or loss is hard on the knees, and vertical change is a necessary part of any mountain experience. Go while you can still handle a ten mile hike!
If it’s already too late for your joints, go anyway. The red convertible buses aren’t cheap, but they cost no more than lunch at an excellent New Orleans restaurant, and less than breakfast at Brennan’s. On a clear day the red jammers are a lot like riding a motorcycle across Going to the Sun Road, minus the noise. The Park Service runs shuttles for those like me, who are shall we say, more thrifty. They aren’t convertibles, but free is good. If you want you can dismount at every stop and get out and walk a trail. The shuttles run from July 1 to Labor Day, and cover the entire Going to the Sun Road.
Here’s one more reason to visit Glacier: the roads are cleared of snow only in late June or sometimes early July. Visit a cool place when it’s hot where you live (think July and August).
And if it’s cooler in your town in August than in Glacier, you need to think about moving to a warmer climate.