We spent the night in Kalispell before heading into Glacier NP. Delicious food. Delicious beer. And friendly Montanans. I can understand why people like living in this state.
We were lucky enough to meet up with our wedding photographer (from 6 years ago) who now lives in Kalispell. She gave us great tips and advice for visiting Glacier, as well as where to eat and drink in Kalispell. Most people thought it was weird that we were meeting up with our wedding photographer but that’s because their photographers weren’t nearly as awesome as Dianne. Look at these amazing moments she captured.
Dianne and a few other sources recommended that we try to camp at Apgar because it’s the largest campground in the park and thus, one of the easiest spots to secure a campsite. We checked the NPS website to see the “fill” times for the campgrounds (click here) for the previous week and decided Apgar was definitely our spot. Who wants to get up at 4am for just the chance of getting a spot elsewhere? Not us.
It was an hour’s drive from Kalispell, and we arrived at Apgar around 9-9:30 which was just about perfect (if not a little too early). People were just starting to pack up their sites, but after driving around a bit, we found a pretty good spot. There are A LOT of campsites here. But somehow in the evenings it was still very quiet and peaceful, so it didn’t feel like we were stacked on top of one another. This campground also has water, flush toilets and sinks, and a nearby village for supplies. Throughout the whole trip, we were very surprised at how developed the parks were… I guess that’s why people looking to really get into nature go into the backcountry.
Apgar is just inside the park entrance and is still quite a drive from most of the hikes and attractions. After we set up camp, bought some supplies in the village, and ate lunch between raindrops, we drove further into the park to get the lay of the land. I didn’t know anything about this park and had zero expectations, but C had been most excited about this park the whole time. Neither of us were disappointed. Glacier is jaw-dropping at every turn. It was also stomach churning – at least for me. Why are beautiful things always set atop mountains? The road up the mountain is well maintained and has barriers on the cliff-side most of the way up, but it is NARROW. So narrow that people don’t even have the choice to drive like assholes (which is actually pretty great). Everyone creeps their way around the jagged rocks that jut out into the curvy road. There are also many pullouts along the way for people to jump out and snap photos of the numerous waterfalls and mountain vistas.
Neither of us were disappointed. Glacier is jaw-dropping at every turn. It was also stomach churning – at least for me. Why are beautiful things always set atop mountains?
Right at the top of the mountain is Hidden Lake Trail, the most popular (for very good reason) hike in the park. C and I knew that we definitely wanted to do this hike. And I knew from our experiences in Grant Teton that if you want to do something or want to take a picture of something, you can’t put it off. The view might be clear one minute and completely obstructed by smoke or fog the next (click here, here, and here to read about Grand Teton). C agreed to stay with Domino while I hiked the trail.
Pro-tip: We arrived at Hidden Lake parking lot around 3pm on a weekday (in the busy month of August), and the parking lot was packed. We were lucky enough to snag a parking spot on this day, but never got that lucky again the rest of the week. Take the shuttle if at all possible. We couldn’t since we had Domino with us, but the shuttle is totally worth your while. Parking is insane here and throughout most of the park.
Don’t let the parking insanity stop you from doing this hike though. You MUST do this hike. It is the most gorgeous, amazing hike I have ever been on. And there are mountain goats and big horn sheep. You’re almost guaranteed to see them.
I overheard the best conversation on this hike… I might have technically hiked solo, but not really. Due to the popularity, I was constantly surrounded by other nature seekers. I didn’t mind one bit, though. Everyone was good-natured (how could you not be in this place?) and pointing out goats and sheep to others along the trail. And as we reached the top of the hike – the overlook of Hidden Lake – we spotted a mountain goat and a baby mountain goat in the meadow below. As we watched them and snapped a million photos, they walked straight towards us. These goats were not wary of us, at all. We had so much time with them that eventually, we didn’t need more photos, we could just enjoy hanging out with fucking mountain goats. But next to me, a 4 year old boy was begging his older brother to let him look at the goats through the camera lens so that he “could see them better.” The older brother insisted, “It’s better with your eyes.” And it was.