We spent our first week of August in Bigfork, Montana, a funky and artsy small mountain town about 45 minutes south of Glacier National Park. The Park, filled with dramatic mountain peaks and stunning lakes, sits on the border of the United States and Canada. It’s believed humans inhabited the land beginning about 10,000 years ago; the area is steeped in beauty and mystery.
Though major wildfires threatened the park on the east side, we were closest to the west side of Glacier, so we were able to explore the trail to Avalanche Lake. The trailhead for Avalanche Lake is just off the Going To The Sun Road, the main vein through the park, and the road was closed just beyond where we parked to begin our hike. A smoky haze blanketed our views, but we felt fortunate to still experience the Park.
The Avalanche Lake path begins with the Trail of the Cedars, and trees there can be more than 500 years old and 100 feet tall. A boardwalk carries you through the lush cedar forest – with the gorgeous green landscape, it felt more like we were in Oregon than in Montana.
Tim showed Finn how to determine a tree’s age by examining its growth rings:
The trail follows a lovely creek, and some of the terrain can be challenging. We left our kid-carrier backpack in the car, underestimating the length of our hike. Once we started, though, we wanted to make it all the way to the lake (4.5 miles roundtrip). Finn hiked much of the trail on his own, but at the tough parts, Tim lifted him onto his shoulders. Only my husband could hike slippery dirt trails in flip flops with a 30-pound toddler on his shoulders.
When we made it to Avalanche Lake, a little over an hour after we started, we were treated to stunning views and a nice rest spot.
For me, visiting a national park can feel a little like touring a famous, large city. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when I realize it’s impossible to see everything, and that stresses me out. Similar to my trips to favorite cities like New York City or London, I accept that on one visit I have to prioritize what is most important to experience on that occasion, knowing that to fully embrace that place I need to return again and again. For this visit to Glacier, we knew we couldn’t tour some of the sights on the much-publicized east side; we knew we weren’t camping in the park; and we knew our time was limited since we were traveling with our 3-year-old. The Avalanche Lake hike was enough of a push that it challenged us (Really? Finn can do an almost-5-mile hike with us now?! Sweet!!) but didn’t break us, all while allowing us to enjoy Glacier National Park. We felt accomplished and properly spent, and Finn took a good nap in the car on the way back to Bigfork – win-win! As I said in a camping post, my favorite outdoor trips include quality time in nature tempered by relaxing meals in restaurants and unique cultural experiences. Tomorrow, I’ll share more about the Bigfork portion of our trip, including where we stayed, what we ate, and the cool events we attended in a tiny town where, surprisingly, there are free artistic and cultural events nearly every day in the summer, and the food is absolutely spectacular!