I woke up around 7am to head into the park. I’m finding that in order to get parking for the bus, I need to arrive early and park for the day. Given the crowds I saw at Many Glacier, I’m assuming this part of the park will be even worse. Unfortunately, it turns out that I’m right.
I pulled into the visitors center parking lot around 8 and luckily there is plenty of RV parking. I park the bus, make coffee and breakfast and take Pepper for a walk (around the parking lot since she’s not allowed on any of the trails). I crank up the fans in the bus and close the blinds so she stays cool and then head to the visitors center for some suggestions on hikes etc. One peak in the visitors center changes my mind. There is a line of people 20 deep waiting to talk to the ranger. I decide that I'm going to stick with the recommendations of the KOA Kampground staff and hike to Avalanche Lake. There is a free shuttle service that runs the entire length of Going to the Sun Road. But they have the same vehicle limits as the rest of us so the shuttles are just slightly bigger than a van.
I get in line and I’m told that it will be about an hour wait. No ideal, but not miserable either. The bus will take me to Avalanche (the start of the hike to Avalanche Lake) and there I can transfer to another bus if I want to go to the top of Going to the Sun Road (Logan Pass Summit). My initial plan was to take the shuttle to the top, hang out for a bit, then work my way back to Avalanche for the hike.
The first shuttle I get on holds 28 people and is a small city bus. It can go as far as Avalanche. Then we transfer to a bus that holds up to 12 people (if it isn’t full from the previous stops). That shuttle runs every 15 minutes. Well 28 people getting off the first bus then get in line for the second bus. Which already had 10 people in line. I do the math and realize I’d be spending all day in line for buses. So I decide to skip the trip to the top of Logan Pass and just do the hike.
The hike is 2.2 miles in each direction. Not that far. And a modest elevation gain of only 500 feet. It ends in a glacial valley with a number of water falls and streams. The trail winds through a forest of Cedars, black spruce, and cottonwoods. The forest floor is covered in moss and ferns. It’s a very pretty hike. Unfortunately, it’s also a very popular hike.
I reach the lake and the view is really nice, however the smoke from the local forest fires adds a layer of haze that dulls the splendor of the valley considerably. The lakeshore is also filled with people. I stick around for a bit and then start the hike back. At this point it’s nearly noon and I need to find some lunch.
Luckily the westbound shuttle was nearly empty and arrived about 5 minutes after I got back to the bus stop. I took the bus back to Apgar Village (inside the park near the visitors center) and grabbed a quick bite to eat. After lunch I decided to head back to the bus and back to the campground. There are just too many people here. And unfortunately without having done a ton of research prior to the visit, I’m stuck with the shuttle bus to get me around.
So Glacier National Park is beautiful. It would be more beautiful if it wasn’t so smokey, and it would be more enjoyable if I didn’t have to rely on the shuttle system. And of course, it would be more enjoyable if I wasn’t by myself and had done more research prior to visiting rather than relying on the friend that was going to join for this leg of the trip. That being said, I definitely want to come back. Maybe come in my truck pulling a small camper that I can leave at the campsite during the day. Or stay in one of the quaint cabins that are here on the KOA property. I would absolutely stay at the West Glacier KOA anytime I ever come back to Glacier.