Enjoy High Elevation Hikes

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Date: July 17, 2014
Contact: Denise Germann, 406 888 5838

Several of Glacier National Park’s high elevation hikes are open to the public, but snow and snow hazards remain in many areas. Visitors planning to hike are encouraged to be mindful of their hiking skills and comfort levels, and to prepare accordingly. 

Hikers should be wary of snowfields and steep areas in the higher elevations. Snow bridges may exist, and hard to identify. A snow bridge may completely cover an opening, such as a creek, and present a danger. It may create an illusion of unbroken surface while hiding an opening under a layer of snow, creating an unstable surface. 

It is important to know the terrain you are about to hike or climb, and carry the appropriate equipment. When hiking may include snowfield travel, visitors should know how to travel in such challenging conditions, including knowing how to use crampons and an ice axe. It is recommended to have layers of clothing available, appropriate footwear, including boots with lug soles, a map, first-aid kit, water and food. Always communicate to someone your planned route of travel and your expected time of return.

There are over 700 miles of trails in Glacier National Park providing a variety of hiking opportunities. During July and August many of the more popular trails can be crowded. Visitors are encouraged to consider a lesser used trail or more remote trail during this time. For more information about hiking options and trail status, please visit the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/hikingthetrails.htm.

Caution should be used near rivers and streams, as water may be extremely cold, and running swift and high. Avoid wading or fording in swift moving water, as well as walking, playing and climbing on slippery rocks and logs.
The Highline Trail is open, but snow remains past Haystack Butte. Strong hiking skills and snow travel skills, as well as the appropriate equipment, are recommended. The Ptarmigan Tunnel is open. Stock access to Iceberg/Ptarmigan Trail is prohibited due to a temporary bridge that allows foot traffic, but it is not suitable for stock.

Hikers on the east side are encouraged to use the park’s shuttle system. It is free, and the shuttle has stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Due to road rehabilitation activities on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, parking to access the St. Mary, Virginia and Barring Falls areas is very challenging and the shuttle system may be a convenient alternative.  Sun Point is closed to all visitor traffic including picnicking, transit, restroom use, and hiking. For more information about the shuttle system and stops, please visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/shuttles.htm. 

Interested hikers may complete a voluntary day trip plan form that may help plan a trip and be a valuable tool for family and friends, and perhaps park rangers, if search and rescue efforts are needed. This voluntary form is not collected by the National Park Service because it is a courtesy form to help visitors plan day trips and communicate plans with family and friends. The form can be obtained at https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/upload/Day-Trip-Plan.pdf.

Glacier National Park is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Hikers are encouraged to hike in groups, carry bear spray that is easily accessible, and make noise at regular intervals along the trail. Bears spend a lot of time eating, so hikers should be extra alert while in or near feeding areas such as berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies. Hiking early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark is not encouraged. Trail running is not recommended as it has led to surprise bear encounters. For more information about recreating in bear country visit the park’s website at https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/bears.htm.

Rehabilitation work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road continues with activity on the east side occurring between Siyeh Bend and Rising Sun. Use caution when traveling this nine-mile stretch of roadway as it is a rough, gravel surface this summer and fall. Visitors can expect 30-minute maximum traffic delays between Siyeh Bend and Rising Sun, and no delays on the west side. The contractors working on the road rehabilitation have been working daily, seven days a week. It is anticipated that weekend work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be completed by the end of July.

For more information about Glacier National Park, visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm or contact 406-888-7800.  

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


(406) 888-7800

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