I’ve come a long way from the “baby hiker” whining and wheezing her way up Mount Longonot in Kenya to scaling Africa’s second-highest mountain, Mount Kenya, and finally spending two weeks hiking and camping in Glacier National Park, USA!
Honestly, if you had told me a few years ago that my life of travel and adventure would involve days of hiking and camping, I wouldn’t have believed you! Heck, I probably wouldn’t have believed that my life would be filled with so much travel and adventure in the first place. I am so grateful for all the opportunities that led me here!
And you know, after this climb, I said I was going to sell off all my hiking gear but maybe, just maybe… I have room for another epic hike this year. We’ll see 🙂Amarachi, at the beginning of 2023, after hiking Mount Kenya the year before.
This particular experience in Glacier National Park still feels like a dream in many ways. When Mark first told me that Jake (his friend) had invited us on this epic hiking adventure, I’ll admit that I was a bit apprehensive. Hiking the US backcountry for almost two weeks seemed like a lot!
Yet, I knew that was an adventure that he would truly love, so I decided to happily go along. What I did not know was that I would absolutely love it too!
What's Covered in this Post
Planning a Trip to Glacier National Park
I knew little about Glacier National Park before our trip but luckily, we had Jake, who has been visiting the park since he was a kid, to plan out the entire itinerary for our group of eight. I asked for his help to work on an extensive post about how to plan a trip to the park, as well as the fees and permits needed to organize one.
I’ll be sharing that post later in this series, but before then, you can check out the National Park Service website page on Fees and Passes for information that gives you a general idea about vehicle reservations and entry passes needed; and the Camping page for information about campsite reservations.
Hiking in Glacier National Park – Our Itinerary
Our trip involved multiple days of hiking and camping in the backcountry. It was split into two parts; a three-night circuit from Jackson Overlook to Sperry trailhead and Lake McDonald Lodge, and a four-night circuit from Kintla Lake trailhead to Bowman Lake trailhead.
For Mark and I, the journey began in Nairobi, where we boarded a fairly long flight to Seattle via Doha on Qatar Airways. After spending a few days in Seattle, we got on a short flight to Kalispell, Montana.
Getting to Glacier National Park
Jake picked us up upon arrival at the airport and drove us to the Moose’s Saloon for dinner. I half expected the music and chit-chat to stop abruptly and for everyone to turn to stare at us as we walked in – it felt like that kind of place, haha! But nothing of the sort happened and we enjoyed a good first dinner in Montana.
Later on, we went back to the airport to pick up another member of the group before heading to our Airbnb in Martin City, just west of the park.
Day 1 in Glacier National Park: Trail of the Cedars
By the following morning, all members of the group had arrived, and we spent some time getting to know each other at breakfast. Then, we headed to Apgar to pick up our backcountry permits at the ranger station.
After that, we had lunch at Eddie’s, walked down to the shores of Lake McDonald and did a short hike on the Trail of the Cedars. We returned to the Airbnb to prepare for our first leg in the backcountry.
Day 2 in Glacier National Park: Jackson Overlook to Gunsight Lake
On day two, we set out bright and early to Apgar and rode the hiker’s shuttle from there to Logan Pass. It was a rainy and cloudy morning, so all the views of the mountains were obscured by dense fog. Later on, at the end of the trip, Jake’s parents drove us along the Going-to-the-sun road, and we were able to enjoy the truly magnificent views then!
We rode the shuttle again from Logan Pass to Jackson Glacier Overlook, where we started our hike to the Gunsight Lake campground.
The hike on this day was relatively easy. We were in the woods for the most part, hiking under light showers of rain. I remember seeing fresh bear scat about an hour into our hike and suddenly becoming hyper-aware that we could actually encounter bears and mountain lions on this hike!
We did not encounter any bears (or lions) on the trail to Gunsight Lake camp and during our side hike to Florence Falls but as soon as we arrived at the camp, it began to hail. It is at times like this that one questions why people enjoy activities like these!
And I did have those thoughts, standing in the cold, waiting for the rain to subside. Ironically, it rained again for even much longer at the end of the trip’s second leg, and I welcomed it as one of the joys of hiking!
I don’t know who I am anymore!
Bear Encounter in Glacier National Park
I woke up, after a surprisingly good night’s rest in our tent, to the news of a mama bear and cub sighting in the camp! The pair had walked right through in the early hours of the morning. Jake and a few other hikers had seen them, while the rest of us excitedly noted the fresh pawprints they left behind.
Later in the morning, during our side hike to Jackson Glacier Lookout, we came across a trio a few meters away from the trail.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted one bear peek out of the bushes, then another, and then one more. I managed to keep calm, though I was trembling from fear and excitement!
We watched the trio for a while before heading back down to the camp to begin our hike to Lake Ellen Wilson campsite.
Day 3 in Glacier National Park: Gunsight Lake to Lake Ellen Wilson
This hike was my most challenging one in the park. The paths were steeper than the previous day and we also had to contend with fairly strong winds. Still, the views of Gunsight Lake and those along the trail were incredibly beautiful, making the experience worth it!
The best view comes after the hardest climb!
Day 4 in Glacier National Park: Lake Ellen Wilson to Sperry Chalet
The hike from Lake Ellen Wilson to Sperry Chalet Campground was short and punctuated by several snack breaks – just how I like it! Lake Ellen Wilson itself was a delightful camp and Sperry Chalet was just as lovely.
In Lake Ellen Wilson campground, I awoke to deer right outside our tent and in Sperry Chalet, it was mountain goats. We also saw some goats at Gunsight Pass but seeing them all around the tent and campground was quite exciting too.
While most of our group opted for a shorter day and downtime at the camp, Jake and Clay hiked up to Sperry Glacier and back. From their reports, it seemed like a tough hike but one that was absolutely worth the experience.
Later that night, we retreated to our tents, after dinner against a stunning sunset backdrop and a late-night “campfire” story. There was no campfire, but you get the idea :). It was one of my favourite moments of our trip to Glacier National Park.
Finally, it was exit day! After spending three nights in the backcountry, I was excited to get back to civilization for a while – mainly because I no longer had to use a pit latrine or worry about bears and mountain lions!
Day 5 in Glacier National Park: Exit Day!
Before we left the campsite, we had breakfast at Sperry Chalet. Something about camping and eating freeze-dried foods on the trail makes you truly appreciate a hearty breakfast in a warm cabin!
The hike thereafter felt short and easy and we arrived at Lake McDonald Lodge after a few hours. We ended the day at Fish Creek Campsite – which had warm showers and WC toilets. It felt quite luxurious. After that, we spent the next day doing laundry and seeing off some members of the group before driving up to Polebridge in preparation for the second leg of the hike.
Glacier National Park surprised me in many ways. I am so glad that we were all able to share this incredible experience. It is one that I would not be forgetting in a hurry.
Have you been to Glacier National Park or done any exciting hikes in the past? Share with me in the comment section below!