Glacier National Park
The Flathead Valley is the magnificent gateway to the west entrance of Glacier National Park – a park so naturally beautiful it is known as the “Crown Jewel of the Continent.” Glacier was established largely through the influence of railroad magnate James J. Hill, who envisioned a North American tourist destination, comparable to the Swiss Alps, for travelers on his Great Northern Railway.
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Crown of the Continent
The Crown of the Continent is the vast ecosystem stretching from the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex north to British Columbia, Alberta, and Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. Combined, Waterton and Glacier form the only trans-boundary “peace park” in North America.
In 1995, UNESCO designated the park a World Heritage Site for its exceptionally rich variety of plant and mammal species as well as prairie, forest, and alpine and glacial features.
The park shares the World Heritage Site honor with the Taj Mahal in India, the Great Wall of China, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, and the Egyptian Pyramids.
What Glacier National Park has to Offer
Visitors to Glacier National Park enjoy the park’s one million acres of lakes, plunging valleys, and glacier-carved mountains. Glacier is 40 miles wide from east to west, and 50 miles long north to south.
Glacier’s native wildlife includes wolves, grizzly bears, lynx and other natural predators. The park is home to 272 bird species, 63 different mammals, 23 fish species, five types of amphibians and three types of reptiles.
The park has a rich variety of flora as well. There are 1,270 vascular plant varieties, 880 mosses and lichens, 130 non-native plant species and 20 tree species.
Mountains, Lakes and Streams
The highest point in Glacier National Park is Mount Cleveland, at 10,466’ and the lowest is the Middle Fork River near West Glacier at 3,215’. At an elevation of 6,646’, Logan Pass is the highest point in the park accessible by vehicle.
There are more than 175 named mountains in the park, six of them over 10,000' and 43 over 9,000’. The Continental Divide, the mountainous backbone that sends water either to the east or west, meanders 106 miles through the park.
There are 762 lakes in Glacier, only 131 of which have names. They cover 30,022 surface acres, with 392 miles of total shoreline. Lake McDonald is the largest at 6,823 acres, followed by St. Mary Lake at 3,923 acres.
There are 563 streams or rivers in Glacier covering 1,513 stream miles. The longest is McDonald Creek, which stretches 25.8 miles.
Archaeological evidence of use by ancient American Indians indicates that Glacier’s cultural history dates back at least 10,000 years. The first Europeans to explore the area were fur trappers who are believed to have arrived in the late 1700s.
Going-to the-Sun Road
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a scenic landmark crossing between the west entrance near the Flathead Valley and the east entrance at St. Mary via Logan Pass. The 50-mile paved road was completed in the 1930s. In 1983, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Landmark in 1996. The road is narrow, steep and winding, with numerous pullouts for viewing scenery. Travelers should plan to spend 1.5 to 3 hours to complete the trip.
Although the park has 168 miles of road, its greatest natural wonders are best explored on foot. Glacier’s 730 miles of trails offer gentle strolls, day hikes, and overnight back country trips.
Weather and snow determine when Logan Pass opens and closes. Some portions of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open year-round. Logan Pass opens in mid-June and closes in mid-October.
The Flathead Valley provides an outstanding base camp for exploring Glacier National Park with its large number of accommodations, restaurants, activities, attractions and services geared to the traveler.
For general park information such as maps, Web cams and bear safety information,
check the following park Internet links to help you find answers to your questions:
Web cams: http://www.nps.gov/glac/whatsnew.htm
Environmental Factors: nps.gov/glac/naturescience/environmentalfactors.htm
Trail status and maps: http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/hikingthetrails.htm
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