Cruising the American Northwest: Montana & Glacier National Park

The American Northwest is home to some of the country’s most iconic national parks. We embarked on an RV journey from Denver to Seattle, exploring six stunning national parks in between. Part 2: Montana & Glacier National Park.

After leaving Yellowstone and Grand Teton behind, we quickly entered the state of Montana. We drove through a colorful cowboy town and decided to stop for lunch. The town of Ennis managed to hold on to its western roots like it was still 1875.

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Lunch at Gravel Bar Grill marked the last activity between the four of us on this trip – at least that’s what we thought. We dropped of Oscar at Helena Regional Airport in Montana, after a herd of bison got in the way of his flight out of Yellowstone. Now that caipirinhas in the back of the RV were over, I gained my first driver’s seat time. No better place to get used to driving a house on wheels than Montana’s roads to infinity.

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Despite its remote setting, Glacier National Park is very popular. All national park campgrounds were full months before our trip. That’s how we signed up for our first Kampgrounds of America experience. KOA is the largest private campground system in the world. KOAs offer great amenities like hot showers and a laundry room, as well as full hookups for RV’s. Imagine our surprise when we were guided to the campsite by a janitor in a golf cart. A nice intermezzo, yet we prefer the simplicity of national park campgrounds anytime.

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Glacier National Park, Montana

The next morning we left for the Many Glacier Area of the park. The shimmering glacier lakes drew us to the water immediately. A small boat rental company behind Many Glacier Hotel rents out kayaks, canoes and rowboats by the hour. Babs and I crawled into a two-person kayak while my brother took off solo. The rules were strict: do not leave Swiftcurrent Lake.

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But adventure loomed around the corner. The two-person kayak couldn’t resist entering the small creek connecting Swiftcurrent Lake with Josephine Lake. We spent most of our time in the water pushing the kayak upstream, but the views were worth it.

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We had a picnic on the sunny back porch of the Many Glacier Hotel, before changing our flip flops for hiking boots. The Grinnell Glacier Trail promises 11.3 miles of amazing views in return for climbing non-stop. The trail rises above Lake Josephine and Lake Grinnell before coming to a spectacular end at Upper Grinnell Lake.

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To make it to the chilliness of Upper Grinnell glacier lake, we had to break a sweat. As usual, I was fueled by the fear of facing a bear. Despite several warnings by fellow hikers, we only ran into a mountain goat and a photogenic marmot. Therefore Koen took it upon himself to give us a bear-scare.

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The finale at Upper Grinnell Lake was worth every drop of sweat.

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We couldn’t get our feet into the turquoise water fast enough. I got them out even faster, to prevent my toes from freezing off instantly. My brother proved to be the polar bear of the family once again.

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On the way down, we had the trail pretty much to ourselves. A perk of starting the hike when most people are on their way back.

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Murphy’s law had it that my brother was behind when we finally saw our first bear. We were close to the RV as we heard leaves rustling next to the side of the road. Babs kept me from running to the RV and locking myself in it. Just when we gave up on a good view, the black bear decided to cross the road in all his glory.

Next day was driving day, as we headed to the Pacific Coast through Montana, Idaho and Washington state. Our trip continues in The Evergreen State, home to a more than fair share of natural beauty.

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