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Glacier National Park hiking trails can take you to the top of the world and back. With over 700 miles of magnificent hiking trails, Glacier is truly a hiker’s paradise. You can hike to waterfalls, lakes, glacier outlooks, passes, and tunnels. Glacier offers trails to accommodate all levels of hikers, from handicap accessible trails to extended overnight backpacking trips. It is a good idea to take a look at a travel guide on Glacier National Park to get a better idea of the difficulty of certain trails while planning your trip. Always come prepared with enough water and nourishment for the entire journey.
Though Glacier National Park is beautiful, it can also be dangerous. Here are some things to watch out for to keep your trip fun and safe.
• Weather. Due to the extreme altitude, Glacier’s weather can change rapidly, and snow covers many of the trails even after the park fills up with visitors in the spring. Always remember never to hike without the proper gear and clothing for all weather conditions. Check with one of the many Visitor Centers in the park to see the status of the trails when you arrive. Trail closures and warnings are also available at the park’s website (http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/conditions.htm).
• Bears. Many bears call Glacier National Park home; make plenty of noise while hiking as it encourages bears to move away from the trails. Trail running is discouraged because you could surprise a bear. Check the nearest Visitor Center for updates on which trails bears have been frequenting.
• Mountain Lions. These big cats also inhabit the park. Make noise when you hike to scare the lions off. If you do encounter a lion, do not run. Back away slowly, without making eye contact, and try to make yourself appear as large as possible. Visitor Centers also keep updates on cat sightings around the park.
• Snowfields. If you encounter a snowfield, use caution; they can hide deep deadly, crevasses. Do not slide across a snowfield. It is recommended that only highly experienced hikers with knowledge of self-arrest technique and the proper tools hike in areas with snowfields. Park rangers monitor the snow on the trails daily. Check with your visitor center for the current status.
Glacier also offers many options for camping in and just outside of the park. Back country camping is a wonderful experience in the wilderness, but requires certain preparations.
• Reservations. You will need to reserve a back country campground the morning before you plan to camp at the park office. Back country camp sites are under high demand and limit the number of campers per night to about four (depending on the campground). Be sure to arrive extra early to ensure you get the spot you want.
• Bears. Like hiking, camping in bear country offers a whole suite of dangers. Be sure to come prepared with plenty of thick plastic bags and at least 20 feet of rope to keep your campground secure from bear intrusions.
• Car Camping. Glacier National Park offers many options for camping around the perimeter of the park boundaries. These campgrounds are by reservation only and must be reserved ahead of time. A spot costs around $30 per night and offers showers and bathroom facilities. Call the park office or visit the park website for more information and to make reservations. If you happen to stay over on a clear night, you might be lucky enough to participate in a star observing session with an astronomer!
• Lodging. If you prefer to sleep in a bed and not a bag, then you might consider staying in one of Glacier’s historic hotels or motor lodges.
Whether you plan to hike a day trip or stay over night, your experience at Glacier National Park is guaranteed to be one you will never forget!