Exploring Glacier Park in May | 5-Day Guided Hike

Experience Glacier National Park during this epic 5-day hiking program

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Distance

5.5 Miles

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Elevation Gain

1,000 Feet

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Difficulty

Moderate

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Cost Per Person

$1,000

Hike Overview

Join like-minded adventurers for a weeklong exploration of the ‘Crown of the Continent’ Ecosystem. Venture out each day with outdoor education specialists to see and learn about cerulean lakes, meadows bursting with wildflowers, and Glacier’s famous bears and goats. This trip is designed for those that want to see and learn as much as possible about Glacier Park over the course of five days.

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Exploring Glacier Park in May | 5-Day Guided Hike

Hike Overview Continued

Educational Guided Tour

John Muir encouraged visitors to Glacier National Park to “give a month at least to this precious reserve.” He said that time in Glacier “will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening it, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.” Although we cannot promise that this trip will result in immortality, we can promise a week of camaraderie, learning, and world-class hiking that you will remember for the rest of your life. Join like-minded adventurers for a weeklong exploration of the ‘Crown of the Continent’ Ecosystem. Venture out each day with outdoor education specialists to see and learn about cerulean lakes, meadows bursting with wildflowers, and Glacier’s famous bears and goats. This trip is designed for those that want to see and learn as much as possible about Glacier over the course of five days.

Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp

Itinerary: (subject to change due to trail closures and weather)

Day 1: Spring Wildflowers
All travelers should arrive before 8 a.m. At our field camp, you will settle into your cabins, familiarize yourself with the campus, and meet other travelers. After introductions, we will depart for Christensen Meadow on the Inside North Fork Road to begin our day observing wildflowers in the field. Glacier National Park in the spring is a wildflower aficionado’s paradise. With hundreds of species of wildflowers located within its boundaries, Glacier provides an abundance of beauty and learning opportunities for those who know where to look. With magnifying glass in hand, we will “get to know” some of these plants by viewing them up close. At the end of the day, students should be able to identify many common wildflowers and list plant adaptations. This day is for anyone who enjoys observing wildflowers and learning about their unique adaptations. We will enjoy lunch on the trail, before heading back to Field Camp for the evening. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m.
(6 mile hike, 500ft elevation gain/loss)

Day 2: Spring Birds
Breakfast will be served at 7 a.m. After breakfast, we will depart for the Trout Lake trailhead where we will discuss several species of songbirds and woodpeckers that frequent post-fire ecosystems. Glacier National Park comprises more than 1 million acres of diverse and stunning bird habitat. Encounter both common and uncommon bird species that thrive in and around the park on an adventure led by our Outdoor Education Specialist. By traversing through each bird paradise, we will look to the skies, snags, and streams in search of our feathered friends. You will learn their habits, morphological characteristics, and ecological importance. We will discover that these beautiful soaring creatures not only perch in our stunning park, but also in our souls. We will head back to Field Camp for the afternoon. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m.
(6 mile hike, 1,000ft elevation gain/loss)

Day 3: Spring Animals
Breakfast will be served at 7 a.m. Spring has begun in Glacier National Park! During this day, we will venture to the southern boundary of the park to discuss the animals that inhabit the aspen parklands. While hiking through wildflower-filled prairies and prime beaver and moose territory, we will focus on life histories, habitats, tracks, and signs. In addition, spring is the time of babies: kits, calves, cubs! By the end of the day, you will have an understanding of the behavior, adaptations, and spring migration of the many species that call this place home. We will have lunch on the trail before hiking back to the trailhead to return to Field Camp for the afternoon. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m.
(5 mile hike, 500ft elevation gain/loss)

Day 4: History of Two Medicine
Breakfast will be served at 7 a.m. People and place have been linked together for millennia. Join us on this day as we discover how our location within Glacier National Park and the people within it, have shaped history. We will explore the place names and cultural significance of the remarkable Two Medicine Valley. By the end of the day, participants will gain a newfound admiration for this jewel (and its people) within the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. As we hike along the series of Two Medicine lakes, we will interpret the stories behind the peaks that are presenting themselves. We will enjoy lunch on the trail, before diving further into the rich cultural history of this glacially-carved valley. We will return to Field Camp for the afternoon. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m.
(5 mile hike, 700ft elevation gain/loss)

Day 5: Waters of Glacier
Breakfast will be served at 7 a.m. Rivers of ice carved out this landscape, leaving behind the familiar valleys where water now ebbs and flows, continually shaping Glacier National Park. Join us as we dive into the moving forces that make Glacier National Park unique. We will explore a few of its 700 water bodies, following perennial rivers and streams from source to output, a journey that will leave you awe-inspired in its wake. We will discuss the vast power and influence of water in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, and by the end of the day participants will gain an understanding of water’s path in Glacier National Park. As we walk through old growth cedars, we will discuss the temperate rainforest that is the McDonald Creek Valley. As we meander our way along Avalanche creek, we will find ourselves in the Avalanche Basin. Here, we will enjoy lunch at the lake, and discuss the various waterfalls, geologic phenomena and wildlife presence in this stunning glacially carved valley. We will return to Field Camp and the course will conclude at 4 p.m.
(5 mile hike, 800ft elevation gain/loss)

Food: The following meals will be provided by the Glacier Institute staff: Lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 5. We can accommodate any dietary restrictions upon request. Breakfast and dinners will be eaten in camp while most lunches will be eaten out in the field.

Accommodations: 4 nights of lodging are included into the course fee. Our student cabins are basic, hostel-style cabins with 5 single beds, bedside lights, and electrical outlets. Students should be prepared to share a cabin with up to 4 other people. Cabins are separated by gender. Couples may be paired up in the event there is ample space. We provide a bottom sheet for your bed as well as a pillow and pillowcase, but please bring a warm sleeping bag. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp for night trips to the bathroom. The community bathhouse has flush toilets, sinks, and hot showers.

Park Entrance Fees: Participants are responsible for purchasing their park entrance passes prior to the course. These can be purchased online at: https://www.recreation.gov/sitepass/74280

Other fees: Your trip includes transportation to and from the trailheads. Airport pick up and drop off can be available for an additional cost, contact the main office if interested.

Physical Requirements: Moderately-strenuous. Participants will hike in Glacier Park an average of 8 miles each day over uneven terrain with an average elevation gain of 700 feet. See hike specific trail stats on itinerary above (these are approximations).

Equipment: You will receive a Glacier Institute Field Camp gear list once you register. Most importantly, bring comfortable hiking shoes, snacks, water bottle at least 1-2 liters, backpack, rain gear, hat, and sunscreen. Weather can be varied, especially in the higher altitudes, so please be prepared with appropriate clothing, and extra warm layers. We will be hiking in varied elevations throughout the course so expect cold, potential snow and high winds.

Suggestions on Getting here: The Glacier Institute Field Camp is located just inside the West Entrance to Glacier National Park. The nearest airport is in Kalispell, Montana, about 30 minutes from Field Camp.
*Note: airfare and car rental are not included in the trip price.

Notes on our Itinerary: It is common for many of our days to start early with breakfast between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. We plan accordingly to beat the heat as well as the crowds, and allow ourselves ample time to reach the trailhead each day. The early bird gets the worm, especially in Glacier National Park. We allow ample down time in the evenings, upon returning from our daily excursion. Due to the nature of experiencing a natural place such as Glacier National Park we are constantly adjusting our plans to accommodate road and trail closures (due to bears, weather and wildlife). Therefore natural circumstances may arise that warrant us adjusting some of the above itinerary.
*Be sure to also check out our adult day courses going on. If there is one you are interested in joining during your week, please inquire upon registration.

Trip Difficulty: Most of our hikes will range from 8 miles in length. The hikes will be moderate to moderately strenuous with elevation gains of 400-1,000 feet. All of the hikes are on maintained trails and will take place between elevations of 3,500 to 7,500 feet. In order to comfortably complete the hikes on this trip, all hikers should be participating in regular aerobic activity four to five days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes duration — jogging, bike riding, or using the aerobic equipment at your local gym are just some examples. To help build your endurance, you should begin weekly hikes a few months before the trip of 8 miles that gain at least 1,500 feet of elevation. By the time of the trip you should be able to comfortably maintain an average hiking speed of 2-2.5 mph for six to eight hours — the key word being comfortably. Because of the small, but real potential for grizzly bear encounters while hiking in Glacier National Park, it is not safe for people to become separated from the group. Therefore, it is imperative that you are able to maintain the hiking pace recommended by the leader.

Weather: Field Camp is located in West Glacier, roughly 3,600ft above sea level. Glacier National Park covers quite a large spread of land, and straddles the continental divide. On any given day, the weather on the west side of the divide can be quite different from the weather on the east side of the divide. The best way to be prepared for ever changing mountainous weather is to have layers! See our gear list for recommendations on what to bring. We recommend checking the weather prior to your trip. NOAA Weather Forecast is a great resource for this. Although we will be lodging in West Glacier we will also travel to the eastern side of the divide near East Glacier & Saint Mary; checking the weather for these different locations can help to provide a big picture of the forecast.

Gratuity Guidelines: Gratuity for Outdoor Education Specialists and/or Instructors is welcome and appreciated but not required.

Fellow Travelers: This is a group travel adventure. All participants are encouraged to review the itinerary and trip difficulty. It is inevitable that some travelers will have different goals, perspectives and abilities. We ask that the group respect each individual’s conditions and needs throughout the course or trip. We want everyone to enjoy themselves to the fullest!

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What to Expect On Your Exploring Glacier Park in May | 5 Day Course

We will spend the week exploring Glacier in the spring. Most of our hikes will be 5-6 miles in length, and have a maximum of 1,000 feet in elevation change.

Hike Details

  • This program meets at Glacier Institute Field Camp, West Glacier.
  • The program will begin at 8 a.m. on day 1 and ends at 4 p.m. on the final day. Please arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Hiking distance covers 5-6 miles with 1,000 feet elevation change.
  • On-site parking available.
  • There is a maximum number of 20 hikers per trip.
  • This program has a minimum guest count of 3 people. In the unlikely case we don’t reach that number, you will be notified prior to the event.

What to Bring

Please remember that weather in NW Montana during all seasons can change quickly from warm and sunny to freezing at any time of the year. We recommend checking the weather prior to your trip. Please also check your course information sheet for specific gear requirements in addition to those listed below.

  • Lightweight hiking boots or a sturdy pair of hiking shoes
  • 2 liter sized water bottle or Camelback
  • Day Pack with plastic bag liner or cover
  • Waterproof rain jacket and pants
  • Sunhat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellant & lip balm
  • Camera (optional)
  • Trekking poles, if you like to use them for hiking (optional)
  • Binoculars (optional)
  • Field Notebook notes and sketches

Download complete checklist here