Exploring Glacier Park | 8-Day Guided Hike in September

A week-long series of epic guided hikes that you will remember forever

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Distance

8/12 Miles

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Elevation Gain

400/2,700 Feet

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Difficulty

Moderate/Strenuous

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Cost Per Person

$1,600

Hike Overview

During this epic series of guided hikes, we promise you 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, the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road, 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 a single week.

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Exploring Glacier Park | 8-Day Guided Hike in September

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 Park “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 professional naturalists to see and learn about cerulean lakes, meadows bursting with wildflowers, the iconic Going to the Sun Road, and Glacier Park’s famous bears and goats. This trip is designed for those that want to see and learn as much as possible about Glacier National Park over the course of a single week. Truly an educational and adventurous guided hiking course to go on more than once. John Muir would be impressed.

Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp

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

Day 1: All travelers should arrive at our Field Camp between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. At camp, you will settle into your cabins, familiarize yourself with the campus, and meet other travelers. Then, over a happy hour with lemonade and appetizers, we will review the schedule for the week, go over risk management policies, and answer questions for the week ahead. After dinner we will enjoy an evening walk to Quarter-Circle Bridge to stretch our legs and look for wildlife.

Day 2: Our morning drive will take us around the southern boundary of the park, back towards the Two Medicine valley, with our eyes set on Scenic Point. The raging torrent of Appistoki Falls is hardly out of earshot before the first few switchbacks carry us into a bleached graveyard of Whitebark Pine. The decline of this keystone species is reverberating throughout the forested zones of the Rockies with grave ecological implications! Switchbacks of dusty scree and a moonscape tundra contrast with swatches of green. Plants just inches-tall cling to the thinnest skein of soil while bighorn sheep graze at elevations that defy pastoral possibilities. We will eat lunch atop the mountain with grand sweeping views- the Two Medicine valley one way and, in the other, the Sweet Grass Hills nearly 100 miles afar. (the hike is 7.9 miles, 2,300ft elevation gain/loss).

Day 3: We will start the day with a drive up to Logan Pass along the stunning Going to the Sun Road. We will hike along the Highline Trail and to Hidden Lake Overlook, two of Glacier Park’s most remarkable trails. Our local expert guides will give you an overview of the Glacier National Park’s geology and the mile-high glaciers that once carved these landscapes. Logan Pass is a wildlife-rich area, and we will keep an eye out for mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and the gregarious hoary marmot along the trail, discussing how these alpine species survive in this harsh environment. (Combined daily total 9mi, 1,200ft elevation gain/loss).

Day 4: This hike will lead us to a primeval forest nestled in the maritime climate of the McDonald Valley, where you can expect to find ancient markers of centuries past. The lush cedar-hemlock complex, is home to an explosion of life that beautifully conveys the grandeur and biological fullness of Glacier National Park’s timeless spaces. Following mossy boulders and smoothed ravine walls of Avalanche Creek, we will hike to Avalanche Lake. This lake is home to the Westslope Cutthroat trout, who feed in the chilly depths and tell a remarkable tale of adaptation and change. We will encounter the remnants of avalanche blowdown, (colossal stones plucked out by pressures of ice), and finish in a glacier-fed cirque basin. It’s a trek that often leaves the most stoic of hikers misty-eyed. (the hike is 4.6 miles, 600ft elevation gain/loss).

Day 5: Today is our free day. This day is intended to break up the hiking of the week and allow you to pick what you wish to do, at your leisure! Here are some options to choose from: Whitewater Rafting via Glacier Guides: 406-387-5555 | Horseback Riding via Swan Mountain Outfitters: 406-387-4405 | or visit Apgar Village to rent a kayak or bike at Glacier Outfitters: 406-219-7466. Have a great day! **The logistics:We will have breakfast at 7:30 a.m., and run various shuttles to Glacier Guides, Swan Mountain Outfitters or Apgar Village at pre-designated times though the day, appetizers will be at 5 p.m. followed by dinner at 6 p.m.

Day 6: Today we will head to the breathtaking scenery at the southern boundary of the park an area that leaves one breathless before even hitting the trailhead. We will trek through a nexus of prairie, montane, marsh, and parkland, and ultimately reach the sub-alpine area. You are sure to experience the whistling songbirds and a menagerie of wildlife that call this area home. We will rest for lunch atop Firebrand Pass peering into Ole Creek valley. This is a catch-all trail rare on the south side! (the hike is10.2 miles, 2,100ft elevation gain/loss).

Day 7: Group participants often list today as the highlight of their trip. Our drive today will lead us to the east side of the park to visit the Many Glacier Valley. As we hike past shining lakes, we will climb into beautiful alpine meadows home to spirea and beargrass (when in season). At our destination of Grinnell Lake, your legs and lungs may burn from the climb, but the stunning views of Grinnell Glacier laid out before you will steal your breath away all over again. We will rest here for lunch, while we enjoy a rare opportunity to bask in the presence of one of Glacier National Park’s few remaining Glaciers. Our educational focus today will highlight our changing climate, melting glaciers, and the resulting impact on the local flora and fauna. (The hike is 10.3 miles, 1,700ft elevation gain/loss).

Day 8: The trip will end after breakfast, and packed lunches will be available to take with you. All travelers should plan to check out by 10 a.m.

Food: The following meals will be provided: Dinner on Day 1 -Day 7 plus lunch on Day 8. 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: 7 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, as well as transportation associated with Day 5 rafting or horseback excursion. You are responsible for costs associated with free day activities for Day 5. 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 an average of 9 miles each day over uneven terrain with an average elevation gain of 1,500 feet. See hike specific trail stats on itinerary above (these are approximations).

Equipment: You will receive a 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, with 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. Travelers should plan to arrive at Field Camp on arrival day between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to check in and get settled. Travelers should plan to depart our Glacier Institute Field Camp by 10 a.m. on departure day. If you find airline reservations are difficult to make by flying into Kalispell, an alternative is to fly into Missoula, which is about three hours from the park. If you fly into Missoula, you will need to rent a car for the drive up to the park. *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.

Difficulty: Most of our hikes will range from 8-12 miles in length. The hikes will be moderate to moderately strenuous with elevation gains of 400-2,700 feet. All of the hikes are on maintained trails and will take place between elevations of 5,000 to 8,100 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 8-10 miles that gain at least 1,500-2,000 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 and keep within the group.

Weather During September: In September, Glacier National Park’s temperature starts to drop, although it will still be warm around midday. The average high is 67°F (19°C), and the average low is 39°F (4°C), with the weather starting to become cloudier and wetter than in previous months.

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What to Expect On Your Exploring Glacier Park | 8-Day Hike in September

We will spend the week seeing and learning as much as possible about Glacier National Park. Most of our hikes will range from 8-12 miles in length. The hikes will be moderate to moderately strenuous with elevation gains of 400-2,700 feet. All of the hikes are on maintained trails and will take place between elevations of 5,000 to 8,100 feet.

Hike Details

  • This program meets at Glacier Institute Field Camp, West Glacier.
  • The program will begin at 5 p.m. on day 1 and ends at 10 a.m. on the final day. Please arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Hiking distance covers 8-12 miles, with 400-2,700 feet. All of the hikes are on maintained trails and will take place between elevations of 5,000 to 8,100 feet.
  • Glacier National Park Vehicle Pass is requred, you can purchase a pass at recreation.gov.</>
  • On-site parking is 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