High Country Exploration | Guided Educational Hike

Saint Mary Valley to Piegan Pass trail. Enjoy the stunning views

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Distance

9 Miles

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Elevation Gain

2,000 Feet

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Difficulty

Moderate/Strenuous

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Cost Per Person

$100

Hike Overview

Come experience the high country, where we will observe environmental changes as we hike from the dense subalpine spruce and fir forest of the Saint Mary Valley, to the stunning alpine zones characterized by gnarled, windswept trees that hug the ground. We will continue up to the rocky, moonscape-like tundra at Piegan Pass, where colorful wildflowers grow only inches tall. We will learn about the life cycles, adaptation strategies, and interactions of plants and animals of the high country. We will delve into how certain indicator species thrive in these zones, despite the wind and weather extremes of the Rocky Mountain Front.

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High Country Exploration | Guided Educational Hike

Hike Overview Continued

Educational Guided Tour

Come experience the Glacier National Park high country, where you will observe environmental changes as we hike from the dense subalpine spruce and fir forest of the Saint Mary Valley, to the stunning alpine zones, characterized by gnarled, windswept trees that hug the ground. We will continue up to the rocky, moonscape-like tundra at Piegan Pass in Glacier National Park, where colorful wildflowers grow only inches tall. We will learn about the life cycles, adaptation strategies, and interactions of plants and animals of the high country. We will delve into how certain indicator species thrive in these zones, despite the wind and weather extremes of the Rocky Mountain Front.

Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp

Itinerary: (subject to change due to weather and trail closures)
We will meet at Glacier Institute Field Camp at 7 a.m., followed by a brief introduction to climate variations on the west and east sides of the park. We will then load up in the Glacier Institute vehicles and drive to the Saint Mary Valley. We will begin hiking the Piegan Pass trail, discussing the landscape, climate and indicator species of the area. The group will stop frequently along the trail to observe the plant life, wildlife, and the changes in topography. We will discuss the connections between the local landscape, climate, vegetation, and wildlife in Glacier National Park. We will return to Glacier Institute Field Camp and the class will conclude at 4 p.m. (If Piegan Pass is closed we will hike to Scenic Point in the Two Medicine Valley).

Food: Please bring a trail lunch, plenty of water, and snacks for the day.

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

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 elevations), so please be prepared for extremely high winds and cold temperatures. Please bring appropriate clothing and extra layers.

Physical Requirements: Moderate to strenuous difficulty. Hiking distance covers 9 miles round-trip with 2,000 feet of elevation change. Scenic Point as an alternate hike is 8 miles round-trip with 2,400 feet in elevation changes.

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What to Expect On Your High Country Exploration | Guided Day Hike

We will be hiking the Piegan Pass trail, discussing the landscape, climate and indicator species of the area. The hiking distance will be 9 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation change.

Hike Details

  • This program meets at Glacier Institute Field Camp, West Glacier
  • The program will begin 7 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. Please arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Hiking distance covers 9 miles with 2,000 feet elevation change.
  • On-site parking available.
  • There is a maximum number of 13 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