Habitats of Glacier


September 13-15, 2021 – In this 3 day course we will explore the east side, west side, and the top side of Glacier and learn the real “story behind the scenery”.

(Summer Activity Level)

Habitats of Glacier

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Habitats of Glacier
Instructor: Denny Olson
September 13 at 7 a.m. – September 15 at 4 p.m.

Glacier National Park is spectacular for many reasons, but the emphasis in this course will be “how all those reasons fit together”, for example, the ecological relationships between fungus and forest, nutcrackers and grizzlies, climate and Glacier’s alpine – and the odd, fascinating, but nearly unknown species of plants and animals in the Park. With day hikes on the east side, west side, and top side, we will examine Glacier’s fine-tuned ecology — the real “story behind the scenery”. This class is an intensive, on-site overview of the Park, with an emphasis on the “bet-you-didn’t-know!” stories from a 45-year teaching naturalist.

Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp.

Itinerary (subject to change):

Day 1: Westside, Wetside

  • Meet at 7 a.m. for brief introductions and orientation, course overview
  • Drive to McGee Meadow on the Inside North Fork Road to learn about fens and bogs.
  • Short hike to Johns Lake. Here we will learn about the “little bog of horrors” and pioneer rainforests.
  • Trail of the Cedars (fungus and forest; swift accommodations; cancer cures)
  • Avalanche Lake Trail (valley of NO fire; log cities; power of ice; Oregon dirt)
  • Return, and dinner at Field Camp
  • Evening Presentation: The Spectacular Birds of Glacier – with special guest Professor Avian Guano, Bir.D. (Clown ducks, ouzels, camp robbers, woodpeckers and fire, etc.)

Day 2: Life at the Top

  • Breakfast
  • 7 a.m. Leave for Siyeh Bend on Going to the Sun Road (stop for the oldest recorded life in prehistory, hardrock café geology in the bus)
  • Hike to Preston Park (Whitebark pine keystone: grizz, squirrels, nutcrackers; living in the subalpine world)
  • Lunch overlooking ‘half of Montana’ (plant survival strategies in the alpine)
  • Return hike: (climate, glaciers and the disappearing alpine – Timberline sparrows, ptarmigan, rosy finches and wolverines)
  • Return, and dinner at Field Camp
  • Evening presentation: Glacier’s Little-known and Seldom-seen (alpine frogs, toads and fire, boreal boas)

Day 3: Eastside Windy Parklands

  • Breakfast
  • 7 a.m. leave for East side on Hwy 2
  • The newly discovered under-riverbed world
  • Marias Pass stop (the 300 X 50-mile all-time world record bulldozer!)
  • Hike to base of Firebrand Pass (Glacier’s fish – mega-messing with Mother Nature; beaver behavior, wind and where trees live; grizzlies-huckleberries-moths-lilies-and- ladybugs – the ‘Paleo-diet’; a “krummy” place to be a pine)
  • Return hike (the magical physiology of bears; taking a “lichen” to primitive plants; picky butterflies and other endangered species; the value of “quiet”; maybe a moose?)
  • Back to Field Camp (The “Big Picture”, good-byes)

Food: The following meals are included: lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 3.

Accommodations: 2 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 pillow case, 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.  

Equipment: You will receive a Field Camp gear list once you register. Most importantly are 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

Physical Requirements: Strenuous to moderate difficulty. The elevation gains on four hikes range from 500 to 2000 feet. Day 1 involves 6 miles of hiking with 800 feet of elevation gain. Day 2 involves 9 miles of hiking with up to 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Day 3 involves 10 miles of hiking, with up to 2,000 feet of elevation gains. Frequent learning breaks will be taken along the trail.


Additional information

Refund Policy

The Glacier Institute has a 24 hour cancellation policy for a full refund with all of our courses.

Did you know Glacier Institute members receive a 10% discount?