Reading the Forest Landscape


Program Start Date:


2 DAY COURSE –  Gain a new appreciation and understanding of this vast and “overlooked” landscape in Glacier.

(Summer Activity Level)

Reading the Forest Landscape

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Reading the Forest Landscape
Instructor: Ellen Horowitz
June 29 at 7 a.m. – June 30 at 4 p.m.

Everyone knows that Glacier is a mountain park, but most people don’t realize that two-thirds of it is forested. Gain a new appreciation and understanding of this vast and “overlooked” landscape. Learn to read the forests through recognition of its trees – from towering, old growth temperate rainforest species on Glacier’s west side to the stunted, twisted, high elevation (krummholz) trees found at the upper limits of treeline. And hone your observational skills as you learn to decipher the stories inscribed on tree trunks and branches by wildlife. Glacier’s forests share their secrets once you know where to look.

Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp.

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

Day 1: We will begin with a slide presentation to provide background information about Glacier’s forests before heading into the woods to practice conifer identification using a botanical key (guide). We will drive to two or three very different forest environments on the west side of the park for short hikes where we’ll become more aware of our surroundings – from recognizing the types of trees growing in an area to noticing the signs left on trees in the form of rubs, scratches, scrapes and tooth marks. After dinner, we will regroup for an optional evening stroll near field camp and an introduction to Shinrin-Yoku. Also known as “forest bathing,” this Japanese practice of immersing oneself in a forest environment involves consciously connecting with all the senses.

Day 2: We will spend the day on the eastern slope of Glacier. After exploring extensive aspen groves along the foothills we’ll gradually hike into the subalpine forest zone and upper limits of treeline where trees grow crooked and often hug the ground instead of growing upright. Along the way, we will read the stories recorded on bark by animals using claws, teeth, antlers and other “writing implements.”

Food: The following meals are included: lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 2.

Accommodations: One night of lodging is 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.

Park Entrance Fees: Participants are responsible for purchasing their park entry passes prior to the course. These can be purchased online at:

Equipment: You will receive a Field Camp gear list once you register. Most importantly are comfortable hiking shoes, at least 1-2 liter water bottle, backpack, rain gear, hat, and sunscreen. Weather can be varied with extremely high winds, especially in the higher elevations, so please be prepared with appropriate clothing, and extra layers. Binoculars are not required but may be beneficial to spot wildlife, as well as your favorite guide books.

Physical Requirements: Moderately strenuous difficulty. Hiking distance each day covers approximately 7 miles with up to 1,200 feet of elevation change.

Academic Credit: Please see our ‘2021 Academic Credit’ link on our website to learn about OPI credits for our courses.


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?