Vacationing in Glacier National Park

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 24-30, 1997
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Vacationing in Glacier National Park
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Vacationing in Glacier National Park
Question: My wife and I are trying to decide between a week in Rocky Mountain National Park (and Boulder, Colorado) and Glacier National Park in Montana. We would like to go in early September (right after Labor Day). How should we decide between parks, and can you suggest any great hikes or rafting trips near them? Many thanks.

Ricardo Craft
Chicago, IL
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Your question is similar to asking whether one should go to Hawaii or Bora Bora. Both of the parks you mention contain some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Lower 48, but if I were to choose between the two, I'd go to Glacier. The reasons are simple:

Rocky Mountain National Park is centrally located so the RV crowd doesn't have much trouble detouring to the park. It may not be as packed in September, but you'll commonly find bumper-to-bumper traffic on Highway 34, which intersects the park.

Another reason I'd choose Glacier over Rocky Mountain is you'll likely be able to combine a visit to Rocky Mountain with other trips to the West. Besides, Boulder is a fun town, but it's a bit overrated. Glacier, on the other hand, is quite isolated, receiving only 1.7 million visitors last year compared to 3 million at Yellowstone and 4.1 million at Yosemite.

According to one source, the park can feel almost empty in September. With peaks up to 10,466 feet, at least 48 glaciers, approximately 600 lakes, and 1,500 square miles of woods, you'll find plenty of elbow room. Glacier has 1,100 campsites, 730 miles of hiking trails, and a whole slew of grizzly and black bears. In fact, you'll want to check in with the park headquarters regarding the state of the bears when you visit.

Rafting in September is probably not the best option because most of the snowmelt has already raged down the mountainside, leaving the rivers at an unexciting, lazy trickle. A seven-day pass to the park is $10. For specific hiking and campground information, call park headquarters at 406-888-7800.

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