Thursday, April 17, 2014

Video: Hike to Iceberg Lake

Below is another excellent "hikelogue" from The West is Big! Travel Guides. This film highlights another one of the classic hikes in Glacier National Park. Roundtrip, the hike to Iceberg Lake covers roughly 9.7 miles, and traverses through some of the most spectacular scenery in the park. On this particular video, the filmmakers encountered a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs. For more detailed information on the hike to Iceberg Lake, please click here

If you do plan to visit Glacier this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Public Invited to Participate in MT State Parks Strategic Planning Process

Montana State Parks ( announced yesterday that the public is invited to participate in focus groups as part of its strategic planning process. There will be eight focus groups around the state starting Monday, April 21 through Thursday, May 1.

Working with the public, stakeholders and the Montana State Parks & Recreation Board, the Parks' Division aims to address challenges related to resources, system capacity and gain insight on the public's interests in services and recreation needs.

The strategic planning process will take a year to complete and will result in an updated vision for the Montana State Parks' system and recreation programs for the next decade. There will be a public comment process on the draft strategic plan, later this year.

The most recent strategic plan was created in 1998.

As part of the strategic planning process, Montana State Parks is hosting focus group sessions in communities around Montana. These sessions will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about the current status of the Montana State Parks' system and provide feedback on challenges and opportunities, including: what makes a state park significant?, what services are needed for the future?, how does the state parks' system sustain adequate resources to handle demands?

Individuals are welcome to attend one of the focus group sessions listed below. Each focus group will last about three hours and refreshments will be provided. The public is encouraged to RSVP by calling the Montana State Parks Helena office at (406) 444-3750.

Focus Group Sessions:

• Glasgow - Monday, April 21, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm Cottonwood Inn, 45 1st Ave NE, Glasgow

• Glendive - Tuesday, April 22, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Dawson Community College, Ullman Center (UC 102), 300 College Drive, Glendive

• Billings - Wednesday, April 23, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Pictograph Cave State Park, 3401 Coburn Road, Billings

• Kalispell - Monday, April 28, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Lone Pine State Park, 300 Lone Pine Rd, Kalispell

• Missoula - Tuesday, April 29, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Travelers' Rest State Park, 6717 Highway 12 W, Lolo

• Whitehall - Wednesday, April 30, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, 25 Lewis and Clark Caverns Rd., Whitehall

• Helena – Thursday, May 1, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm, Carroll College, Campus Center (Rice Avila DeSmet Room), 1601 North Benton, Helena

• Great Falls - Thursday, May 1, 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm, First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. 342 Ulm-Vaughn Rd., Ulm For more information about the focus group sessions, call the Montana State Parks’ Helena office at (406) 444-3750.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Snowpack Level in Glacier Well Above Long-term Average

According to the latest data published by the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL (SNOw TELemetry) station, the amount of snow accumulated in Glacier National Park this year is already well above the 40-year average. As of April 13th, the SNOTEL is reporting that Snow Water Equivalent (SWE), which is the weight of snow water equivalent to inches of water, has currently peaked at 53.9 inches. The peak for the 40-year SWE average is 45.9 inches.

Last year, total SWE peaked on May 2nd with a reading of 52.5 inches. In 2012, SWE peaked on May 7th, with a reading of 56 inches, and on May 10, 2011, the SWE reading reached 66.1 inches.

With the heavy snowpack Glacier National Park has experienced over the last several years, I would be real curious to see what the updated measurements are for the major glaciers in the park. Most of the data I've seen hasn't been updated in recent years. In fact, much of the data from the Glacier Monitoring Studies from the Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center appears to have been updated prior to 2010. However, I noticed on my most recent hike to Iceberg Lake two years ago that the amount of ice in and around the lake was much greater than what I witnessed in 1999 or 2004. I confirmed this by reviewing my photographs of the lake. All three of those hikes occurred around late August.

All in all, this year's snowpack potentially bodes well for a limited forest fire season later this summer and fall.

The Flattop Mountain SNOTEL station is located at an elevation of approximately 6300 feet on Flattop Mountain, which is a high plateau between the Lewis and Livingston Ranges in Glacier National Park. According to the website, "Flattop Mountain is a useful indicator of snowfall throughout Glacier National Park because it is subject to the factors that influence conditions elsewhere in the park".

Data from the Flattop Mountain SNOTEL is compiled by water year, which runs from October 1st through September 30th.

The following is a graph that compares SWE for 2014 (black line) versus the average (green line) and the maximum and minimum water years (you can click here for a larger version):

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Monday, April 14, 2014

Captured Grizzly Bear Released in Glacier National Park

According to FWP Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum, a 6 year old 340-pound male grizzly bear was captured on April 6 south of Eureka. FWP was assisted by USDA Wildlife Services personnel in capturing the grizzly.

The grizzly was implicated in a calf depredation that occurred on April 2. The bear had been previously captured in British Columbia during research trapping efforts in the fall of 2011. At that time the bear was fitted with ear-tags and released.

On April 7, the bear was examined and radio-collared. The grizzly was released on April 8 in Glacier National Park, assisted by GNP personnel, in an area seasonally closed due to snow and road conditions. There are no known previous management situations involving this bear.

Black Bear Activity:

Additional bear activity reported by Wenum includes four black bears that were captured over the last three days in the Columbia Falls and Whitefish areas. This level of activity indicates that while many bears may still be denned or close to their dens some have dropped to lower elevations in search of foods. As temperatures rise and snow melt begins more bears are emerging and dropping to the valley floor. Residents are encouraged to secure any attractants that may have been out during the winter, especially trash, birdfeeders, pet and livestock feeds.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

News Round-up for the Grand Tetons

While snowfall totals in some areas of the west have been exceptionally low this winter (less than a third of normal in the Sierra Nevadas in California), the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park has had one of the deepest snowpacks recorded in the last 18 years.

The Jackson Hole Avalanche Center has reported 500 inches at that location, up from a total of 383 inches last winter, and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort still has 140 inches of snow on the ground, the fourth deepest snowpack in the resort’s 48-year history.

Park road crews are now in the process of opening roads. Last week, they cut through the deep snowpack on the Teton Park Road between the Taggart Lake parking area and Signal Mountain Lodge—a distance of 15 miles— and completed this portion of the annual spring plowing on Friday, April 4th. They are still in the process of clearing the Jenny Lake scenic loop road, as well as other auxiliary roads and wayside areas.

The annual plowing of the Teton Park Road is a process that can take several weeks to complete, depending on the depth and consistency of the snowpack. Due to the exceptionally deep and dense snowpack this year, snow removal on just the principal Teton Park Road has taken the better part of two weeks.

Spring Migration Is Underway:

With the arrival of spring-like weather and recent snow melt across the sagebrush flats north of Jackson, animals are now migrating from their winter ranges toward their summering sites within Grand Teton National Park. Because spring migration is now fully underway, motorists must drive with extra caution during the coming weeks and be alert for wildlife near and along park roadways, such as Highway 26/89/191(Hwy 89).

Bears Are Out:

Bears are now out of hibernation and active again in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Consequently, park visitors need to be alert for bears and take appropriate precautions when using the Teton Park Road and other park areas. Visitors should exercise common sense and good judgment, stay alert, and follow these recommended safety tips while biking, hiking or spring skiing:

* Make noise
* Travel in a group of three or more
* Carry bear spray and know how to use it
* Maintain a 100-yard distance from bears at all times
* Never approach a bear under any circumstances

People should also report any bear sightings or sign to the nearest visitor center or ranger station. Timely reporting will help park staff to provide important safety messages about bear activity to other visitors.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Celebrate National Park Week 2014 With FREE Admission and Special Events

The National Park Service, in partnership with the National Park Foundation, recently announced that the nation’s 401 national parks will celebrate National Park Week April 19-27 with a free admission weekend and special events nationwide.

The theme for this year’s National Park Week invites visitors to “Go Wild” for history, nature, culture, wildlife, and fun in America’s national parks. Additional information, including a list of National Park Week events nationwide can be found online at

“National Park Week is a great time to discover the diverse wildlife, iconic landscapes, vibrant culture, and rich history found in our national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Every park offers a different experience so I invite everyone to join the celebration and get to know a park. And, to get the party started, all national parks will have free admission on April 19 and 20.”

Using the resources on the National Park Week website, visitors can plan park experiences based on their specific interests. A calendar of events includes many special National Park Week programs, including National Junior Ranger Day activities on April 26. Young visitors can take part in family-friendly activities and be sworn in as junior rangers at many parks. Visitors using the website can also share national park photos, videos, and tips, and learn about all the ways to help support national parks all year.

National Park Week also offers many opportunities for the public to explore local parks, trails, and architectural gems sustained by National Park Service programs such as the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program and theNational Register of Historic Places.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hiking a Classic: Mt. LeConte

The hike to Mt. LeConte via the Alum Cave Trail is one of the classic hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are several trails in the park that are far longer, gain more elevation, and have steeper climbs, but the Alum Cave Trail is unmatched in its combination of interesting geological features, history, high adventure and stunning views. Below is a video highlighting many of the sights hikers will enjoy along the way. For more detailed information on this classic Smokies hike, please click here.

If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our website offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with your vacation planning.

Hiking in Glacier National Park