Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Make Plans Now for a Great Fall Hiking Trip to Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is a great place to visit anytime of the year, but during the fall it's an especially wonderful time. In addition to weather that is usually spectacular, and with fewer crowds, hikers will have many options for viewing beautiful fall colors, especially those of aspens and western larch.

Roughly 55% of Glacier National Park is covered by forest. Of that percentage, roughly 90% is coniferous forest. The remaining 10% is considered to be deciduous forest, and is primarily made up of aspen, western larch and black cottonwood.

Some of the best places to see aspens, in all their shimmering golden yellow and orange glory, are on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. Towards the end of September is usually the best time to see aspens at their peak, and some of the best trails to find them include Redrock Falls, Bullhead Lake, Swiftcurrent Pass and Apikuni Falls in the Many Glacier area, Oldman Lake, Pitamakan Pass and Firebrand Pass in the Two Medicine area, the Beaver Pond Loop near the St. Mary entrance, as well as the Forest and Fire Nature Trail near the Camas Creek Entrance (just north of Apgar). Bowman Lake near the northwestern corner of the park is another great option.

Western larch:

The western and southern portions of Glacier are some of the best places to see larch as they turn bright yellow during the mid-to-late October timeframe. Although western larch, also known as tamaracks, appears to be an evergreen, they’re actually needle-bearing deciduous trees. After turning golden yellow in the fall, these trees lose their needles, and appear to be dead during the winter months.

If you wish to hike among the larch during the fall, visit any of the trails from the Sperry Chalet Trailhead near the Lake McDonald Lodge. This would include hikes up to Sperry Chalet, Snyder Lake and the Mt. Brown Lookout. On the western end of Lake McDonald, Rocky Point is another great choice. Any of the trails on the southern end of the park, such as Loneman Lookout, Scalplock Mountain Lookout or the South Boundary Trail, are all excellent options for viewing tamaracks at peak color.

The park strongly urges autumn hikers to make sure they are familiar with safety precautions while traveling in bear country, and to be prepared for variable temperatures and rapidly changing weather conditions.

If you do plan to visit Glacier this fall, be sure to visit the accommodation page on our hiking website to help with all your vacation planning.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

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