HIKING — While I'm writing an upcoming Sunday Outdoors story on a similar topic, Glacier National Park is warning hikes to be prepared for dealing with hazardous snowfields at high elevations even in lake July after a week of very warm weather.
- A day trip planning form can help hikers check to be sure they've thought of all the precautions.
Here's a lot of good information to review, especially if you're headed to one of the most stunning parks on the continent:
Several of Glacier National Park’s high elevation hikes are open to the public, but snow and snow hazards remain in many areas.
Hikers should be wary of snowfields and steep areas in the higher elevations. Snow bridges may exist, and hard to identify. A snow bridge may completely cover an opening, such as a creek, and present a danger. It may create an illusion of unbroken surface while hiding an opening under a layer of snow, creating an unstable surface.
It is important to know the terrain you are about to hike or climb, and carry the appropriate equipment. When hiking may include snowfield travel, visitors should know how to travel in such challenging conditions, including knowing how to use crampons and an ice axe. It is recommended to have layers of clothing available, appropriate footwear, including boots with lug soles, a map, first-aid kit, water and food. Always communicate to someone your planned route of travel and your expected time of return.
- There are over 700 miles of trails in Glacier National Park providing a variety of hiking opportunities. During July and August many of the more popular trails can be crowded. Visitors are encouraged to consider a lesser used trail or more remote trail during this time. See more information about hiking options and trail status.
Caution should be used near rivers and streams, as water may be extremely cold, and running swift and high. Avoid wading or fording in swift moving water, as well as walking, playing and climbing on slippery rocks and logs.
The Highline Trail is open, but snow remains past Haystack Butte. Strong hiking skills and snow travel skills, as well as the appropriate equipment, are recommended.
The Ptarmigan Tunnel is open. Stock access to Iceberg/Ptarmigan Trail is prohibited due to a temporary bridge that allows foot traffic, but it is not suitable for stock.
The park’s shuttle system is serving hikers on the east side of the park. It is free, and the shuttle has stops along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Due to road rehabilitation activities on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, parking to access the St. Mary, Virginia and Barring Falls areas is very challenging and the shuttle system may be a convenient alternative.
Black bears and grizzly bears are common in Glacier Park. Hikers are encouraged to hike in groups, carry bear spray that is easily accessible, and make noise at regular intervals along the trail. Bears spend a lot of time eating, so hikers should be extra alert while in or near feeding areas such as berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies. Hiking early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark is not encouraged. Trail running is not recommended as it has led to surprise bear encounters.
See more information about recreating in bear country.