Hikes, Waterfalls and Bears—Oh, My! in Many Glacier

IMG_7417_LUCiDDuring our recent long weekend in Glacier National Park, we spent time driving to the various areas within the park, covering to some degree the north, east and southeast sections of the park.

Unfortunately the western side of the park was fairly inaccessible due to active wildfires, but we were thrilled they had opened Going to the Sun road so we could at least drive through the western entrance, even though we weren’t allowed to stop or explore.

After a wonderful time in Waterton, Canada, we drove back into the U.S. to finish our day in one of the northeastern sections of the park known as Many Glacier.

Brian had printed off maps of each section of the park that we had perused on our train ride from Everett to Whitefish, and we had marked a few hikes of interest in Many Glacier, dependent upon the weather, fire conditions and amount of time we would have in that area.

Given how much we enjoyed Waterton, we arrived in Many Glacier later in the day than expected and the sun was already inching its way toward the horizon. We decided to drive all the way into the park so we could see the camping areas and in-park lodges and inns (all closed for the season) and try to at least hike out and back to Apikuni Falls, which was only a two-mile roundtrip proposition.

As we were driving into the park, we noticed a bunch of cars heading out of the park that appeared to be pulled over alongside the road. We slowed down, and as we approach them we saw a black bear RIGHT alongside the road grabbing a bite to eat in the underbrush!

I felt bad blocking the view of everyone patiently watching, but Brian slowed down so we could take a look (and a few pictures) as we drove by and to the trailhead for our hike.

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As we continued on, Brian made some joke about keeping our eyes peeled for additional bears and no sooner had he spoken than another black bear came tearing out of the tree line to our left, barreling across the road in front of our car and into the forest on our right!

Brian hit the brakes, I squealed, the bear disappeared, and I’m pretty sure we were all experiencing higher than normal resting heart rates. I was suddenly more nervous about hiking around in the woods at dusk than I had been before!

A little further up the road we found the trailhead, parked and grabbed our hiking accoutrements, including bear spray! Brian had researched a few options and ultimately landed on one that fit into a handy holster on your belt loop. Once that was in place, we set off for the falls.

The first part of the hike was across an open meadow with lovely views of the surrounding area. The sun was lighting up the mountains to the east, but there were some ominous cloud formations occurring in the west so we picked up the pace, heading into the forest and uphill toward the falls.

As we approached the falls, the mountains became more exposed and we had to scramble over some rocky sections of trail until we arrived at the waterfall and stream. The falls has two section–an impressive drop that then pools and cascades down a smaller section of rocks. As Brian made his way down to the lower section to take pictures, I rested along a rock wall, taking it all in and pulling my hood up to block the random raindrops that were beginning to fall.

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Thankfully we didn’t encounter any bears on our hike and made it back to the car before the rain picked up. We drove into the park until the road ended and then looped back to head toward the park entrance and begin our return to Whitefish.

Along the way, we once again saw cars pulled alongside the road so we also pulled over to see where people were pointing. Sure enough, there were three bears up on the mountainside roaming around! They were pretty far away but it was amazing how well you could see them once you spotted them moving about!

Our long lens was no match for the distance, but it was fun watching them and talking to the people around us who were also trying to spot and track their activity.

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After a brief stay we decided to move on, and once again found ourselves coming around a corner to a bunch of cars pulled along both sides of the road. It looked as though people were looking to the north so we pulled along the northern bank of the road, turned off the car, and were absolutely blown away to see three grizzly bears—a mom and two cubs!

Brian put the long lens on our camera and captured some amazing pictures of them eating and walking around in the open meadow. The babies were so funny, running around and trying to keep up with mom. She didn’t seem remotely concerned by the cars and people or the babies and went about her business collecting food.

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After a while the rangers set off some shots to shoo them away into the woods—they don’t want the bears getting too acclimated to the cars along the road—but I was so grateful they let us watch them for so long. Everyone stayed in their cars, no one was trying to approach them—everyone was just happy to sit and watch.

It was growing dark as we made our way out of the park but we still managed to enjoy a few more views as we departed. It would have been amazing to stay at one of the lodges in the park and have ready access to the hiking trails and early morning and evening views. Something to keep in mind for our next visit!

Whether it was because of the weather, the fires, or the time of day we were there, Many Glacier ended up being an incredible section of the park for seeing wildlife—specifically bears! We enjoyed our hike, the falls, and the opportunity to see so many animals in their natural habitat. For me, our afternoon in Many Glacier was one of the highlights of our trip!

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