As you sit there in your chair, drifting off and wondering if you can make it through yet another day of work the thoughts of mountain landscapes, in clear rivers and wildlife images begin to fill the void in your day. Work just doesn’t seem important anymore, as you drift off into your day dream the visions of an incredible hike into Glacier National Park suddenly make you come alive! You then start counting the days until your big trip is here. In the meantime, you will undoubtedly buy a new pair of hiking boots, walking sticks and a whole lot of other crap you probably don’t need or use but it just seems like that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? After all, this is the trip of a lifetime! Okay, you have all of your gear, you’ve chosen your trailhead, now what?
These are just some ideas to get you thinking about how to prepare for your hiking adventure from a local expert on a day trip.
Disclaimer: These are a few tips that may be useful, Ted has been in the mountains his whole life and may do things a bit different.
1. Avoid Packing Water
Yes, seems to be crazy advice. Most all trails in Glacier are close to or cross water, check your map to make sure. If your going on a short hike bring a full water bottle with a filter in it, they are versatile, weigh a couple ounces and are extremely convenient. You just dunk your bottle in the water source and suck. Gone are the days of carrying large amounts of water on your back.
2. Pack Light
Only bring the necessities so you have a light pack, choose those items depending on your itinerary and time of the season. Ted’s list includes water filter, lightweight puffer jacket, camera, extra pair of socks, moleskin, rain jacket, headlamp, lighter and matches in the plastic bag, some snacks, protein bars, jerky, nuts, and chocolate. If you have to much weight your whole body will eventually feel it.
On long, multiple day hikes Ted breaks his toothbrush in half to save weight.
3. Time Your Trip
Get up early and be at the desired trailhead at first light especially during July and August months. If you start late you will be on the trail with upwards of 50-100 people, especially on the most common trails. The most common trials in Glacier: Avalanche Lake, Hidden Lake trail, Grinnell Glacier, Highline trail, Iceberg lake
4. Hike Naked
Obviously, wear clothes, but don’t wear cotton. Use a mix blend, wool and poly to help wick away sweat, this includes your socks. Multiple layers, once to start to sweat, remove clothing. The weather changes dramatically in Glacier, look at the weather forecast prior to hitting the trail.
5. Don’t Call Home
Unlike any other day in life, don’t rely on your cell phone for maps, directions or weather reports. Yes, call home or tell someone where you will be so you don’t stress your loved ones out while you’re having the time of your life. Take a real paper map and compass if you know how to use one, and if you don’t, better not leave the trail. Glacier is extreme!
6. Hike By Yourself
Yes, all of the guides and experts tell you not to do this, it’s not recommended! Glacier is the home to all of the predators including the largest concentration of Grizzly bears in the lower 48. In Glacier, all of the top hikes have plenty of company, just keep your wits about you and yes carry bear spray. If its bushy, tall grass, crowded with trees or blind corners take extra precautions and talk in a loud voice at different times. It’s true, you will always see more wildlife when hiking by yourself but there is risk involved.
7. Avoid Hiking Boots That Fit
Seems strange right, always buy hiking boots that are 1/2 size larger than your size. Your feet will swell while hiking on the trail so you will eventually crowd your toes and get hotspots. If you buy new shoes break them in a bit before you arrive or you will become someone else’s headache on the trail.
8. Lose Your Belt
The worst thing in the world is to be heading up the trail and after about a mile you feel a hotspot on your back or hip from your backpack rubbing on your belt. Make sure you use a nylon belt or something with a small buckle and thin so it doesn’t stick out much.
If you come to Glacier ask the locals and stay at a place where you know the staffs are outdoor enthusiasts familiar with Glacier. The top hiking experts in Glacier National Park would be Glacier Guides/Montana Raft on the west side of the park, in the winter time Glacier adventure Guides are truly passionate about Glacier as well. Let them be your guides ensuring that you and your family will have an amazing trip! When heading to the East side of the park, along Highway 2 is Glaciers newest destination Summit mountain lodge and steakhouse. They are conveniently located in between both sides of the park just off of the main route which is highway 2. Not only is their business top rated on trip advisor but they also have an award-winning steakhouse on site. As a professional wildlife photographer, Ted Chase has spent most of his life exploring Glacier National Parks remote wilderness capturing rare wildlife encounters. Born and raised in Montana, he and his wife own Summit Mountain Lodge overlooking Glacier National Park.