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Glacier Discovery Week: September 1-8, 2018 *All Lodging and Meals Included

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If you are registering more than 1 person, please give their name.

Glacier Discovery Week:  Natural History Exploration Week in GNP for Adults 

September 1-8, 2018

John Muir encouraged visitors to Glacier National Park to “give a month at least to this precious reserve.”  He said that time in Glacier “will not be taken from the sum of your life.  Instead of shortening it, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.”  Although we cannot promise that this trip will result in immortality, we can promise a week of camaraderie, learning, and world-class hiking that you will remember for the rest of your life.  Join like-minded adventurers for a weeklong exploration of the ‘Crown of the Continent’ Ecosystem.  Venture out each day with professional naturalists to see and learn about cerulean lakes, meadows bursting with wildflowers, the iconic Going to the Sun Road, and Glacier’s famous bears and goats.  This trip is designed for those that want to see and learn as much as possible about Glacier over the course of a single week. 

Your trip fee includes:

  • Ground transportation to and from Glacier Park International Airport
  • Rustic and comfortable shared lodging on a bluff overlooking the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork River
  • Six field outings led by professional naturalist guides trained in wilderness first aid and bear safety
  • Twenty-one meals.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day with coffee, snacks, appetizers, and desserts included.  **Vegetarian options available**
  • An optional whitewater rafting trip down the Middle Fork River (not included in trip fee)


Moderately strenuous.  Participants will hike an average of nine miles each day over uneven terrain with an average elevation gain of 1,500 feet. 

Trip Itinerary: *All hikes are subject to change depending on trail closures, road closures, and group abilities.

Day 1:  All travelers should arrive to the Glacier Institute Field Camp between 3:00pm and 4:00pm.  If you are arriving to the Glacier Park International Airport, a Glacier Institute staff member will pick you up and transport you to Field Camp with a stop at the grocery store along the way for any last minute personal needs.  At camp, you will settle in to your cabins, familiarize yourself with the campus, and meet other travelers.  Then, over a happy hour with drinks and appetizers, we will review the schedule for the week, go over risk management policies, and answer questions for the week ahead.  We will then enjoy a BBQ dinner and an evening walk to Quarter-Circle bridge to stretch our legs and look for wildlife.

Day 2:  Our first day on the trail will begin with a drive up to Logan Pass along the stunning Going to the Sun Road.  Today, we will hike along the Highline Trail and to Hidden Lake Overlook, two of the Park’s most remarkable trails.  Our local expert guides will give us an overview of the parks geology and the mile high glaciers that once carved these landscapes.  Logan Pass is a wildlife-rich area, and we will keep an eye out for mountain goats, big horn sheep, and the gregarious hoary marmot along the trail, discussing how these alpine species survive in this harsh environment.

Day 3:  Today’s hike will lead us to the aptly named ‘Huckleberry Lookout’.  The forests we hike through are heavy laden with Glacier’s famous huckleberries when in season.  Along the way, our group leaders will teach us about the importance of fire ecology and share with us several adaptations the local flora and fauna have adopted to live with fire.  After graduating through the mid-elevation montane forests, we will move into the subalpine zone and receive an impressive view of the Livingston range laid out before us.  Our destination for the day is an active fire lookout tower atop Huckleberry Peak.  We will rest for lunch at the lookout while our local guides share stories of Glacier’s epic fire history.   In the evening, we will have an evening presentation on glaciology and climate change from a local resource expert.

Day 4:  Group participants often list today as the highlight of their trip.  Our drive today will lead us to the east side of the park to visit the Many Glacier Valley.  As we hike past shining lakes, we will climb into beautiful alpine meadows home to spirea and beargrass when in season.  At our destination of Grinnell Lake, your legs and lungs may burn from the climb, but the stunning views of Grinnell Glacier laid out before you will steal your breath away all over again.  We will rest here for lunch, while we enjoy a rare opportunity to bask in the presence of one of Glacier National Park’s few remaining Glaciers.   Our educational focus today will highlight our changing climate, melting glaciers, and the resulting impact on the local flora and fauna.

Day 5:  Today is our rest day.  Options for today depend on group interest and include a ½ day rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, a short hike to Avalanche Lake to learn about the spectacular old growth cedar forests, spending time in the shops of Apgar village, or simply enjoying a huckleberry ice cream cone on the shores of Lake McDonald while reading a good book.  After dinner tonight, we will enjoy a presentation from a local resource expert. 

Day 6:  Our morning drive will lead us along the southern boundary of Glacier Park to the Two Medicine Valley.  After hiking along Upper Two Medicine Lake, we will climb out of the glacially carved valley towards Cobalt Lake.  Along the way, our guides will share the cultural history of the area focusing on the Blackfeet people and their connection with Glacier National Park.  Suspension bridges, moose ponds, and stunning peaks will keep us company on our journey to the frigid and beautiful alpine lake.  Those brave enough to take a dip are welcome to do so!   

Day 7:  Our final day of hiking will lead us to the “Backbone of the Earth” where we will hike to Piegan Pass.  A steady climb will challenge us as we move through talus fields and along meadows where it is not completely uncommon to see a grizzly bear.  At Piegan Pass, we will be rewarded with stunning views of the Many Glacier Valley thousands of feet below.   The stunning alpine landscapes of Piegan Pass set the stage for today’s educational focus on pikas, wolverines, ptarmigan, and other alpine ambassadors of Glacier National Park. After the hike, we will head back to Field Camp for happy hour, dinner, and an evening campfire to reflect upon our week in paradise. 

Day 8:  The trip will end after breakfast.  Those flying out of Glacier International Airport will be transported by Glacier Institute staff.  

Getting There

The Glacier Institute Field Camp is located just inside the West Entrance to Glacier National Park. The nearest airport is in Kalispell, Montana, about 30 minutes from the Field Camp. After registering for the trip, a Glacier Institute representative will help you find the best time to book your flights. 

If you find airline reservations are difficult to make by flying into Kalispell, an alternative is to fly into Missoula, which is about three hours from the park. If you fly into Missoula you will need to rent a car for the drive up to the park. For those of you who can utilize Southwest Airlines another option would be to fly into Spokane, Washington, and then drive to the park from there. The drive would be approximately six hours. On past trips, some participants have traveled to the Park by Amtrak. The Empire Builder line, which leaves from Chicago, makes a stop at West Glacier. Note that airfare and car rental are not included in the trip price.

Accommodations and Food

We will be staying at the Glacier Institute Field Camp which is best described as "rustic." Though rustic, it is quite comfortable. The camp is located on a bluff overlooking the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, and includes five sleeping cabins, a community bath house with private showers and bathrooms, a classroom, a library and a kitchen. Each sleeping cabin comes with four or five twin beds and has electricity, but there is no running water, TV, or phone. The cabins do have a portable electric heater for use if the nights get too cool. A bottom sheet, blanket, and pillow are provided, but most people bring their own sleeping bag or other personal bedding. The community bath house has flush toilets, sinks, and hot showers. All meals will be provided by the Glacier Institute staff. Breakfast is continental style and dinner is homemade; lunch fixings are provided for each participant to prepare their own lunch to eat on the trail. Vegetarians can be accommodated. For more information about the camp and the Glacier Institute, please visit their website at www.glacierinstitute.org.

Trip Difficulty

Most of our hikes will range from 8-12 miles in length. The hikes will be moderate to moderately strenuous with elevation gains of 400-2,700 feet. All of the hikes are on maintained trails and will take place between elevations of 5,000 to 8,100 feet. In order to comfortably complete the hikes on this trip, all hikers should be participating in regular aerobic activity four to five days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes duration -- jogging, bike riding, or using the aerobic equipment at your local gym are just some examples. To help build your endurance, you should begin weekly hikes a few months before the trip of 8-10 miles that gain at least 1,500-2,000 feet of elevation. By the time of the trip you should be able to comfortably maintain an average hiking speed of 2-2.5 mph for six to eight hours -- the key word being comfortably.   Because of the small, but real potential for grizzly bear encounters while hiking in Glacier National Park, it is not safe for people to become separated from the group. Therefore, it is imperative that you are able to maintain the hiking pace recommended by the leader.  ** You must be 21 or older to attend this course.