Hiking From the Granite Park Chalet Down the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail to the Many Glacier Area - Glacier National Park - Montana
This was the second day of a fantastic two-day hike in Glacier National Park. In addition to gorgeous scenery, toward the end of the hike we saw five moose including a cow with twins. No doubt this combination hike is on our list of top ten hikes.
To read how we got here, check out yesterday's entry: Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet.
It was right at 7:00 a.m., and I decided to go ahead and fill our Camelbak water bladders (about 2.5 liters each) and our Platypus collapsible bottles (1 liter each). It was downhill a quarter mile on a rocky trail to the potable water.
When I arrived at the two, small, green tanks with the water filters, there were signs on water spigots saying "Boil water before drinking". But I remembered the staff at the chalet saying there was a hose for potable water. Walking around to the back of the tanks, there was the small hose.
I filled all our water containers for today's hike down to Many Glacier valley. Carrying seven liters of water back up the hill wasn't easy, but at least it was done.
When I returned, others were starting to mill around. I walked up the trail we would be taking later this morning to take a couple of pics of the back of the chalet from above (including the first of today's photos). The mountains made for a lovely backdrop in the morning light.
Yeah, the accommodations aren't great, but it's a special experience to get to stay here.
When I returned, Linda was in the chalet having a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, she didn't sleep well at all.
We ate some of the items we packed in hoping the food would give us energy. And we added some Gatorade powder to our water for today's hike.
Check out was at 9:30, and that was about the time we started up the trail.
One of the great things about staying at the chalet is that there are no other people on the trails that far into the park in the morning - a wonderful benefit.
It was almost a mile up to the Swiftcurrent Pass and about a 500 foot elevation gain. It was the only significant climb on today's hike.
As we went up, we got yet another look at the spectacular setting of the Granite Park Chalet.
Here was one last look behind us before we went over the pass.
At the pass, we had the option of taking a side trail up to the top of Swiftcurrent Mountain and a lookout. But that trail is 1.4 miles and gains another 1,600 feet in elevation. I didn't care how great the views were, neither of us was even close to wanting to do that.
Over the pass, we got our first look down into the gorgeous valley.
That was to be our view for almost all of the 2,200 foot descent.
When not looking out over the lakes, we would be facing this wall of waterfalls.
We paused to take in the view quite often.
Linda took some video of the views.
And we kept checking out the trail that always seemed to be far below no matter how much we went down.
We started down this section and had in our sights a break spot next to a mountain stream.
We never tired of this view - hope you don't either.
We took off our packs and sat next to the stream for several minutes.
I spotted something in the second lake and, with the binoculars, confirmed it was a moose.
Continuing on and turning a corner, we saw another lake that had been hidden from our view before.
At the viewpoint where this next photo was taken, we could see another moose in the third lake, and again the trail was still way below us (on the lower right).
Depending on what you might consider a waterfall, there were anywhere from six to eleven on this wall, and the sounds of all of them combined for a consistent roar.
A little more video from Linda.
The trail descended to the widest part of one of the waterfalls, ....
and the switchback pointed us again toward the valley.
We were soon through the steepest, rockiest part of the trail and we were getting close to the meadows and the appearance of more trees.
Oh, by the way, the abundance and the variety of wildflowers was amazing. I could picture my Mom on the slopes in a "wildflower stoop" gently inspecting every bloom and identifying every plant.
At the first shady spot, Linda took the opportunity to get her legs up, and her buff was her best friend as it kept the bugs at bay.
There were certainly people on the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, but it was nothing like the constant traffic on the Highline Trail. We rested there for quite some time without anyone going by.
Revitalized, we continued down the long, gradual switchbacks and I couldn't help but taking a slightly different picture of the same view over and over.
I was completely enthralled with the beauty of the valley and the wall of high waterfalls.
Eventually, I stopped taking pictures long enough to reach the valley floor where the temperatures were higher and a stream led us toward the lakes.
Linda changed into her hiking sandals for the last four miles of mild terrain. She probably should have waited just a little longer until we were through a series of creek crossings.
The trail went by the first lake we could see from above.
Unfortunately, the trail then left the lakeshores and bypassed the next two, smaller lakes where we saw the moose from up on the ridge. We were walking on the trail through pretty thick vegetation, and we were too tired to bushwhack our way sideways to the lakes.
We crossed a "one hiker at a time" suspension bridge, ...
and continued on this somewhat boring mile-and-a-half to two-mile section of the trail. It was hot and there was little shade for quite some time.
That was the only section of this fabulous trail that was mildly disappointing.
After another rest as soon as we found shade, we were glad to see this small cascade and a return to the water.
When we reached Red Rock Falls, we knew we had less than two miles to go.
These falls were also quite scenic, but would be best photographed in the morning.
Just below the falls, we came to Red Rock Lake. We had been hearing about moose sightings on the lake and someone pointed out this young bull lying in the grass on a peninsula.
Our feet were really starting to hurt, so we decided to plop down in the shade along the lake and wait for this fella to get up. Plus, we thought we might get a glimpse of the other moose we'd been hearing about - a bull with a large rack of antlers and a cow with twin calves.
Eventually, our patience was rewarded as this big cow and her two cautious calves appeared.
Linda had the video going when they made their appearance.
But after taking a peek, she turned around and took the kids back into the brush. However, several minutes later she reappeared uplake.
She left the adorable, lanky mooselets on the edge of the water and she started swimming across the lake. She was blocked by the trees, so I grabbed my camera and backtracked on the trail until I guessed where I might be able to get down to the lake for a good look.
I guessed right. I arrived just as her head popped out of the water.
I watched her disappear and reappear as she fed on the aquatic plants.
While I watched, I saw the calves moving around the lake to try to get closer to mom.
I knew Linda couldn't see any of this, so I rushed back to get her and our backpacks. We crept down off the trail into the thick trees trying to be as quiet as possible as we got close to the lake and the moose family.
The calves timidly walked into the lake.
Soon, they were half swimming, half mud-walking out to their mother. It was so much fun to watch as they flailed around in the deeper water.
Once they circled mom in what seemed to be an "I'm in over my head" panic, ....
she herded them back to shore. Linda got it all on video.
The calves got back on solid ground and laid down to rest while mom continued to feed.
What a precious few minutes we got to spend with those three without anyone else around. I can't help but smile as I type about this experience.
We walked back to our prior resting spot, and the young bull was now up and in the water.
And if that wasn't enough, the big bull we heard about was in the background on the far shore.
We probably spent an hour to an hour and a half at Red Rock Lake watching five moose. Tiredness and patience paid off.
Even with our extra long break, our feet hadn't recuperated. The last mile and a half was a trudge. But we stayed alert because we had heard of two sightings of a grizzly not far from the trailhead.
I had tested our bear spray earlier in our hike just to be sure it was working properly, but we didn't see the bear.
Whew, what a fabulous two days of hiking. The scenery was unbelievable and today's moose ending was very special. I would highly recommend that two-day combination - Highline Trail, Granite Park Chalet, and Swiftcurrent Pass Trail - to anyone that can physically do it.
Of course, after hiking five miles on Tuesday, six miles on Wednesday, seven and a half miles yesterday (ten and a half for me), and almost eight miles today, we were exhausted. The Jeep was quite a welcome sight.
As we slowly made our way out Many Glacier Road, just to top things off, there was a very small Black Bear alongside the road. We didn't get a very good look or a very long look, but I got a picture of its back and rump before it ambled into the brush.
Yeah, in just a few days, we've become huge fans of Glacier National Park.