mountain goat in glacier national park

Day 251 – Going-To-The-Sun Road

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Day 251 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

St Mary’s Falls Trail

What a wonderful day in Glacier National Park!  Our first stop on the Going to the Sun Road was at the St. Mary’s Falls Trailhead. I followed the St. Mary’s Falls trail through the forest along the aqua blue river to numerous waterfalls.  In fact, there were so many falls on the 3.6 mile round trip, that I, along with others, were confused as to which were which.

I was expecting to only see St. Mary’s Falls and Virginia Falls, but there were two more in between. What a pleasant surprise! At St. Mary’s Falls, water cascaded over the rocks as the river bent around cliffs like a backwards “C”. The next two unnamed cascades were multi-tiered falls certainly worthy of a visit. In fact, I liked them better than the final destination, Virginia Falls. That said, Virginia Falls, whose main falls tumbles 50 feet is quite impressive.

Logan Pass

After my hike through the waterfall filled forest, or heaven for a waterfall lover like me, Petey and I drove further west on the Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass. Logan Pass features a visitor center and a multitude of trails. I planned a short walk along a boardwalk that winds through an area named Hanging Gardens surrounded by cliffs home to the shaggy mountain goat. 

I expected a short stroll that looped through ferns and trees.  Boy was I surprised! The boardwalk led straight up the slope.  The posted sign claimed a portion of Hanging Gardens was closed due to bear activity and the trail to Hidden Lake was 1.5 miles one way.  I was standing behind the visitor center completely ill-prepared; my bear spray, backpack and water all in the car. 

All I had was my camera in hopes to snap a photo of the famous shaggy mountain goat.  I looked around at the hundreds of people meandering along the slope…a few were in my position.  As a result, I figured I’d just walk for fifteen or twenty minutes and return to the car.  My stroll ended up being an hour hike including running up the boardwalk, balancing on patches of snow, and tromping up a rocky trail to enjoy an awesome hour of wildlife! 

Big Horn Sheep

I may have to look into becoming a wildlife photographer as it really gets my adrenaline pumping.  I just love seeing the animals! First I came upon three big horn sheep, and they were enormous.  Two of them started butting heads!  Naturally, I missed that shot, but it was fun to see them.

big horn sheep on the going to the sun road

Mountain Goat

Shortly, thereafter, I watched a marmot sunbathe on a rock as another one posed on the ledge for a photo.  As I was standing there snapping some photos, I heard a kid ask his mom, “Is that a mountain goat way up there?” 

His mom asks, “Where?”

And he replies, “You see the tall peak…look down to the right…it looks like there is a small patch of snow, but I think it’s a goat.”

I used the zoom lens on my camera to pick up the speck.  Low and behold, it was!  I was so excited to see one, despite it being hundreds of yards away from me! I told the kid, “Good eye” as passerby chimed in, “If you are feeling energetic, there are a bunch up there.”  Goodbye marmots!

I sprinted up the rest of the stairs to the boardwalk, passed several folks catching their breath, kept from wiping out on the snow, and asked some other hikers if they saw the mountain goats.  They pointed to some trees and confirmed, “One is up there.”

I kept thinking to myself, please be there when I get there.  Don’t get hidden in the trees.  As luck would have it, that mountain goat was just chomping away at the grass as fifteen people stood there taking pictures.  It was so great!

Marmots

By this time, I had left Petey in VANilla for a while now, so I returned to the parking lot relatively quickly, but not before  I stopped to watch the
marmots once more.  This time one marmot scampered toward the other one and they began rubbing necks and noses like they were mating.  It was so awesome!

marmots on the going to the sun road

Scenery

So mesmerized by the animals, I have failed to mention the magnificent scenery. A glacier, jagged granite peaks, waterfalls, crusty snow, and fields of wildflowers enveloped this amazing Hanging Gardens area. Fortunately, the wildlife did not elude me, but if it had, clearly the landscape is worthy of a visit.

McDonald Falls

From Logan Pass we continued southwest on the Going to the Sun Road to McDonald Falls. While of course I wanted to see another waterfall, I was hopeful to also spot a moose that are known to root around for food in a nearby marshy area.  Unfortunately, not all wishes come true. The moose did not cooperate.

Regardless, I picked my way along a short, not so easy to follow loop trail with more magnificent scenery. The trail followed another aqua river through a dense forest with many fallen trees to McDonald Falls. After crossing a bridge, it continues through the woods to John’s Lake, blanketed in lily pads. John’s Lake was the closest thing resembling marshy, but the moose were elsewhere.

john's lake in glacier national park

Hungry Horse Dam

After a lovely day on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, I made a quick stop at Hungry Horse Dam before ended the day in Kalispell at Melinda’s house. Melinda is my friend Cat’s mom and another horseback riding companion from back in the day.  We enjoyed a great dinner as we caught up on the last twenty years!  I can’t believe she still had her horse of 29 years in addition to a small petting zoo of dogs and cats. AMAZING!!!  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

6 thoughts on “Day 251 – Going-To-The-Sun Road

  1. Loved your pics! So wish I could have met up with you there. Glacier is awesome and it would have been great to see mom 🙂

  2. WOW, I wish I was with you. You are great advertising for everywhere you go! Thanks for the call today, I’m sorry I didn’t have more time. Please try again when you are in cell range. Mary

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