Two thousand lakes, a thousand miles of rivers, thick forests, breezy meadows and awe-inspiring peaks make up one of America’s finest attractions, GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – a haven for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black and grizzly bears, wolves and mountain lions. Although the park does hold 25 small (and rapidly retreating) glaciers, it really takes its name from the huge flows of ice that carved these immense valleys 20,000 years ago. In the summer months this is prime hiking and whitewater rafting territory, while huckleberries litter the slopes in autumn. Outside of summer, the crisp air, icy-cold waterfalls and copious snowfall give the impression of being close to the Arctic Circle; in fact, the latitude here is lower than that of London.
The fifty-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road across the heart of Glacier National Park is one of the most awe-inspiring scenic drives in the country, and driving it from west to east can take several hours, creating the illusion that you’ll be climbing forever – with each successive hairpin bringing a new colossus into view. Beginning at West Glacier, the road runs east along ten-mile Lake McDonald before starting to climb, as snowmelt from waterfalls gushes across the road, and the winding route nudges over the Continental Divide at Logan Pass (6680ft) – a good spot to step out and enjoy the views. The most popular trail in the park begins at Logan Pass, following a boardwalk for a mile and a half across wild-flower-strewn alpine meadows framed by towering craggy peaks, en route to serene Hidden Lake. Four miles on, there’s an overlook at Jackson Glacier, one of the few glaciers visible from the roadside. From here the road descends to St Mary Lake and the east gate at St Mary, right on the edge of the Great Plains.
Note that Glacier is one of the few national parks you can happily explore without a car; Amtrak runs up to the park entrance, where shuttle buses ply up and down Going-to-the-Sun Road.