Planning a Solo Car-free Trip to Glacier National Park

I awoke this morning and my first thought was, “Oh no, it’s Thursday already. Make it be Wednesday again.” Not that Wednesday was an out-of-the-ordinary day. To the contrary, it was a most ordinary day. I’m visiting Cat in north Texas. I awoke, made coffee, ate breakfast, went out for an early walk, played with Lucky, had long conversations with Cat, and all the other ordinary things we do each day. This moment induced a strange state of mind in me. A kind of grasping. I wanted time to stop, to back up. It’s passing too fast. I like perfectly ordinary days. Equally I long for the extraordinary days. Ordinary or extraordinary, each day passes much too quickly.

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On to the main topic. Glacier National Park. In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading there by train, solo, no car when I get there. I’ll have a backpack but will be camping in campgrounds. Most of the campgrounds have special hiker/biker group sites. There is a free shuttle that goes back and forth across the Park every half hour from 7am to 7pm, stopping at all of the important areas.

Yesterday I went over detailed plans for hikes, ranger talks and events while in Glacier. Some presentations are only offered every few days and may not be in a location that’s convenient. For the evening programs, such as the Blackfeet Singers and Dancers, I must be able to walk to and from the campground and need to plan my camping accordingly. And I must accept that I can’t see it all in only two weeks. Which is way more time than many people are able to spend there so I’m feeling grateful.

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A young Blackfeet dancer (photo credit

I’ll have only one opportunity to see the Blackfeet Dancers during my 2-week stay there. I’m loving Google Calendar on my phone. I’m able to put planned activities in and know where I’ll need to be staying each night.

I arrive by train in West Glacier at 8am after a 2 1/2 day trip from Colorado. There is a shuttle that will take me to Apgar but not as far as the campground. However, I’ve decided to walk into town to buy food before going into the Park. This means walking 3-4 miles with my backpack, but it’s easier than riding into the Park, setting up camp, then walking out and back from West Glacier.

The first two nights will be in the Apgar Campground, in the hiker/biker area, $2.50/night for seniors and I’ll likely meet others to hike with. I hope :). Day One will be spent getting set up and oriented. There’s a Native American Speaks program at 8p in the campground, a good way to spend the first night. The next day I’ll take the shuttle to Logan Pass and will hope to join the Morning Highline Stroll, a 3-hour ranger-led hike starting at Logan Pass. I may continue on along the trail rather than returning with the group or return and enjoy some other activity.

Day Three: Move camp to the Avalanche Campground, a few miles beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge. There’s a hiking path that parallels the road between the Lodge area and the campground. I plan to spend the day hanging out in the Lake McDonald area, seeing the lodge, hiking up to McDonald Falls and just generally soaking it all in. At 4pm I’ll join a ranger-led 1-hr walk titled ‘A Walk Through Time,’ a historical walking tour of the Lake McDonald Lodge and the surrounding area.

Day Four may find me on the Avalanche Lake Trail on another ranger-led hike. I have no idea how crowded these hikes will be. If I find them annoying crowded then I can always walk ahead or drop behind. I’m not expecting a lot of wilderness experience in Glacier. I’m not going into the backcountry and honestly I’m not fond of grizzly bears. I mean, I like them well enough from a distance and with a lot of people around but don’t want to meet one alone. I did hike solo in Yellowstone without too much fear. I’m assuming the main trails in Glacier will be similarly crowded with other people so it’s usually easy to be near others.

By the fifth day I should be ready for the Highline Trail. I’m going solo but will find someone to go with and/or tag myself to other hikers at the trailhead. This is a fairly level 15-mile hike which begins at 6,646′ Logan Pass. highlinetrail.jpg

Highline Trail (photo credit:

The next day will be a moving day. I’ll move from Avalanche Campground all the way to Many Glaciers, where I’ll settle in for four nights. Once again the first day is a day of shopping, laundry, shower and a meander through the visitor center and the shops. The next two days I’ll do the Heart of Glacier hike and a boat ride and hike to Grinnell Glacier. The last day there will begin with the Early Morning Bird Walk followed by a day of whatever.

Leaving Many Glaciers on Day Ten and heading to St Marys. I’m not as excited about this area though I understand there are some interesting places to see. Of most interest to me are the Blackfeet Dancers who will be performing there, my only chance to see them. I’ll also hike Piegan Pass, another long hike and I’m certain there’s another interesting hike there.

My last two days, Days 12 & 13, are open. Day 14 will be spent getting organized for the return train trip which leaves the West Glacier platform at 8pm. 2 1/2 days and I’ll be back in my own bed. That fast. It will be interesting to see how closely my plans will match the reality of the trip.

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W Glacier Amtrak stop (photo credit: