After getting some suggestions from a park ranger, we tried to do some hikes along Going to the Sun Road – either St. Mary Falls, Hidden Lake Overlook, or Avalanche Lake. However, as we had had an hour-plus drive from Two Medicine and were getting there by late morning, just about all of the parking spaces at trail heads along the road seemed to be full. So we kept going. We inadvertently drove the whole Going to the Sun Road East to West (without stopping because even the pull offs were mostly full and on the opposite side of the road), but it was AMAZING nonetheless.
Especially on a hazy, slightly rainy day. But more on that in a later post…
On this day, we wound up settling on doing the Apgar Lookout hike at the very West end of the park. A mile drive down a dirt road leads to this 7-mile round-trip hike with an elevation gain of 1850 feet; this gain was more than we typically do, but we were willing to give it a try because we figured it couldn’t be that bad stretched over several miles! Plus, there was actually parking at this one. I suppose the dirt road to get to the trail head and its more remote location right inside the Western Gate make it a little less popular…
We started the trail through a mostly flat trail, clapping and shouting occasionally through the woods so any bears would know we were there.
The climb then started to get more steady, as we rose in a zigzag formation up the mountain. As we rose, the views of the valley, which contained rivers and lakes, Apgar visitor center, and snow capped mountains in the distance, continually improved. I liked, too, that the trail was relatively wide as well and boxed in a bit by brush on the side – it was not a straight, steep drop off that can sometimes make me feel uneasy.
I can’t tell you how many times we thought we were almost to the top along this trail. The incline really was quite significant and persistent until the top, and we had to take some breaks along the way, as did most everyone else on the trail. It is sort of an unassuming trail, as most of the people we spoke to were caught a little off guard by how it was harder than they thought it would be as well.
Our endurance paid off, however, even though my wimpering knees and glutes thought we would never get there! At the top of the trail was a fantastic lookout in all directions. You could see more of Apgar Valley in one direction, Lake MacDonald in the other. And it felt even better knowing that it was all downhill from there!
The way down was expectedly less difficult, though still a bit of knee-grinder, having to keep steady as our bodies naturally wanted to barrel down the declining trail. In a way, I actually do prefer going up in short spurts more than I like going down, but after this climb, I didn’t mind as much.
After completing Apgar Lookout, we felt great and quite accomplished. There are way more arduous and daring hikes at Glacier, but we were proud of ourselves for completing a hike that was more difficult than we were used to and felt that we were very handsomely rewarded with our view. We also felt like we were developing a knack for experiencing the less popular, but no less beautiful, parts of the park. The best of both worlds.
After a long drive back to the campsite on Rt. 2, we made this delicious and replenishing dinner and collapsed into bed immediately after.
As someone who has always had to unwind before going to bed and tends to toss and turn for a bit, there is no greater feeling…