Monday, November 19, 2012

Top Ten Parks pt 3

Today's two parks, Glacier and Grand Canyon, are all about size. Visiting these two parks are big on a scale that is hard to describe until you see if for yourself.

Glacier is located in northwest Montana, with the park's northern border being the Canadian park of Waterford Lakes. The name for the park came from, obviously, the numerous Glaciers that fill the mountainous park. I visited Glacier this past summer with my family, and you can read more about my experiences here.

The one absolute must when visiting Glacier is to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We did this on our second day in the park. The road, built in 1932, traverses the entire width of the park, going 32 miles from the west entrance to Logan Pass, and then 18 miles from the pass to the east entrance.

I took this photo from the Highline Trail looking back east towards Logan Pass. Going-to-the-Sun Road is visible snaking along the edge of the mountain on the left side of the photo.
The brilliant road design consists of one long switchback that takes visitors from the valley floor to 6,647ft Logan Pass. This allows spectacular views of the expansive park and beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Other attractions in Glacier include numerous hikes, ranging in difficulty from extremely easy to difficult multi-day backcountry treks. One of the more popular hikes in the park is Avalanche Lake. My mom, brother, and I did this hike on our first day in the park. The trail is fairly easy with only two miles each way and a 500ft rolling elevation gain.

Glacier is probably in my Top 3 parks and definitely one you do not want to miss. As a side note, Glacier's glaciers are rapidly shrinking and retreating as the globe continues to warm. If this trend continues, they may be gone very shortly. All the more reason to find an excuse to visit Glacier as soon as possible.

My mom, brother, and I in front of Avalanche Lake
Next up we have Grand Canyon National Park. One of the most recognizable landmarks anywhere, the Grand Canyon, carved by the mighty Colorado River, is considered one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World. While there are several interesting hikes to take in the canyon, the main attraction here is just seeing something so wonderfully massive.

I found this interesting picture that helps to give an idea of scale. The canyon makes points seem close that are actually many miles away. Google Images
One of the hikes that we did when my family visited was the Rim Trail. This trail follows the South Rim (where most of the hikes begin and the location of most of the lodging) from Hermit's Rest to the South Kaibab trailhead. A shuttle bus runs along the road not too far from the trail and there are stops every mile or so, making the Rim Trail accessible to a variety of hikers.

We chose to take the shuttle to Hermit's Rest and then hike approximately 8 miles back to Rim Village where we were staying. The trail is very scenic with overlooks such as The Abyss where you can look over the edge as the sheer walls plummet more than 3,000ft straight down.

The best time to view the canyon is during the "golden hours". These are the times just after sunrise and just before sunset when the warm light fully brings out the reds and oranges of the canyon.

The canyon during golden hours. Google Images
Despite the crowds, more than 5 million people visit each year, Grand Canyon is easily in the top 10 US National Parks. Since you can see it from space, I think you can make some time to see it in person.

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