Grand Teton & Glacier National Parks

At Grand Teton National Park, Mount Moran is reflected in the Snake River at Oxbow Turnout.

July 20 – 21 & August 7 – 13, 2020

Mountains.

They are all over out west.

When I first moved to Tucson, AZ from the Midwest some 30 years ago I was awed by the mountains. I’d never lived near mountains before and in Tucson, the city ran right up to their ascent. As I drove about town they were always present, hanging in the background over the flat-roofed houses like a backdrop of a gigantic stage. They continued to surprise and amaze me the whole four years I lived there.

We see a lot of mountains as we drive around the west. Off in the distance, they line the edges of vast empty spaces. Greg often points across the desert and asks, “What are those mountains?” but Google maps never names them. Often times when we stop at overlooks we find photographs identifying distant peaks. We always try to match the view with the picture.

We really haven’t spent much time exploring mountains since in years past we have only been able to travel in the colder months. And when it is a pleasant 70º at an elevation of 1000 feet it is 40º at 6000 feet. But this year we were free to roam in the summer. And in July and August, we got to marvel at parts of the Rocky Mountain range in Wyoming and Montana when we visited Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks.

* As aways, all pics are click to enlarge. Once enlarged, click on the left or right side of the picture to view them in a slide show.

Grand Teton National Park

The Teton Mountain Range is both young and old. The rock that forms the mountains is up to 2.7 billion years old, over half of the Earth’s age. But the mountains themselves have only been exposed for about 10 million years. During that time glaciers have carved away at them, leaving stark bare peaks. Many other ranges are surrounded by hills, making it difficult for observers to see the peaks. But the land just east of the Tetons is mostly flat, allowing visitors to see these spectacular mountains in all their glory.

We only spent two days at Grand Teton. It wasn’t really on our agenda. We had met up with our friends from Scamper Squad and had a camping reservation in Yellowstone National Park. We had a couple of days to spare and soon realized the best way to fill those days was to explore Yellowstone’s majestic park neighbor to the south.

Our first day in the park was spent driving around taking in the sights. View from Jackson Lake.

Another view of Mount Moran at the Oxbow Turnout. We enjoyed seeing the Snake River after spending so much time on it in Idaho.

Marina on Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park.

We took a drive up Signal Mountain and saw this Wapiti, or elk grazing right beside the road in in the woods.

Callippe Fritillary lights upon Spreading Fleabane on Signal Mountain.

View from Signal Mountian. There is little vegetation in the alpine zone at the top of the mountains. Forests grow on the lower elevations of the mountainsides. The sagebrush flats at the base are dry, with wet meadows below them. Numerous lakes in the flatlands support diverse groups of wildlife.

Cabin and general store at the Menors Ferry Distict. This homestead once belonged to William Menor. His ferry was a vital crossing point for early settlers in the area.

Menor’s ferry used to cross the Snake River. It is designed like ferries that used to cross the Nile. A loop of rope runs through pulleys on either side of the river. The “helm” of the ferry is really a windlass that the rope winds through. Turning of the helm winds the rope through the windlass. The catamaran bow faces into the river’s current at a slight angle. The ferry moves sideways (crablike) across the river.

Common Raven at the Menors Ferry District.

Chapel of the Transfiguration near Menors Ferry with Tetons in the background.

Distant view of the Tetons over sagebrush flats.

On day two of our Teton visit we did some hiking. Here is a view of Jenny Lake near the Jenny Lake trailhead.

We left Jenny Lake and hiked up to Hidden Falls which spill down into lake.

And then climbed up to Inspiration Point.

On our way back from Inspiration point we took a little side trip around the Moose Ponds.

We saw a Cackling Goose.

After our hike we visited Mormon Row, where the John and Thomas Moulton families made their homesteads.

Uinta Ground Squirrel at Mormon Row. These guys live in burrows and hibernate most of the year.

We finished our visit to the park with a view of the Tetons over the Snake River. This is the spot where Ansel Adams took his iconic image of the Snake River in 1942. See his picture here. The National Park Service had hired Adams to “capture nature as exemplified by national parks.” Adam’s photos were important in helping protect some of the amazing public lands of the west.

Glacier National Park

The Lewis Overthrust of the Rockies was pushed up 75 million years ago. It stretches from Montana to the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. For millennia glaciers carved beautiful valleys in this rock. The great glaciers have been gone from here for 12,000 years, leaving smaller ones. Human-induced climate change has reduced the size of the remaining glaciers. Though the Glacier National Park is losing its namesake, evidence of those massive glaciers remains.

A couple of weeks after we left Grand Teton we met up with our friends from Scamper Squad again at Glacier National Park. We arrived a day early and did a little reconnoitering up the Going to the Sun Road which connects the east and west sides of the park, crossing the continental divide at Logan Pass, the road’s pinnacle. Here is a view from Logan’s pass. It was grey and cloudy day.

Bicycling the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier is very popular. Starting near the entrance of the park at the Apgar Visitor Center bikers travel 32 miles and climb over 3300 feet to the Logan Pass.

When these mountains were formed, glaciers filled the valleys up to the mountain tops. They cut through the hard rock, sometimes leaving almost vertical cliffs like the one on the right.

We’ve learned that “V” shaped valleys were carved by rivers, while “U” shaped valleys were carved by glaciers. From this angle, you can clearly see the “U” shape of this valley.

A waterfall streams down in between the hillsides. This water may make its way into the Missouri River, the Mississippi, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.

St. Mary Lake.

Grizzly Bear. As we were passing St. Mary’s Lake, we saw lots of people in a pull up staring straight up the hill across the road. We stopped to see what they were looking at and saw this guy.

Passing by the Weeping Wall.

Our second day at Glacier was a Saturday. Our friends from Scamper Squad had joined us by then. Due to the crowds that we encountered on Friday, we decided to spend Saturday doing a few things off the beaten track. We started with a hike on the west side of Lake McDonald. The hike was a fail – very buggy and overgrown but the start of the trail had a very nice view of the lake.

We left the lake and drove out of Glacier to reach the western side of the park. On our way we found a mercantile in the community of Polebridge, about 20 miles from the Canadian Border.

Back in the park, we headed to Kintla Lake, just south of British Columbia, Canada. It was a long bumpy ride but when we reached the lake we found the parking lot packed. It seemed like everyone had our same idea to stay off the beaten track.

We hit Bowman Lake on our way back.

On Monday we took another drive on Going to the Sun Road. We saw these Common Merganser near Lake McDonald. One of them (left) has its head above the clear water. Four of its buddies are beneath the surface searching for food.

Common Merganser.

The next day, we were ready for a big adventure. Since we had two vehicles we decided to hike the 7-mile High Line and connecting 4-mile Loop trail. Usually, the park provides a shuttle to take you back to your vehicle at the end of this trek but due it wasn’t running (I assume due to the pandemic) while we were there.

Water runs over these rocks into the valley.

View from the Highline Trail.

So many wildflowers on the trail.

Another view.

It took us 8 hours to hike the trail with lots of rests, picture taking, enjoying the amazing views.

Near the end of the Loop Trail, we saw this deer. He came walking right down the path straight at us and turned off onto the side to grab a bite to eat. He was curious but unafraid.

After a day of rest, we hit the trail again following the Tree Falls Trail past St. Mary Lake.

Yellow-bellied Marmot basking in the sun.

St. Mary Falls.

Virginia Falls.

Fawn on the trail. We left Glacier the next day. No doubt we could have spent more time hiking and taking in the scenery but other spots in Montana were beckoning us away.


Today I am sharing this post on My Corner of the World. Click the link and find out what’s happening in other parts of the world.

Do you enjoy the mountains? Do you have a favorite mountain range or peak? Or a favorite hike through the mountains?

26 thoughts on “Grand Teton & Glacier National Parks

  1. You’re right. I remember living in Nevada and Colorado, and the skyline above the city was always mountains. They were points of references when driving the area. You never got lost. Here in Tennessee the skyline is houses 😦 Really miss the mountains out west. So glad you could go on your wonderful trip. Super photos.

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks Yvonne! When I lived in the city of St. Louis the Arch was always a great point of reference but you couldn’t always see it because of the buildings. But mountains – they tower over everything!

  2. bob chekoudjain said:

    Wow! Some stunning views and places. I’ve always wanted to head up there and explore. How was it getting around in the van. I assume they’re used to motorhomes and stuff up there so, you wouldn’t have any issues.

    • Duwan said:

      It was really beautiful. The van was no problem in Grand Teton. At Glacier, they have a restriction on vehicle length, 21 feet, for travel Going to the Sun Road. The van is 20 feet so we were fine. We saw some big RVs in the Logan Pass parking lot who must have sneaked into the park in the early morning hours but I wouldn’t want to drive anything longer than what we have on that road with other vehicles.

      Thinking about biking that hill?

    • Duwan said:

      Thank you so much! I had lots of stunning landscape to work with!

  3. What a beautiful world you travel through. If it weren’t so cold (and I didn’t have RA), I would grab one of those cabins. I can see why they American Mountain Men fell in love with mountains.

    • Duwan said:

      The cold will be sending us back south soon. The west is wonderful place to be an explorer and it must have been amazing for those who got to experience it when it really was wild.

  4. Love all the photos with reflections, beautiful, but the Fritillary is my favourite, exquisite.
    Have a good weekend Diane

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks! I love the butterflies that will sit still long enough for me to get a picture – especially if they light on a beautiful group of flowers.

  5. Beautiful collection of photos. Who doesn’t love the mountains? Grand Tetons is one of my favorites. Once I left the Midwest, I never looked back, but after 30 years living in the west, it has been a joy to return to the upper Midwest for the summer and fall. With that said, typical gloomy skies and cold weather will have us rolling south soon.

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks! I think every part of the country has its treasure. During the 4 years I lived in Tucson I was always astonished by the amount trees when I traveled back east. But, of course, all those trees hide the mountains and I love seeing all those rocks jutting up into the sky.

      Cold weather has also got us moving south again soon. Why be cold when you can travel?

  6. Alan Christensen said:

    I’m fascinated by our fascination with mountains and large outcroppings. It’s not a bad thing to like, I just wonder why. 🙂

    • Duwan said:

      I have often wondered while walking around a rocky but not scenic area what make some rocks so beautiful and others not.

      I think it is the shapes that appealing, the way they interact with other shapes around them or the sky.

      The Sierra Nevadas are some of my favorite to see from a distance. I love the vastness of them hanging in the distance. Like standing on a edge of an ocean.

      Anyways, it is an interesting thing to wonder about.

  7. Hi Duwan!

    Such stunning parks and photos! It looks like you did similar things than us in the Grand Tetons. Mark saw a grizzly there as he went on a strenuous walk, while I circled the lake. That was after we both climbed to Inspiration Point first. It was a rare ten-mile day for me. We didn’t have a dog back then. 🙂

    We always saw crowds with cameras at Oxbow Turnout and wondered why. We never spotted Mount Moran from there. It must have been cloudy, or we didn’t pay enough attention!

    As you know, I would LOVE to visit Glacier NP one summer. But, it seemed very crowded. I follow another nomad blog and they spent a month near Glacier this past summer. Their trick was to start their hikes and excursions late in the day (instead of early) to avoid the crowds, since it stays light until late. They succeeded and always found a parking spot! 🙂

    • Duwan said:

      I downloaded an app for Grand Teton. One of the tours in the app was a tour of good photo locations – that’s how we found the Oxbow Turnout site. I suppose I took the same picture everyone else does but it was a nice view.

      So jealous that Mark saw a Grizzly. The one we saw at Glacier was way off in the distance. We wouldn’t have known he was there if people weren’t already looking at him through binoculars. But, of course, one doesn’t want to see a Grizzy too close.

      I read that blog post you are talking about and I kind of disagree with their strategy. We were turned away from Glacier one afternoon around 3 pm. Granted it was a Sunday, though. We were just going to go into the park to get a better internet signal. There was a long line as always but when we got to the entrance station they just made us circle around and go back. But I afternoon strategy might work on a weekday.

      We never had a problem finding a parking space when we wanted one but we also did drive by the Logan Pass parking lot one afternoon when it was closed off. Although it was crowded, I think the least crowded day we saw was the first day we went when it was so foggy. It was very cold that day, but I think that day also made for some of my best pictures.

  8. I really enjoyed the fabulous photos!

    That squirrel shot is my favourite!

    • Duwan said:

      Thank you! I love squirrel too. I think it looks like he’s got something important on his mind.

  9. Really wonderful photos! It’s been 4 years since we were at Glacier National Park. It is just breathtaking. All of your photos are breathtaking! Thank you and have a grand week!

    • Duwan said:

      Thank you. It is a breathtaking place. So glad we got to visit.

  10. Your photos are simply stunning! What wonderful scenery. I adore waterfalls and I love learning about different places through blogging!

    It’s great to see you at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!! Thanks for linking up.

    • Duwan said:

      Thank you Betty! I’m glad we could show you some spectacular bits of the US. And thanks for hosting the Linking!

  11. Meredith Parsons said:

    Your blogs always start my day with joy. Can’t thank you enough for taking me back to Glacier. Hope you both are well; so very glad you are living this life. We are good; leaving the North Country soon to head back to Tucson.
    Take care and love,
    Meredith and Ed

    • Duwan said:

      I’m so glad you enjoy the blogs. They say you should just blog for yourself but it is even better when you can blog for others too.

      We are good. Glad you got to spend the summer up north and hope your trip back to the warmth of Tucson goes well.

  12. Brandon Sutton said:

    How did you like the Highline trail? I did that one in 2015. We had a beautiful sunny day on the Going to the Sun Road, which was quite fortunate! Although there were wildfires burning nearby, the views were still stunning. It’s interesting that you experienced a lot of crowds. There were only a couple of hikes that I would say were ‘crowded’ and we were there in August.

    Thanks for helping me relive that experience! It’s a place I”ll never forget. 🙂

    • Duwan said:

      I guess I forgot to mention it but the Highline was the highlight of our visit to Glacier. It was long and hard but the views were amazing.

      There were definitely a lot of people on the Highline Trail when we did it but they thinned out as we went. I was really surprised to see that many people in the park so early in the morning. Yellowstone Park was definitely much less populated in the morning than Glacier. The big problem was the parking. So many cars. Perhaps this was because they weren’t running a shuttle.

      Glad we could take you back to Glacier again!

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