The bright afternoon sun shining over a glossy green field dotted with colorful wildflowers. Turning my head upward, I gape at dozens of craggy mountain peaks and marvel at their dominating majesty. On the ground, half a dozen plump Columbian ground squirrels fearlessly weave through lush plants and devouring the green tips. At over seven thousand feet in altitude, dark subalpine fir, and narrow Engelmann spruce accent this subalpine environment. Logan Pass is a stunning jewel of Glacier National Park in mid-August.
It’s no wonder why this area is a fast favorite for visitors. Hitch and I came here late in the day for two reasons: to watch the sun set over Hidden Lake, and then to watch the Perseid meteor shower later at midnight.
Logan Pass Visitor Center
Located on the Continental Divide, we set out to Logan Pass via Going-To-The-Sun Road; about 32 miles from the west entrance of Glacier National Park. The parking lot at Logan Pass gets full fast, but visitors can take a free shuttle to avoid the hassle. Since we want to stay after dark, we drive. We arrive a few hours before sunset, so we found abundant parking as tourists escape nightfall.
The visitor center itself came into being in 1963, during a ten-year national parks revival program, called Mission 66. Under fire from various media outlets citing serious neglect, the Park Service Director at the time decided to take action. In 1955, congress installed a decade-long program, with all upgrades completed in time for the National Park Services’ 50th Anniversary in 1966. In addition to modernization of visitor facilities, upgrades included employees housing, villages to house visitors, and even expansion to National Recreational Areas, and National Seashores.
Today the main section of the Logan Pass Visitor Center steps up the hillside with two main levels within a single-story enclosure. On the first level, lives an oversized stone fireplace which dominates the room. Also in the room, a ranger will answer all your questions for hiking in the area. The upper level houses the “Exhibit Room,” filled with interpretive exhibits and a gift shop. Semi-separated toilet facilities are below the lower level, facing the parking lot.
Behind the visitor center, folks can walk the Super Powers Exhibit, which describes the subalpine ecosystem and the creatures living there. You can also view the exhibit virtually at the Online Wildlife Superpowers Exhibit via the NPS website.
Hidden Lake Trail.
Hidden Lake Trail starts behind the visitor center. Due to its popularity, we decided to take the hike late in the afternoon, when the crowds have passed. I found the hike fairly easy but slow going with the thin air and high altitude.
It all begins with a paved walk then a boardwalk section, which lasts for about a half a mile. Here we found a hoary marmot sunning himself among the wildflowers in a nearby field. Ahead of us, the peaks of Clements Mountain regally towering, and to the northwest, Mount Oberlin.
Viewing directly northward, I can see the Garden Wall. Dozens of flowering plant species carpet this steep alpine area. Hikers can traverse this wonderland via Highline Trail then up Garden Wall Trail and be rewarded with one of the most amazing views in the park at Glacier Overlook. The hike can get brutal, and climbs over thousand feet within one mile, in addition to the 7-mile hike on Highline Trail. Ouch!
The trail then turned slightly southwest and provided us with a great view of Bearhat Mountain, Mount Reynolds, and Heavy Runner Mountain. At mile 1, started up an incline but stopped to view serene shimmering ponds reflecting images of trees and mountains.
Then just beyond the Continental Divide marker, we stopped at Hidden Lake Overlook. I sat in awe of this wonderful sweeping panorama of a blue alpine lake nestled between mountains dotted with white glaciers. Here we stopped and waited for the sun to set. While waiting, a set of mountain goats dropped in for a surprise visit.
As the light dimmed over Bearhat Mountain, the sky turned a pink and purple hue. I then realized that Hidden Lake empties out toward Avalanche Lake, which we visited earlier during our stay in the park.
At dusk, we traveled back to the visitor center, where we could bundle up into warm clothes and enjoy our packed dinner, before the Perseid Meteor Shower.
Logan Pass at Night
Bundled up in our sweaters and coats, we set up our camp chairs and enjoyed some of that famed Montana peace and quite. To the west, we watched a silvery moon dip behind Mt. Oberlin. Then watched shooting stars gash at the big starlit sky. Very romantic and very awesome.