When the Going-to-the-Sun Road closes to vehicle traffic in autumn, the backcountry of Glacier National Park widens even further, creating a winter playground for outdoor recreation. The views get even more beautiful under a layer of snow, and the solitude deepens as crowds decrease. The only question is: how do you get out there?
With backcountry skiing, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing on the docket, you’ll never be bored during a winter in Glacier. When you’re taking on Nordic (also called cross country) skiing in Glacier, you don’t have to be an expert to get started. Here’s what you need to know about strapping on skis in Glacier National Park.
Ah, the eternal question of gear. One sustainable way to get into the sport is to start with a gear rental from a local outfitter before you invest in your own stuff. Put some dollars back into the community while you save yourself some money, too. On top of the obvious, like skis, boots, and poles, you’ll want to layer up for winter. And be sure to pack the ten essentials, too. A local outfitter like Sportsman & Ski Haus or Rocky Mountain Outfitters can give you expert advice to get you going.
When you head out in the park, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is the obvious first choice. With the park road plowed to Lake McDonald Lodge, you make it almost to the end of the lake before you park and suit up. You can ski as short a distance as you like, or push yourself to make the 5.3-mile round trip to Sacred Dancing Cascade, or the 11.6-mile round trip to the Avalanche Picnic Area.
If you don’t want to drive as far before you snap into your skis, the Apgar Village area offers up tracks like the 3-mile route on McDonald Creek, the 6 miles of Rocky Point, or the 11 miles up to Apgar Lookout, where epic views over the lake and mountains rewards your steep climb.
When you’re cross country skiing on relatively flat tracks like the Going-to-the-Sun Road, your chances of triggering an avalanche are low. But that doesn’t mean an avalanche couldn’t start above you and cross your trail. You should always check the Flathead avalanche forecast, and change your plans if conditions aren’t ideal.
Training in avalanche assessment and rescue never hurts either, and it’s a great idea to learn how to use a beacon, shovel, and probe and carry them with you when you travel in avalanche terrain. If you’re concerned about the dangers, you can always check in with park rangers to see what they recommend.
Though the winter brings greater solitude in the park, it can also be difficult to find a place to stay that’s open year-round. The cabins at Glacier Peaks RV Park in Columbia Falls put you in a convenient position to access not only the national park, but also the surrounding valley. They also make an affordable option for your stay when you visit in winter. You don’t need to spend luxury prices to have a relaxing stay in comfortable accommodations. Book your cabin to get your Glacier winter vacation started.