By Robert Lucke
One of the added benefits of this time of year in Glacier Park is to hike along Going-To-The-Sun-Road since it is closed to traffic.
Not only will you experience a gradual and easy walk, but the scenery is unbelievable, wildlife abounds, and you can see for yourself the deterioration of this famous road.
One caution before you go. Stay away from cliffs and don't lean on rock parapets. You do not need to experience firsthand a crumbling wall.
Take your choice. Walk either from the St. Mary side or west side from just above McDonald Creek. Both are attractive places with much to see. It really just matters which kind of scenery you are most interested in seeing.
Let's talk about the east or St. Mary's Lake side first. Walking or mountain biking is allowed and even encouraged. Normally this time of year, your auto must be parked around the Jackson Lake lookout turnout or at the Big Bend area. Scenery abounds with St. Mary's Lake below and in the distance and the most impressive glacier to be seen in the park close by. That glacier is Jackson Glacier and it is beautiful and most photogenic.
Added treats in this area are walks around Lunch Creek, great views of what some consider the most beautiful mountain in Glacier, Going-To-The-Sun Peak and there are beautiful trails to wander off the road in the Syieh Bend area.
Still though, the Going-To-The-Sun-Road itself is the main attraction. And never overlook looking over the cliff side of the road. New and beautiful vistas are opened before you with each curve of the road. Not only that, but numerous waterfalls abound in this area, just below eye level of autos driving by. Walking the road opens up views and vistas not normally seen during the year in Glacier.
On the west side of Glacier, folks can, as a rule this time of year, drive as far as the big loop above McDonald Creek. Special views afforded to walkers from this point include beautiful views of Mount Oberlin, Heaven's Peak and Bird Woman Falls.
A word about Heaven's Peak. For some reason, this peak is most often obscured by clouds, making for very dramatic photographs. Some say this is Glacier's most beautiful mountain of all and getting a picture of it on a clear day is a notable achievement.
As well, getting a photo of Bird Woman Falls when it is a hundred foot cascade of ice is beautiful and like everything else when walking in this area, changes the looks and feelings by the slowness of walking.
A word about the wildlife in this area. Look over the guardrails and down the cliffs and slopes often. That is where you will see mountain goats, sheep and bears frequently that you will not even know are there without looking down.
But most of all, this is a kind, gentle and magnificent way to see what is arguably Montana's most beautiful road.