By Robert Lucke
It is just three hours from Havre to the east side of Glacier National Park. That lends itself to the family packing a lunch and trekking out for a day of early hikes even if Going-To-The-Sun Road isn't open.
In the St. Mary's Valley, just above the head of St. Mary's Lake, is a trail head to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. This is a good time of year to visit those two falls as the snow has melted on the trail and it is an easy walk to do in an hour and a half, unless you are like many folks and just do not want to leave. From the trail head the walk to St. Mary Falls is mostly all down a gentle trail. When getting to the waterfall, on a dry year, you will be amazed at the amount of water coming down the wide and fairly high chute. Think that is impressive, start along the bottom of a Glacier mountain and wind around a gentle but upward trail until you come to this huge cascade seeming to be falling hundreds of feet out of a tiny hanging garden. That is Virginia Falls, and it is a great place to pause to linger and share a lunch. For the shy hikers, these are not two of the most walked-to places in Glacier, and this time of year, you can sometimes only share the trail with birds and wildlife.
If Going-To-The-Sun is open, a drive to the top of Logan Pass in June will provide some of the most impressive displays of Glacier lilies that can be seen in all of the Northwest. High mountain meadows are just a carpet of yellow running right up to last winter's snowbanks. See the Glacier lilies once and you will be back for more.
Above Lake McDonald, there are trails running all the way from the head of the lake to Avalanche Campground and even further up McDonald Creek. Not only will strollers see an abundant display of vegetation along the creek and magnificent mountain vistas coupled with huge waterfalls, but this time of year Glacier's famed Harlequin ducks put in an appearance in the creek's white water almost daily.
Another easy stroll this time of year is go ahead from Avalanche Campground up to Avalanche Lake. Take a couple of hours both coming and going and be prepared to enjoy some of the most beautiful lake, mountain and waterfall scenery that the west side of Glacier has to offer. The only downfall of this walk this time of year is that there might be some snow on the trail, and if not seeing other folks on the trail is your thing, leave this very popular hike to others. Plenty of people trek up to Avalanche Lake every day of June, July and August.
For handicapped folks, there are two really nice strolls, both in the McDonald Valley. The Trail of the Cedars at Avalanche is a great walk on a board walk to the Avalanche Gorge. This is a not to be missed and is a short stroll for everyone. And there is a paved nature walk through the woods and close to McDonald Creek at Apgar that almost guarantees seeing wildlife early in the mornings.
Do one or more of these easy hikes this June and you will find, as many have already, that the really best way to see Glacier National Park is by foot.