By Robert Lucke
Before the winter snows go entirely, don't miss a weekend of cross-country skiing in Glacier National Park.
The west side of the park has really been developed more this year for cross-country skiing than any time in recent years.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is open this year just to Lake McDonald Lodge, so cross-country skiers have to start at that point, rather than at the head of the lake, but there is ample parking there and rest stations as well.
From that point trails abound. Many skiers ski up the Going-to-the-Sun Road all the time to Avalanche Campground, then head up Avalanche Creek to Avalanche Lake. Although the last part of the trek is mostly uphill, Avalanche Lake provides a premiere spot for winter overnight camping.
Don't want to traverse Going-to-the-Sun on skis? No problem. There is a cross-country trail that starts at the lodge parking lot that heads up the Sperry Chalet, Mount Brown trail, and then heads north, parallel to the highway, past John's Lake and eventually comes out at Avalanche Campground.
Then there is the Sperry Chalet, Mount Brown trails to consider. Even though they both are steep and there is little to see except trees and up for quite a while, when clearings appear, the scenery is breathtaking. Most folks do not make it up too far on these trails, but when they do, the rewards are great. This area is also great for snowshoe recreationalists.
On the west side of Lake McDonald, just across the McDonald Creek bridge and to the north, there is a large plowed parking lot this winter that provides ski access to the west side of the lake. Skiers can easily traverse trails all the way to Fish Creek Campground and Rocky Point on that side of the lake. Also from that point, it is easy to access the "inside" park road that eventually ends up at Bowman and Kintla lakes. From that cross-country trail, views of Heaven's Peak. Mount Vaught and Mount Stanton, from sides not usually viewed, are absolutely breathtaking.
There is plenty of cross-country skiing on the east side of Glacier as well. Trails are open around St. Mary's Lake and the Many Glacier Road. However, the weather, typical this time of year, is much more conducive to cross-country skiing on the park's west side.
Caution should be used whenever cross-country skiing in the park anytime, but particularly this winter, avalanche conditions are ever present because of rotten snows before the first of the year.
The visitor center is open during weekends at Apgar for further information and weather conditions. For further information call Glacier Park at (406) 888-7801.