After trekking along every single established trail in Glacier National Park, Jake Bramante knew he was going to be asked the inevitable question: What was your favorite hike?
It’s a common query for the 34-year-old Kalispell hiker who completed an historic odyssey of all 734 miles in the park on Oct. 15, becoming the only known person to accomplish the feat in one season.
After almost 90 days of on-trail experience, Bramante has gained an encyclopedic knowledge of Glacier Park, and he’s sharing that information on his website, hike734.com, which is filled with first-hand knowledge, videos and photos.
Although he has a hard time whittling down a list of great hikes, he recommended a few places to the Beacon that he definitely wants to check out again. Here they are, in his words:
St. Mary/Virginia Falls to Sun Point
“This little gem is often missed by both the tourist and the experienced hiker. My recommendation is to park at the St. Mary Falls trailhead and experience both St. Mary and Virginia Falls, then take the trail past your car heading east along St. Mary Lake to Sun Point. You’ll get to see some great views of St. Mary Lake as well as a beautiful dock, Baring Falls, and the windy and breathtaking Sun Point. Take a shuttle back if they’re running. The total trip is a shade over three miles.”
“This classic loop is a big day, but full of amazing views. The east side of the park is one of my favorites and a trip around the Two Medicine area is awesome. I prefer to take the trip with Pitamakan first as it seems to make the walk out shorter after this burly 19-mile day. And, if you start early enough, you can catch the boat named Sinopah and shave off about three miles. You get to see a bunch of beautiful lakes from a ridgeline. As you round Mt. Morgan to the back side, the breathtaking views of the Coal/Nyack valley, Mt. Stimson and Pumpelly Glacier let you know that you’re in very big country.”
“The trip up and over Logan Pass receives a lot of attention for good reason. A way to slow down the trip is to take the Highline trail. You get the classic Glacier experience with alpine views, glacier carved peaks, wildlife and more. On this hike, you can also hike up to Grinnell Glacier Overlook and get off trail to scramble up Haystack if you so desire. The full hike is a little over 11 miles, but you can start at Logan Pass and just hike until you want to turn around and head back to your car.”
Bear Mountain Overlook
“Before I decided to hike all of the trails, one of my favorite Glacier pastimes was climbing peaks because I loved the challenge and I loved the views. Bear Mountain Overlook is a trail version of this. Travelers will most likely hike this if they are planning on camping at Cosley Lake. My recommendation is to hike into Cosley, set up camp and then take a lightened pack and visit this overlooked trail. It is approximately 1.5 miles and gains around 1,300 feet of elevation, but oh, the views! Looking east, Chief Mountain, its ridge and Gable Peak stand before you with the Belly River Ranger Station and its meadow at your feet. Be prepared to watch raptors soar up from underneath you and look over the cliff edge to get a feeling for what 1,000 feet looks like.”
Hole in the Wall
“This doesn’t fall into the trail category, but it’s a favorite place of mine. This sweet spot is not really available to day hikers as the closest trailhead at Goat Haunt is 10 miles away. But it’s so pretty, why not stay a night? You are perched in a big mountain bowl with views down the Bowman Lake valley. Mountains surround you, including Boulder Peak looming overhead. Waterfalls are everywhere, including where you pump your water. Did I mention the wonderful boulder fields, wildflowers and a chance to see a wolverine? For those of you that want me to keep it a secret … sorry.”
“The campsites are nestled into the trees, but not so much so that you can’t see the amazing views. To the east, Kipp and Cathedral peaks form a castle wall that runs north and south. At the base of this wall is a rolling green hillside with huge boulders that remind me of pictures of Ireland. While staying there I spotted a pine martin bounding through camp and a sow grizzly with three cubs digging in the distance. This area, like Hole in the Wall, is primarily done as a campsite stop as part of a larger backpacking trip, so it isn’t for everyone.”
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