Maybe it’s primal.
There’s something invigorating about gazing out across a landscape of 10,000-foot peaks, an uninterrupted lake, or the high, wide skyline. Arriving at an idyllic viewpoint can feel like an act of discovery. It can provide peaceful respite from the hectic cityscape down below.
Our backyard is full of scenic landmarks for adventure seekers and here are five views worth witnessing.
The Avalanche Chutes in Glacier National Park
An ideal — and relatively safe — way to view grizzly bears is to pedal or walk a few miles up the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier Park and peer down into the avalanche chutes that dive off the roadside. The chutes, which are only 2-3 miles from the Avalanche Creek parking lot, create good foraging grounds for grizzlies as they roam through the open countryside and fatten up for summer. Late May and early June is the best time of year to see the bears from a few hundred yards away by perching at spots along the road. Bring binoculars and bear spray and always take precautions around wildlife. Don’t approach or attempt to feed any wildlife in the park. Another neat sight, keep an eye out for the rare harlequin ducks that can be seen in or near the park’s creeks in early summer.
This scenic site rivals any lakeside setting out there. Roughly 43 miles north of Columbia Falls up the North Fork Road, Bowman Lake sits in a peaceful remote landscape surrounded by the towering peaks of Glacier Park. The lake — 7 miles long and nearly a mile wide — is fed entirely by snowmelt, making it crystal clear and cold to the bone. This makes for an idyllic weekend getaway. Pitch a tent at the shoreline campground and hike up to the nearby Numa Ridge Lookout, which at 6,960-feet elevation provides a 360-degree panorama that makes the trip worthwhile. Camping sites are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Make sure to stop in at the Polebridge Mercantile and reward yourself with some peerless pastries.
Granite Park and Sperry Chalets
Not even the best four-star hotels can match the stunning views of Glacier Park’s backcountry chalets. Hidden away from civilization in the wild highcountry, these two historic lodges are treasured landmarks in the park. This year marks their 100th anniversaries, which is another good reason for a sojourn. Even if you can’t book a room — they fill up well in advance — the two sites are well worth visiting. The best way to access Sperry Chalet is to depart from Lake McDonald Lodge and hike for 6.7 miles along the Sperry Trail, passing large cedars and hemlock forest before climbing above the tree line. The chalet sits at 6,580-feet elevation. The best way to reach Granite Park is to park at Logan Pass Visitor Center and travel the Highline Trail, which stretches 7.6 miles along the Garden Wall — and Continental Divide. This trail does not typically open until mid-July, so check the status beforehand. Granite Park can also be accessed from The Loop Trail, but features a steeper climb for 4 miles. There’s also the 7.5-mile trek along the Swiftcurrent Trail, which departs west of the Many Glacier Hotel and passes waterfalls and gaping panoramic views.
Lupine Lake Trail
Relatively easy but rewarding all the same, this 3.97-mile trek through the Salish Mountains leads to a secluded lake. Travel a little ways further and you’ll discover a stunning waterfall that drops down into the canyon. It’s definitely one of the Flathead National Forest’s hidden gems. To get to the trailhead, travel U.S. Highway 2 West in Marion and turn right onto Pleasant Valley Road. Take Griffin Creek Road until a pullout area with the trailhead sign.
A ski area in winter, this site turns into an expansive hiking labyrinth in summer. Blacktail is only a short drive from the valley’s communities and from the summit of the fourth tallest peak in the Salish Mountains you can see a panorama of the lake and vast mountain ranges surrounding the valley, including the Missions, Swans and Jewel Basin. This is also a great afternoon destination for mountain bikers and horse riders. The Forest Service road up the mountain stretches 14 miles off U.S. 93 in Lakeside and leads up to the summit, where parking is available.
MORE FROM OUR SUMMER GUIDE 2014:
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