Far away in northwestern Montana, hidden from view by clustering mountain peaks, lies an unmapped corner—the Crown of the Continent.
—George Bird Grinnell (1901)
Glacier National Park covers one million acres (16,000 square miles) in northwestern Montana and Canada. It is one of the most well-preserved ecosystems on the continental United States, with 175 mountains, 762 lakes, 563 streams, 200 waterfalls, 25 glaciers, and 745 miles of hiking trails.
Glacier National Park is dominated by mountains which were carved into their present shapes by the huge glaciers of the last ice age; these glaciers have largely disappeared over the last 12,000 years. Evidence of widespread glacial action is found throughout the park in the form of U-shaped valleys, glacial cirques, arêtes and large outflow lakes radiating like fingers from the base of the highest peaks. Of the estimated 150 glaciers which existed in the park in the mid-19th century, only 25 active glaciers remained by 2010. Scientists studying the glaciers in the park have estimated that all the glaciers may disappear by 2020 if the current climate patterns persist.
Native Americans first arrived in the Glacier area some 10,000 years ago. The earliest occupants with lineage to current tribes were the Salish, Flathead, Shoshone, and Cheyenne. The Blackfeet arrived around the beginning of the 18th century and soon dominated the eastern slopes of what later became the park, as well as the Great Plains immediately to the east. Upon the arrival of European explorers, it was dominated by the Blackfeet in the east and the Flathead in the western regions. To the Blackfeet, the mountains of this area, especially Chief Mountain and the region in the southeast at Two Medicine, were considered the "Backbone of the World" and were frequented during vision quests.
Soon after the establishment of the park on May 11, 1910, a number of hotels and chalets were constructed by the Great Northern Railway. The Going-to-the-Sun Road, also known as the Sun Road was completed in 1932. The mountain road bisects the park and is the only route that ventures deep into the interior, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, 6,646 feet in elevation at the midway point.
© Scenic Vista Photography