GRINNELL GLACIER TRAIL

Glacier Na­tional Park, Mon­tana

Backpacker - - Public Lands | See It -

YOU’VE HEARD THAT this park’s 23 name­sake fea­tures are dis­ap­pear­ing, but maybe thought you had plenty of time to see them. Bad news: Re­vi­sions to air tem­per­a­ture mod­el­ing in­di­cate the ze­roice date may be in 2020. In this case, there is lit­er­ally no time to waste to see the land and its ar­chi­tect in the same view­shed.

One of the first to go might be Grinnell Glacier, which has lost 40 per­cent of its orig­i­nal might in the last half-cen­tury. Steady melt­ing keeps the ice re­treat­ing higher into the cirque that cra­dles it, while calv­ing ex­pe­dites the process (like in 2015, when a 10-acre chunk broke off into Up­per Grinnell Lake). Ad­mire Grinnell’s 110-acre re­mains by fol­low­ing its epony­mous trail 5.5 miles to Up­per Grinnell Lake, where the glacier’s crum­bling toe adds to the star­tlingly blue wa­ter ev­ery year. Scan the steep-walled cliffs sur­round­ing the lake to see two more glaciers: Gem to the south and Sala­man­der, which once touched Grinnell, 700 feet above it. Look for moun­tain goats on the cliffs, glimpse alpine wild­flow­ers that thrive in snowmelt, and lis­ten for the squeak of mar­mots on the rocky moraine—all of these cold-lov­ing species will strug­gle and de­cline with­out the park’s rivers of ice.

TRAILHEAD Grinnell Glacier (48.7971, -113.6684) SEA­SON

July to Oc­to­ber PER­MIT

None CON­TACT nps.gov/glac

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