We planned for a long and exciting trip to three national parks: Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. This time, my sister and my 3+ year-old niece, Shamaine, who flew half the globe from Malaysia, would be joining us on this trip. Angelina and I have been to Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP with our parents in 2005, so we somewhat know our ways around in these parks.
My sister’s trip goals were: 1) to see Yellowstone NP before the super volcano explodes, 2) to see Glacier NP before all the glaciers completely melt by 2020, and 3) to see snow (and even better, snowfall) so that she can describe to Shamaine what snow actually is.
Unlike the past trip where we drove all the way from Minnesota, we decided to fly to Missoula before beginning our road trip. We spent one day in Missoula, two days in Grand Teton NP, four days in Yellowstone NP, four days in Glacier NP and finally one more day in Missoula before flying back home.
The road trip from Missoula to Jackson Hole was about 8 hours, with multiple stops along the way. It was very exciting to witness the huge Teton Range so close to our eyes. We took the boat ride across Jenny Lake to hike up to the Inspiration Point in the morning. We did this hike in the past, thus we were familiar with the trail condition. When we reached to the top, the rain began to pour cats and dogs with lightnings flashing among the dark clouds every so often. It was blistering cold with strong wind blowing from side to side. We decided to hike down the slippery rocks slowly instead of waiting out the bad weather under the trees since we didn’t want to increase our chances of getting struck by lightnings. The rest of the day was pretty gloomy. We took turns hopping in and out from the car at every destination while Shamaine took her nap in the car.
From Grand Teton NP, we headed north and entered Yellowstone NP from the south entrance. The southern part of Yellowstone NP was mostly covered with thick snow. The weather in Yellowstone NP was generally great throughout our visit. Although the road from Tower-Roosevelt to Canyon Village was closed due to the road constructions, we managed to covered all the well-known attractions, including all the basins, Mammoth Hot Springs, Hayden Valley and Upper/Lower Falls. We also visited a couple of lesser known attractions, such as Lamar Valley and Tower Fall. We saw plenty of wildlife in Yellowstone NP this time. There were plenty of bisons, elks, coyotes, birds and even bears. In fact, we witnessed more than 10 bears in one of the days. Both grizzly bears and black bears were virtually everywhere in the park.
From Yellowstone NP, we began our 8-hour drive to Glacier NP. Although the drive was rather long, the view along the drive was incredibly scenic with lush landscapes and mountains on both sides of the road. We had a little trouble locating the vacation home, which was heavily surrounded by aspens, upon arrival. Once we found it, we were greeted by a large house that we initially drove past it earlier. This secluded vacation home was amazing. It can easily fit 8 to 10 adults. The best part of this stay was the nice gesture by the home owner who provided bunch of toys tailored to Shamaine’s age. She had a blast throughout her stay, playing with all sorts of toys.
Although both east and west entrances of Glacier NP were opened, the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road that cuts across the national park was partially closed at the midsection of the road to allow the plow trucks to clear the thick snow off the road. While exploring the east side of the park, we encountered a large grizzly bear by the roadside, searching for food. It did make us a little worried when hiking on the trail after that without bringing a bear spray with us. So, we kept asking Shamaine to sing her ABC as loud as possible throughout the hike to scare the bears away.
We allocated an entire day to do a 4.7 miles roundtrip hike to Avalanche Lake in Glacier NP. The hike wasn’t too strenuous to our standard, but it was definitely a little bit of work to carry a 35 lbs kid on my back for most part of the hike. I decided that the hike would be much faster if I were to carry her instead of having her to walk on her own. The hike to Avalanche Lake took us about 2 hours to get there. We were greeted with an extraordinary view with snow capped mountains wrapping around the turquoise colored lake completed with several 200 feet drop waterfalls at the background.
We woke up one morning in East Glacier Park to see light snow on the ground. During our drive to Many Glacier, we stopped by at a visitor center to determine any possible trail closures. We were promptly warned by the park ranger to hike closer to our car as Many Glacier would be hit by the winter snow storm. Most part of the trail along the Swiftcurrent Lake was heavily covered with snow, much to my sister and Shamaine’s delight. We spent some time building snowmans for Shamaine who had been nagging to her mom the entire time about seeing “Snowman” all the way from Malaysia. As we hiked deeper into the trail, the wind picked up and it began to snow heavily. Seeing snowfall in May was pretty unusual, even for Minnesotans like us. We decided to head back out because our trail visibility was significantly reduced and the trail ahead of us was heavily covered with snow. Further, Shamaine had difficulty times walking on snow without falling with every few steps. From Many Glacier, we drove to Two Medicine to do a short hike to Running Eagle Falls before heading home.
From Glacier NP, we drove south for about 4 hours to Missoula. We visited the Elk Center Visitor Center and also hiked up Mount Sentinel to the huge letter “M”, located within the University of Montana’s campus. Although the zigzag hike to the top is only 3/4 mile, we also gained 620 feet in elevation too, which makes the trail very steep and tiring to hike up. During our hikes, Shamaine kept asking me where the big letter “M” was, and I kept assuring her we were about to see it at the summit. When we reached the top, she asked me about the letter “M” again because apparently it was too big that she couldn’t see the entire letter.
Throughout this trip, we spent roughly $220 for 10 days on groceries, which was incredibly cheap (3 meals x 3.5 persons x 10 days = ~$2 per meal per person), granted we did bring some food with us from home too. We saw a total of 11 grizzly bears and 4 black bears. It was an incredible trip, and it was definitely fun to have my sister and my niece tagged along this time.