Whenever John wakes me up early here in Montana I know that he has checked the weather and wants to do a long hike in the mountains. After plenty of coffee and a nice hot breakfast, he is pretty much ready to go as he always wakes up early and uses that time to pack our picnic lunch.
The plan today was to travel over to Glacier NP, take the Going to the Sun Road and park about a mile past Logan’s pass at the Siyeh Bend Trailhead. The trail is a semi circle loop ending at Sunrift Gorge tallying about 9.6 miles. John had read that the last 4 miles of that hike is 4 miles straight down (dropping over 3000 feet in elevation) which we really don’t enjoy. So our plan was instead to hike to (and up the pass) then turn around to retrace back to the car. This ended up being an 8.8 mile hike according to my Jawbone Up fitness tracker. It is also about 2200 feet in elevation gain and loss instead of over 3000 down.
We were sure to carry 3 full water bottles, bear spray and our lunch kept odorless in Ziploc bags due to recent bear activity in the area. John’s back pack was pretty heavy, but this was his idea after all (smile). Actually he has had plenty of experience as a backpacker so I didn’t feel too bad that I had the much smaller lighter pack. As we hit the trail we noticed that the first part of the trail followed along Siyeh Creek then took a right turn into the spruce/fir forest.
You could see why there were bears here since the huckleberries were plentiful! Along our hike we we were passed by a couple of fast paced young hikers and we noticed a solo hiker lagging behind them. We were waiting for him to pass as well but “Bo” (his name) looked pretty tired and after chatting a bit he decided to hike with us since it isn’t advisable to hike solo in bear country.
About one mile from the trailhead we reached the Piegan Pass trail Junction to the right but we continued left on our trail. About 2.7 miles in, just as the trees began to thin out, we came to another junction where we followed the signage to the right to stay on our trail. Soon after we entered the area known as Preston Park which is a series of gorgeous alpine meadows.
Flowers and huckleberries were abundant and this area was really beautiful. The bears apparently also love these meadows so we made noise and were also happy to see other groups of hikers ahead and behind us. I stayed really really close to John and chattered a lot just as we had been advised to do when in bear frequented areas. We did see some bear scat but it was very old, not fresh so we weren’t too worried and continued on admiring not only the meadows but the panorama of peaks all around us. I read later that these peaks were Piegan Mountain (west) , Matahpi Peak (south) and Heavy Runner Mountain (southwest). At this part of the trail Siyeh pass could be seen up ahead as it is the saddle between Matahpi Peak and Mt Siyeh.
The entire trail thus far had been a steady up but nothing too strenuous especially since we took several breaks to snap pictures and to chat with other hikers. In the meadows were occasional small alpine lakes and a large winding creek that became more and more stunning to look at over our shoulder as we climbed. At the end of the meadow area is where we decided to stop for lunch to take in what was our most favorite view on the trail. The view below us This is also where we parted ways with Bo our solo hiker from Georgia.
The view below was magnificent to behold as we enjoyed our lunch. The next part of the trail to the saddle was really strenuous as it had many switchbacks leading us 700 feet upward. The time we took to rest between switchbacks we were amazed how high we were and looking back we were treated to views of three alpine lakes we would not have seen had we not continued. We were suddenly way above tree line and anxious for the view at the pass. This day however there was a haze on the other side so it was hard to get a good picture of the vast scenery. Although we saw several hikers continuing on, this was where we stopped and turned around for our return trip.
The return was very enjoyable as we had full view of all the vistas we previously had to turn around to see so it was really enjoyable and quicker as it was all a nice downhill trek once we got back to the meadows. Towards the very end of the trail while photographing Siyeh Creek, John saw mountain goats perched precariously up high on the hillside across the creek. It was amazing to watch how nimble they were. What a great day and a wonderful hike! We hope the weather will allow us some more Glacier hikes as we both never tire of hiking in this wondrous park.
NOTE: We are in Kalispell Montana until September 12, 2016 unless the weather gets bad. Then we will head over toward Spokane Washington most likely…