Elizabeth, Glenn, and Cosley

Belly River, Belly River Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana, July, hiking

After extensive puzzle solving and backup planning, we finally scored backpacking permits for a 5-day trek in Glacier NP! As I mentioned before, it’s not easy getting these permits since half of the campsites are already reserved and the others fill up quickly each day. And of course, as with most national parks you have to camp in the designated campsites when backpacking. So after repeatedly getting denied, I was stoked when I showed up at the ranger station promptly at 7:00am and the ranger said that we got our desired itinerary!

Glacier had an above-average winter snowpack this year, so unfortunately most of the high treks we wanted to do were still closed – but we managed to figure out a nice route for our trek anyways. We started from the Chief Mountain TH, just yards from the Canadian border, and hiked up the Belly River valley. We spent the first night at Elizabeth Lake, in the valley to the left of the mountain in the photo above. We then backtracked and hiked up the Mokowanis River valley – the valley to the right side.

Elizabeth Lake, Seward Mountain, sunset, Glacier National Park, Montana, reflection

Elizabeth Lake Orange Reflection : Prints Available

Reflection of Seward Mountain in Elizabeth Lake at sunset.

After a hike of about 10 miles, we arrived at Elizabeth Lake and enjoyed a nice afternoon and sunset. One unique characteristic about these mountains is their nearly flat valleys. The broad valleys are so flat that after our 10 mile hike into the mountains, we had only gained about 200 vertical feet!

Elizabeth Lake, Ptarmigan Wall, Glacier National Park, Montana, sunset

Elizabeth Lake Sunset : Prints Available

Sunset at Elizabeth Lake.  The north side of the Ptarmigan Wall is reflected in the background.

I didn’t expect much of Elizabeth Lake, looking at the map. But I was surprised with the sheer size of the lake and the calm grandeur of the valley.

Elizabeth Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana, stormy

Stormy Elizabeth Lake : Prints Available

Storm clouds over Elizabeth Lake - July.

In the morning the weather was looking stormy and I took this long exposure to capture the mood. We hiked another 6 or 8 miles that day, mostly in the rain!

Glacier National Park, Montana, hiking, july

This is the typical hiking along the Belly and Mokowanis Rivers – the bushes are so thick and massive that much of the time you can’t even seen your feet on the trail. The hiking is also more tiring than usual because you have to always keep alert for grizzly bears ahead, and constantly shout and yell to give them warning (bear bells are not nearly loud enough to give a bear a good warning). In fact, one day Claudia was hiking in front and a bear was walking up the hill right near the trail! She had her bear spray out and ready to go before I even realized what was going on! Not sure if it was a grizzly or not… she just saw its rear end as it moved away.

Glenns Lake, Pyramid Peak, Glacier National Park, Montana, tent, camping

We camped at upper Glenns Lake campsite for two nights. It would be an incredibly spectacular camping spot with the symmetrical Pyramid Peak towering overhead – except that the lakeshore is choked with willows which totally block any kind of lake side view. A day’s work with a hacksaw could turn this spot into one of the premier campsites in the park! Oh well.

While I normally despise the concept of mandatory designated campsites in the national parks, here in Glacier it makes a lot of sense, given the grizzly bear dangers. Each campsite has a designated cooking area and food-hanging spot – both of which are located away from the tent spots. This ensures that there’s no food residue and odors near the tents to possibly attract bears, and knowing that allows you to sleep a bit better!

Pyramid Peak, Glacier National Park, Montana, sunrise, reflection, Glenns Lake

Pyramid Peak Sunrise : Prints Available

Sunrise reflection of Pyramid Peak, in Glenns Lake - July.

Despite the willow-choked lakeshore, I was determined to get a nice shot of Pyramid Peak from the Glenns Lake campsite, which – if it weren’t for those damn willows – has a perfect vantage point of the mountain. This photo opportunity was the main reason I wanted to camp there for two nights, and in fact my main photographic goal of the 5-day trek! So, for two mornings in a row, I waded out barefoot into the water and waiting there with numb feet trying to keep still so as not to disturb the reflection. The first morning was a bust with clear skies and boring light, but on the second morning my dreams came true with a spectacular sunrise and a still lake reflection! This was the photo that made not only this trek but the entire trip up to Glacier worthwhile for me and my camera!

Pyramid Peak, Glacier National Park, Montana, clouds

Pyramid Peak Clouds : Prints Available

Clouds stream up and over Pyramid Peak.

After our two nights at Glenns Lake, including a day hike up to the stunning Mokowanis Lake, we backtracked to Cosley Lake for our last night. Aside from various wildlife sightings, including the aforementioned bear encounter, a moose, a deer, and a black bear across the lake, our last day was uneventful and relaxing. With clear skies and windy weather on the last morning, we even finally got to sleep in before our long hike out!

Though this ended up being a wonderful trek, I hope to return to Glacier another summer to do some of the longer, higher treks. I’ll be sure to get my permit reservations well in advance next time!

6 thoughts on “Elizabeth, Glenn, and Cosley

  1. Amazing pics as usual Jack. Glad you didn’t have any major bear encounters. When Chad and I were in Glacier there were quite a few trails closed because of grizz activity. We went on a day hike and were only about 3 miles in and ran across a sow and two cubs. They were colossal and quite scary. I almost pooped my pants and vowed I would never backpack in GNP. So good to see you had a fruitful trip and didn’t get munched.

    1. Thanks Ann! Yeah I’m happy we didn’t get eaten too. We shouted so much while hiking that any bear in a 100m radius probably would have heard us. But yeah seeing a big grizzly is one of those things that would have been kind of cool, but I’m glad we didn’t!

  2. Your Elizabeth and Glenn Lakes shots are spectacular! Really enjoying these last few trip reports. Keep the photos coming!

  3. Would really like to see some images of Mokowanis Lake, if available, Jack. My husband and I were there in June of 2000. We saw (with binoculars) a Grizzy rollicking on the ridge opposite Cosley Lake. Memorable trip!

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