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Distance: 11 Miles

Max Elevation: 6,463 ft

Grinnell Glacier Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Bear Danger: Very High

Tyler sitting on a cliff midway through Grinnell Glacier Trail

Everywhere we looked we saw warnings about bears.  Grizzly bears to be specific.  Tyler read a sign that said the bears were feeding in the fall and are more aggressive and bold during this season as they prepare for hibernation.  Just half a mile into the trail as we were hiking we came across two separate people that said they saw bears run across or stop in the trail no more than 20 feet in front of them.  Both these people turned around and went home.  At this point, Tyler and I were the only hikers on the entire trail which made it even more spooky than it already was.  We know the importance of bear spray, the most effective tool to combat bears or other animals.  We didn't have any.  In our defense, we tried to obtain it, but we arrived in the middle of the night and we couldn't find any stores that were selling or renting it.  Our only defense was our voices.  According to the literature, the best thing you can do in bear country is to alert bears of your presence.  We talked super loud every ten seconds of the entire day as we hiked along the path.  Unfortunately since we started the trail so late, that meant that during our entire return hike it was dusk, and then completely dark.  During this final, dark part of our hike we were making noises so loud, you could probably hear us on the other side of the lake.  Our shouts echoing through the mountains.  I don't know if the bears left us alone because they were scared, or just super annoyed with us... but it worked, they let us be. 
We saw deer, foxes, and rams on the trail (apparently rams sometimes charge people and ram them?)... We were also a little fearful of being hunted by a mountain lion which are known to stalk their prey at night.

Grinnell Glacier Trail FAQ

How Long is Grinnell Glacier Trail?
If you hike the trail from the standard starting point (The parking lot at the trail-head alongside the road) the trail is 5.5 miles.  Grinnell Glacier hike is a 'down and back' trail, which means you come back on the same trail you went in on (not a loop).  Round-trip the trail is 11 miles long.  

Is Grinnell Glacier Trail hard?
If you're in good shape, the trail is no problem.  Tyler and I are from Wisconsin/Minnesota (elevation 800 feet) and we didn't really notice the mile-high altitude of Glacier, at least not in a way that altered our hiking speed.

Can you hike Grinnell Glacier trail (Glacier National Park) in the fall?
Yes.  We hiked the trail October 7th.  The weather was a little cold if you're just hanging around, but once we started hiking it was perfect.  We were totally comfortable and it was nice not sweating a ton like we would in the summer.  I wore track pants, a t-shirt, boots and a down jacket that I put on and took off several times throughout the hike.  The trail is pretty diverse, sometimes we were hiking through really dense forest, and other times we were exposed on a cliff up in the mountains.  I had a backpack where I could store my jacket when not using it.  The best part about going in the fall is the lack of tourists.  There were 7 people on Grinnell Glacier trail while we were there (as opposed to hundreds during the summer).  We started the trail late, and during the final seven miles we were literally the only ones on the trail.

Can you camp at Glacier National park, near Grinnell Glacier trail?
Yes, there are a bunch of designated camping spots right near the trail-head.  At 2:00 am we pulled into a camping spot and slept in our rental car.  When we woke up, there was a sign-up sheet on our car window that apparently a ranger put there.  I guess this is how you sign up for a camping spot.  Fill out the sheet, put it in a box and pay online or something... If I had to guess, in the summertime these spots are a lot harder to come by.  In the fall however, they were all totally empty. 

Are there a lot of bears at Glacier National Park / Grinnell Glacier trail?

How many bears are in Glacier National Park?
A major study by the national parks service, on the official NPS website says there are an estimated 300 grizzly bears and 600 black bears that reside within Glacier National Park. 

What other animals do you have to be careful of besides bears?
Wolves, rams and mountain lions. 

Should I follow 1Lifeonearth on Instagram?
Yes, yes you should.

Make sure to watch the epic vlog we made of the Grinnell Glacier Trail adventure on my 1Lifeonearth YouTube channel 🙂 

The hiking backpack I use (new version I don't have):  http://amzn.to/2zl3e7x  
My all weather boots:  http://amzn.to/2zjJj8W
The lens I always use:  http://amzn.to/2yx3hO6

Tyler and I spot some spooky animals on the trail:

The final lake of the hike. This glacier lake was bright blue and ice cold, made of the water from the melting glacier above.
Tyler standing in a winter wonderland. Snowing near the top of Grinnell trail in early October
Tyler standing on a pier near the beginning of the trail. Adjusting his selfie-stick to get that perfect angle...

Map of the trail's start and finish points
Midway through the hike, Tyler contemplates life and his place in the world.