The Blackfeet call it the backbone of the world. White explorers dubbed it the crown of the continent. Now named for the spectacular, glacially carved topography and remnant ice clinging to the high-elevations, Glacier National Park encompasses over 1 million acres of rugged alpine terrain.
The park is widely regarded as one of the best hiking and backpacking destinations in the United States, but most people stick closely to the 50-mile long Going-to-the-Sun road, which transects the park from West Glacier to St. Mary, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Popular day hiking destinations for first-time visitors include Avalanche Lake, Haystack Butte, Hidden Pass, and Grinnell Lake. But you don't have to look very hard to find countless possibilities for adventure. Be advised that Glacier National Park is grizzly bear country, and all the familiar cautionary notes apply.
In 1932 Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park, across the border in Canada, were designated Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, celebrating the longstanding peace and friendship between the two neighboring countries. Both parks have since been designated as an International Biosphere Reserves and together were recognized in 1995 as a World Heritage Site.
Congress designated the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in 1975. Over 920,000 acres of the wilderness area coincide with Montana's Gallatin, Custer, and Shoshone national forests. Just over 23,000 acres of the wilderness lies in Wyoming. The Absaroka-Beartooth, just north of Yellowsyone National Park, is considered an integral part of the 20-million-acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The wilderness consists of two distinct mountain ranges. The Absaroka, named for the Crow people, is the more fertile range, densely forested with spruce, fir, and pine, and frequented by bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, deer, moose, marmots, coyotes, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. Fauna thins out in the higher-elevation Beartooth Range, which features treeless plateaus, steep canyons, small alpine lakes, and Montana's highest point: 12,799-foot Granite Peak.
The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness's 700-mile trail system is most often accessed via the Beartooth Highway, US 212, from Red Lodge or by forest access roads off of US 89 south of Livingston.