Travel and Adventure

Climate Hike in Glacier National Park

August 20, 2015

Several months ago, I went through a personal development program where a small group of ‘Warriors’ developed a calling statement. It was a richly rewarding experience for me and in the end my calling had to do with cultivating presence and a reconnection to nature. When the email from Citizens’ Climate Lobby came in announcing the Climate Hike, I knew immediately that it was a perfect fit for me.

I donate monthly to CCL and volunteer my time and other resources to the organization because I believe strongly in the work and the imperative to aggressively address climate change. This event gave me a chance to see firsthand the impacts of our warming world on some of nature’s most spectacular treasures.

14 people from CCL raised the minimum of $2,800 in order to participate in the event. These were very committed, passionate people that put forth impressive efforts to not only raise the money, but also to hike the sometimes rugged trails in Glacier National Park.

My hat goes off to all of the participants, and especially to our outstanding guides from Glacier Guides who made the experience truly amazing. Our youngest participant was 17 and the oldest was 71. Interestingly, the youngest hiker was also by far the biggest fundraiser. He raised $7,500 for the cause! Well done, David!

Climate Hike 2015 - Glacier National Park
Now let’s talk about what I saw during the experience (click here for a full photo stream). I was in Montana for 2 weeks total; I came in a couple of days before the hike began and stayed another week to enjoy the expansive Bob Marshall Wilderness before heading back east (more on that in another post). The first thing I noticed before even touching down in Missoula was the smoke in the air. Apparently, wildfires off to the west were blowing smoke into Montana, which adversely impacted the views of the mountains. There was also a wildfire in Glacier that had part of the park closed.

I’ve been told that this is the driest year they have seen in Montana in decades. I believe it; everything is very dusty and dry. Inside Glacier, the forests showed signs of stress and the low snowfall last winter had river levels down significantly. However, the hikes were breathtaking!

Climate Hike - Glacier National Park

We walked on incredible trails each day, including the Highline Trail at Logan Pass, but by far the most jaw dropping experience was the hike up to Grinnell Glacier. It was a steep rocky hike of about 6 miles and we ran into some weather on the ascent. Lightning, rain and sleet made for an interesting jaunt up the trail and by the time we reached the top, it was quite cold and wet. There was a large group of people up top, and when I came up over the ledge, I found out why. It was the most spectacular sight I had ever seen!

The glacier and lake below it were beautiful beyond description. The teal blue waters and alpine white icebergs floating in it provided a backdrop that I could never have imagined when I began the trip up the mountain a couple of hours before. It was my first time seeing a glacier up close in person, and it was a very potent experience. It was all the more sobering when we saw how small the glacier was compared to its former glory just a few decades ago. Photos in the lodge at the base of the mountain drove this point home through a gallery of photos of the glaciers’ relentless retreat.

Glacier National ParkIn 15 years, it’s likely that all of the glaciers in the park will have melted, and thus nobody will ever again see the beautiful scene that I was lucky enough to see. When I think that my nephew and godson will miss out on having this kind of transformative experience, it breaks my heart. The thought of this scene vanishing from the park is horrifying. Yet this is the reality of our impact on the planet.

I’m not going to wax on about the choices that have led us to this point or assign blame for the situation, because in truth we all share a measure of responsibility. I can only be responsible for my own choices and my own behavior, but I can also share what I’ve seen and experienced with others. This is why I choose to volunteer my time and resources with CCL. I believe we have a moral imperative to leave future generations with a world that’s sustainable and a climate that’s livable. We’ve got a long way to go to ensure that vision, but we can all do our part. Every one of us.

I want to extend a special thanks to those who contributing so generously to this cause and my experience in Glacier. I’m honored to have represented their interests and hiked the 50+ miles through the park to raise funds for CCL. It meant the world to me to have their support and to be among this small group of champions for the climate. Together we are moving toward a brighter future for humanity, one step at a time.

Check out the schedule of events that Climate Ride has in the works if you are interested in doing something like this. I cannot stress enough what a wonderful experience this was!

Glacier National Park

One last thing: if you haven’t been to Glacier and have any interest in seeing this wonderful national treasure, don’t delay. It’s a magnificent place that is quickly losing the ice that gave it its name. Once the last glacier melts, that’s it. No more. Ponder that if you need an additional incentive to visit.

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Click here to read about the second half of my Montana trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.


  • Reply Jessica Glendinning August 24, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    <3 Thank you for sharing your experience, Brandon! I know that the Amtrak rides I've taken through Glacier have been just absolutely breathtaking – and I'm hoping to be able to stop the next time through.

    • Reply Brandon Sutton August 30, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks, Jessica! You will not regret it if you go.

  • Reply Bob Marshall Wilderness - Part One September 15, 2015 at 10:56 am

    […] to spend 5 days in the Bob Marshall Wilderness (known to locals as ‘The Bob’) after my Climate Hike in Glacier National Park in August. It turns out that flying to Montana is pretty expensive, so I […]

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