As Glacier celebrates its 100th anniversary as a National Park this summer, it’s now home to a few creature comforts as well. Today, many of the park’s sights can be enjoyed right from your car via the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road. Starting from the rain-soaked lowlands—where Lake McDonald Lodge, a classic timber-hewn hotel, sits at the edge of Glacier’s largest lake—the road winds its way up to the Continental Divide, near Logan Pass. And for those without a car (among them me, given I still insist on taking the Empire Builder from Portland for my annual trek), the park’s fully restored fleet of 1930s-era, fire-engine red tour buses is on hand to help ferry the park’s nearly two million annual visitors to popular waypoints like Sunrift Gorge.
But to be frank, there are also other, far less flattering changes. The earth’s rising temperatures are a direct threat to the park’s trove of glaciers. At one time around 150 of the icy behemoths existed within the park boundaries (boundaries which, by the way, would neatly contain the state of Rhode Island).
Sadly, park officials estimate all of the park’s remaining 25 glaciers could vanish by the end of the decade. In fact, many of the giant ice fields I remember from my first summer here have shrunk or simply disappeared.
Receding glaciers won’t completely destroy the park’s image. (Glacier was actually named less for its glaciers than for how its mountains were formed.) The park has beauty to spare. Indeed, from my perch, high atop Mount Oberlin, these troubles seem distant. Looking over its network of glacially torn mountains, glassy lakes seemingly plucked straight from a painting, and forests so dark they glow navy blue in the shadows of tall peaks, the park I once called home looks just how I remember it. At least for now.