Glacier National Park, Crown of the Continent, Montana

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14294A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Experience the beauty of Glacier's rugged wilderness and abundant wildlife
  • Improve and repair trails under the guidance of National Park Service personnel
  • Camp beside beautiful Logging Lake and enjoy solitude in this remote area


  • Pack support for tools, cooking equipment, and food
  • Tasty meals and snacks prepared by our camp cook
  • Instruction in a variety of trail maintenance skills


DatesAug 18–26, 2014
StaffElaine Stebler

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Trip Overview

The Sharon Churchwell Fund is offering youth 18-25 years old a discount on this trip. Visit the Sharon Churchwell Fund page for more details.

The Trip

Glacier National Park encompasses a ruggedly beautiful wilderness of sharp, precipitous peaks to the east and majestic alpine forests to the west. Glaciers can still be seen in the shadows of towering peaks, although they are expected to be mostly receded by 2020. Long narrow lakes, both large and small, formed by past glaciers, are prevalent.  Abundant wildlife -- including mountain goats (the official symbol of the park), bighorn sheep, mountain lions, grizzly bears, wolves, deer, elk, and moose -- roam the park.  Bald eagles and other raptors reside in the park year-round. 

Glacier National Park is primarily a wilderness park with limited services and without the fancy lodges and restaurants that are found in Yellowstone, Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon. Come join us and find out why many consider Glacier to be the crown jewel of the U.S. national park system and see the glaciers before they disappear. As a Sierra Club service trip, this trip is not just about gazing at beautiful scenery. It's also about camaraderie, hard work, decompression from civilization, fun, exploration, and lots of good food.

Our base camp for the work project will be about five miles from the trailhead, with a gentle elevation gain to about 4,000 feet. A pack team of mules will pack our food and kitchen gear into our base camp, but we will carry all of our own personal gear in our backpacks. We will have a primitive cook's cabin at our campsite for safe storage of our food and we’ll cook our meals there as well.

The Project

Our project will be on the west side in the North Fork area of the park; this will be in the northwest quadrant of the park. Our work will be mostly trail work: brushing and building turnpikes, water bars, and other drainage structures in the vicinity of Lower Logging Lake. The National Park Service will provide all necessary tools and training, but we will supply the high energy.


Day 1: On Monday, August 18, we will meet and provide the first official "get acquainted" dinner at the Apgar campground near the park headquarters, in West Glacier. Plan to arrive no later than 5 p.m., but preferably earlier so that you have time to set up your tent before dinner.  We encourage you to come a day or two early to explore the park on your own. If you want to arrive the night before, room at the campground can be assured for you if you let the trip leader know in advance.

Day 2: The next day we will backpack to our base camp, where we will set up tents and get oriented. This is where we will stay for the week. The five-mile hike is moderate and over rolling terrain, with very little elevation gain.

Days 3-8: We will work for five days and have one full day off for resting, exploring the area surrounding our base camp, or maybe even fishing in Logging Lake (Montana fishing license required).

Day 9: We'll pack out on Tuesday, August 26. Lunch that day will be the last meal provided. We recommend not making flight plans for that day since we can never be sure when we will return to the trailhead. On Tuesday night, everyone who is staying in or near the park can join together for a farewell dinner. The campground at Apgar will be available (free) for the night of August 26 and will remain available (free) for the night of August 27 if you want to stay and explore more of the park.



Getting There

Kalispell, Montana has the closest commercial airport, about 45 minutes from the park, and Flathead-Glacier Transportation, (406) 892-3390, can provide shuttle service to the park. The Amtrak Empire Builder has train service from Chicago to Portland/Seattle with a stop in the town of West Glacier, which is near park headquarters. Check out their train stations; you may find it better to fly to a city along their route, like Spokane, WA and then take the train to West Glacier. Amtrack does not go through Kalispell.

You are responsible for arranging your own transportation to the Apgar group campground, but we will provide a roster of participants so that you can coordinate carpooling if desired.  

For travel within the park, the park offers free shuttles, which allow for easy exploration of the famed Going-To-The-Sun Road.

Accommodations and Food

We will be tent camping with only the amenities that we carry in. You will need to bring all of your own camping gear, including your tent, sleeping bag, etc. We will have a trail cabin nearby in which to cook and to store our kitchen gear, food, and personal items during the night and times we are away from camp. This storage is crucial since we will be in grizzly bear country.

All meals and plenty of snacks will be provided from dinner the first night to lunch the last day. Please come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. Our meals will tend toward the vegetarian end of the spectrum, although we will have some meat available at times. Don’t worry; we’ll provide plenty of healthy and nutritious foods. Participants will take turns assisting the cook with meal preparation and cleanup. If you have special dietary concerns or food allergies, make sure that you contact the cook prior to applying for the trip to see if reasonable accommodations can be made.

Trip Difficulty

Overall this trip is considered strenuous; participants should be in good physical shape. The five-mile hike into our campsite is considered moderate, but building and maintaining trail is physically demanding. There will be jobs that are appropriate for everyone’s energy level, but expect that you will wear yourself out and be very tired at times. Participants should have some past experience in hiking, camping, and backpacking, but beginners are welcome to contact the leader for more information and consideration.

Fitness is important. An out-of-shape participant creates health and safety risks to him/herself and others, won't contribute as much to the team work effort, and won't have as much fun. With that said, the leader always remembers that the trip should be fun. No one is expected to perform beyond his or her capacity.

Equipment and Clothing

You’ll need a good comfortable backpack in which to carry your tent, sleeping bag, and the rest of your regular backpacking clothing and gear. In addition to that, bring two pairs of leather work gloves, a good pair of sturdy well-broken-in hiking boots, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt to wear while working. The national park personnel will provide the tools for our work project, but you will need to bring a day pack to carry your lunch, water, work gloves, raingear, extra clothes, sunscreen, and other personal items to the work site. As temperatures can range from nighttime lows in the 40s to daytime highs in the 70s, plan to bring warm, comfortable clothing that can be layered.

While we’ll have a water purifying system for use in cooking, each participant is responsible for their own drinking water. It’s recommended that you bring either a personal water filter or water treatment tablets to treat local sources of water.  Of course you’ll also need a couple of water bottles.

Food and the necessary equipment for cooking it will be provided, but you will need personal eating utensils, such as bowl, cup, and spoon. One or two plastic Tupperware-type containers with tight-fitting lids will be needed for some lunch fixings. While we will provide a first-aid kit for emergencies, you should bring your own small personal kit and any personal medications you require.

A detailed equipment list will be sent to you after you’ve been accepted onto the trip. 



  • Trails Illustrated map of Glacier National Park. It is waterproof and costs around $9.95 from many local outdoor stores. You may also order it by calling (800) 962-1643.


  • The Glacier Natural History Association, Box 428, West Glacier, Montana 59936, has a catalog of books, pamphlets, videos, and maps they will send you upon request. Call (406) 888-5756.
  • We also recommend Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks (rev) by Erik Molvar (, 189 pg., and Hiker’s Guide to Glacier National Park, 110 pg.



The glaciers of the park—having shrunk 67% in the last hundred years—have been testimony to climate change. Some of this recession is due to warming, and some is due to drought. Most glaciers will probably disappear by 2020. This promises disastrous ecological effects for flora and fauna that depend upon the moisture from glacial runoff. Some species will not be able to survive if this runoff ends.

Early in 2010 a partnership with British Columbia prohibited mining for gas, oil, and coal in the Flathead River Basin, protecting, for the time being, the Flathead River from the effects of such activities. However, issues of logging, road building, and quarrying are still of concern. Participants have conservation stories from home and will be invited to share hometown issues with the group. We're all in this together.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Elaine Stebler is from Oklahoma, where she enjoys country-living and raising much of her own fruits, vegetables, and free-range chicken eggs. She has a background in Natural Resources Ecology and Management and loves being outdoors exploring nature wherever, but especially in wilderness. She is looking forward to escaping the Oklahoma heat and enjoying the refreshing cool mountain air of Montana while meeting new people and repairing trail in this awesome park. Elaine has led or cooked on many different type service trips to many wonderful locales since 1993.


Kelley Cousin lives and works in Griffin, Georgia, but also has a home and family in Montana where she spends as much time as possible gardening, hiking and skiing. She loves service trips because they offer a unique opportunity to do meaningful work in a beautiful setting with interesting people. Cooking for a hardworking group is especially rewarding. Her menu is primarily vegetarian and she loves having participants assist in the kitchen!

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