The Hike to Sperry Chalet

In August of 2020 two friends (Bobby and Landon) and me drove across the country for a week of camping and exploring in Glacier National Park in Montana. While the East side of the park was closed there was still more than enough to explore…here is a story from that great adventure.

Trail Specs:

Distance: ~ 12 miles

Elevation Gain: ~ 3,500 ft.

Top Elevation: ~6,500 ft.

Route Type: Out & Back

Scenery: Mountain & Forest

Difficulty: Hard

The Payoff: An incredibly peaceful place.

The Journey to the Chalet

On our third day in Glacier National Park Bobby and me decided to hike up to Sperry Chalet while Landon went mountain biking in a town just outside Glacier. This would turn out to be a hike that was so much better that anything we could have dreamt of.

A chalet is basically a mountain lodge and hiker resting point along trails that go up into the mountains and this particular one actually burned down in a forest fire a few years prior, but had recently been rebuilt. 

So, before Landon headed off to mountain biking he dropped Bobby and me off at the trail head by Lake McDonald Lodge for the day and unfortunately we had a late start. 

The first section of the trail was a lot of upward climbing, which brought quick changes of scenery from a section of dense forest with rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes on a dampened dirt path to a section of large evenly spread out conifers on a dry and rocky section of trail.

As Bobby and me trekked on reaching portions of long uphill climbs and much enjoyed flat sections, we got higher into the mountains and began to reach the area were the wildfire tore through the forest. The trunks of the trees where still there, but their needles and/or leaves had been stripped away and because of this we had a much clearer view of the surrounding area.

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Sperry Chalet in the distance

It wasn’t much longer before the Chalet came into view still miles away and the terrain became rockier and more cliff like, not to mention the 50 degree temp we started at turned into a near 80 degree day. We passed other fellow hikers (who had stayed at the Chalet) on their way down as we climbed up and even a horse-back tour that was making its way down the mountain.

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Unfortunately due to wildfires in Idaho, the sky was not as clear as it would have been, but the views were still breath taking nonetheless. We kept walking higher and further, reaching a sections where there were hardly any trees and then we came upon something we did not expect…an oasis like area in the mountains.

A Preview of Heaven

Unexpectedly the trail evened out to a large flat section tucked away in the mountain peak and to a path that gently snaked through a section of trees. It felt like we stepped through a portal, and this was just the beginning of it.

As we stopped for water on this bridge that ran over the river we saw a painter with his canvas set up in a grassy section by the river painting and behind the painter was the towering peak that led to Sperry Glacier (slideshow below).

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It wasn’t much further up the trail that we reached the Chalet and the view of Glacier National Park that presented itself to us. We sat near the edge of a cliff in front of the lodging building of the Chalet over looking mountains and rivers and valleys to take a rest. While we enjoyed the view we met a worker at the Chalet who was from Minnesota and had been working there every summer for the past few years, even before the fire happened in 2017.

After we finished talking to her and taking in the view we headed over to the kitchen and dining building to grab a quick snack and a drink. We decided to chill on the deck of the facility to enjoy the view and just relax from the hike up. During this time we met an old, retired couple from Tennessee who were on a several week long vacation visiting the various National Parks in the country. 

It was here that I snapped my favorite photo of the trip, the view from the deck of the kitchen/dining building.

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The feeling though that I had here…all of my worries were gone, I felt no anxiety or pressure, no rush to be anywhere. I felt a subtle, overwhelming peace. It made me think that Heaven must be just like this.

The Journey Back

We wanted to make the trek up to Sperry Glacier, but due to the length of the rest of the trail, the difficulty, and the annoying fact the time kept going forward, we determined we would not have had enough time to make it there and back down the trail before the Sunset.  We also didn’t want to keep Landon waiting in the parking lot for hours.

It was tough to finally leave this spot, because of the view, the awesome people we met and conversed with, and that feeling of serenity, but we finally mustered up the will to leave the Chalet and begin our hike back down the trail. The hike down went smoothly.

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Lake McDonald on the way down

At around 7:00pm we made it back to Lake McDonald Lodge where we rendezvoused with Landon. It was kind of funny, because when we walked to the back hang out area of Lake McDonald Lodge, we were greeted with well groomed tourists enjoying the evening.  

Then here comes Bobby and me, dusty, sweaty, and stumbling slightly because our legs don’t want to work how we would like them to, thanks to the hike and the hikes of the previous days (total of ~ 40 miles and ~ 8,000 + ft of elevation gain). We just looked unhinged.

Reflecting

This journey Bobby and me took to Sperry Chalet really resonated with us and the feeling we had, as if we stepped through a portal into a preview of Heaven. It didn’t take long before we both decided that one day we would like to head back to that Chalet and stay a couple of nights there.

If one day Life takes you to Glacier National Park, be sure to put Sperry Chalet on your list and get an earlier start then Bobby and me did. I felt so close to God here and I hope that if you one day make it to this beautiful place you feel the same peace and wonder that Bobby and me experienced.  

Just make sure you have: good pair of hiking shoes and trekking poles, dress in layers, wear good athletic socks, bring money, plenty of water or a water filter, snacks, and a sturdy, roomy back pack.

Optional, but recommended gear: hat, sunglasses, buff, sunscreen.

Song for thought: “Heaven” by: Angels & Airwaves

Also check out our Glacier highlight video!

Happy Exploring…

– Dustin

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