Floral Park

unnamed lake in the Sperry Glacier basin along the Floral Park hike

a hiker at Floral Park Pass, Avalanche Lake on the left, Hidden Lake on the right

Floral Park is considered one of the premier off-trail hikes in Glacier National Park and was recently ranked the #1 offtrail hike in North America according to Backpacker Magazine. The nearly 20 mile cross-country route starts at spectacular Logan Pass on the continental divide, taking hikers on trail to gorgeous Hidden Lake, where the off trail portion begins at the outlet of the lake. From there, the route goes over Floral Park pass, through the Floral Park basin (named for its expansive meadows filled with wildflowers), up and over of the incredible terrain of the Sperry Glacier basin, through a third pass named Comeau Pass, where it again joins trail to descend past famed Sperry Chalets, through old-growth forest reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest and then finally ends near the shores of 12-mile long McDonald Lake.

The terrain seen along the way illustrates the power of glaciers and the legacy they have carved into the alpine environment. The journey takes the adventurous hiker through glacial basins at varying stages of glacial recession and its aftermath. The Hidden Lake valley illustrates typical Glacier Park mid-altitude glacial lakes, in which glaciers have long ago melted, leaving a lake in its place. The Floral Park glacial basin is slightly higher in elevation, but no longer holds a glacier. The rocky terrain that was exposed hundreds or thousands of years ago has slowly been overtaken by grasses and small forests of stunted high altitude evergreens known as krummholz. Finally, when ascending to the Sperry Glacier basin, the adventurer will see freshly revealed terrain with little to no organic matter covering it. The recently receded glacier has sculpted the tilted rock layers into a series of gigantic grooved slabs lying diagonally on top of one another, in which some water has become trapped, creating brilliantly colored lakes. Their color comes from their high glacial silt content due to sitting near the bottom of Sperry Glacier. The result is a landscape that is truly unique in all of the world. This is a landscape that has only been revealed within the last hundred years. The glaciers of Glacier National Park are melting at an alarming rate, but the terrain being revealed in these high glacial basins is alarmingly beautiful.

 

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