The Floral Park route

Beta in pictures mostly.  You can get the rest elsewhere.

Sunday morning we parked at McDonald Lodge and were all ready with our sign for hitchhiking.  Right on cue Ted swung by and we got a ride up to Logan Pass in high style.

M photo.

Start off walking to Hidden Lake.  Continue along the south shore fisherman’s trail, which is really good and obvious.  Before the lake bends south, pick a clear line and gain 3-400 vertical.  Swing around towards the nose, and gain a few hundred more (we found a really good bear trail).

M on the bear trail, near the top of the second ascent.  The trail levels out and side hills steeply for a short stretch before exiting out onto a nice alpine bench.  From the bench, the path up to the low point of the ridge is obvious.  This first stretch is likely the route finding crux, and picking the obvious line of least resistance seems to work well.

The view of Avalanche Lake, and across to Sperry and Comeau Pass, are huge.

Comeau Pass is the snowy low point, ahead.  From here on the rest of the route is dead easy to visualize.

You have to drop through the krumholtz off the ridge, but there are very good animal trails and if you ever feel like you’re honestly brush-bashing you went wrong.

M photo.

The bulk of this descent is on grass tufts and thigh-punishing steep.  I suspect the reason this hike has the reputation it does it not due to the off trail nav, which is only 6-7 miles of 20, but to several strenuous sections which, like this one, would not be kind to poorly training and overly civilized joints.

Looking back at the same descent.  Follow the canyon country maxim of “if it’s green it goes” and drop the gut straightish, following micro lines of weakness.

The geology of the Floral-Sperry basin is kickass.

We took the standard, most-obvious route up to the glacial plain itself.  Once in the basin, we eschewed the typical and most efficient route of staying up against the glacier in favor of a beeline across the rock ridges and snowfields in the center.  More up and down, but better views and greater interest.

It was by far our favorite part.

A short jaunt up some snow, quite safe without spikes of any kind in late summer conditions, and we rejoined the trail.

M photo.

All that’s left is 10 miles and 4800′ of descent.  Like hiking the Bright Angel down to the river.

It’s a walk well worth doing.  M was unimpressed, but that’s just because I spoiled her so thoroughly with Utah canyons.  The final 5 miles may be rather treeish, but the whole experience is really quite good.


6 thoughts on “The Floral Park route

  1. My buddy Logan lived up at the Sperry cabin for a summer or two and this was one of his favorite hikes in all the park. I’ve never had the chance to partake in this gorgeous route so thanks for the photo commentary, Dave.

  2. I was not “unimpressed”… I just wasn’t sure it was worth all the crazy hype… both about it’s difficulty and it’s beauty. It’s surely beautiful, and it’s surely not easy, but if I had to pick only 1 Really Long Day in Glacier to do again, it might not be it. And though we had an ideal day, doing it at the end of July this year (or the middle of July most years) I think would have been preferable, flora-wise.

    I think, maybe, in the end, it’s just so Big. The views, the descents and ascents, are hard to internalize, they seem far away, both then and now. There were definitely whole hours where I just had to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other and move (and watch your step, cause the footing is serious)! Which means the views may always be spectacular, but that doesn’t mean you get to look at them much.

    And having done so much research online, I felt like I had already seen the postcard views. So when so much of the up and down just became a focused and determined and mindlessly continuous effort, it took out those moments of personal revelation. If it weren’t for the current soreness in my thighs I’m not sure I’d believe that’s what I did yesterday. With the exception of a) the rock fingers and melt pools we traversed below Sperry Glacier, and b) the glacier lilies and other early season melt flowers that were just emerging along the fisherman’s trail around Hidden Lake, everything was Macro, there was very little Micro… very little to see right in front of you, to touch, and to take to heart.

    To me it’s a route to be impressed by because of its vast beauty, but not to love for its personal charm.

  3. I love that hike except for the final descent from Sperry Chalet. I hate that part.

  4. A classic for sure. M, I’m curious to hear what your alternative(s) Really Long Day in Glacier would be.

  5. Beautiful!

  6. My thanks to Sam H. for forwarding me the link to you guys. To me this hike is all about the bizarre zen garden that is the Comeau shelf. With the waves of stone and water courses of tropical blue water it stands as one of the most surreal and beautiful places I’ve been. Admission is payed for with your knees though, in the descents, especially the final seven from Sperry. I preferred a minimalist backpack for a night camping at the Sperry campground to the through hike (of course a lucky permit or access to the Sperry trails cabin was the crux). It allows much more time to linger in the various sweet spots along the way, and also opens the possibility of watching a sunset from Comeau pass. The third week of July is usually the money spot for flora, and a season of working trails makes the climbs considerably easier! Thanks for the pictures and the chance to revisit some well loved memories! Hype or no, Floral park is a brilliant little corner of the continent! Cheers

    -Logan Peterman

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