Marias: Glacier's forgotten pass

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Arrow leaved balsam root bloom at Marias Pass.

While most eyes center on the opening of Glacierís Logan Pass to vehicle traffic, the bulk of folks buzz right past Glacierís other high-profile pass without ever putting their foot on the brake peddle. One might call Marias Pass Glacierís overlooked pass. On a typical summer day, Marias will have just a smattering of cars at its pullouts and even fewer people on its trails.

This doesnít really come as a surprise. While Marias is certainly a gorgeous place, it doesnít have a bathroom ó not on the Glacier Park side of the highway. The best way to get people to stop is to put a restroom at a turnout. It also doesnít have the in-your-face wildlife experience, either. Unlike Logan Pass, you canít just step out of your rig and take a picture of a mountain goat or a bighorn sheep.

While there are mountain goats and bighorn sheep on its slopes, Marias is better moose and elk country. It has a couple of trailheads of note. Thereís a trailhead at the pass itself and then another near Lubec Lake, also called False Summit. If youíve never been there before, the trailhead at Lubec is easy to drive by, so watch your map or your GPS, which ever you prefer.

Both trailheads tie into the Autumn Creek Trail, which is a pleasant stroll along the divide. One of the most popular hikes is up to Firebrand Pass. But on this day, we decided to stay low and hike the Autumn Creek Trail back toward East Glacier. Weíd never hiked the entire route. There was plenty of moose and elk tracks, but we didnít actually see either critter. The trail coursed through meadows, mature forests and big clearings, with nice views into the Badger-Two Medicine region to the south. The trail had plenty of different songbirds, but the wind was stiff. All told, it was about 10 miles round trip. Itís 7.7 to East Glacier and we turned around about a mile past Railroad Creek, which is a lot prettier than its name would suggest.

We saw just one other hiker the whole day, save for a Glacier Institute class near the trailhead.

There still is solitude in Glacier. Sometimes you just have to work for it.

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