Climbing Mount Oberlin in Glacier National Park, June 2016
I just recently became more interested in climbing peaks in Glacier National Park, which is something I never thought I would want to do! I have been hearing for quite some time that Mount Oberlin is the best beginner peak, and is even considered family-friendly, meaning that you can take your children to the top! I was able to climb to the top of Mount Oberlin a few days ago, which I hope is a great kick off to a summer of peaks!
I had the chance to go after work a few days ago, which is late for my kids and I figured I should go first and check it out to decide if my kids should actually go up to the top of this peak or not. So we headed out around 4pm, which put us hiking around 6:30pm after driving to the top of Logan Pass.
We have been having incredible sunsets recently, which change colors and affect every few minutes, making it seem like you are getting like five sunsets in one night! This night started out absolutely gorgeous as we drove up the pass.
Mount Oberlin is the peak just up to the left from Birdwoman Falls if you look up from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, or the peak up to your right if you are looking up from the Logan Pass parking lot.
There are two routes to the summit. I own Blake Passmore’s Climb Glacier Park Volume 1, which recommends climbing to the saddle between Oberlin and Clements and then heading up through some Class II cliffs. Unfortunately, this time of year there is so much snow still along the saddle it didn’t seem safe, so instead we went straight up the ridge to the right. I highly recommend Blake’s book for the route leading over the saddle, and for all the other peaks in Glacier Park!
There is a climber’s trail that takes off from the sidewalk leading just north of the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Again, there is so much snow up there right now that you can’t see the trail, so we just started walking through the snow toward Oberlin. In the few grassy patches that we crossed, we hopped from rock to rock so as not to damage the grass that is considered precious in the Logan Pass area. (Leaving the boardwalk is discouraged during the summer months, but there is a pretty worn trail to Mount Oberlin from people climbing it that people travel on.)
From there you head up and start heading right while trying to stay high. There is a waterfall up to the right that you will see below Oberlin, we crossed just above the waterfall over a snow bridge that thankfully held out!
You can see a large set of cliffs at the base of Oberlin, and you want to get up around to the left of that. There happens to be a goat trail, or perhaps it’s a climber’s trail, that leads you under those cliffs, up and around and then cuts back to the right above the cliffs. From there it is just a short series of switchbacks that go through steep scree to get to the top.
It is a quick hike; I think even having to climb through the snow we did it in under an hour. It takes about the same to get back down.
It was such a great time, and we fortunately sat up there until almost dark so we were able to see the many sunsets that that night had in store for us. The magical light always happens at night! Then we hiked down just as it was getting dark.
The snow up there right now is incredibly soft and fun and sledding on it is amazing! You go so fast!
I feel so lucky to have found a group of friends who love to do these things as much as I do, so that I had a large group of people to hike with that night!
I highly recommend Mount Oberlin! I am definitely afraid of heights (my legs start shaking on edges), and this hike, though steep, you feel safe while hiking. Also the top has plenty of room to stand and hang out. Mountain goats, big horn sheep, and a marmot were the wildlife seen along the way.
Oberlin was such a great hike and definitely manageable with older children! I am hoping to get on some more peaks this summer.
Warm Wishes from Big Sky Country!
Alex M. Neill