Over the 4th of July I had the opportunity to visit a part of Montana I'd never been to before - Jewel Basin. Sometimes overlooked because of the high interest attractions on either side of it - Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake - Jewel Basin is a great place to get away from the large crowds and still see some breathtaking views.
We hiked up the Mt. Aeneas trail, surrounded by the bounty of beargrass this year. It's a steep hike, so to beat the heat we got an early start in the morning - another good way to avoid crowds, too. We heard the area often has mountain goats, so we were hoping, but not holding our breaths, to see one. But lo and behold, when we approached the summit we saw two goats a mere 15 feet off the trail! They're probably around humans a lot, since they seemed to show no fear of us. But hey let's keep them as wild as possible - don't try to feed, pet, or take selfies with them.
We hiked past them, having to stop shortly after because of three mountains goats on the trail! Scratching their fur on the alpine trees, they seemed more concerned about eating and itching than about the giddy guy snapping photos like crazy. That guy was me.
We continued on to the top of the peak, and enjoyed the expansive views of the basin and other mountaintops. Totally worth the hike up. We chatted with other hikers for a while, ate lunch, and watched the herd of about 12 mountain goats down below on the mountainside. But right before we left, one lone goat decided he wanted on top of the mountain, and so we slipped a couple feet off the trail to let him skirt by us, a mere six feet away! I'd always heard stories of things like that happening to hikers, but had never seen it with my own eyes. Talk about one of the coolest things I've ever experienced!
So if you're looking for a gorgeous hike in Montana, but want to avoid the crowds at Glacier National Park, you might check out Jewel Basin. Just be prepared to get out of the way for the real king of the mountain.