Glacier Guides and Montana Raft

2017 Autumnal Equinox

First Day of Fall in Glacier National Park – 2017

Who’s ready for the 2017 fall equinox, the first day of fall in Glacier National Park? After all, it’s been a wild year in Northwest Montana! After a beautifully snowy winter and a wet spring, we launched into an incredibly hot and dry summer. The endless sunshine certainly made the Glacier National Park whitewater rafting all the more fun, but it also had us skipping straight to Stage II Fire Restrictions by July 28, 2017.

Overall, Montana experienced its largest — acreage wise — fire season since 2000.  Glacier National Park had a fairly mild fire season — acreage wise — but one of the fires that started as the result of a large July lightning storm, the Sprague Fire, is still burning as of this writing. The Sprague Fire took our beloved Sperry Chalet from us on the windy night August 31st, and forced areas of Lake McDonald to close, as well.

But today, September 20, 2017, the Stage II Fire Restrictions were lifted, and a steady rain is falling on West Glacier. Logan Pass is currently closed because this storm has also dropped close to 5″ of snow up there!

Big snow just before the first day of fall in Glacier National Park, at Logan Pass, from the webcams. NPS Photo.

Logan Pass is getting a much-needed blanket of moisture today, September 20, 2017. NPS Photo.

Let’s Go Adventuring

We expect this wet weather to douse the fires, and we also expect it to break, transforming Glacier National Park into sweet September over the weekend. After all, Friday, September 22, 2017, marks the first day of fall in Glacier National Park!  That calls for celebration — we’re all about celebration around here — and so the office chatter today centers around which Vernal Equinox adventures we will choose. Randy wants to go rafting, and maybe catch some fish while he’s at it. Denny’s wife and kids want to go biking. I want to go backpacking, and wake up under the sparkle of stars and a hard frost in Glacier. The harder the frost, the better the coffee tastes, after all.

First day of fall in Glacier National Park, Many Glacier. Photo by Colin Gavin.

Did we mention that Many Glacier is spectacular in the fall? This is from just last weekend. September 2017 Photo by Colin Gavin.

Why is Friday the First Day of Fall in Glacier National Park?

Because it’s the autumnal equinox! What’s an equinox? It means “equal night,” meaning that there should be equal amounts of day and night on an equinox, as the sun is shining directly on the Equator on these days. Twice per year, on the equinox, the Earth’s axis is not tilted towards or away from the Sun. But unless you are living on the equator, an equinox doesn’t result in exactly 12 hours of daylight.

Equinox daylight is not truly equal, due to light refraction and reflection before sunrise and after sunset, and the distance you are from the equator itself. But the equinox is as close as it gets to equal, twice per year. During the fall equinox, the sun crosses the celestial equator — the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator — from north to south. In March, on the vernal equinox, the sun crosses from south to north. This year’s spring equinox is March 20, if you want to make plans! We love making plans.

Solstices also happen twice per year, but they are different from equinoxes, as they mark the longest and shortest days of the year, as opposed “equal” periods of night and day. Here’s a helpful infographic for visualization purposes, from timeanddate.com.

Equinox and solstice illustration by TimeandDate.com

Equinox and solstice illustration by TimeandDate.com

Celebrating the Seasons in Glacier National Park

Posting this infographic makes me think of my favorite things to do on these special days. This weekend, my hiking boots, backpack, and bear spray will be a tight unit as we walk over fallen golden Aspen leaves, through the first day of fall in Glacier National Park. In a couple of months, you’ll probably find me and my kids snowshoeing or cross-country skiing up near Lake McDonald on the Winter Solstice.

Snowshoeing the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Photo: Nancy Stone.

The author and her kids, enjoying Glacier’s winter wonderland on snowshoes. Or at least, two of us were happy. Photo: Nancy Stone.

By mid March, I’ll have spring fever and be ready for a little early season rafting on Glacier’s turquoise border river, the Middle Fork of the Flathead. The summer solstice is my very favorite day of the year, and I’ll probably see how many activities I can cram into my day. Whatever I do, I’ll keep watch on the Glacier sunset long after it has faded, from my porch.

Sunset over Glacier National Park, 10:21pm on the Summer Solstice. Photo: Courtney Stone.

Sunset over Glacier National Park, 2017 Summer Solstice, 10:21pm. Photo: Courtney Stone.

What will you do to celebrate the first day of fall in Glacier National Park? Tell us in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter and you’ll be entered to win a can of Counter Assault bear spray* — which you should carry on all of your adventures all year-long, and particularly in the fall!

Happy Fall,


*You’ll have to pick the bear spray up at our office, but we’ll hold it for you through Summer 2018!

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