While most visitors to Glacier National Park stay around Going to the Sun Road with ventures to Many Glacier and Two Medicine, the furthest north and the furthest south tend to get the least amount of attention. Few places exemplify this more than the Coal Nyack region.
The Coal Nyack Loop is accessed either from the Nyack Creek trailhead or the Coal Creek trailhead. Either way requires a ford of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. (in all fairness of disclosure, one could hike the south boundary trail to get to the Nyack trailhead, but logistics become silly) For this video, I went in at the Coal Creek trailhead, walked the south boundary trail, then up the Nyack Drainage to Surprise Pass and Martha’s Basin, then down through the Coal Creek drainage back to the car.
The loop has been left intentionally rugged. Any remaining bridges in the area were removed necessitating multiple creek crossings. Campsites are at a minimum and undesignated camping is the norm allowing for early 1900’s style flexibility. Few patrols and fewer visitors mean that isolation and wildness is the theme of the trip.
Most of the trip is spent in the trees with the exception of a small burn area a little ways in the Nyack, the subalpine areas of Martha’s Basin and a large share of the Coal Creek drainage due to a large fire that gutted the area of trees… and protection from the sun. Crown jewels are some of the early sections of the Nyack as it cascades through canyons, solitude, Beaver Woman and Buffalo Woman lakes and the fantastically rugged peaks you get to view as you move through the Coal region. Windows to peaks along the hike and just being close to the creeks are also great bonuses and really set this part of the Park away as a unique backpacking experience compared to the rest of the park.
If you’re looking for a multiple day backpacking trip in solitude with some real gems scattered among trees and water crossings, the Coal Nyack Loop might be right up your alley.