What Are the Geological Features in Glacier National Park?

What Are the Geological Features in Glacier National Park?
Glacier National Park is home to many geologic formations. The park is named after the remnants of 10,000-year-old glaciers and anywhere you look, you see a different example of how nature carved these massifs. Whether you're traveling on the Going-to-the-Sun Road or hiking the 700 miles of trails in the park, different types of formations can be seen everywhere.


Imagine a massive piece of ice grinding away at a layer of bedrock. This is what a glacier does to form a cirque. When it has finished working, a semi-circular bowl is left that resembles an amphitheatre. This is a cirque.


If you've ever seen a sharp-edged ridge, you've seen an arete. An arete forms when a glacier wears away its sides, sculpting a knife-edged ridge. The summit of Mount Oberlin is a perfect example of a prominent arete in Glacier National Park.

Hanging Valley

Below the arete on Mount Oberlin's summit is a hanging valley that overlooks the actual valley floor below. A hanging valley is created when a small glacier erodes a mountain. The one on Mount Oberlin resembles a large bowl, perched high above the park.

Paternoster Lakes

Lakes formed by glaciers form in U-shaped valleys and form in chains called paternoster lakes. Glacier National Park has great examples of these formations. A popular example is the chain formed by Grinnell, Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lakes.


Boulders, rocks, silts and other residues left behind by a glacier are called a moraine. Moraines are sub-categorized as end, ground, lateral, and medial moraines. These categories refer to the location where the residue is deposited; for example, a lateral moraine has residue deposited on the sides of the glacier.

Article Written By Rob Holzman

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Rob Holzman has been writing outdoor articles since 1997. He recently published the first comprehensive rock climbing guidebook for Pennsylvania and has fiction work published in the "Pacific Northwest Inlander". Holzman has also appeared on FOX television and has been an outdoor consultant for the Discovery Channel.

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