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Best Things to Do at Glacier National Park

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View of Glacier National Park from Going-to-the-Sun Road

Glacier National Park is home to some of the world's most breathtaking scenery. For outdoor lovers, the park has it all from forests, lakes, mountains, and glacial-carved valleys to hundreds of birds and mammals, including grizzly bears. This national park is over one million acres large, has over one thousand different animal species, and over one hundred lakes.

When to Go

Best time to go is during the summer between the months of June and September. Not only will you have the best weather then, but also almost everything will be open and available to you. Going-to-the-Sun Road and a lot of activities are closed during the winter months.

How to Get There

Glacier National Park is located in the northwest corner of Montana along the spine of the Rocky Mountains. It has four main entrances; West Entrance and St. Mary entrances serve the west and east ends of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Many Glacier and Two Medicine are isolated, road-accessible regions along the park's eastern boundary.

By Airport

You can fly into Glacier Park International Airport. This airport is fairly close to the park. From the airport you can rent a car or take a shuttle that will lead you to the park.

By Train

Taking the train to Glacier National Park is great if you have extra traveling time and want to see more of the country. You can take the Amtrak to either West Glacier Park Station or East Glacier Park Station.

By Driving

West Entrance - Near the communities of Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls, the West Entrance provides access to the Lake McDonald area, Park Headquarters, the Apgar Visitor Center and is the west entry point to the Going-to-the-Sun-Road. From Kalispell, take Highway 2 north to West Glacier (approximately 33 miles).

St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier Entrances - Closest to the town of Browning, all three entrances can be reached by taking Highway 89 north from Great Falls to the town of Browning (approximately 125 miles) and then following signage to the respective entrance. The St. Mary Entrance is the east entry point of the Going-to-the-Sun-Road and provides access to the St. Mary Visitor Center and services at Rising Sun. The Many Glacier Entrance provides access to the Many Glacier Valley and visitor services at the Many Glacier Hotel and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

What to See and Do

One to four day visits are recommended for Glacier National Park. Of course, the more time you can spend there, the better. If you have a five or six days then you can even explore Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada (remember your passport!).

One-Day Visit - Going-to-the-Sun-Road

Entering Glacier National Park will fill you with tons of excitement being that you have so much to look forward to. The best way to spend your trip is by exploring one of the most popular attractions the park has to offer, the Going-to-the-Sun Road. You can drive this road yourself, hop on a Red Bus (Jammer) Tours or catch the free shuttle service that runs both ways along the Going-to-the-Sun-Road. If you choose to drive yourself, it is important to note that the maximum length for a vehicle on the road is 21 feet, and the maximum width is 8 feet. The road is about 50 miles long and without stopping will take around 2 hours to drive. It is definitely recommended that you make stops along your journey to capture photos of scenic views you will never want to forget. If you choose to take a Red Bus Tour, you have the option to take a half-day or full-day tour. It is recommended to take the full-day tour, so you can truly experience all of the beauty Glacier National Park has to offer. Here is a list of some awesome stop points along the Going-to-the-Sun Road that you do not want to miss (in the order that the road takes you) from West to East:

  1. Lake McDonald, a beautiful lake, which hugs the highway for 10 miles. Just like many other sites, there are awesome plants and animals scattered in this area. It used to be much more wooded, but after forest fires in 2003, many of the trees no longer exist.
  2. After Lake McDonald, stop by McDonald Falls for a stunning view of the cascade. Just beyond lays a marshy area where you can see moose roaming the area.
  3. Continue 3 miles until you reach the Trail of the Cedars. This half-mile (wheelchair accessible) boardwalk winds through an ancient forest of massive cedar trees. At the end of the trail you can find a viewing of Avalanche Creek.
  4. Avalanche Lake Trail is a continuation from the Trail of the Cedars. The trail follows the Avalanche Creek gorge until it reaches Avalanche Lake. The end of the trail offers a stunning view of the lake and numerous waterfalls that storm down over 2,000 feet. This trail is a total of 2.9 miles long (starting at the Trail of the Cedars and ending at the Avalanche Lake) and you should allow 2.5 hours.
  5. In the shadow of the Garden Wall, a sheer ridge cresting thousands of feet above you that is part of the Continental Divide, the road will meander along the "Loop", which is a lengthy zigzag. It will finally arrive at a wonderful view of waterfalls, peaks, and valleys all shaped by glaciers. At this viewpoint you will be able to locate Bird Woman Falls, which plummets down almost 500 feet.
  6. Once you reach Logan Pass, you have arrived at one of the more popular trails in the park, Hidden Lake Nature Trail. This is a 3-mile round trip trail that takes you to a viewpoint of Hidden Lake and the surrounding valleys and peaks. If you're lucky, you could see some mountain goats along the way. Allow 1.5 hours.
  7. About 4.5 miles further along the road you'll reach Jackson Glacier Overlook. This is a viewpoint for the grey-blue enormous Jackson Glacier. This is one of about 50 glaciers at this National Forest, which has helped shape the park into the beautiful wonder it is today.
  8. As you reach the start of St. Mary's Lake look for the 1.2 mile Sun Point Nature Trail that will lead you to St. Mary's Falls a double-stranded cascade that pours through a narrow chasm. If you walk a half-mile longer, you will be able to see Virginia Falls which drops a 100 ft. through the forest. Allow 1.5 hours.
  9. Continue your drive along St. Mary's Lake until you reach Wild Goose Island Overlook, famous for its fine vista of Wild Goose Island, the lake and St. Mary Valley.
  10. Spend the night at campground or RV park in or near Glacier National Park.

Two-Day Visit - Going-to-the-Sun Road and Highline Trail

  1. On your first day, complete the one-day visit outlined above. Then do one of the following options:
  2. Make sure to have a hearty breakfast to prepare you for a daylong hike on one of the country's most spectacular hiking trails offering stunning views of glaciers, mountains and lakes. The trail is called the Highline Trail and nicknamed the "Garden Wall". It starts at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and takes you to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. The trail begins near the Logan Visitor Center just off the Going-to-the-Sun Road and takes you on an easy hike to exposed ledges and open hillsides where you will find magnificent views of mountain peaks and opportunities to see wildlife. Where Highline Trail meets the Garden Wall Trail at mile 6.9, you will have to do some steep and strenuous climbing of around 900 ft in 0.6 miles. But at the end of it all is the Grinnell Glacier Overlook, which will give you spectacular views of the Grinnell Glacier and Grinnell Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in Glacier National Park. If you backtrack, the total hike will be about 15 miles long, but if you want to explore more scenery, continue hiking toward Granite Chalet, the trail will eventually end at The Loop at mile 13.5. At that point, a shuttle waits to take you back to where you began, at Logan Pass. It takes the best part of a day to hike the Highline Trail. If you want to spend your daylong hike on another trail, there are plenty of other hiking trails at Glacier National Park that will please your adventurous appetite.
  3. Spend the night at campground or RV park in or near Glacier National Park.

Three-Day Visit - Going-to-the-Sun Road, Highline Trail and Many Glacier Area

  1. On your first two days, complete the two-day visit outlined above.
  2. Many Glacier Area - On day three, explore the Many Glacier Area. Not only is this a wonderful area to hike, but also a great location for wildlife watching. This is one of the most popular areas in the park to see black bears, grizzly bears, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. As you reach the Altyn Peak, the road tops a band of cliffs and leaves you staring in the face of stunning and massive mountain peaks. From there you can see Swiftcurrent Lake.
  3. Take the moderate Grinnell Glacier Trail that starts near Many Glacier Hotel. This is an 11 mile round trip that takes you past Josephine Lake to Grinnell Glacier and offer spectacular mountain views and the chance to hike on a glacier. Allow 4 hours minimum. You can shorten the hike by 3.4 miles by taking the Many Glacier Boat Tour. If this isn't adventurous enough for you, canoe and kayak rentals are available at several lakes in the area.
  4. Spend the night at campground or RV park in or near Glacier National Park, Many Glacier Area.

Four-Day Visit - Going-to-the-Sun Road, Highline Trail, Many Glacier Area and Two Medicine Valley

  1. On your first three days, complete the three-day visit outlined above.
  2. On day four, check out the Two Medicine Valley. Although this is not as popular as the Many Glacier Area, this area still has plenty to offer. Many, many years ago, after glaciers made their way through this area, several lakes and waterfalls were created. Check out the Running Eagle Falls - a double-channeled waterfall that pours over a limestone cliff, hike the easy 0.3-mile Running Eagle Falls Trail to reach it.
  3. Twin Falls - Twin Falls is where two strands of cascading water fall into a pool lined with red mudstone. Take the Two Medicine Lake boat tour and hike the easy 0.9 mile (1.8 miles round trip) Twin Falls Walk through forests and alpine meadow to reach the falls.
  4. To finish off your trip, consider doing the Scenic Point Trail which is about 6.2 miles roundtrip and offers a great view of Medicine Valley or if you have had enough hiking for one trip, go fishing on Two Medicine Lake. Be mindful of the rules and regulations, as they are set by the Blackfeet Nation. Here are the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Regulations and the Glacier National Park Fishing Regulations.
  5. Spend the night at campground or RV park in or near Two Medicine Valley, Glacier National Park.

Five-Day Visit - Going-to-the-Sun Road, Highline Trail, Many Glacier Area, Two Medicine Valley and Waterton Lakes National Park

  1. On your first four days, complete the four-day visit outlined above.
  2. On the fifth day explore Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, so you'll need to remember your passport. First hike the easy 0.9 mile Bear's Hump Trail to a beautiful scenic overlook. The trails starts behind the Waterton Information Centre.
  3. Next drive up to the historic Prince of Wales Hotel to enjoy the view.
  4. Take a cruise on Upper Waterton Lake.
  5. Drive the 10-mile Red Rock Canyon Parkway and hike the 0.5 mile Red Rock Canyon Loop trail that provides a great view of the red rock canyon and some waterfalls. The red makes a great contrast with the surrounding green of the trees and offers great photo opportunities.

Six-Day Visit - Going-to-the-Sun Road, Highline Trail, Many Glacier Area, Two Medicine Valley and Waterton Lakes National Park

  1. On your first five days, complete the five day visit outlined above.
  2. Claimed by some to be one of the best hikes in the world, Crypt Lake Trail is a strenuous 11 mile round trip that involves a climb of 2,300 feet, past running streams and sparkling waterfalls, a crawl through a tunnel and a climb along a sheer rock face with the aid of a cable to end up at the beautiful turquoise waters of Crypt Lake. To get to the trail catch a short ferry ride across Waterton Lake in the morning and get the ferry back in the afternoon. Allow 6 hours minimum.

Main Activities

Bicycling, boating, boat tours, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, scenic drive, and wildlife watching.

Ranger Progams

There are numerous Ranger Programs available. They vary depending on the time of year. You can take easy walks, evening talks, boat tours, and lots more.

Park Map

Park Map Park Map

Visitor and Information Center

Visitor Centers throughout the park open and close at different times during the year

Apgar Visitor Center (West end of Going-to-the-Sun Road - Lat/Long: 48.528074, -113.994194)

Hours of Operation: January 5 - May 17: Weekends only, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
May 18 - June 14 - 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
June 15 - September 2: 8:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
September 3 - September 15: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
September 16 - Mid May: Weekends only, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Logan Pass Visitor Center (Middle of Going-to-the-Sun Road - Lat/Long: 48.747999, -113.438344)

Hours of Operation: If the Going-to-the-Sun Road opens prior to June 22 the Logan Pass Visitor Center will be open 9:30am to 4:30pm
June 22 - September 2: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
September 3 - September 15: 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

St. Mary Visitor Center (East end of Going-to-the-Sun Road - Lat/Long: 48.747999, -113.438344)

Hours of Operation: May 25 - June 29: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
June 30 - August 17: 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
August 18 - September 15: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Many Glacier (Lat/Long: 48.797146, -113.67301) & Two Medicine Ranger Stations (Lat/Long: 48.486797, -113.366783)

Hours of Operation: May 26 - September 20: 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Polebridge Ranger Station (Lat/Long: 48.782222, -114.278611)

Hours of Operation: June 7 - September 7: 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Entrance Fees

Single Vehicle Pass - $25.00 - Valid for 7 days
Single Person Entry - $12.00 - By foot, bicycle, or motorcycle for 7 days.
Glacier National Park Pass - $35.00 - Valid for 1 month from the month of purchase
National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass - $80.

Waterton Lakes National Park has separate entrance fees.

Pets

While visiting the park, please observe the following:

  • Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • Pets are allowed in campgrounds and pet-friendly lodging is available.
  • Pets are allowed along roads and in boats on lakes where motorized watercraft are permitted.
  • Pets are allowed, if leashed, on most trails.
  • Pets are NOT allowed on Ranger Programs.
  • All solid pet excrement must be picked up immediately by the owner or person in control of the pet and disposed of in trash receptacles.

Health Tips

Throughout all of Glacier National Park, there are loads of bears. Odors attract bears. Our campground and developed areas can remain "unattractive" to bears if each visitor manages food and trash properly. Regulations require that all edibles (including pet food), food containers (empty or not), and cookware (clean or not) be stored in a hard-sided vehicle or food locker when not in use, day or night.

  • Keep a clean camp! Improperly stored or unattended food will likely result in confiscation of items and/or issuance of a Violation Notice.
  • Inspect campsites for bear sign and for careless campers nearby. Please notify a park ranger of any potential problems that you may notice.
  • Place all trash in bear proof containers.
  • Pets, especially dogs, must be kept under physical restraint.
  • Report all bear sightings to the nearest ranger or warden immediately.

Color is not a reliable indicator of species. Contrary to their name black bears also come in brown, cinnamon, and blond. Black bears have a facial profile that is straighter from tip of nose to ears, than the grizzly and lack the dished-in look that grizzlies have. The also lack the shoulder hump of a grizzly and have shorter claws, generally around 11/2 inches (4 cm) long.For your safety, and for the safety of bears, always stay at least 100 yards (1 football field) away from any bear. Use a telephoto lens for photography.

Campgrounds

There are many developed and backcountry campgrounds throughout the park. Base yourself at a campsite that is convenient to where you are going to explore the park.

If you want to camp around the Going-to-the-Sun Road, check out:

If you are looking to camp around the Many Glacier Area, check out: Glacier National Park Many Glacier Campground

In the Two Medicine Valley you can stay at:

In the North Fork Area located along the park's western boundary, north of the Going-to-the-Sun Road there are four campgrounds:

There are many other campgrounds near Glacier National Park if those previously mentioned do not fit your needs.

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Photos

Red Bus Tour in Glacier National Park
If you don't want you to drive your car, take a Red Bus Tour of Glacier National Park
Kayaks floating on Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park
Explore Lake McDonald by kayak
Waterfall on Avalanche Creek seen from the Avalanche Lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Waterfall on Avalanche Creek seen from the Avalanche Lake Trail
Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park
Stunning Avalanche Lake
Hidden Lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Breathtaking view on Hidden Lake Trail
White mountain goats, Glacier National Park
Mountain goats are a common site
White mountain goats, Glacier National Park
Wild Goose Island, St. Mary's Lake
Person hiking Highline Trail with mountains behind, Glacier National Park
Highline Trail provides incredible views of the park *
Grinnell Glacier, seen from Grinnell Glacier Overlook, Glacier National Park
The view from the top makes the effort worthwhile - Grinnell Glacier seen from Grinnell Glacier Overlook **
Running Eagle Falls, Two Medicine Valley, Glacier National Park
Running Eagle Falls, Two Medicine Valley
Two Medicine Lake Boat Tour, Glacier National Park
Two Medicine Lake Boat Tour
Spectacular view from the top of Bear's Hump Trail, Wateron Lakes National Park
Spectacular view from the top of Bear's Hump Trail
Crypt Lake Trail, Waterton Lakes National Park
Claimed by some to be one of the best hikes in the world, Crypt Lake Trail offers incredible scenery
* Photo courtesy of Hikespeak.com
** Photo courtesy of Peakery.com


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