Glacier National Park Travel Guide

Glacier National Park was named from the remaining ice age glaciers and is located on the boarder of the United States and Canada. It is often called the “Crown of the Continent” due to the fact that it sits directly on the headwaters of the streams that flow down to Hudson Bay, Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

The park has become a favorite for hiker of all skill levels with beginners heading to the Trail of the Cedars to the more experienced Grinnell Glacier.

As incredible as it may sound, the park also offers over 700 gorgeous lakes, two spectacular mountain ranges and numerous waterfalls. The park is spread throughout 1 million acres and is home to a wide variety of wildlife.

Facts You Never Heard About Glacier National Park

  • There has been evidence of humans in the area, dating back over 12,000 years. Archaeological digs have shown that humans occupied the area dating all of the way back to when the glaciers began to retreat from the area over 12,000 years. The mountains are said to hold a spiritual significance to the local tribes of the area including the Salish, Kootenai and Blackfeet.
  • One of the largest glaciers in the park is over .7 square miles. The park has 26 glaciers, with Blackfoot Glacier being the largest within the park.
  • The wildlife found throughout the park has barely changed since its discovery. Glacier contains well over 71 mammal, the ecosystem has remained undisturbed and intact.
  • Glacier National Park also holds the distinct honor of being the first international park of peace. The unique vision for the park was to celebrate the friendship and peace that has endured between Canada and the United States. In 1932, Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park located in Alberta, Canada would be named, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The parks work in a cohesive nature through fire management, research and wildlife preservation.

Where Is Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park and Whitefish can be found in the northwest corner of the state of Montana along the Rocky Mountain spine. Waterton Lakes national Park is found in the area of southern Alberta, located just north of Montana’s Glacier National Park.

It is usually easiest to fly directly to Glacier Park International Airport, however, there there are also several nearby airports. You can check out on an Amtrak, with convenient stops in Whitefish, West Glacier and East Glacier.

If you are looking for an adventure, why not make it an incredible road trip? You can make it to Glacier National Park in just 10 hours from Seattle, 4 hours from Spokane and just 6 hours from Calgary.

Glacier National Park Weather

From late October to June, the grounds will be covered with snow or you may experience snowfall. The month of June is known as a rainy month and the vast majority of trails will be covered with snow throughout June and up to July in the higher elevations.

July and August tend to be the warmest and sunniest months in the park. September tends to offer mild temperatures without snow and very few crowds. During the month of October, you can expect to see new snowfall. And once November comes, you can expect to see truly heavy snowfall.

The climate in the area is usually wet and windy. While on vacation, it is always wise to be prepared for sudden weather changes. Try to dress in layers and bring some form of rain gear. And keep in mind that the nights are always going to be cool. And the higher you get in elevation, the cooler the temperature.

In fact, some of the higher elevated areas like Logan Pass tend to be about 15°F cooler. If you do not want to be bothered by snow and bad weather, plan your adventure around the months of early July and mid-October. Also always keep in mind that the vast majority of lodges will be closed between mid-September and end of September.

Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park

If you are searching for the best time to visit Glacier National Park is through the month of July to August.

During this peak season, the temperatures will average around 70 degrees and the nights can drop into the low 40 degrees. In the months of June and July the higher elevations can see snow while the east side of the area tends to be much cooler than the west side. Additionally, the east side is drier while the valleys in the west have a significant amount more rain.

During the peak season, you can expect to see a rise in the cost of lodging, but there also tends to be more facilities open in addition to complimentary shuttle service.

There will also be fewer road closures than you would during the spring, fall and winter months. The park is also open 365 days a year allowing for everyone to experience the glory of the park.

Things To Do In Glacier National Park

Watch Wildlife

Many people think that this is next to impossible as wildlife is constantly on the move. However, there is a very easy way around this. You can follow some typical predictions as to where the wildlife is. You can research where most of the animals are typically located throughout the park.

One can usually expect to see deer and moose in the area of Fishercap Lake shortly after the sun rises. You can usually find bears on the Highline Trail and Hidden Lake Trail, although you may want to steer clear of any trail that has a status of “Bear Frequenting”.

In addition to having to do so much research into typical wildlife areas, you can always ask a ranger for more information. Always keep in mind that bears are truly dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Bicycling

One of the best areas in the park to enjoy a bike road is on the Going-to-the-Sun Road during the spring months once the snow has been plowed and the road is not open to vehicles.

The road is fully dependent upon the weather as to how far biker can trek and are not allowed in the vicinity of plow crews. The official Glacier National Park’s Road Status alerts visitors to the status of all park roads including the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Guided Tours

Guided tours are one of the best ways to have a safe adventure through Glacier National Park from hiking with Glacier Guides to a Red Bus Tour. In addition, the National Park Service offers multiple guided experiences throughout the park including horseback adventures and boat ferries.

Do keep in mind that a good number of the guided adventures throughout Glacier National Park do book up several months in advance.

For more information about some guided experiences in Glacier national Park, you can get in touch with Glacier Institute for more experiences that are both fun and educational.

Boat Tours

You would be surprised to find out that there are a number of boating activities throughout the park. There are a number of boat ramps on McDonald and Bowman Lakes as well as Two Medicine Lake And St Marys lake which can be found on the east side of the park.

You can rent a boat at Rising Sun, Two Medicine, Many Glacier, Lake McDonald Lodge and Apgar. For some of the smaller lakes and creeks, you can rent a raft or canoe. On the Flathead River, you can enjoy the exhilaration of kayaking, rafting and canoeing.

Cross-Country Skiing

The best time to visit the park is during the winter moths when the area is the least crowded. There are a wide number of trails that are open for snowshoeing and skiing near the west and east entrances of St. Mary and Apgar.

You will need to check the conditions of the area for specifics of winter activities as well as the local forecast conditions.

There is also the real danger of avalanches in the park and if you desire to cross into the areas backcountry, you will need to obtain a permit and fully understand the dangers associated with this activity and location.

Fishing In Glacier National Park

There are multiple areas throughout the park to enjoy fishing for the 22 species of fish found in the area including the 27,023 acres of lakes and 563 streams.

There is a small percentage of park visitors who come just for the fishing due to the uncrowded banks and large supply of native trout. Of course, the weather is going to influence the skill you have with the rod, but there are some tips to help you navigate the area waters for greater success.

With the area waters being featuring high-alpine and low nutrients, the trout are hungry and biting all of the time. In addition, you can hunt out the native cutthroat which is just as plentiful in the waters of the area.

If you fish directly within the park, there is no need for a fishing license. If you choose to seek out fishing in any of the areas outside of the park, there is a need for a Montana fishing license. The traditional fishing season in the park runs throughout the 3rd Saturday in May up to November 30th with a few minor exceptions.

While keeping of fish in the park is often discouraged, it is not illegal. Always be sure you are up to date on the park regulations and restrictions regarding fishing before you place your line in the water.

Best Hikes In Glacier National Park

To assist you in planning a visit to Glacier National Park, here is our list of some of the most popular spots to hike.

Swiftcurrent Falls

This trail is short and level and to the eastern side of the park. It is also one of the popular areas to spot moose. These are not the biggest falls in this park, yet it is a great trail to view the alpine lake’s crystal clear blue waters. This two-mile loop is one of the best options to either end or start your day.

Siyeh Pass

From the Trailhead of Siyeh Bend, this trail crosses a forest and a creek before reaching the Jackson Glacier Overlook. You will pass through another forest that starts to thin out before reaching the junction of the Siyeh Pass Trail. From here you can enjoy the views of stunning wildflowers and a pretty meadow in Preston Park.

You can continue with a steep climb that heads up to the Pass, provided there isn’t too much snow or ice. At the summit of 8,100 feet, the trail carries on for 5 and a half miles until you reach Sunrift Gorge.

Highline Trail

For the ideal opportunity to spot wildlife such as bighorn sheep and mountain goats, consider the Highline Trail. The trail is a bit exposed, yet the views are well worth it. While you up there look down to see people driving along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Even though this trail is 11.5-miles long you can choose how far you would like to go and then turn around to head back.

Logan Pass Area

If you would like to access the Hidden Lake Overlook, there is a 2.8-mile round-trip journey to complete that gains around a 500-foot elevation from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. The Overlook provides beautiful panoramic views of the mountains that surround this area, most are over 8,500 feet tall.

To access the lake, the trail goes on for another 1.2 miles from either way. As you descend this part of the trail, the elevation drops by 800 feet between the lake and Overlook.

Many Glacier Area

If you would like to access the Viewpoint of the Grinnell Glacier on foot, start at the trailhead. The round trip is over 10-miles and you need to prepare for an elevation gain of 1,600-feet. If you visit the park in the months of summer, consider heading out to the Ptarmigan Tunnel from the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead.

This trail includes a 2,300-foot elevation gain and a 10.6-mile round-trip. From the top enjoy the views over the Ptarmigan Wall and the Ptarmigan Lake from the south entrance before you enter a 240-foot tunnel.

This tunnel was originally constructed by an organization known as Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s to provide park tours.

Trail Of The Cedars

For a wheelchair-accessible, self-guided hike, the Trail of the Cedars is one of the best choices. This trail is only 0.7-miles one way, with the trailhead starting at Avalanche Creek Picnic Areas.

You can enjoy walking through the mature cedar trees. This area also has tables if you would like to stop for lunch.

Lake McDonald Area

The Lincoln Lake Trail is extremely strenuous and includes a 2,000-foot elevation gain and a 16-mile round-trip. The Lake McDonald West Shore is level, yet still includes a 15 mile round-trip.

Howe Lake is one of the nicer alternatives, which is only a 3-mile round trip with a 250-feet in elevation. This area can get a bit swampy, but it is a great spot for birdwatching.

Glacier National Park Camping

Glacier National Park offers a beautiful testament of unspoiled wilderness, shifting geology along with campgrounds that complement these natural spaces.

Even though the drive is long to access this park, Glacier is still among the most favored parks across the country, with campgrounds tending to fill up pretty quickly. Only some of the campgrounds which include Many Glacier Campground and St. Mary Campground accept reservations in advance. Most of the campgrounds work on first-come, first-served.

Catering to RV and tent camping, the larger campgrounds which include Fish Creek Campground and Apgar Campground often fill up between June and September (peak season).

Apgar Campground

This is the biggest campground in the Park and situated on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, just under 3-miles from the Western Entrance. With close to 200 campsites, these camping grounds are also situated near the Apgar Village with gift shops, camping supplies, and restaurants.

Visitors also have access to other resources such as the Ranger Station and visitor center closeby along with concessionaires that offer services that include kayak rentals and horseback rides with a guide.

Apgar Campground works on a first-come, first-served basis for both RVs and tents. You can reserve a group campsite in advance at Apgar Campground. There are 5 sites available accomodating up to 24 people.

St. Mary Campground

This is one of the campgrounds that you can reserve your campsite ahead-of-time. This campground is also one of the biggest on the eastern side of this park. From the St. Mary Lake, there is a hiking trail that connects these campgrounds to the St. Mary Visitor Center.

From here visitors can use the free Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle. This site has available running water and accommodates both RVs and tents. Loop A is a generator-free site and typically suggested for tent campers.

Many Glacier Campground

On the eastern side of the park, the Many Glacier Campground is beautifully surrounded by mountain attractions, wildlife, and several day hikes. Situated close to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, which includes lodging, a restaurant, and gift shop, around 50% of the 109 campsites can be reserved in advance over the months of summer. The rest of the sites work on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you would like to secure a spot in these campgrounds make sure you arrive early, especially in peak season.

Many Glacier Campground campsites cater to camper vehicles and tent camping, with a couple that can take RVs of over 21 feet. Many of the top-rated hiking trails in Glacier start from the Many Glacier Campground, which includes routes to famous spots such as Iceberg Lake and Grinnell Glacier.

Two Medicine Campground

These camping grounds are 11-miles from East Glacier Park Village. This campground which is home to 100 sites is one of the less-busy areas of this park and does not connect to the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

RVs and tent campers still fill these camping grounds in peak season, yet there are only 10 campsites made available for the RVs that extend up to 36-feet in length.

Many hiking trails leave from the banks of the lake along with the chance to take a boat ridesover the lake.

Fish Creek Campground

This is another large campground situated in Glacier National Park, and also accepts advance reservations for the standard campsites. Situated on the western side of Glacier, along the Camas Road, these camping grounds are under 4-miles from the West Entrance.

The 178 campsites offer easy access to portable, running water, and registered campers can also use the showers situated in Loop A.

Avalanche Campground

Across from a well-used trailhead for the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake, this is also one of the first-come, first-served campgrounds catering to both RVs and tents.

There are 87 sites at Avalanche Campground with just under half that offer campsites for RVs over 26-feet in length.

Rising Sun Campground

6 miles from St. Mary Entrance, the 84 campsites at the Rising Sun Campground work on a first-come, first-served basis. From the middle of the St. Mary Lake, this campground is also opposite the Rising Sun Motor Inn.

This facility offers coin-operated showers, casual dining, along with a store. Campers can use the free Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle that leaves from the campground, while any overnight visitor can access portable, running water.

Bowman Lake Campground

If you are looking for a more remote experience in Glacier National Park, you may want to consider Bowman Lake Campground, situated in the North Fork area of this park.

These camping grounds are 33-miles to the north from the West Entrance. To get to these grounds you will need to navigate twisting gravel roads. Bowman Lake Campground cannot be accessed by vehicles over 25-feet in length, but running water has been made available to the 46 sites between May and September.

Sprague Creek Campground

Accessed from the Going-to-the-Sun Road and 9 miles from the West Entrance, this popular campground only has 25 campsites. These sites are only available on a first-come, first-served basis, and no towed vehicles are permitted into the campground.

Kintla Lake Campground

Kintla Lake Campground is situated in the northwest corner of this park close to the Canadian border. This is the most remote campground in Glacier. Vehicles over 21-feet in length cannot access these campgrounds due to the 40-mile gravel road drive from the West Entrance.

Glacier National Park Lodging

Many Glacier Hotel

This location is going to make you feel as though you are a million miles away from everything with the towering snow capped mountains. The hotel features a truly rustic feeling with incredible amenities and dining options.

Many Glacier Hotel offers horseback riding, boat rides and some truly amazing hiking adventures. Many Glacier is located directly in the park and makes a great base of operations for a truly adventurous vacation.

Glacier Park Lodge

located toward the eastern area of the park, this is one incredible resort. This is a huge resort with a lobby that is designed to hang out in and have fun and relax.

With a grand fireplace and incredible live music and food, you may not want to leave the lodge! The lodge offers close proximity to both St. Mary and Two Medicine for added convenience.

Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Lodge is as close as you can get to the beautiful and scenic Lake McDonald without being in the water! The lobby features a huge fireplace with plenty of seating to talk about the morning or end your evening with a hot drink.

From this location, you have easy access to almost every aspect of the park. The lodge is only 10 minutes from the west side entrance and only 15 miles from the stunning The Going To The Sun Road.

Whitefish Mountain Resort

Whitefish is a small town in Montana just about 25 miles west of West Glacier entrance. If you do not mind the drive, it is going to be well worth it to stay at the Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Located on a ski mountain, the resort has plenty of activities for the rest of the seasons. There is a bike track, adrenaline pumping rope courses and an incredible Alpine slide, which will take you down the side of the mountain on a toboggan-like sled!

Timber Wolf Resort

If you are searching for a location with rustic cabins, tent and RV locations as well as a bed and breakfast, you just may want to check out Timber Wolf Resort. The resort is located in Hungry Horse, Montana and is about a 10-minute drive from West Glacier entrance.

This is a stunning location with plenty for the kids to explore and enjoy from hiking to their own resident Bigfoot!

Brian

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