Yellowstone National Park, has been a major tourist destination for decades, and welcomes an average of 4.2 million visitors every year. Spanning a 3,500 square mile area that covers parts of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, there is so much to do and see at Yellowstone that it can be a bit overwhelming! Aside from being […]
Everything You Need to Know About Glacier National Park
Published: July 14, 2021
Located in northwestern Montana, Glacier National Park is a wonderful piece of artwork, which was created by nature hundreds of years ago. The formation of most of the topography of the area is credited to the ancient ice rivers that the park is named after.
Boasting of unspoiled and picturesque landscapes, eye-catching geological features, and a thriving ecosystem, Glacier National Park is an amazing destination for everybody, whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or just a tourist passing by.
Established as a national park in 1910 by President William Howard Taft, Glacier National Park is also the world’s first International Peace Park along with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. The two parks were designated in 1932 as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Glacier is also designated as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations and as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Aside from its natural wonders, the park also has a rich culture and history that is tied with the American Indian tribes that inhabited the area 10,000 years before it was established as a national park. They used the area for hunting, fishing, gathering plants, and ceremonies. Before the arrival of white explorers, the Blackfeet, Salish, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootnei people controlled the land that is now known as Glacier National Park.
Recognized as the Crown of the Continent, learn more about everything that Glacier National Park has to offer. Who knows? You may already be planning your trip to this amazing location before you even finish reading this article.
Why People Visit the Park
Glacier may not be as famous as its neighbor, Yellowstone National Park, but it still has its own unique charm that will absolutely make you fall in love.
A visit to a national park always entails amazing opportunities to be up close and intimate with nature. Glacier National Park has over 700 miles of available hiking trails that are perfect for everybody, whether you’re looking for a quick but sweet day hike or a more challenging backpacking trip. Some of the sceneries that you should look out for include snow capped mountains, pristine blue lakes, flowing waterfalls, and the namesake of the park, glaciers.
The park’s wildlife is also a guest favorite. Glacier’s ecosystem has remained intact and undisturbed because of the species preservation and protection efforts since the park’s early explorations. Caution should be exercised when dealing with the park’s wildlife, especially since the park is in bear country.
Photographers absolutely love the park as well. Picturesque landscapes surround the park, which makes this location a photographer’s paradise. If you’re looking for an opportunity to explore the area with your camera while being accompanied by like-minded people, give Glacier’s summer InstaMeets a try.
Aside from these, Glacier National Park offers a myriad of activities that can be enjoyed by everybody. Read on and discover the perfect activity for you.
Activities and Things to Do in Glacier National Park
Not sure what activities you can do and enjoy at Glacier National Park? We got you covered! Here are the amazing activities that you can enjoy in Glacier.
A scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road
A drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road is a must do activity in Glacier National Park. This 50-mile road crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, connecting the east and west sides of the park through the middle.
What attracts people to do this drive is the opportunity of viewing Glacier National Park’s awe-inspiring sights without the need of doing a possibly strenuous hike. From the comfort of your car, you can reach viewpoints that offer amazing views of the park’s breathtaking landscapes, massive glaciers, and cascading waterfalls.
Going-to-the-Sun Road has portions that are open year-round to provide access to many of the park’s locations and activities. The alpine portion of the road, which is its highlight, opens and closes based on the weather conditions. Typically, the road is fully open around late June to early July until the third Monday of October. Keep in mind that these dates are only estimates. If you’re planning on driving along the alpine portion of the road during your visit, make sure to check the road conditions before you begin your trip.
Without stopping, it will take you around two hours to drive the full 50 miles of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you’re not pressed for time, there are several pullovers along the way where you can fully enjoy the amazing views of Glacier National Park. If you’re on the lookout for a glacier, head over to the Jackson Glacier Overlook, located on the east side of the road between Logan Pass and St. Mary.
Speaking of Logan Pass, it is the highest point of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, sitting at an elevation of 6,646 feet. Wildlife sightings are common in this area. The most consistently seen animals are mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
For safety purposes, the speed limit in the Going-to-the-Sun Road is 45 miles per hour in the lower elevations and 25 miles per hour in the alpine section. Always be mindful of blind curves, especially because you share the road with pedestrians and the park’s wildlife.
Driving along Going-to-the-Sun Road is a quintessential part of a trip to Glacier National Park. If you’re not in the mood to drive, you can always hop on a guided tour that will take you around the area. The road may not actually take you to the sun but it will definitely take you to a place like no other.
Hiking in Glacier National Park
Hiking is always an amazing way to explore an area and to become more familiar with it. In Glacier National Park, there are over 700 miles of available hiking trails that presents you the opportunity to be up close and intimate with nature.
Are you an outdoor enthusiast who’s a huge fan of hiking? Check out this article about Rocky Mountain National Park, another top hiking destination in the Rocky Mountains.
Glacier National Park is typically divided into five main areas; namely, Lake McDonald / Apgar / West Glacier area, Logan Pass area, St. Mary Lake area, Many Glacier area, and Two Medicine / East Glacier area. For each location, we’ll be recommending three hikes of varying difficulties.
Lake McDonald / Apgar / West Glacier Area
Trail of the Cedars
Trail Difficulty: Easy
The Trail of the Cedars is a loop hike that begins and ends in the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Named after the trees that are abundant in the area, this hike is one of two wheelchair accessible trails in Glacier National Park. If you’re travelling during peak seasons, make sure to arrive early as this area is extremely popular.
Since this hike is a loop, you can begin it from either side. We suggest that you begin your hike in the eastern portion of the loop. This part travels along a raised boardwalk and passes through a forest of ancient western red cedars and western hemlocks. Some of the towering trees in this area are estimated to be over 500 years old. Ferns and mosses are abundant in the forest floor, forming a lush green carpet of vegetation.
One of the highlights of this trail is the footbridge over Avalanche Creek, where you can have a commanding view of the lower Avalanche Gorge. If you want to take a closer look of the gorge, you can hike a portion of the Avalanche Lake Trail to get to a better vantage point.
As you continue the hike, you’ll eventually arrive at the western half of the loop. From a boardwalk, the trail will transition to a paved pathway that runs past the Avalanche Creek Campground and ends in the Going-to-the-Sun Road completing the loop trail.
Upper McDonald Creek Trail
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
The Upper McDonald Creek Trail takes you on a hike through dense forests and alongside rushing waters. Begin your journey at the Upper McDonald Creek Trailhead, which is located at the North Lake McDonald Road, roughly three-tenths of a mile from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The first portion of the hike consists of a gravel footpath that travels through a dense, old growth forest of western hemlocks and western red cedars, some of which are estimated to be over 500 years old. The lush green of ferns and mosses can also be seen across the forest floor.
The first destination that you’ll arrive at is the spectacular McDonald Falls, which is a favored breeding ground for harlequin ducks in the Spring. After McDonald Falls, your next destination is the Scared Dancing Cascades, named after a Kootenai phrase that means “a good place to dance” or “where people dance”. The scenery in this location is amazing so make sure to take your time viewing your surroundings (and maybe bust out a few dance moves) before you move on with the hike.
After walking a few more miles, you’ll eventually arrive at a wetland area on McDonald Creek. This location is a prime moose habitat and a good location for spotting waterfowls as well. If you’re on the lookout for some moose, they’re active during the early mornings and early evenings.
From the wetlands, the trail will return to the dense forest for roughly a mile before running parallel to the creek again. Once you reach a boulder field and a low rock outcropping a few feet above the creek, you’ve finally reached the end of the trail. Enjoy a picnic in this area while you admire the rushing waters of McDonald Creek and the amazing view of Mount Cannon.
Trail Difficulty: Strenuous
In Glacier National Park, snow is always a major problem when it comes to accessibility. If you’re planning an early season trip to Glacier, check out the Apgar Lookout Trail, a trail with great views that becomes snow free early in the season.
The hike begins as an easy stroll along an old dirt road. The trail eventually climbs as you continue the hike. You’ll immediately notice the dead trees leftover from the massive Robert Fire that devastated the park in 2003. The fire happened after a five-year drought and burned over 136,000 acres of the park.
The trail will continue to go up until you reach the lookout. Although no longer in use, the fire tower is considered as a historical structure and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lookout offers amazing views of the surrounding areas, including the entire length of Lake McDonald and the high peaks of Glacier.
This trail, as well as the village, mountain, and fire tower, are all named after Milo Apgar, whose family was one of the first permanent families to settle on Lake McDonald in the early 1890s. The homes and cabins that he built for tourists are now known as the Apgar Village.
Logan Pass Area
Trail Difficulty: Easy
I like to call the hike to Deadwood Falls a reverse hike. If you begin the hike in the Jackson Glacier Overlook, you’ll be descending first instead of the traditional climbing.
The area that you will be hiking through will be filled with thimbleberry patches and cow parsnip, both of which are important parts of a grizzly bear’s diet in the spring. To avoid surprise encounters, make a lot of noise by clapping, using hiking bells, or even shouting.
You’ll know that you’re near your destination when you hear the sound of the water. Deadwood Falls is a magnificent 10-foot waterfall with deep and crystal clear waters, both above and below. The rocks in this area are a perfect place to have a snack break or a picnic lunch before you begin your journey back.
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
Travel over a sea of wildflowers to reach this stunning lake that is carved by a glacier. The hike to Hidden Lake begins in the Hanging Gardens Trailhead, more commonly referred to as the “Hidden Lake Nature Trail.”
The trail begins as a paved surface but transforms into a raised boardwalk after a short distance. The purpose of this raised walkway is to keep hikers from the snow, slush, mud, and rivulets. Once the snow melts, you’ll be travelling over a sea of wildflowers. This is what I love the most about this hike so make sure to time your hike accordingly if you want to experience the Hanging Gardens in its full glory.
Since this trail is in the open country, expect that you’ll be getting a lot more sun and wind. Also, snow can still be present in the trail even late into the season.
Your first glance of the lake will be at the Hidden Lake Overlook. In this location, you’ll be able to enjoy panoramic views of Hidden Lake and the surrounding mountains. Mountain goats frequent this area. You should also keep an eye out for other wildlife such as bighorn sheep, marmots, wolverines, and even grizzly bears. After this location, you’ll begin your descent to Hidden Lake.
Hidden Lake has a small beach area that extends in either direction. This area allows you to explore the shore of this glacially-carved lake. You can also look for a more secluded area to have your lunch at while enjoying amazing views of Bearhat Mountain, Reynolds Mountain, Fusillade Mountain, and the Dragon’s Tail.
Trail Difficulty: Strenuous
Florence Falls is considered by many as one of the most impressive waterfalls in Glacier National Park. Embark on this hike to see the famed falls for yourself and judge whether it’s worth the hype or not.
The trail begins at the Jackson Glacier Overlook and will eventually lead you to Deadwood Falls, a magnificent waterfall with crystal clear waters above and below. This location, as well as the rest of the trail, is a prime grizzly bear habitat so always travel in groups of at least three people and make a lot of noise to avoid any surprise encounters with the wildlife.
The trail never really leaves the forest but there is a spot near the St. Mary River that might just be one of the most amazing views in Glacier. From the opening, you’ll be marveling at Mirror Pond and the surrounding grassy area in the foreground framed by Mount Jackson, Gunsight Mountain, Fusillade Mountain, and Gunsight Pass. To avoid the glare of the afternoon sun that diminishes the quality of the views, make sure to arrive early at the area.
The rest of the trail will be dominated by long sections of chest high vegetation, including wildflowers, thimbleberries, and cow parsnip, all of which are essential parts of a grizzly bear’s spring diet. Make a lot of noise to let the bears know that you’re in the area. They’ll most likely get out of your way, but bring a can of bear spray as an extra precaution.
You’ll eventually arrive at Florence Falls, a mesmerizing waterfall that tumbles down over a 100 feet down the cliff. What makes this waterfall different from the other falls in the park is the stair-like arrangement of the rocks that guides the water to the bottom of the cliff. This is definitely one of the most amazing waterfalls in Glacier National Park.
St. Mary Lake Area
Train Difficulty: Easy
The hike to Baring Falls, a year-round glacier fed waterfall, is short but definitely sweet. The trail begins at the Sunrift Gorge and heads south from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Baring Falls is a pleasant waterfall that drops roughly 25 feet over a rock ledge and continues to flow for another hundred yards until it reaches Saint Mary Lake. This area is a prime location for American dippers or water ouzels, small, grey-colored birds that dip or dive underwater in search of food. This location is also their favored nesting area.
The hike to Barings Falls is an easy and simple hike that is perfect for those looking for a chill area to explore near St. Mary Lake.
Sun Point Nature Trail
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
Glacier National Park is never short of amazing waterfalls to explore and enjoy. If you’re a big fan of this body of water, we recommend that you check out the Sun Point Nature Trail, also known as the “Three Falls Trail”.
One of the first things that will greet you on this trail is the spectacular views of St. Mary Lake and the mountains that surround it. Sun Point, the namesake of the trail, was once the home to the Going-to-the-Sun Chalet complex. In its prime, the complex was able to sleep around 200 visitors. Sadly, the chalets closed during World War II, fell into disrepair, and were eventually torn down in 1948.
As you continue with your hike, you’ll eventually reach Baring Falls, which is the first fall. Baring Falls is a 25-foot glacier-fed waterfall that is home to American dippers or water ouzels. The next fall that you’ll arrive at is the St. Mary Falls.
St. Mary Falls is one of the spectacular falls of Glacier National Park. It drops roughly 35 feet and is separated in three tiers. The two bigger tiers are the highlight of this fall. The third tier is smaller and is located below the footbridge. Aside from its photogenic beauty, the other amazing thing about this falls is the cool breeze that is created by the rushing water flowing through a narrow gorge. Once you reach this waterfall, you can call it a day and head back. If you still have some energy left, continue along the trail to reach Virginia Falls.
Definitely one of the most amazing waterfalls in Glacier, Virginia Falls is another multi-tiered waterfall that falls roughly 50 feet. The spray of the water and the blast of cool air from the waterfall will definitely cool up even the hottest August day.
Trail difficulty: Strenuous
Otokomi Lake is named after Otokomi, a Blackfoot Indian who accompanied George Bird Grinnell on his early expeditions in the Glacier region. Otokomi’s English name was Rose, which became the namesake of Rose Basin and Rose Creek.
The trail begins at the Rose Creek Trailhead, which is located at Rising Sun, previously known as the East Glacier Auto Camp. After you pass the cabins, the trail will begin a relatively steep climb while passing through a fairly dense conifer forest. As you continue with the hike, you’ll eventually reach a series of five waterfalls flowing down Rose Creek. You won’t pass next to the falls, but you’ll be able to enjoy their magnificent views.
Once the trail begins to open up, you’ll be able to see your destination, marked by deep red rocks at the end of the valley. Otokomi Lake doesn’t have a beach area so it will be quite challenging to have a closer look. The best view of the lake is where you can clearly see the red argillite cliffs in the background, the scenic backdrop that the lake is famous for.
Many Glacier Area
Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail
Trail Difficulty: Easy
If you’re looking for a relatively easy hike that is surrounded by amazing sceneries, definitely check out the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail, a hike perfect for everybody in the family.
For this trail, you have two starting point options: Many Glacier Hotel or Grinnell Glacier Trailhead. We recommend starting at the boat dock of Many Glacier Hotel to maximize the amount of amazing views that you can see throughout your hike.
Starting from the beginning of the hike, you’re already greeted with the amazing view of Swiftcurrent Lake and the peaks that surround it, namely Grinnell Point directly across the lake, Angel Wing towards the southwest, and Mt. Wilber a little further west.
The beginning of your walk will be towards the north end of the lake. If you’re on the lookout for grizzly bears, this area is a good location for spotting them. The same goes for bighorn sheep. You won’t be far from civilization if you go on this hike but keep in mind that you’re still in grizzly bear country. Many Glacier is known to have a fairly high concentration of these bears.
You’ll eventually arrive at the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead, the other entry point for the loop hike. From this point, the trail will pass through a forest of lodgepole pine, spruce, fir, and aspen trees. To your right, Mt. Grinnell and Mt. Wilbur will be adorning the horizon.
Once you reach the footbridge that crosses the channel between Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, you’ll be on prime moose habitat. Moose can be seen anywhere around the lake but this spot is especially good.
Towards the end of the loop, you will come across several short side trails that lead to small beach areas along the lake. All of these spots are perfect for picnics, snack breaks, or for taking in the amazing views of the lake and its surroundings. You’ll complete the loop once you arrive back at Many Glacier Hotel, which is also a marvelous sight to see.
Lake Josephine Loop
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
Another loop hike around a lake, the Lake Josephine Loop follows the beginning part of the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail.
The trail will deviate towards Lake Josephine when you reach the south boat dock of Many Glacier Hotel. From this area, make a short climb up and over to the north dock on Lake Josephine where you’ll be greeted with amazing views of the lake and its surrounding area.
From this point, you’ll be hiking along the North Shore Josephine Lake Trail, which travels between wooded and open areas. You should be able to enjoy the stunning views of the Angel Wing, Mt. Gould, the Garden Wall, and Grinnell Glacier.
Once you reach the south boat dock area, you’ll begin to travel through heavily wooded forest again, with much of the stretch lined with thimbleberries. Make a lot of noise to warn the grizzly bears about your presence to avoid any surprise encounters while you’re hiking through their territory.
A little over a mile from the boat dock, you’ll arrive at a short trail that leads to a pebble rock beach. This is a good location for an extended break or a picnic lunch. This location also has a stunning view of Grinnell Glacier and Grinnell Falls flowing to Grinnell Lake.
After walking a few more miles, you’ll eventually arrive at the trail that will take you back to the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail, which will take you back to the beginning of your hike, Many Glacier Hotel.
Trail Difficulty: Strenuous
One of the premiere hiking destinations in Glacier National Park, a hike up to Grinnell Glacier is definitely a must do activity.
Since the hike to Grinnell Glacier is fairly strenuous, it’s a good idea to shave off 3.4 miles from your roundtrip hike by riding the shuttle boats in Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. After the boat rides, the hike begins with the boat landing at the south shore of Lake Josephine.
The first challenge of the trail lies beyond the North Shore Lake Josephine Trail junction. You’ll need to go up a hill; a thigh-burning climb that covers 135 feet over the course of a tenth of a mile. After that, you’ll arrive at the Grinnell Glacier Trail. The trail will level out and you can take this opportunity to catch your breath.
The first Grinnell body of water that you will see is Grinnell Lake in the valley below. Walk a little further and you’ll be able to see Grinnell Falls tumbling a hundred feet down to the lake. Your first good view of Grinnell Glacier will be from Grinnell Falls.
You will eventually reach a pretty challenging area of the trail where it begins to hug a cliff face. Although some patches of this area pass through narrow ledges with fairly steep drop-offs, it shouldn’t bother most people as long as you pass carefully and take your time. This area is a good spot for spotting mountain goats and bighorn sheep. After another mile of hiking, you’ll arrive at a rest stop that has a couple of wooden benches and a pit toilet.
As the trail begins to climb again, you’ll be greeted by an amazing view of Grinnell Lake and Lake Josephine. Sherburne Lake can also be spotted in the far off distance. In less than a mile, you’ll eventually arrive at the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint.
From the viewpoint you’ll be able to see amazing views of the 152-acre glacier, Upper Grinnell Lake, the Garden Wall, and Mt. Gould. From this vantage point, you’ll also be able to spot Gem Glacier, the smallest named glacier in Glacier National Park.
Before, park rangers led group hikes to the glacier itself. Sadly, because of the glacier’s retreat in the past couple of years, rangers no longer take groups out onto the ice. Visitors are still allowed to go on the glacier with the reminder of going out in groups and not going too far out, for safety reasons.
Two Medicine / East Glacier
Running Eagle Falls
Trail Difficulty: Easy
If you’re looking for a family-friendly, handicap accessible, and amazing trail to an amazing waterfall named after an amazing woman, the trail to Running Eagle Falls is perfect for you.
Running Eagle Falls is also known as “Trick Falls”. The reason behind this is the fact that there are two waterfalls in this location but depending on when you will be visiting, you might only be able to see one. During the spring run-off, the rushing water flowing over the top ledge will create a waterfall that has a 40-foot drop, partially hiding the lower waterfall. Once it dries up, water will continue to flow out of an opening in the cliff face, creating a 20-foot waterfall.
Running Eagle falls is named after Pitamakan, or Running Eagle, a female warrior leader of the Blackfeet Nation, who experienced a four-day vision quest in the mountains above this waterfall. She was an amazing leader who led the Blackfeet in many successful raids, the only woman in her tribe ever to do so. She was also the only woman in her tribe to be given a man’s name.
Upper Two Medicine Lake
Trail Difficulty: Moderate
To be able to reach the Upper Two Medicine Lake, you have three options to begin your journey: 1. Start at the North Shore Trailhead, located at the Two Medicine Campground, 2. Begin at the South Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine Lake, or 3. Take a shuttle boat across Two Medicine Lake to shave off some miles in your hike. We recommend riding the boat.
In the beginning of the hike, you’ll have to walk along a boardwalk that passes over a sensitive boggy area, a good place to spot some moose in the early hours of the day. After that short stretch, you’ll pass through an area with thick ferns, thimbleberries, and huckleberries. After walking a little more, you’ll eventually reach the Upper Two Medicine Lake Trail.
The trail will eventually emerge from the thick forest to a transition zone between small meadows and small groves of trees until you reach the large open meadow. From this point forward, the trail will be passing through open terrain that is filled with wildflowers and thimbleberry patches. Once you reach the Upper Two Medicine Lake backcountry campground, Upper Two Medicine Lake is only a few skips away.
Upper Two Medicine Lake is the highest glacially fed lake in the Two Medicine Valley, sitting at an elevation of 5,500 feet. The lake sits in a large basin that is surrounded by Mt. Rockwell, Mt. Hellen, Pumpelly Pillar, and Lone Walker Mountain.
Trail Difficulty: Strenuous
Glacier National Park is a treasure trove of amazing sights to see. The hike up to Scenic Point will take you to a spot in the park that gives you the best vantage point to admire the entirety of the Two Medicine Valley.
The hike begins at the Scenic Point parking area and follows the Mt. Henry Trail for most of the route. The trail was created by the Great Northern Railway as a transportation route between their two properties, Glacier Park Lodge and Two Medicine Chalets.
The Mt. Henry Trail is part of the Continental Divide Trail that runs from New Mexico all the way to Canada. From this trail, you can also access a short side trail that leads to Appistoki Falls.
After you emerge from the tree line, the trail will remain in open country. It will also begin to climb and you’ll have to go through 16 switchbacks before you reach your destination. Over the next couple of miles, you’ll be able to enjoy amazing views of the Appistoki Valley and the Appistoki Basin. Then, you’ll arrive at a ghost forest of dead white bark pines, which is the result of a fungal infection from Europe.
As you climb higher, the view of Two Medicine Lake improves as well. Once you reach the saddle, you’ll be able to spot Scenic Point. The next part of the hike is quite challenging because you’ll need to hike on a fairly narrow ledge. Snow tends to linger in this area and it’s quite windy as well so you might want to consider bringing trekking poles for added support.
Once you reach the side trail that leads to Scenic Point, prepare for a pretty steep climb to your destination. You’ll be greeted by amazing panoramic views once you reach the top of Scenic Point. The views are simply amazing and you’ll be able to see almost the entire Two Medicine Valley. From this vantage point, you can see the three Two Medicine Lakes, East Glacier Park, the Lewis and Clark National Forest, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, the town of Browning, and Sweet Grass Hills rising above the Great Plains roughly 90 miles away. Once you’re in this area, you’ll definitely understand why they call it, “Scenic Point”.
Aside from these trails that we mentioned, there are many more hiking trails in Glacier National Park that are waiting to be explored. With over 700 miles of available hiking trails, I’m sure you’ll be able to find the perfect trail for you. Whether you’re hiking a simple loop around a lake or taking on a trail that leads to a glacier, hiking is always fun in Glacier National Park.
Camping in Glacier National Park
For me, camping is always a must do activity if you want to spend some time outdoors. It just completes the whole nature experience. You won’t have access to the usual comfort of your home but you’ll definitely have an experience to remember.
Camping in Glacier National Park takes three forms: regular camping in designated campgrounds, backcountry camping, and river camping.
Camping at designated campgrounds
Glacier National Park has 13 different campgrounds with over approximately 1,009 sites to choose from. These locations are perfect for families bringing their RVs or for newbie campers who are still getting used to the flow of things when going camping.
Here are our top 3 campgrounds in Glacier National Park:
Located on Glacier’s iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road, the Apgar Campground is the biggest campground in the national park.
The Apgar Campground is located near Apgar Village, providing those who choose to stay at this location easy access to restaurants, gift shops, and shops that provide camping supplies. A visitor center and ranger station are also located nearby. But my favorite thing about this campsite’s location is its proximity to Lake McDonald, which is only a short walk away.
Many Glacier Campground
Many Glacier Campground, located on the east side of the park, is well liked for the access that it provides to a number of attractions in Glacier National Park.
Surrounded by day hikes, wildlife, and mountain attractions, Many Glacier Campground is always a top choice for those who plan on exploring the east side of the park. From this campground, you have access to several of Glacier’s best hiking trails such as those leading to Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake. It’s also located near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn that has a gift shop and a restaurant.
Fish Creek Campground
Fish Creek Campground is the second largest campground in Glacier National Park. What we especially love about this site is the fact that all 178 campsites have access to running water.
Located on the west side of the park along Camas Road, Fish Creek Campground is located near an abundance of hiking trails such as the Rocky Point Nature Trail. During peak seasons, evening ranger programs occur nightly at the Fish Creek Amphitheater. If you’re lucky, you might be able to spot some wildlife around the campground during mornings and evenings.
For more information about camping in Glacier National Park, such as how to secure a campsite, regulations that need to be followed, and general safety, make sure to check out this page.
Glacier National Park with its towering mountains, mesmerizing alpine lakes, abundant wildlife, and over 700 miles of hiking trails is definitely a backpacker’s paradise. There are a total of 65 designated backcountry campgrounds throughout the park.
If you’re planning to go on a backpacking trip in Glacier National Park, here are the regulations that you need to keep in mind and follow:
There are 65 available designated campsites for use all throughout the park. Both designated campgrounds and large camping are available at Nyack / Coal Creek camping zone.
Overnight campers must secure a backcountry use permit, which must be in their possession at all times when in the backcountry. Permits are only valid for the dates, location, and party size specified.
- Trip Itineraries
Itineraries must be contiguous.
- Group Size
The maximum party size allowed is 12 persons.
- Leave No Trace
When in the backcountry, whether camping or hiking, always make sure to abide by the Leave No Trace outdoor ethics. For more information about this, talk to a park ranger before your trip or visit LNT.org.
Wheelchairs and trained service dogs are appropriate accommodations in the backcountry. Service dogs, however, are discouraged because of the potential hazardous interactions with bears that are abundant in the park.
It’s common for national parks to allow camping in designated campgrounds and backcountry campsites. For Glacier National Park, you also have the option to go river camping, which essentially means camping alongside a river, often done as a part of a canoeing, kayaking, or other boating expedition.
Glacier has only one designated river campground available for overnight boater use and it’s located at Round Prairie (ROU).
Here are the things that you need to keep in mind if you’re planning on going on a river camping trip in Glacier National Park.
- Boaters should be familiar with the current river conditions and levels.
- Boaters should have appropriate maps.
- Non-motorized watercraft must be inspected by an NPS inspector for Aquatic Invasive Species prior to river camping.
- Overnight camping regulations apply to river use within Glacier National Park.
- Same with the other forms of camping, a backcountry camping is required if you’re going river camping.
- A non-motorized watercraft that has been inspected by an NPS inspector for Aquatic Invasive Species.
- Personal floatation devices (PFD). All children 12 years old and under are required to wear PFDs when the vessel is underway.
- Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) approved bear resistant food containers. You can borrow these containers at the Apgar Backcountry Permit Center. They are limited and issued on a first come, first served basis.
- A self-contained human waste disposal system, (groover, rocket box, WAG bags, etc.).
Spending a night in the wild exposed to nature and everything that it has to offer may seem daunting for a lot of people. It is a challenging activity that you have to do without the usual comforts that you’re used to, but that is what makes the experience so amazing and memorable. If you’re planning on going on a camping trip soon, there is no better place for that other than Glacier National Park.
Photography and Glacier National Park
You’ll never run out of amazing locations to shoot at in Glacier National Park. It’s considered as a photographer’s paradise because of the numerous locations and photo subjects that will surely fill your memory cards (or your film strips) in the blink of an eye.
A testament to the allure of Glacier to photographers are the various “InstaMeets” that happen throughout the year. In these meetings, different individuals from various walks of life gather together in Glacier National Park to celebrate its beauty and their creativity by taking wonderful photos. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a pro or just a beginner or whether you have a fancy camera or just your trusty smartphone, as long as you have a passion for photography and nature, you are always welcome to join.
If you’re headed to Glacier for a photography trip, make sure to check out these crowd favorite photography subjects and capture some amazing shots of your own.
Rising Sun on the East
Waking up early in the morning may not be a desirable activity for the majority of us, but if the reward is an amazing view of the rising sun, I’ll wake up even earlier.
The top location to watch the sunrise in Glacier National Park is Swiftcurrent Lake. If you’re staying at Many Glacier Hotel, don’t hit that snooze button and catch a glimpse of the rising sun reflected on the surface of the lake while drinking a hot cup of coffee (or the beverage of your choice).
The other sunrise spots in the park include Two Medicine Lake, Saint Mary Lake, and Lake Sherburne, all of which are accessible by road.
Wildflowers at Logan Pass
If you’re driving on the Going-to-the-Sun road between late-June to mid-August, you’ll be greeted by a field of wildflowers with mountain backdrops.
The tundra has a short growing season so make sure to plan your trip accordingly if you want to catch a glimpse of the wildflowers that bring color to the otherwise plain environment. At Logan Pass, yellow lilies, purple fleabane, yellow asters, pink money flowers, and many more different species dominate the landscape.
If you want to take a closer look, make sure to stick to the designated trail. Even with the temptation of a perfect shot, never go off trail as you run the risk of trampling the vegetation of the tundra, some of which require hundreds of years to grow.
The Namesake of the Park, Glaciers
Glacier National Park was named after the abundant glaciers that shaped the park’s topography many years ago. Once plentiful in number, these ancient ice rivers are slowly disappearing because of climate change.
Before, spotting a glacier was a piece of cake. Now, accessing 3 of the most accessible glaciers in the park requires going on a moderately strenuous hike. The most popular among these 3 glaciers is the Grinnell Glacier in Many Glacier Valley. The other two are the Sexton Glacier, located along the Siyeh Pass trail and the Sperry Glacier, located along the Sperry trail.
Setting Sun on the West
What goes up, must come down. The same goes for the sun; it rises on the east and sets on the west. If you’re not a fan of waking up early but still want to experience that golden hour, head over to these destinations for a perfect view of the sunset.
Lake McDonald is a perfect spot to relax at the end of the day while watching the sun set. Grab your favorite drink and head over to the Lake McDonald public boat dock where you can go on a swim before the sun sinks in the horizon.
If you’re looking for a more tranquil spot to enjoy the golden rays of the setting sun, head over to the North Fork to Bowman or Kinta Lakes for a serene location with a perfect view. You can also go on a walk on the Historic Belton Bridge, which is located along the Boundary trail.
Glacier After Dark
Free of light pollution, Glacier National Park is the perfect location for viewing the stars and the ethereal and iridescent northern lights.
The northern lights truly are a sight to see, dancing lights of various colors painting the dark night sky. If catching a glimpse of an aurora is on top of your list, check out the Aurora forecast and look for a KP rating of 5 or above to know your sighting chances and plan accordingly. Lake McDonald and Goat Haunt offer great open views to the north, making them the perfect locations for a viewing of the northern lights.
The dark skies of Glacier National Park are also perfect for viewing millions of stars that paint the night sky white. From May to October, amazing views of the Milky Way can be seen from the head of Lake McDonald, the foot of Saint Mary Lake, and Logan Pass.
Waterfalls are always an amazing sight to see and an amazing site to shoot at. Be careful though, falling in the flowing water is not good for you and your camera.
Spring time is the best time to visit waterfalls. Haystack Creek and Birdwoman Falls are two crowd favorites that can be seen from the road. If you’re visiting in another season, glacier-fed waterfalls will be your destinations as they run year round such as the Baring Falls.
If you’re planning on exploring these locations, keep in mind that water is the number one cause of fatalities in Glacier National Park. Make sure to exercise extra caution in these areas to avoid any accidents.
Wildlife in the Wild
Glacier National Park has an amazing ecosystem that has remained mostly unchanged since the park’s establishment. Be up close with the animals through your viewfinder with the help of telephoto lenses.
Animals of various shapes and sizes can be seen in many areas around the park. If you’re on the lookout for sheep and goats, you’ll most definitely find some near Logan Pass. Whitetail and mule deer are the easiest to spot as they are very common in the park. Bears and moose frequent the Glacier’s east side and elks are often seen on Two Dogs Flats. Wolverines, wolves, and mountain lions are also found in the park but are rarely seen.
No matter how friendly and chill these animals may seem, they are still wild animals and should be approached with caution. Always view and admire them from a safe distance for their safety and yours. If you’re planning on taking some up close shots of the animals, make sure to pack telephoto lenses for maximum zoom capacity.
The landscapes and sceneries of Glacier National Park will surely translate well into photos and videos. Just a reminder, though, to always admire and appreciate your surroundings first with your eyes then through a viewfinder. Most of us often get lost in the desire of capturing amazing photos that we forget to savor the moment in real life. Put down the camera first and take everything in before you proceed with the shooting.
Dark Night Sky Activities in Glacier
When the sun sets and the sky begins to darken, most people consider this as a signal to relax and call it a day. When you’re in Glacier National Park, we suggest that you stay up past your bedtime to enjoy the park’s amazing night sky.
When you’re in the city, catching a glimpse of the night sky peppered with twinkling stars is a very rare or even non-existent occurrence, due to excessive light and air pollution. In certain locations, such as Glacier National Park, the dark night skies are undisturbed by pollution and you can clearly see the stars and galaxies located millions of lightyears away.
Dark nights skies have natural, cultural, and scenic importance. Wildlife, especially those who are nocturnal, highly depend on dark night skies for hunting, concealment of their location, navigation, and even reproduction. The disappearance of dark night skies due to pollution is considered as a form of habitat disruption. Plants are also affected in such a way that their usual cycles are disrupted by artificial light.
For many years, the stars in the sky have been used by humans, either for navigation or for cultural purposes. The tribes of Montana have been using the stars for over a thousand years as a form of guide for their seasonal use of the landscape for subsistence. For indigenous people, the night sky is more than a pretty thing to look at during night time. For them, it was a source of knowledge that was vital for their way of life.
Glacier National Park and its sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park, in Canada are designated International Dark Sky Parks by the International Dark Sky Association. This designation entails a long-term commitment to preserving the park’s dark skies and a requirement to meet the following objectives: preservation or restoration of outstanding night skies, protection of nocturnal habitats, public enjoyment of the night sky and its heritage, and demonstrating environmental leadership on dark sky issues by communicating the importance of dark skies to the general public and surrounding communities, and by providing an example of what is possible.
Half the Park Happens After Dark
The dark night skies of Glacier National Park always attract many visitors who are looking for a chance to catch a glimpse of the stunning night sky that should technically be viewable in their backyards but is not because of artificial light and air pollution.
To provide park-wide night time viewing events, as well as day time viewings of the sun, the National Park Service has collaborated with various partners including the Glacier National Park Conservancy, the International Dark Sky Association, the NPS Night Sky Program, and the Big Sky Astronomy Club to provide the best dark night sky experience for park visitors.
Glacier also has educational programs such as “Half the Park Happens after Dark” and “Here Comes the Sun,” that provides participants with an opportunity to use sophisticated telescopes to see the night sky in its full glory in locations with minimal artificial lights.
Dark night skies are a vanishing resource and experience because of excessive light and air pollution. Locations like Glacier National Park vowed to protect the dark night sky located within their jurisdiction, for future generations to enjoy. When you’re in Glacier, it wouldn’t hurt to stay past your bedtime to enjoy the gorgeous night sky.
Kids in Glacier National Park: Activities Perfect for the Whole Family
Some may think that the mountains are not a place for kids. It is indeed unsafe for children to wander around in the wild alone but when they have their family with them, a day in the mountains is sure to be filled with fun and learning.
In Glacier National Park, there are a lot of activities that you can do with your children in tow. Hiking and camping are the usual activities in Glacier and you can definitely do these with your kids. There are multiple hiking trails that can be completed by children, such as the Trail of the Cedars, the Rocky Point Trail, and the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail.
If your kids love animals, the wildlife of Glacier National Park can be seen anywhere so keep your eyes wide open. A visit to the lake will surely pique your child’s interest. Take them to Lake McDonald, Two Medicine Lake, and St. Mary Lake to look at the colorful rocks that are found in their shorelines.
The park also has multiple learning activities that are specifically curated for children. Junior Ranger Programs are available at visitors’ centers where children will be awarded with Glacier Junior Ranger Badges once they complete the required activities. You can also visit the Apgar Nature Center where kids can learn about Glacier National Park through a series of hands-on, interactive activities and displays such as identifying different birds by their songs and feeling a grizzly bear’s fur.
For a more hands-on learning activity out in nature for the whole family, we recommend that you pick up a Family pack from the Apgar or St. Mary Visitor Center. They are free of charge and available for 24-hour use.
What we especially love about these family packs is that they have everything that you need for a fun and learning filled experience in Glacier National Park. A family pack holds equipments such as a naturalist journal, binoculars, a bug box, a compass, a hanger, a hand lens, a pencil pouch, and a thermometer. Several guides and maps are also included in the pack. With all of these materials, I’m sure that a simple hike around a lake will be an experience to remember not only for the kids but for the whole family as well.
It’s never too early to introduce your kids to the great outdoors and a visit to a national park is a great way to do it. The abundant and amazing activities that children can do in Glacier National Park will surely help your children to cultivate a love for nature that they will take with them until they grow up and have kids of their own.
Ice, Snow, and Winter Activities in Glacier National Park
Winter in Glacier National Park allows visitors to enjoy spectacular sceneries without the usual crowd that flocks to the park during peak season. Winter activities in the park include snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
Snowshoeing is really just hiking in winter. If you’re not confident to explore the park while it’s covered in snow, there are ranger-guided snowshoe walks in the Apgar area during weekends that are open for all park visitors.
If you’re planning on going cross country skiing, there are five ski areas that you can choose from.
- Apgar – West Glacier
This area has five routes that you can explore. All routes begin at two parking locations: the concession horse barn, reached by taking the first left off Going-to-the-Sun Road, past the West Entrance Station, and the road closure gate just beyond the McDonald Creek Bridge on the Camas Road.
- McDonald and Avalanche Creeks
Considered as the most popular skiing park in the area, enjoy exploring the McDonald and Avalanche Creek’s gentle terrain, filled with ample snow that provides easy access to wonderful winter sceneries. This area has three available routes for skiers.
The four available routes in this area follow unplowed gravel roads originating at the Polebridge Ranger Station. Because of the state of the roads, skiers should check local road conditions before embarking on a trip.
- Two Medicine Valley
Containing only one ski route, the Two Medicine Road provides easy access to scenic skiing on the east side of Glacier National Park. Snow deposition in this area is heavily influenced by wind.
- St. Mary
The two skiing routes available in the St. Mary area begin in the parking area near the 1913 Ranger Station. If you’re planning on going on a winter backcountry camping trip, you can obtain your backcountry permits at the Hudson Bay District Office.
Guidelines for Safety
Being out in the wild is always dangerous, especially if you’re not prepared for what you will be exposed to. In winter, park visitors must exercise extra caution because of the weather and the added threat of avalanches and hypothermia.
For your safety, keep these following guidelines in mind during your winter visit to Glacier:
- Always check for area and trail closures as well as current avalanche conditions before your trip. This is especially important if you plan to go downhill backcountry skiing.
- Skiing on frozen lakes is very dangerous and is not recommended.
- Most ski routes are not marked. Be extra aware of your surroundings to avoid getting lost.
- To avoid hypothermia, make sure to drink plenty of fluids, stay dry, carry survival gear, wear layers of clothing, and snack frequently. Keep an eye out for signs of hypothermia such as drowsiness and confusion.
- Winter is an especially hard time for wildlife. Do not engage any animals and try not to disturb them as much as possible. Extreme caution should be exercised in bear and mountain lion country.
- Pets are not allowed on trails, unplowed roads, in the backcountry, or off leash.
- Snowmobiles are not permitted anywhere in Glacier National Park.
- Ice is common on roads and on heavily skied trails.
- Avalanches are a major danger and are fatal. Click here for more safety information about avalanches.
A visit to Glacier National Park in winter is definitely an experience to remember. With the park transformed by white snow and sleek ice, exploring is definitely a whole new experience. Despite the closure of some parts of the park, including the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road, we believe that a winter visit to Glacier is still worth your time and effort.
Guided Activities in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a treasure trove of outdoor activities that you can do in one day or a whole week. With all the available activities that you can do, planning the perfect trip to Glacier may be more challenging than what you initially expected. If you’d rather leave the planning to the professionals, here are some guided tours in Glacier National Park that you might want to check out.
Guided Hiking Trips
Glacier National Park has over 700 miles of hiking trails to choose from. You can hike up to a glacier, visit some amazing waterfalls, or just enjoy a lazy loop around a lake. If you’re not sure what route to take, you can always go on a guided hiking trip.
Glacier Guides offer guided day hikes and backpacking trips in Glacier’s backcountry for one to seven days. They also have custom trips available that give you maximum flexibility on your trip. They also offer backcountry Sherpa/porter service and carrying visitor’s gear to backcountry campgrounds or chalets. Visit their website for more information about their services.
Swan Mountain Outfitters offers park visitors the opportunity to explore Glacier on horseback. They also offer drop camp services and packing visitors’ gear in certain backcountry campgrounds. Visit their website for more information about their rates and the other services that they offer.
Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road is always a top attraction for a majority of the park visitors. A great way to explore this 50-mile road is by joining a bus tour. What we love about these tours is that you can just relax and leave the driving to someone else. Plus, you’ll also learn a lot about the park’s history through knowledgeable guides while you sit back and enjoy the wonderful scenery.
Sun Tours offers interpretive tours that highlight the Blackfeet culture, on air conditioned 25 passenger window coaches. The guides on these tours are life-time residents of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and are very knowledgeable about the many facets of Tribal history, culture, and lifestyle. Sun Tours offer half day tours, full day tours, and custom tours. Visit their website for more information.
Glacier National Park Lodges Red Bus Tours offers tours and scheduled transportation between park lodges on vintage red buses that have been operational since the 1930s. Of course, the buses have been restored but they kept their iconic look, including their roll-back tops that are perfect for viewing Glacier’s vertically oriented sceneries. Seasoned park veterans will be your guides in these trips and you’ll definitely fall in-love with them and their passion for Glacier National Park. Head over to their website for more information and reservations.
Glacier National Park is a land of big and many lakes. A tour on a boat across the park’s water can be a good break from all the hiking that you plan on doing. Plus, Glacier has amazing waters that are just begging to be explored.
If you’re looking for boat tours with commentary, head over to Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Rising Sun, and Lake McDonald. If you want a joint boat tour and guided hike, there are some cruises at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and Rising Sun that offer these services. You can also rent small boats at Apgar, Lake McDonald, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier for a more personal trip across the water.
For more information about boat trips, boat rentals, and guided hikes, visit the website of the Glacier Park Boat Co.
Glacier National Park is a land of many water-related activities. Aside from guided boat tours, several raft companies offer guided raft trips on the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River.
If you’re interested in going on a raft tour, here are the companies that offer this service:
- Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Company
- Glacier Raft Company
- Great Northern Resort
- Wild River Adventures
In places like Glacier National Park where you’ll never run out of things to do, planning a perfect day can be quite stressful. Guided tours are a great way to pack your day with amazing, and sometimes educational, activities that require little to no planning at all, since somebody else will be doing the planning for you.
Glacier’s General Safety Reminders
A trip to Glacier National Park is relatively safe, but always keep in mind that nature can be unpredictable. From rapidly changing weather to surprise encounters with wildlife, your safety should always be your number one priority.
Contrary to popular belief, water is actually the number one cause of fatalities in the park, not the wildlife or the steep mountains. Children, photographers, boaters, rafters, swimmers, and even fishermen have fallen victim to the waters of the park so always exercise extra caution when you’re near the water.
When you’re near rivers and streams, the waters tend to be swift and very cold so avoid wading in or fording as much as possible. Keep an eye out for moss covered rocks and slippery logs, especially around waterfalls, because these can cause you to slip and fall into the water. When boating, always wear a life jacket and avoid standing up or leaning over to the side of the watercraft.
If you fall into a river or a lake, chances are the waters will be extremely cold. This event will put you at risk for hypothermia, or the “progressive physical collapse and reduced mental capacity resulting from the chilling of the inner core of the human body”. This is a life threatening situation and those who are in poor physical condition or those who are exhausted are particularly at risk.
To avoid hypothermia, always pack a sweater, warm hat, and rain gear for any hike. Dressing in layers is also good since it allows you to cool down or warm up with relative ease. It’s also a good idea to wear water-resistant clothing. If your clothes get wet, replace them immediately.
The warning signs of hypothermia include uncontrolled shivering, slow or slurred speech, memory lapses and incoherence, lack of coordination such as immobile or fumbling hands, stumbling, a lurching gait, drowsiness, and exhaustion. If you, or any member of your party is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
Immediate treatment for hypothermia is keeping the victim warm. Seek shelter from the weather and get the victim into dry clothes. Build a fire, give the victim a warm, non-alcoholic drink, and keep them awake. Another way to keep them warm is by making skin-to-skin contact in a sleeping bag for maximum warmth.
Other water related threats include drowning and giardiasis. Drowning is an ever present accident when it comes to water. As for giardiasis, it is caused by a parasite (Giardia lamblia) that can be found in lakes and streams and is contracted by drinking contaminated water. To prevent giardiasis, carry water from the park’s treated water systems or follow proper water treatment protocols.
In the mountains, many people get into accidents when they stray from the trail or venture onto very steep slopes. To prevent accidents in mountainous terrains, always stay on the designated trail and don’t go beyond protective fencing or guard rails. Children should be supervised closely at all times. At upper elevations, follow the trail carefully and keep an eye out for trail signs and markers.
Snowfields and glaciers may seem safe and innocent but in truth, they present serious hazards. Visitors are allowed to venture onto glaciers but for safety, always do so in groups and never go out too far. Snow bridges may conceal deep crevasses on glaciers or large hidden cavities under snowfields, and collapse under the weight of an unsuspecting hiker.
If you’re on the road, always be mindful of other vehicles as well as pedestrians and wildlife. For safe viewing, there are several pullovers along roads where you can admire the view and take photos.
Glacier National park is home to a large number of both black and grizzly bears. Here are the things that you need to know and keep in mind about one of the park’s largest and most magnificent residents.
Similar to any wildlife, always keep a safe distance when viewing the animals. For bears, the safe distance is at least 100 yards away. Approaching, viewing, or engaging the animal with 100 yards is strictly prohibited.
Identifying a bear
Both black and grizzly bears reside inside the park. The color of the animal is not a reliable distinction between the species. Instead, observe the bear’s shoulders, ears, face, and front claws for proper identification.
Grizzly bears have a prominent hump on their shoulders. They have a dished face and rounded ears. Their claws are large and white. Black bears, on the other hand, have no humps on their shoulders. Their face has a straight profile with a dog-like muzzle, their ears are pointed, and their claws are dark.
Hiking in Bear Country
For a safe hike in bear country, keep these reminders in mind:
- Hiking in groups significantly decreases your chances of encountering a bear. A group of four or more individuals is recommended. If you’re a solo hiker, consider joining a ranger-led hike.
- Trail running is highly discouraged because of the high risk of surprising a bear.
- Always carry bear spray, an inexpensive and effective deterrent for bears. It’s like a pepper spray for bears. Make sure that you know how to use it and keep it in an accessible place.
- Bears will usually move out of the way if they hear people approaching. Make your presence known by clapping and calling out in regular intervals.
- Food and garbage should always be secured and out of a bear’s reach.
- Be aware of your surroundings. There are some trail or environmental conditions that can prevent bears from noticing approaching hikers. Be particularly careful by streams, against the wind, in dense vegetation, in blind corners, and in areas where there is a rise in the trail.
- Bears eat a lot and thus spend a lot of time in feeding areas. Berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, and fields of glacier lilies are the bears’ usual feeding grounds.
- Avoid hiking early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark because these are the times when bears are most active.
Camping in Bear Country
To keep bears away from campsites, campers must manage their food and trash properly. This includes keeping all edibles, food containers, cookware, and trash away from your campsite. You can use food lockers or simply hang them up in trees to keep the bears away.
Keeping your camp clean is also important. Regular camp inspection for any sign of bear activity should also be done. If you notice something, report it immediately to park rangers. You can also report the careless campers who are not following these safety precautions.
For more information about bear safety and what to do when you encounter a bear in close proximity, visit this page that also contains a bear safety video.
Park visitors should always remember that Glacier National Park is the home of the grizzly and black bears. We are mere visitors in their habitat, which is why it is important that we show it, and them, some respect.
Mountain lions are primarily nocturnal cats that roam Glacier National Park. They rarely prey on humans, but they’re still wild animals and can become highly unpredictable.
Park visitors can take some precautions to keep mountain lions away. Hiking alone is never recommended. If you’re travelling with children, always keep them close to you. As with bears, make some noise to avoid surprising mountain lions.
If you encounter a mountain lion, fight your instinct to run and just stay put. Talk calmly, avert your gaze, stand tall, and back away. Unlike when it comes to bears, act aggressively when an attack is imminent. Lions may be scared away by being kicked, hit, or struck with sticks and rocks.
A glimpse of these magnificent cats surely is a rare occurrence and a vacation highlight. Always remember that they are wild animals and should never be approached. If you encounter a mountain lion, report it to a park ranger immediately.
Glacier National Park has an abundance of wild animals that are truly a sight to see. They may seem friendly or approachable especially if you spot them in areas near civilization but they are still wild animals.
The safe distance for viewing the park’s wildlife is at least 75 feet for animals like moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, and coyotes. When it comes to bears and wolves, visitors must be at least 300 feet away. If you want to take a closer look, do so with a pair of binoculars or telephoto lenses.
Visitors are required to follow these viewing rules for their safety and the safety of the animals as well. If you get too close, the animals may take this as a form of aggression, which will most probably end up in an injury. Feeding, harassing, or molesting wildlife is strictly prohibited and subject to a fine.
Aside from the mighty animals of the national park, you should also be careful around those that are miniscule in size such as ticks and rodents. Ticks are most active in spring and early summer. They transmit several serious diseases such as the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. If you’re bitten by a tick, completely remove them and disinfect the area. If you develop a rash or lesion in the bite area or start experiencing unexplained symptoms, consult with a physician immediately. Rodents are possible carriers of Hantavirus, an infection with similar symptoms to flu.
Bears are not the only wildlife in the park that you should be wary about. As long as you follow all the park regulations about its wildlife, you’ll be fine.
Accidents can happen any time but their threat can be significantly lessened if we follow the rules and guidelines set by Glacier National Park. These regulations are in place not only to keep park visitors safe but to keep the wildlife and environment of the park safe as well.
Where to Stay: Lodges and Accommodations in Glacier National Park
Depending on your mood, you can stay at a historic grand hotel, a cozy cabin, a comfortable motel, or a backcountry chalet for your trip to Glacier National Park. Of course, you can also spend a night in the many campgrounds and backcountry campsites located all over the park.
Most of the accommodations inside the park are booked pretty fast, especially during peak seasons. Aside from that, they tend to be a little pricier. If you’re looking for other available accommodation options, you can always head over to any of the five gateway towns of Glacier National Park that are well equipped for accommodating visitors.
For more information about the available accommodation options in and near the park, check out our article(link to article) that contains all the details that you need in order to find the perfect accommodation for your trip to Glacier National Park.
Getting around in the Park
Glacier National Park covers over a million acres of land in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. As such, transportation is always a big part of trip planning. Most visitors opt to take a car or an RV for easy navigation around the park. There are also multiple tour options available for a more environmentally friendly way of travel.
If you’re planning on bringing your car or RV to your trip to Glacier, remember to check the status of the roads that you’re planning to take. Most of the park roads are seasonal as well as some roads outside the park. Visit this page for the road status in Glacier and check the Montana Department of Transportation map for the status of the roads outside the park.
Make sure that your tank is full before you begin your trip because there are no fueling stations available within park boundaries. And similar to almost anywhere in the world, parking is also an issue in Glacier National Park, particularly at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. During peak seasons, parking lots fill quickly and are often already full by late morning. Arriving early gives you the best chance of securing a parking spot.
If you don’t want to stress about traffic and limited parking, you can always opt to leave your car behind and travel via the different shuttle services offered in Glacier National Park.
The park offers free shuttle service that visitors can use to get around. The shuttle service has multiple stops all around the park, which provides access to multiple amazing trails and attractions. Keep in mind, though, that this service is for transportation only.
Glacier National Park Lodges has a shuttle service called, “Hiker’s Shuttle,” that can be used for a fee. This shuttle service connects West Glacier, Apgar, Lake McDonald Lodge, St. Mary, and Many Glacier. Reservations are required if you want to avail of this service. Similar to the park’s free shuttle service, the Hiker’s Shuttle is for transportation only.
Bus tours are a great way to navigate the park because you’ll be travelling with a guide that is very knowledgeable about the area.
Fees and Passes
To be able to enter the park, you have to purchase a 7 day permit. The price varies depending on the seasons and on the type of entrance fee that you’re going to purchase. All passes are non-transferable.
|TYPE||SUMMER RATE||WINTER RATE|
Entrance fee for all persons travelling in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle.
Per person entrance fee for a visitor traveling on foot, bicycle, or for individuals traveling together in a vehicle as a non-commercial, organized group.
Per motorcycle entrance fee.
Annual and Lifetime Passes
If you’re planning on visiting the park multiple times a year, it may be more practical to purchase an annual pass.
|Glacier National Park Annual Pass
Non-transferable, nonrefundable, and does not cover camping fees.
|America the Beautiful Pass Series
Covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges and standard amenity fees (day-use fees) at national forests and grasslands and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and US Army Corps of Engineers.
|Every Kid in a Park Annual 4th Grade Pass
Valid for the duration of the 4th grade school year through the following summer (September – August).
|Annual Pass for Military
Available to active duty military personnel and dependents with proper identification (CAC Card or DD Form 1173).
Available for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over.
|$80 for Lifetime Senior Pass
$20 for Annual Senior Pass (valid for one year)
This is a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities.
This pass is for volunteers acquiring 250 service hours on a cumulative basis.
- Camping fees vary depending on the season and the campground. Hiker/biker campsites have special rates.
- Ranger-guided hikes that include a boat trip and some of the Native America Speaks programs require a fee. Other ranger-guided activities are free.
In the early 20th century, naturalist and historian, George Bird Grinnell, was amazed by the numerous glaciers that filled the area, the high alpine terrain of the Rocky Mountains, and the diverse flora and fauna of the location that was soon to be known as Glacier National Park, or as Grinnell liked to call it, the Crown of the Continent.
A trip to Glacier National Park should be on everybody’s bucket list. Amazing views, picturesque landscapes, endless hiking trails, thriving wildlife, roaring waterfalls, and an iconic road that is headed to the sun. If you haven’t said it yet, I’ll say it for you: Glacier National Park truly is a worthy destination.