Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It’s a must-see destination for anyone visiting Montana. Its stunning natural wonder offers visitors plenty of things to do. From hiking and biking to fishing and boating, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful park. Here are some of the best things to do in Glacier National Park.
The scenic view at the Going-to-the-Sun Road
The most picturesque road in Glacier National Park and one of the most stunning in all of America is Going-to-the-Sun Road. For 50 miles, this road winds through mountains before crossing the Continental Divide. It ends at Logan Pass, where you can park, take a break, take in the scenery, and even select from several hiking trails that begin there.
Depending on traffic and how often you pause for pictures, traveling the entire length of Going-to-the-Sun Road takes about two hours. Moreover, this road is breathtaking when you first drive on it. Traffic on this road is likely to be a little heavy. There are many pull-outs where you can park, unload your car, and enjoy the scenery safely.
Although the section of the road between The Loop and Logan Pass is the best, the other part from Logan Pass to St. Mary Visitor Center is quite lovely.
The road has restrictions for vehicles, such as length and height limitations, to protect its beauty from damage caused by oversized or over-height cars. A vehicle cannot be on the road if it is longer than 21 feet or taller than 10 feet. Larger vehicles are too large for these confined spaces because the road is extremely narrow and has rock overhangs. So it’s likely that you won’t be able to drive on Going-to-the-Sun Road if you’re in an RV or towing a trailer. Using the park shuttle or a Red Bus Tour will allow you to have the experience still.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road typically opens from June or July until early October. The dates vary depending on snowfall, but you can find out more information by visiting the national park website!
Visit Many Glacier & See Swiftcurrent Lake
Swiftcurrent Lake is a must-visit location when planning a trip to Glacier National Park. You’ve probably seen a ton of pictures of this area.
The Many Glacier areas are one of the park’s most visually stunning regions, making it one of the most well-liked places to visit and things to do – this is saying a lot because I prefer this area over the others.
The Many Glacier region is the starting point of many of the most well-known hiking trails, including:
- Grinnell Glacier Trail
- Continental Divide Trail
- Grinnell Lake
- Cracker Lake Trail
- Swiftcurrent Pass Trail
This area is home to the magnificent Many Glacier Hotel, one of its kind in America and one with a dining area and lobby that are accessible to the public. Tourists can rent kayaks, canoes, and rowboats for about $20 per hour or take scenic boat tours to Swiftcurrent Lake ($35 for adults and $17 for children).
Many Glacier is the most popular and sought-after campground. The campground has 110 sites, 22 of which can be reserved, with the remaining sites available on a first-come/first-served basis. Given the extreme demand, you can probably imagine how difficult it is to obtain one of these highly sought-after spots.
Hang Out at Lake McDonald & Apgar Village
The prominent gathering place on the park’s western side is Lake McDonald, the largest body of water in Glacier. Due to its proximity to the West Entrance—less than two miles away—it is frequently one of the first stops for travelers arriving from West Glacier and provides a memorable introduction.
Whether you’re looking for a place to camp or want peace, this park has everything. There are four campgrounds sculpted by glaciers, including Apgar campground which features 194 sites on land formed from previous advances in our global sea levels! There’s also the historic Lake McDonald Lodge which was built around the 1910s where visitors can stay overnight if they like–it provides them with an additional option when planning their trip.
Apgar Village is a community with amenities like a visitor center, a general store, and a few fast-food joints on the southwest shore, closest to the entrance station. Additionally, vendors rent out non-motorized boats and arrange for guided horseback rides. Similar recreation providers can be found at Lake McDonald Lodge, higher up the eastern bank.
Go Hiking In Glacier National Park
The splendor and majesty of Glacier National Park are best appreciated while hiking through the park. You have many options, whether you want a quick, simple hike to an alpine lake or a challenging trail into the backcountry.
Here is a list of some of the best hiking trails in Glacier, organized from shortest, most leisurely hikes to longest, most challenging (yet most rewarding!) hikes. Every distance is round-trip.
Trail of the Cedars: 1 mile, Flat, Easy. This boardwalk and gravel path meanders through a dense cedar forest. The view of Avalanche Gorge is the highlight. You can walk in either direction around this looping trail.
Avalanche Lake: 4.5 miles, 700 feet of elevation gain, Moderate. This trail begins at Trail of the Cedars and continues until it reaches Avalanche Lake by following Avalanche Creek. It’s a pleasant hike that offers views of a lovely lake. An excellent place for a picnic is by the lake. Try to begin your hike as early as possible (by 7:30 am), as this is a popular trail.
Hidden Lake Overlook: 2.8 miles, 460 feet of elevation gain, Easy to Moderate. In Glacier National Park, this is one of the most well-liked hikes. A boardwalk and a dirt trail must be climbed uphill to reach the overlook. There’s a good chance you will see mountain goats, possibly even bighorn sheep, and Hidden Lake.
St. Mary Falls: 1.7 miles, 260 feet of elevation gain, Easy. The walk to the waterfall is primarily downhill from the small parking area on Going-to-the-Sun Road. The trail has very little shade because a wild fire once burned through this area, and it can get surprisingly warm in the summer. This hike can be extended by an additional 1.6 miles to reach Virginia Falls.
Highline Trail: 11.6 miles, 800 feet of elevation gain, 3000 feet of elevation loss, Moderate. One of the best hikes in the park is this point-to-point excursion. Starting at Logan Pass, the path leads downhill to the Loop. For breathtaking views of the park, you can take a trail that clings to the cliffs above Going-to-the-Sun Road. This trail is our preferred Glacier hike!
Apikuni Falls: 2 miles, 700 feet of elevation gain, Moderate. This is a well-known short hike to a waterfall in the park’s Many Glacier region.
Cracker Lake: 12.6 miles, 1400 feet of elevation gain, Strenuous. In the vicinity of Many Glacier is Cracker Lake, a lake that has a stunning aquamarine color.
Grinnell Glacier: 10.6 miles, 1600 feet elevation gain, Strenuous. This hike offers an excellent opportunity to see wildlife and breath-taking alpine scenery, waterfalls, emerald lakes, and a glacier. By taking the boat across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes, you can cut 3.4 miles off the distance from Many Glacier. We came across bears, moose, and mountain goats on this hike.
Iceberg Lake: 9.6 miles, 1200 feet of elevation gain, Strenuous. A gorgeous lake is reached after a stunning hike. You will travel together on the 2.7-mile trail to Ptarmigan Tunnel and see Ptarmigan Falls.
Ptarmigan Tunnel: 10.6 miles, 2300 feet elevation gain, Strenuous. Once again, people love this hike – this is a good choice if you like the idea of hiking away from the crowds because it is less popular than others in the area.
Cross the Continental Divide at Logan Pass
With a height of 6,646 feet, Logan Pass is the highest location in the park that is reachable by car. It’s a noticeable stop and roughly halfway along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The high-altitude photo stop is framed by the ice-covered Clements and Reynolds Mountains, whose meadows frequently bloom with wildflowers. From here, you have a great snapshot of Glacier’s grandeur.
The Logan Pass Visitor Center is the starting point for two of Glacier’s most famous hiking routes. The Highline Trail runs from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet, and the Hidden Lake Trail meanders through a region called the Hanging Gardens before arriving at a breathtaking vista of its namesake feature.
Marmots, mountain goats, and the sporadic grizzly bear are among the local wildlife most frequently seen. In Spring and Summer, the park’s distinctive flora – Bear Grass, is also abundant along Logan Pass. On top of the pass is the Logan Pass Visitor Center, which provides excellent details about the surroundings.
On top of the pass, parking is minimal and competitive. In the summer, the parking lot frequently fills up by 7 a.m. at the latest. To avoid the hassles of searching for a space, reserve your spot on the free Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle, and you’ll be sure not to miss out.
Tour the East Side and St. Mary Lake
The distinctive feature close to the East Entrance of Glacier National Park is the 10-mile St. Mary Lake. Near the far end of the lake and the entrance, the station is the St. Mary Visitor Center, where guests can learn more about the park and pick up the complimentary Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle.
The St. Mary Campground, which has 148 sites and is close to the lake’s shore, is the second-largest campground in Glacier. Along with providing breathtaking lake views, the Going-to-the-Sun Road runs parallel to the lake’s northern shore. The tiny Wild Goose Island, which appears to be floating in the water, is one of the most photographed landmarks. Several pull-out locations along the banks are ideal for a picnic or a lakeside lounge.
The St. Mary Valley’s hiking trails lead to Siyeh Pass from Sunrift Gorge and St. Mary Falls. The Rising Sun Campground offers additional camping space close to St. Mary Lake, and the Rising Sun Motor Inn offers a lodge.
Before going, find out if there is a permit or reservation system at the national park you intend to visit. Although national parks are incredible, they are also wild places, so visitors must always exert essential caution. Among them are:
- keeping to the path
- examining the weather before starting a hike
- keeping a safe distance from wildlife, which means staying at least 25 yards from most animals and 100 yards from predators
- Stay away from ledges with big drops.
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