A hiker’s paradise.
Glacier National Park
One of America’s most scenic drives through untouched country can only be matched by its trails.
Glacier National Park in Western Montana is a one million acre park that borders Canada on the north. It was established in 1910 in order to protect these beautiful and scenic lands. The bill was signed by President William H. Taft. Going-to-the-Sun Road, the popular and scenic 53 mile road that bisects the park to provide interior access, was finished in 1932.
Glacier is a backpacking and nature paradise. With towering mountains, beautiful alpine lakes, 13 campgrounds, 700 miles of hiking trails and one of the most scenic drives in the country, it’s a can’t miss national park to visit during the season.
Much of the parks’ land was carved by glaciers during the last ice age and 25 active glaciers remain in the park. There are around 700 lakes in the park, though only 131 have names. Two hundred waterfalls run throughout the park.
The park is one of the few ecosystems where plants and animals remain historically intact (except for bison and woodland caribou). The park’s waters provide some of the best trout fishing in the country. 260 species of birds have been recorded. And the threatened grizzly bear and Canadian lynx reside in the park. The mountain goat is the official symbol of the park.
Open / Close / Reopening Status of Glacier National Park due to Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Last Updated: May 2, 2020
Distance from Nearby Major Cities:
Yellowstone NP: 450 miles (8.25 hours)
Seattle, WA: 560 miles (9.25 hours)
Salt Lake City, UT: 660 miles (10 hours)
Glacier Park Glaciers
Glacier National Park has the second highest concentration of glaciers in the Lower 48 States. Despite the fact that there are larger and more impressive glaciers in Alaska, and glaciers can be easily seen both in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountains, millions of park visitors make the trek to northern Montana annually to enjoy the glaciers, scenery and wildlife of one of the ten oldest national parks. There are about 25 active glaciers remaining in the park.
Going to the Sun Road is a 50 mile long scenic mountain road in Glacier National Park. It is the only road that crosses the park, reaching its highest point at Logan Pass with an elevation of 6,646 feet as it crosses the Continental Divide. It is often considered one of America’s Best Scenic Drives.
Bowman Lake is located in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park, around 30 or so miles north of the West Entrance. It is in the northwest section of the park and is one of the more remote areas accessible by road. The lake is the third largest in the park at 1,706 acres, and the area contains a campground with 46 campsites.
This area contains the Salamander Glacier (visible from car driving into Many Glacier past park entrance station) and Grinnell Glacier (perhaps the most famous in the park). The area also contains the largest hotel in Glacier National Park, the Many Glacier Hotel.
Two Medicine Lake
Two Medicine is a region in southeastern Glacier National Park that was popular before Going-to-the-Sun Road was constructed. It is now frequented as an off-the-beaten-path location for backpacking, day hikes and enjoying the wilderness. A series of three glacially fed lakes sits in Two Medicine Valley: Upper Two Medicine Lake, Two Medicine Lake and Lower Two Medicine lake.
Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada lies just to the north of Glacier National Park. Together, Waterton and Glacier formed the first ever “International Peace Park” in 1932. They are administered separately and have separate entrance fees. It contains three scenic drives: Red Rock Parkway to Red Rock Canyon, Akamina Parkway to Cameron Lake, and the Chief Mountain Highway. It also has world class hiking available on 120 miles of trails.
The cool waters of Glacier National Park make for some of the best fly fishing for trout in the country. The North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River are both popular. It is one of the few rivers available for Westslope cutthroat trout. Rainbow trout and a few other non-native species are also available.
Recent Bird Sightings
Hiking and Backpacking:
Hiking is one of the more popular activities in the park with more than half of visitors reporting taking a hike. The park has more than 700 miles of hiking trails and tons of scenic views.
Highline Loop: A one-way, 12 mile hike from Going-to-the-Sun Road at Logan Pass to the Loop. A shuttle is generally taken at the start or end. The trail has spectacular views and wildlife spotting but is not for those with a fear of heights as it follows the Continental Divide with some narrow sections / steep drops.
Grinnell Glacier: Grinnell is one of the parks largest glaciers and also one of its most visited. It sits just below the Continental Divide and is reachable from the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead. You can also take the shuttle boats across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine to shave some miles off the hike by starting at the Many Glacier Hotel (7.6 mile hike roundtrip after boat shuttles). Hikers can go on the glacier but are urged to take appropriate safety precautions.
Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail (aka Iceberg Lake Trail): A popular hike for those in good physical condition to pass through the Ptarmigan Tunnel at mile 5.1 of this trail. The 250 foot tunnel was built in 1930 through the Ptarmigan Wall at 7,200 feet in order to circumvent steep terrain. The opening of the steel doors that close the tunnel for the winter depends on snow but are typically opened in early July.
St. Mary Falls: Going-to-the-Sun Road provides access to the trailhead for the short hike to St. Mary Falls. For a longer hike, continue on the trail to Virginia Falls. From the trailhead to Virginia Falls and back, it is 3.6 miles roundtrip.
Avalanche Lake: A 2.3 mile hike on Trail of the Cedars and then along Avalanche Creek brings hikers to the lake at the base of Bearhat Mountain, 4800 feet above Avalanche Lake.
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Average Temperature (Monthly)
Lodging and Camping
There are 13 campgrounds in Glacier National Park. They are generally found on the east and west borders of the park or along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Apgar Gampground is the largest with 194 sites on the west side of the park near the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
A backcountry use permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Sites are restricted to 65 designated campgrounds or the Nyack / Coal Creek camping zone. Half of the sites are available for reservation and the other half must be reserved in person on the day of or day before a trip. Each backcountry campground has 2-7 campsites.
Xanterra is the operator of several lodges in the park. Many Glacier Hotel, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins, Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins, Lake MacDonald Lodge and Village Inn at Apgar all accept reservations for guests.
Roundtrip Flights to Glacier Park International Airport
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