Snow-capped mountains. Epic scenic drives. More wildlife than you’ve ever seen. Over 700 miles of hiking trails. Do these sound like your ideal adventure? Then you need to add this Glacier National Park itinerary to your bucket list.
Glacier National Park is truly my favorite place on the planet. You could come here every Summer for the rest of your life and still not see it all! But you probably don’t have a lifetime to explore Glacier right? That’s why I’ve created this ultimate 3-day Glacier National Park itinerary. You want to see the best of Glacier in the least amount of time!
This post explores everything you need to know, including the best time to visit, where to stay, and the best things to do in Glacier National Park. Buckle up… this one is a long (and super informative) one!
Your Guide to 3-Days in Glacier National Park
Planning a trip to Glacier National Park? You’ll want to read these posts too!
- Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
- 7 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary
- Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Highline Trail
- Ultimate Guide to Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road
The Regions of Glacier National Park
Everywhere you turn, Glacier National Park has stunning views. The calm, reflective waters of Lake McDonald. The rocky, rugged terrain of the Highline Trail. The icy blue pool at Grinnell Glacier. You can’t go wrong.
But before we dive into the details and the best things to do in Glacier National Park, let’s get our bearings.
Glacier National Park has 5 main areas. Lake McDonald, Logan Pass, and St. Mary all lie along the park’s famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Two Medicine and Many Glacier are accessible from the east side of the park and North Fork and Goat Haunt are up to the north.
Lake McDonald is home to the historic Lake McDonald Lodge. The Swiss chalet-style lodge sits next to the glassy waters of Lake McDonald. Lake McDonald is popular for both boat tours and water activities like kayaking. This area is also home to the historic Sperry Chalet, one of the park’s two hike-in, hike-out lodges.
Lake McDonald is great for families, with easier hiking trails like Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake.
St. Mary and Logan Pass
Logan Pass has the steepest, and most stunning, parts of the park’s famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. In fact, the Logan Pass Visitor Center sits at the highest point of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Arguably the most scenic part of the park, this area is always crowded and parking is in high demand.
The St. Mary and Logan Pass area is home to many of Glacier’s must-do hikes, like the Highline Trail, St. Mary Falls, and Hidden Lake Overlook.
Two Medicine is one of the lesser visited, but most beautiful parts of Glacier National Park.
The shores of Two Medicine Lake is the absolute best place in the park for sunrise. While it doesn’t have many popular day hikes, Two Medicine is a popular start or endpoint for hikers doing thru-hikes like Dawson Pass.
Many Glacier is home base for hikers and those looking to stay at the Many Glacier Hotel. Hiking Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, and Ptarmigan Tunnel should be at the top of your Glacier National Park bucket list.
This is a great area for spotting wildlife. I saw 2 black bears, a bighorn sheep, too many mountain goats to count, and even a mama moose and her calf!
North Fork & Goat Haunt
North Fork is only accessible by unpaved roads and Goat Haunt requires backcountry hiking to access. While difficult to get to, these areas reward you with solitude unlike any other area in the park.
Unless you have at least a week to explore the rest of Glacier National Park, I recommend saving these areas for your next trip (trust me, you’ll want to come back!).
Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park
When it comes to planning a trip to Glacier National Park, you’re at the mercy of the weather. The park is blanketed in snow from October to April, sometimes even as late as June. Parts of Going-to-the-Sun Road near Logan Pass are only open from mid-June to mid-September.
To be safe, I recommend planning your trip to Glacier National Park between July and early September. But keep in mind, because the park has such a narrow tourism season, the park will be crowded. The best way to beat the crowds at Glacier is to start your day early (I’m talking before sunrise!).
Read More: Ultimate Guide to Glacier National Park
How to Get to Glacier National Park
If you’re coming from the Rockies or the Pacific Northwest, the easiest way to get to Glacier National Park is by driving.
If you’re coming from further away, the best way to get to Glacier is by flying. The closest airport to Glacier National Park is Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell. From Kalispell, you’re only 30 minutes away from the western entrance to Glacier National Park.
If you’re planning to visit other national parks like Grand Teton or Yellowstone, consider flying into Bozeman instead. This will put you about midway between the parks.
Getting Around Glacier National Park
The best way to get around Glacier National Park is by car (or truck, camper van, etc.). I don’t recommend traveling to Glacier National Park in an RV unless you also tow a vehicle or plan on renting one while you are there. The most scenic part of Glacier National Park, Going-to-the-Sun Road, does not allow vehicles over 21 feet long, 8 feet wide, or 10 feet tall.
The downside of navigating Glacier? Parking is a hot commodity. Plan to arrive before 8am to ensure you can find parking at popular trailheads, like Logan Pass and Many Glacier.
Park Shuttle Service
Glacier National Park offers a free shuttle service along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The shuttle runs from Apgar Village to St. Mary Visitor Center. While it can be useful for one-way hikes like the Highline Trail, it’s crowded, slow, and misses areas like Two Medicine and Many Glacier. Don’t rely on the Glacier National Park shuttle as your main method of transportation around the park.
For more information on the Glacier National Park shuttle, check out my detailed guide on Glacier National Park.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Glacier National Park
Red Jammer Tours
Glacier National Park offers tours in their signature “red jammers” – classic open-air shuttles. For those who enjoy group tours, this is a great way to learn about the history of the park and see the highlights. The red jammer has routes exploring Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine.
Best Places to Stay in Glacier National Park
The most sought-after accommodation in Glacier National Park are its lodges. Glacier National Park features 5 in-park lodges:
- Village Inn at Apgar – A motel-like inn with both standard and full-kitchen rooms
- Lake McDonald Lodge – A swiss-style lodge with amazing lake views and a handful of restaurants
- Rising Sun Motor Inn – A rustic option with a restaurant and a gift shop near St. Mary Lake
- Swiftcurrent Motor Inn – A rustic option with a camp store and close trailhead access
- Many Glacier Hotel – A swiss-style lodge with stunning views and the delicious Ptarmigan Dining Room
To book a stay at one of the in-demand park lodges, book your lodging 13 months in advance when reservations open.
Glacier also has 2 hike-in/hike-out lodges:
- Sperry Chalet – Accessible from the Sperry Trail on the west side of the park, Sperry Chalet is premier backcountry living. The chalet offers 3 staff-prepared meals per day, bedding, potable water, and outhouses. This is the perfect option for those who would normally stay in a hotel but want to explore off-the-beaten-path.
- Granite Park Chalet – Granite Park Chalet has fewer amenities than Sperry Cahlet. Here you’ll only find pit toilets, freeze-dried food, and bottled water. It’s perfect for those looking for a taste of the backcountry without the stress of setting up your own camp. The Granite Park Chalet is about midway between “The Loop” and Logan Pass along the Highline Trail.
Reservations for both the Sperry Chalet and the Granite Park Chalet open at the beginning of January for the following summer. For example, for the 2020 season reservations opened on January 13th at 8am. Reservations fill up in the first hour, so be sure to request as soon as they open.
Camping in Glacier National Park is a great option for budget-conscious travelers. Most of Glacier’s campsites are open from mid-June to early September.
Glacier National Park has 4 reservable campgrounds – Apgar, Fish Creek, Many Glacier, and St. Mary. Reservations are released on Recreation.gov 6 months out. The rest of the campgrounds in the park are first-come, first-served.
Staying Outside the Park
For those choosing to stay outside the park, I highly recommend staying on the east side of the park near St. Mary. Towns on the west side of the park, like West Glacier and Columbia Falls, provide more options. But St. Mary is closer to prime hiking destinations like Many Glacier and Logan Pass. But be warned, what you gain in location in St. Mary, you lose in dining and grocery options.
Only a minute from the St. Mary Visitor Center, I highly recommend staying at the Cottages at Glacier. These cottages are perfect for groups of 4, with most cottages having 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. The best part of these cottages is the view. Sit on the back porch and reward yourself with stunning views of St. Mary Lake after a long day of hiking. Be sure to book well in advance (we booked around 9 months out).
What to Pack for Glacier National Park
- Layers – Glacier National Park weather can vary dramatically between day and night. While the mornings may start off cool, afternoons can be hot. Pack moisture-wicking hiking shirts and warm fleece layers to keep you comfortable all day.
- Rain Jacket – In the summer, it rains an average of 17 days per month. While it might just be a light, quick shower, it’s best to be prepared and always carry a rain jacket or poncho.
- Hiking Boots – The best thing to do in Glacier National Park is hike. You’ll want sturdy, comfortable hiking boots or trail runners with solid traction. Don’t forget to break in your shoes before bringing them to Glacier!
- Merino Wool Socks – Good hiking boots don’t mean anything if you have crappy socks. Always opt for merino wool socks. They might be a bit expensive, but they will last a long time, keep your feet dry, and protect you from blisters.
- Hiking Backpack and the 10 Essentials – It’s important to carry safety gear every time you hike. Be sure to pack the 10 hiking essentials and bring a hiking backpack with plenty of room for water and extra gear.
- Sun Hat and Sunscreen – Many of Glacier’s trails are unshaded, so it’s important to protect yourself from the sun. Sunscreen is obviously essential, but a sun hat will go a long way towards protecting you from sunburn too.
- Camera – You’ll want to capture every view in Glacier National Park, but how you do that is up to you. Today, even an iPhone will do. If you do choose to travel with a DSLR camera, I highly recommend investing in a sturdy camera clip like this one from Peak Design to secure your camera to your hiking backpack. Also, consider packing a telephoto lens to capture Glacier’s renowned wildlife from a safe distance.
- Binoculars – Don’t miss any of Glacier’s wildlife – pack binoculars! They don’t have to be fancy, just any pair that will help you feel close to the creatures without actually having to be close. It’s extremely important to keep your distance from all of Glacier’s wildlife.
- Bear spray – Bear Spray is an essential safety item for hiking in Glacier National Park. Similar to pepper spray, it’s used on bears in emergency situations. Bear spray can’t go on planes, even in your checked baggage. I recommend renting bear spray at the airport or checking with your lodging/host as they may provide it. It can also be purchased at any outdoor store in the area.
Read More: Essential Hiking Gear Guide
The Best 3-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary
Before diving into the itinerary (I know I’ve probably talked your ear off already with all these upfront details!), I just wanted to take a pause. There’s so much to see and do in this beautiful park that it can be overwhelming.
Regardless of what you do in Glacier National Park, you will have the experience of a lifetime. These are simply my suggestions on the best things to do to see the most of Glacier in the least amount of time.
Read More: 7-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary
Day 1: Going-to-the-Sun Road and the Hidden Lake Overlook Hike
Since you’ll only be here for a few days, I highly recommend arriving in Kalispell in the morning. This will give you plenty of time to explore and settle in before sunset.
Before heading into the park, stock up on groceries at the Super 1 Foods in Columbia Falls. Quick breakfasts, trail lunches, and simple snacks are the perfect items for a short trip to Glacier National Park.
Since you’ll only be in Glacier for 2 nights, plan on eating out for dinner. This will save you time at the grocery store. Plus, you’ll be able to get your fill of Montana’s infamous huckleberry pie!
Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
Considered one of the best scenic drives in the country, Going-to-the-Sun Road can’t be missed. You literally cannot miss it – it’s the only road through the main section of Glacier National Park!
Enter the park via the West Glacier entrance. Before proceeding onward, stop to stamp your national park passport at the Apgar Visitor Center. As you head east, you’ll get your first glimpse of the park. There’s plenty of pull-offs and vantage points along the way, so feel free to stop and take in the views as you go.
Check out the complete guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road for details on all the best stops along the way.
Planning a trip to Glacier National Park? Download this guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road to discover all the best stops along Glacier’s most famous drive!
Lake McDonald and The Loop
Break up your drive to St. Mary by stretching your legs at Lake McDonald Lodge. The swiss-style lodge is one of the park’s many in-park lodges. Make sure to check out the crystal clear waters from the dock behind the lodge.
The Loop is 30 minutes further along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Try to find a parking spot to get out and view the highest peak in the park, Heaven’s Peak. There’s also a restroom here for those of you that have been hydrating to adjust to the higher elevation.
After The Loop, Going-to-the-Sun Road becomes steep and winding as it heads towards Logan Pass.
Hidden Lake Overlook Hike
Logan Pass Visitor Center is 20 minutes past The Loop. Typically In the late afternoon, parking is available in the visitor center lot. Find a spot before embarking on your first hike in Glacier National Park.
Hidden Lake Overlook is an out-and-back trail that is routinely rated as one of the top Glacier National Park hikes. It passes through grassy meadows and ends at a vantage point overlooking Hidden Lake.
You’ll cover 460 feet of elevation over the 1.4 miles out to the overlook, but the way back will be all downhill.
Sunset at Wild Goose Island Overlook
End your afternoon with a quick dinner in the St. Mary area. If you’re looking for a slice of Montana’s famous huckleberry pie, I recommend Two Sisters Cafe in Babb.
One of the best sunset spots in the park is just off of Going-to-the-Sun Road. Set up at Wild Goose Island Overlook in the St. Mary region about 30 minutes before sunset. The fading light will soften St. Mary Lake, a familiar scene for those who’ve watched The Shining (this spot was in the opening credits).
Day 2: Many Glacier Boat Tour and the Grinnell Glacier Hike
Many Glacier is the most popular part of the park not located on Going-to-the-Sun Road. It takes about an hour to get there from St. Mary, so prepare to start your day early!
There’s a reason I consider this the best 3-day Glacier National Park itinerary for hikers – each day you’ll do more mileage than the last! One of the most scenic and rewarding hikes in the park is the trail up to Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint.
The strenuous Grinnell Glacier trail is over 11.3 miles long and climbs 1,600 feet up to the glacier viewpoint.
Many Glacier Boat Tour
A popular option is to take the Many Glacier boat tour to shorten the hike. Glacier Park Boat Company is a family-operated business that has provided boat tours since 1938. Their tour of Many Glacier crosses two lakes, with a quarter-mile hike between. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the park. I can’t recommend this tour enough!
Another great perk of the boat tour is the capability to do a split round trip. You can take the boat out first thing in the morning, complete the Grinnell Glacier hike, and use your return trip in the afternoon. You’ll disembark at the Lake Josephine dock, saving you 3.4 miles each way on your hike to and from Grinnell Glacier.
Book the 8:30 AM or 9:00 AM Many Glacier boat tour at least 6 weeks in advance as the morning tours fill up quickly. You’ll have to pick up your tickets at will call behind the Many Glacier Hotel morning of, so it’s important to arrive early.
Insider Tip: While you’re guaranteed a return trip on the boat tour, you may have to wait for space. Most of the afternoon boat tours are booked by round trip travelers, so you will only board if the tour isn’t at capacity. But don’t stress – Glacier Park Boat Company will continue to run boats until all hikers waiting at the dock are ferried back to the hotel.
Grinnell Glacier Hike
The trail starts at the Many Glacier Hotel. If you opt for the boat tour, you will cut off the flat section along Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. After Lake Josephine, the climb begins, ascending roughly 1,600 feet over 3.6 miles.
Much of this trail is unshaded, so starting in the morning will keep you from climbing to the viewpoint in the hottest part of the day.
The viewpoint at the top of this trail holds the bluest waters I’ve ever seen. Reward yourself after a long upward journey by peeling off those merino wool hiking socks and dipping your toes in the icy cold water. Upper Grinnell Lake is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch before heading back down to the dock at Lake Josephine.
Be prepared to see some of Glacier’s renowned wildlife up close and personal on this hike. I saw a mountain goat, a bighorn sheep, and a black bear. Be aware of your surroundings and make plenty of noise on the trail to alert animals of your presence. If you do encounter wildlife, give them plenty of space, slowly back away, and wait for the animal to leave. You should always carry bear spray in an easily accessible location, like a waist belt or backpack harness.
Read More: Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
Dinner at the Ptarmigan Dining Room
The Ptarmigan Dining Room is Many Glacier Hotel’s best eatery. Ptarmigan Dining Room’s menu boasts locally sourced, gourmet cuisine. This will be the best meal you’ll have on your trip, so now is the time to splurge (financially and calorically!). If you still haven’t gotten your huckleberry fix, try a huckleberry cocktail or dessert.
It doesn’t take reservations or call-ahead, so you’ll need to put your name in on the list to get a spot. Expect to wait around an hour. While you wait, grab a drink from the adjacent Swiss Lounge and gaze out at the fading sun over Swiftcurrent Lake.
Bring a casual t-shirt, pullover, and shoes to change into after your hike. While the Ptarmigan Dining Room is “hiker casual”, you’ll appreciate having clean clothes to change into after a long, strenuous hike. Some deodorant wouldn’t hurt either!
Stargazing in Glacier National Park (Optional)
Designated as a “dark sky park” by the International Dark Skies Association, you’ll see more stars here than almost anywhere else in the world. If you’re an avid photographer, this could be your chance to capture stunning Milky Way photos.
Even if you’re not a photographer, there’s still a solid chance you’ll be able to spot the Milky Way with your naked eye. If you’re lucky and in Glacier near a new moon, your chances are greatly increased.
Find a spot in the park with minimal light and observe. When coming from St. Mary, drive into the park at least as far at Wild Goose Island Overlook. I don’t recommend driving any further than the St. Mary Falls trailhead at night as Going-to-the-Sun Road can be dangerous to drive in the dark. Turn off your headlights and let your eyes acclimate to the darkness for at least a few minutes.
Be sure to check cloud coverage and visibility using the Clear Sky Charts.
Day 3: Highline Trail Hike
Of all the hikes on this itinerary, this one is the longest. Best for last right?
The Highline Trail is often referred to as a sampler of Glacier National Park. With everything from grassy mountain sides to breathtaking vantage points, this is a must-do hike in Glacier. While some hikers prefer to do this hike as an introduction to Glacier, I prefer this hike as the finale. The Highline Trail perfectly ties together everything you’ve seen over the last two days.
Highline Trail Hike
Parking at the Logan Pass Visitor Center can be challenging. Arrive before 7:30 AM to make sure you secure a spot.
Start your hike at the trailhead across the street from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. The trail starts along a rocky cliffside above Going-to-the-Sun Road before opening up into grassy terrain.
About halfway through the hike, you’ll reach the optional Garden Wall add-on. This super-strenuous, 1-mile, straight-uphill trek is the best part of the entire hike. Will you be out of breath and questioning yourself the whole haul up the mountainside? Yes. Is it worth it? 110%.
The Garden Wall takes you up the side of the mountain range to overlook Grinnell Glacier. You’ll be standing above the vantage point you hiked to yesterday.
As you overlook the turquoise waters, you’re also standing atop the Continental Divide. From here, water that flows down the west side of the mountain ends up in the Pacific Ocean. Water that flows down the east side of the mountain ends up in the Atlantic Ocean.
In my opinion, the Highline Trail is much less impressive without the Garden Wall add-on.
Aside from the Garden Wall, the elevation change is gentle and isn’t very strenuous for seasoned hikers. The Granite Park Chalet is a great place for a snack and restroom break before beginning your downhill trek to The Loop. The downhill portion to The Loop is unshaded due to past forest fires, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen.
Highline Trail Logistics
Most hikers choose to do the Highline Trail as a point-to-point hike, starting at Logan Pass Visitor Center and ending at The Loop. If you prefer to hike back to Logan Pass instead, I recommend turning around at Granite Park Chalet.
If you opt for the point-to-point route, you’ll need transportation back from The Loop to your vehicle at Logan Pass Visitor Center. You have a couple of options:
- Take the free Glacier National Park shuttle from The Loop to Logan Pass Visitor Center.
- If you’re traveling in a group with more than one car, park one car at each trailhead. If you’re particularly trusting, you can also arrange to do this with other groups of hikers.
- If not everyone in your group is doing the Highline Trail, arrange a time for someone to pick you up at The Loop.
For all the nitty, gritty logistics on hiking the Highline Trail point-to-point, refer to my Glacier National Park hiking guide.
Say Goodbye to Glacier National Park
Capture those final glances at the Rocky Mountains as you make your last trip across Going-to-the-Sun Road.
If you’ll be flying, I recommend booking a hotel near the airport in Kalispell and taking an early morning flight the next day. Save enough time to return your rental car and bear spray (if you rented at the airport) before boarding your flight.
Side Trips From Glacier National Park
If you have more time in the area, there’s so much more to explore! My absolute favorite side trip is to Waterton, Canada (so much so that it is included in my 7-day Glacier National Park itinerary!). Explore the quaint town and take a boat tour into the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
For a break from hiking, explore Whitefish, Montana. There’s enough shops and restaurants to keep you busy all day long!
Many people choose to combine a trip to Glacier National Park with other national parks. Both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park are about 6 hours away.
For all the details visiting on Waterton, Canada, check out the 7-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary.
Tips for Planning a Trip to Glacier National Park
Have I convinced you that Glacier National Park belongs on your bucket list yet? If so, there’s some important things you need to know to plan a seamless trip to Glacier National Park.
- Book everything well in advance. Both accommodations and tours fill up quickly. To stay at the in-park lodges, book 13 months out when reservations open. Book reservable campsites 6 months out and reserve boat tours at least 6 weeks in advance.
- Wait to buy or rent bear spray until you arrive. Bear spray is a necessity in Glacier National Park, but it isn’t allowed on planes (even in your checked luggage). It’s available for purchase at most outdoor stores in the area and can be rented from a booth at the airport. If you’re staying in an Airbnb or cabin, your host may provide it for you.
- Pack a collapsible cooler for transporting groceries. The only major grocery store in the area is the Super 1 Foods in Columbia Falls. The drive across Going-to-the-Sun Road from there to St. Mary is at least 2 hours. If you’re planning to stop and hike Hidden Lake Overlook along the way, plan to keep your groceries cold at least 5-6 hours.
- Download all your reservation confirmations and important documents offline before you leave home. Cell service isn’t a guarantee in most areas of the park. Make sure any documents you need are saved and accessible offline (I prefer to do this in Google Drive).
- Download Google Maps offline to ensure you can navigate without service. To do this, go to your Google Maps app, select your profile next to the search bar, and choose ‘offline maps’. From there click ‘select your own map’ and drag the view to your custom area. It’s also a great idea to download music for your long drives too!
- Check the Glacier National Park website regularly. If this wild 2020 season filled with COVID and wildfires has taught us anything, it’s that conditions can change in a heartbeat. Check the Glacier National Park website regularly for road closures and park conditions. Glacier is also known to close certain campsites due to bear activity so stay aware if you plan to camp.
What to Know About Glacier National Park Wildlife Safety
Glacier National Park is known for its wildlife. You’ll find so much here: grizzly bears, black bears, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and marmots. Admittedly, I was intimidated by the thoughts of encountering a bear on the trail. But the thing that always makes me feel less anxious is being prepared.
First things first, always keep plenty of space between you and wildlife in Glacier National Park. The park service recommends keeping at least 100 yards (the length of a football field) between you and bears and wolves. Keep at least 25 years away from all other wildlife.
Most animals just want to mind their own business. Over the years, they’ve come to recognize human voices and move away. As you hike, make plenty of noise by loudly singing and talking to alert nearby animals of your presence.
Some hikers choose to wear bear bells on their bags and clothing to make noise. I’ve personally heard from Glacier National Park rangers that the high pitched noise of the bell doesn’t carry as far as human voices.
If you do find yourself face to face with wildlife in Glacier National Park, remain calm and slowly back away. Wait for the animal to pass before proceeding. While animal attacks are rare, be sure to keep your bear spray in an easily accessible location like a belt clip or backpack holster. You should be able to detach and use your bear spray immediately without any notice.
One of my favorite national park bloggers, Renee Roaming, has an excellent guide on bear safety. Her guide details how to identify different types of bears and how to react if you find yourself under attack. Glacier National Park has both black bears and grizzly bears. You should react differently depending on which kind you encounter. If attacked by a black bear, you should fight back, but if attacked by a grizzly bear, you should play dead.
The Best Glacier National Park Photography Spots
Let’s be real: there isn’t a bad view in Glacier National Park, particularly when it comes to that soft, golden and blue hour lighting.
Best Spots for Sunrise Photography
Sunrise at Two Medicine Lake is my absolute favorite, hands down. It’s quiet and the water is glassy and smooth. Facing west, you’ll get the perfect reflection of the glowing mountains in Two Medicine Lake. The best spot is right off the shores of Two Medicine Lake behind the general store. No need to get here early – Two Medicine is rarely crowded for sunrise.
The back of Many Glacier Hotel and around Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine are also popular for spots sunrise. Start your hike up to Grinnell Glacier before dawn to capture early morning light along these lakes.
To capture moody, low-hanging morning fog, head up to Logan Pass and some of the turnouts slightly west of there for sunrise.
Best Spots for Sunset Photography
Anywhere between The Loop and St. Mary along Going-to-the-Sun Road makes for an epic sunset. For prime western-facing views, check out Big Bend or Wild Goose Island Overlook.
Big Bend is a pull off area along Going-to-the-Sun Road where the road bends back on itself, creating a U-shape (hence the name). The large pull-off here provides more opportunities for viewing and photographing the valley.
Wild Goose Island Overlook is a bit more well-known sunset spot, capturing the lone island in the middle of St. Mary Lake. This spot was made popular as the opening scene in the movie The Shining. Wild Goose Island Overlook is likely to have a decent crowd for sunset, so arrive early to claim your spot and set up your tripod.
Hidden Lake Overlook is a popular sunset hike. Give yourself plenty of time to hike the trail before sunset, particularly if you’d like to head down to the shores of the lake. Always remember to bring a headlamp when doing a sunset hike as the trail will be dark on your way back!
Best Spots for Wildlife Photography
While you may find wildlife on any trail in Glacier National Park, you’ll have the highest odds in the Many Glacier area or on the Highline Trail. Keep your telephoto lens at the ready to snap pictures of mountain goats and marmots on the Highline Trail.
If you’re hoping to capture a bear, hike the Grinnell Glacier, Ptarmigan Tunnel, or Iceberg Lake trails. If you’re hoping to capture a moose, hang around at the lakes in Many Glacier like Bullhead, Redrock, or Fishercap.
Always remember to keep plenty of distance when photographing animals in Glacier National Park.
Best Spots for Astrophotography
Glacier National Park is a certified dark sky park. Almost anywhere along Going-to-the-Sun Road will provide plenty of darkness for capturing the night sky. I recommend picking a spot at one of the pull offs between Logan Pass and Wild Goose Island Overlook.
Use the Glacier National Park Clear Dark Sky charts to check for cloud coverage and visibility before heading out!
Frequently Asked Questions About Glacier National Park
How many glacier are in Glacier National Park?
The last time the glaciers were measured was in 2015. As of 2015, Glacier National Park had 26 official glaciers that met the size requirements of 0.1 square kilometers. This compares to 80 glaciers in the area in 1850. Some park rangers believe that by 2023, there will be no official glaciers remaining in Glacier National Park.
Where is the closest airport to glacier national park?
The closest airport to Glacier National Park is the Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell. It’s about a 30 minute drive from the western entrance of the park.
What are the entrance fees for Glacier National Park?
The 7-day per vehicle fee for entry to Glacier National Park is $35.
You can also buy a season pass to Glacier National Park for $70.
The best option is to buy the America the Beautiful National Park Pass. For only $80, you get access to all the U.S. national parks, plus national forests, national monuments, and Bureau of Land Management lands.
When does Going-to-the-Sun Road open?
The opening date for Going-to-the-Sun Road changes every year depending on that Spring snow and plowing progress. Typically, Going-to-the-Sun Road is open from mid-June through September.
How long does it take to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road?
If you drove the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road straight across without stopping, it would take you a little over 2 hours, but you should take your time and stop at all the best vantage points along the way. If you’re driving Going-to-the-Sun Road at a leisurely pace, it should take you around 3-4 hours.
How early do i need to arrive for a first-come, first-served campground at Glacier National Park?
The national park service maintains a campground status webpage with fill times for the prior 2 days. In the days leading up to your trip, check the campground status page to get an idea of when you should arrive to get a campsite.
Are bear CANISTERS required in Glacier National Park?
Most campgrounds in Glacier National Park provide bear proof food storage lockers and trash cans. If you are backcountry camping, you must bring either a national park approved food hanging device or bear canister.
When should I arrive at trailheads for popular trails?
Parking in Glacier National Park is in high demand. To beat the crowds, I recommend starting your day early. Plan to arrive at the trailhead parking lot by 8 AM, perhaps a bit earlier at Logan Pass Visitor Center, to guarantee a parking spot.
More Tips for Your Trip to Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is one of my absolute favorites – it holds a special place in my heart! Don’t miss the best things to do and see, including Going-to-the-Sun Road, the Highline Trail, and Hidden Lake Overlook!
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