Are you planning a trip to Glacier National Park, but don’t know where to begin?
From the snow-capped mountains to the glacial blue waters, there are majestic views at every corner. Whether you’re interested in hiking, scenic drives, or exploring off-the-beaten-path, this guide to Glacier National Park will help you plan the perfect trip to this Montana national park.
In this guide, you’ll find an overview of the park, tips on when to visit and where to stay, plus ideas on the best things to do in Glacier National Park.
Let’s dive into this Glacier National Park guide and start planning your trip!
Planning a trip to Glacier National Park? Check out more travel guides to help you plan an incredible trip!
- The Best 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary for 2022
- The Best Glacier National Park Itinerary: 7 Days in Paradise
- Going-to-the-Sun Road 2022: What You Need to Know (+ 22 Must-See Stops!)
- 19 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park You Need to Explore
- How to Hike the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park
Looking for more ideas for your national park bucket list? Don’t miss this Ultimate National Park Checklist, complete with the best things to do in all 63 USA National Parks!
Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip:
- Best Time to Visit: Summer is the best (and most popular) time to visit thanks to wearm weather and all park facilities being open. Visit in early to mid-September to avoid peak crowds.
- Where to Stay: If you’re looking to stay in the park, I highly recommend the Many Glacier Hotel. If you’re looking to stay outside the park, look for accomodations in Babb or St. Mary, like the Cottages at Glacier.
- How to Get There: The closest airport is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell, Montana. Use Skyscanner to browse flights and find the best price.
- How to Get Around: The best way to get around the park is by having your own car. Use Rentalcars.com to browse deals on rental cars or rent an RV or campervan with Outdoorsy!
- Don’t Forget: Be sure to get an America the Beautiful National Park Pass ahead of time. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and get you into all 400+ national park sites (including Glacier!).
Why You Should Visit Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is experiencing the devastating effects of climate change. Back when the park opened in 1910 there were around 100 glaciers within the park’s boundaries. In 2021, there were less than 25 glaciers remaining.
By 2025, park rangers expect there will be no remaining glaciers within the park due to melting.
I’ve never seen as much wildlife as I did in Glacier. We saw everything from black bears to bald eagles. In fact, we were a little too close for comfort with bears, rams, and moose on many occasions.
Some of the most rewarding hikes I’ve done are in Glacier National Park. While the trails can be crowded, the views and potential to spot wildlife are perfect. Glacier has something for everyone. Hikes range from easy, flat trails to strenuous hikes with steep elevations. I spent 10 days in Glacier and can’t wait to go back.
Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park
The best time to visit is between July and early September. The main road across the park, Going-to-the-Sun Road, is only open during the peak season, late June to early September.
To be safe, plan your trip between late July and early September to ensure you have access to all areas of the park. I visited over Labor Day weekend (early September) and had no issues.
Around 2 weeks after we left, Glacier had their first blizzard of the winter season. Glacier National Park has grown in popularity over the past few years, so expect crowds anytime you visit during the on-peak season.
You can visit the park during the off-season to snow-shoe or cross-country ski, but the park is unmaintained and primitive during this time.
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Glacier National Park Regions
Glacier National Park has five main areas (there are a few further breakdowns but I’ll cover the major ones here).
Situated on the western side of the park, the Lake McDonald area is home to the historic Lake McDonald Lodge. The lodge sits next to the glassy waters of Lake McDonald with access to boat tours and water activities.
Lake McDonald Lodge offers multiple dining options in unique Swiss chalet-style quarters. You’ll find the Apgar Visitor Center and the west entrance to the park in the Lake McDonald area.
It’s also home to the historic Sperry Chalet, which recently reopened after suffering damage in the 2017 forest fires. If you’re interested in staying at the hike-in, hike-out Sperry Chalet, you’ll need to book as soon as they open reservations for the season, in January.
This area is great for families or senior citizens. It provides many non-strenuous trails, like Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake. You’ll also find picnic areas, campgrounds, and water activities on Lake McDonald.
St. Mary and Logan Pass
As you move further east into the park from the Lake McDonald area, you enter Logan Pass. Here you’ll find the steepest, and most stunning, part of the winding Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The Logan Pass Visitor Center sits at the highest point of Going-to-the-Sun Road. After passing through Logan Pass, you enter St. Mary, home of the St. Mary Visitor Center, and the eastern entrance to the park.
St. Mary and Logan Pass area is home to many of Glacier’s must-do hikes, like the Highline Trail, Baring+St. Mary+Virginia Falls, and Hidden Lake Overlook. Parking at the Logan Pass Visitor Center or trailheads can be competitive.
Arrive before 8 am to get a coveted parking spot. Since Going-to-the-Sun Road is narrow, there’s no parking allowed outside of designated lots.
Accessing Two Medicine requires exiting the park on the eastern side, driving south on Highway 89 for an hour, and re-entering the park. For this reason, Two Medicine is less crowded than other parts of the park.
Two Medicine serves as a start or endpoint for hikers doing thru-hikes like Dawson Pass. Most hiking trails in this area are strenuous all-day or overnight hikes. But don’t skip walking around Two Medicine Lake, particularly at sunrise.
The sun rising over Two Medicine Lake is an image ingrained in my mind (it’s also my phone and computer background). If you want to take sunrise photos while at Glacier, do it at Two Medicine Lake. It’s less crowded and more peaceful than anywhere else in the park.
Plus, you can drive right up to the shoreline and set up your tripod – something you’ll appreciate when waking up before the crack of dawn.
Many Glacier is directly north of Logan Pass, but requires exiting the park on the eastern side, driving north on Highway 89 for about 30 minutes, and re-entering the park. But unlike Two Medicine, Many Glacier is still plenty crowded.
This is likely due to the stunning hikes, grandiose Many Glacier Hotel, and popular boat tours on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.
Many Glacier is my favorite part of Glacier National Park. You cannot miss the hike to Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint. It’s strenuous but worth every ounce of effort to stick your toes in a nearly freezing glacial melt.
Be sure to book the boat tour of Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes through Glacier Park Boat Company. The boat tour is also a great way to cut off some of the distance on the Grinnell Glacier hike.
Wildlife is everywhere in this area of the park. I saw 2 black bears, a ram, and mountain goats while hiking up to Grinnell Glacier. The next day, on the path out to Bullhead Lake, I watched a mama moose and her calf feed in Fishercap Lake.
North Fork & Goat Haunt
North Fork is only accessible by unpaved roads. 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.
Most visitors skip this area of the park since it’s time-consuming to get to. I haven’t been to this area of the park yet. I recommend skipping unless you have more than a week.
Getting Around Glacier National Park
The best way to get around Glacier National Park is by car. Driving allows you to go at your own pace and dictate your own schedule.
The downside? Parking. Parking at Glacier can be a madhouse. If you’re planning on driving around the park, the early bird gets the worm. The parking lot at Logan Pass fills up by 8 am most days and the other trailhead lots aren’t far behind.
My recommendation is to start your days early to avoid circling parking lots waiting for someone to leave. If flexibility is important to you, I recommend traveling to Glacier National Park by car. Get to the trailheads by 7:30 am to ensure parking availability.
I like to use Skyscanner to compare flight prices to multiple airports and find the best price. Once you find the perfect flight itinerary for you, Skyscanner redirects you to book with the airline directly, so you don’t miss out on any frequent flyer points! Search flights on Skyscanner now.
You’ll also need a rental car to get to and around the park if you’re flying. I like to use to Rentalcars.com find the best deals on rental cars. It allows you to search across multiple rental companies to find the lowest price. You’ll find all the major retailers like Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise, plus budget companies like Budget, Sixt, Dollar, Thrifty, and more. Search rental car prices with Rentalcars.com now.
Red Jammer Tours
Glacier National Park offers tours in their signature “red jammers” – classic open-air shuttles. These tours are a great way to learn about the history of the park and see the highlights, with routes exploring Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine.
For those who prefer group tours when traveling or are unable to complete hikes in Glacier, consider booking a trip on the red jammers for a day. Although be warned, these tours do not come cheap. I personally like to travel independently and did my own tour of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Park Shuttle Service
While Glacier National Park offers a free shuttle service, it’s difficult to rely on as your main mode of transportation. The shuttle runs during peak season with two routes:
- Apgar Village to Logan Pass (with a required transfer at Avalanche Creek)
- Logan Pass to St. Mary Visitor Center (with a required transfer at Sun Point)
The first shuttles from Apgar Village and St. Mary Visitor Center depart at 7 am and the last departures from Logan Pass are at 7 pm. In the mornings, several express hiker shuttles run at 15-minute departure intervals.
For the rest of the day, shuttles come every 30 minutes. Shuttles between Avalanche Creek and Logan Pass and Sun Point and Logan Pass run every 10 minutes throughout the day.
While the shuttle is useful for one-way hikes, like the Highline Trail, I wouldn’t recommend it as your primary method of transportation. The shuttles don’t allow for flexible sightseeing and fill up at the early stops. The shuttles are small, meaning you may have to wait until a shuttle arrives with enough space for your group.
Where to Stay Near Glacier National Park
Unless you plan to stay at campsites or lodges within park boundaries, you’ll need to choose between staying on the west side of the park, the east side of the park, or splitting time between both.
When I was in Glacier, we spent 5 nights on the east side of the park and 3 nights on the west side of the park. If I had to do it over again, I would spend 6-7 nights on the east side of the park and 1-2 nights on the west side.
The east side of the park is closer to St. Mary, Logan Pass, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine, where most of your time will be spent. On the downside, it’s more remote with limited dining and grocery options and fewer places to stay.
Staying on the East Side
Spend the majority of your nights on the east side of the park. You’ll spend less time driving and more time exploring all that Glacier has to offer.
I recommend staying in the town of St. Mary. You’re minutes from the St. Mary Visitor Center, an hour from Two Medicine, and just over half an hour to Many Glacier. For any national park trip, I highly recommend staying in an Airbnb, VRBO, or other rental homes.
I stayed at the Cottages at Glacier. It’s a small community of cabins just outside the park boundary. These cottages are perfect for groups of 4, with most cottages having 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. Sit on the back porch and reward yourself with stunning views of St. Mary Lake after a long day of strenuous hiking. Be sure to book well in advance.
Towns on the east side
St. Mary is by far the closest town to the St. Mary park entrance, but other options on the east side of the park include:
- Babb – closer to Many Glacier, but with fewer options than St. Mary
- Browning – around 40 minutes southeast of St. Mary, it’s the closest town with a real grocery store
- East Glacier Park Village – a community with cabins and restaurants, but further from most areas of the park
Staying on the West Side
The west side of Glacier National Park is much closer to “civilization”. If you are looking for more dining options and cheaper accommodations, the west side is for you. The west side of the park is anchored by the Apgar Visitor Center and park entrance.
The closest area to stay outside of park boundaries is in West Glacier, 5 minutes from the Apgar Visitor Center. In the small downtown area, there are a few shops and restaurants to explore.
Again, I recommend staying in an Airbnb, VRBO, or private rental home to allow you to cook dinners and pack breakfast/lunch for the trails. If that isn’t your speed, West Glacier also boasts some fancier lodging options, like the Belton Chalet with a great on-site restaurant.
Nearby larger towns, like Columbia Falls, provide budget-friendly motels and accommodations. Staying in Columbia Falls will add about 30 minutes to your drive time into the park.
Another option is staying at the park lodges. I’ve never done this because it’s often more expensive and requires booking well in advance, sometimes more than a year out! But the convenience and time savings from trailhead proximity are undeniable. Not to mention the views out the back of lodges like the Many Glacier Hotel.
At Glacier National Park, on-property reservations open up 13 months in advance – and they will fill up. If you’re planning a trip to Glacier in July 2023, book your lodging at midnight on July 1, 2022, when reservations open up online.
East Side Lodges
Many Glacier has two lodges – Many Glacier Hotel and Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Many Glacier Hotel has 200 guest rooms, restaurants and lounges, and a gift shop. Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, the more rustic option down the road, has 95 guest rooms, a restaurant, and a camp store.
The Rising Sun Motor Inn sits within the park boundaries near St. Mary Lake. Another rustic option, Rising Sun Motor Inn has 72 guest rooms, a restaurant, a general store, and a gift shop.
West Side Lodges
The west side houses two park lodges: the Village Inn at Apgar and Lake McDonald Lodge. Lake McDonald Lodge has 82 guest rooms, a handful of restaurants, and a general store. The view of the crystal clear waters of Lake McDonald from the lodge is dream-like.
Walking distance from the Apgar Visitor Center, the Village Inn at Apgar offers both standard motel rooms and motel rooms with full kitchens. If you’re interested in staying at a park lodge, be sure to book at least a year out as the reservations open 13 months in advance and fill up quickly.
Hike In / Hike Out Lodges
Granite Park Chalet
Granite Park Chalet can be accessed via the Highline Trail, about 7.6 miles (800 ft elevation), or The Loop trail, about 4.2 miles (2,200 ft elevation). The Highline Trail is the most common route. While it’s called a chalet, expect rustic conditions. Granite Park Chalet has 12 rooms, ranging in occupancy from 2-6 people.
Amenities include pit toilets and a shop to pre-purchase freeze-dried food to prepare in the camp kitchen and bottled water. If you don’t plan to buy bottled water, you’ll need to bring your own water or a way to chemically treat or filter water from a nearby stream. The chalet also offers the option to pre-purchase bedding instead of bringing a sleeping bag.
A stay at the Granite Park Chalet isn’t cheap – it’s around $200 per night for a 2-person room. If you’re looking for a taste of backcountry without having to set up your own camp, one or two nights in the Granite Park Chalet does the trick.
Sperry Chalet is the more highfalutin cousin of the Granite Park Chalet. It reopened for the 2020 season after suffering damage in the 2017 wildfires. Sperry Chalet provides 3 staff-prepared meals per day, bedding, and potable water. Outhouses, without showers, are next to the chalet.
The chalet has 17 guest rooms, ranging in occupancy from 2-5 people. Every reservation is guaranteed a private room. Sperry Chalet is accessible by 3 trails. The shortest is the Sperry Trail – 6.7 miles and 3,300 feet of elevation gain.
If you’re looking to explore Glacier’s backcountry without having to rough it, Sperry Chalet is for you.
Reservations for both chalets are extremely difficult to get. Reservations for Summer 2020 opened on January 13th at 8 am. First-hour reservations in 2020 were double in prior years (likely due to the reopening of Sperry Chalet). Even requesting a reservation as soon as they open online will not guarantee accommodation for your dates.
Camping in Glacier National Park is a great option for adventurous, budget-conscious travelers. Most of Glacier’s campsites are open from June to early September. Occasionally, campsites will be closed due to bear activity. If you want to camp at Glacier, be sure to track campground status and plan accordingly.
Glacier National Park has 4 campgrounds reservable online in advance, through Recreation.Gov. Reservations are released six months in advance. If you’re planning a trip for early September 2020, book at the start of March 2020.
- Apgar Campground for group camping (Lake McDonald)
- Fish Creek (Lake McDonald)
- Many Glacier (Many Glacier)
- St. Mary (St. Mary)
All these campgrounds have potable water and restrooms.
First-Come, First-served campgrounds
The remaining campgrounds are first-come, first-served. To see historic fill times for each campground, check the park’s campground status page. Select the campground you’re interested in and navigate to a historical month using the drop-down menu in the bottom left. First-come, first-served campgrounds are spread across different areas of the park:
- Lake McDonald – Apgar, Sprague Creek, and Avalanche
- St. Mary – Rising Sun
- Two Medicine – Cut Bank and Two Medicine
- North Fork & Goat Haunt – Logging Creek, Quartz Creek, Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake
Moon reviewed the best campsites at Glacier National Park to help you pick one. If you’re interested in backcountry camping, check out my favorite backpacking-focused blog, Clever Hiker. They have a full guide to backpacking in Glacier National Park.
Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has over 700 miles of hiking trails and over 50 day hikes. So how do you pick which ones to do? I’ve written all about my favorite Glacier hikes in my Glacier National Park Hikes Guide, but here are a few of the highlights.
1. Highline Trail + Garden Wall
The Highline Trail is a one-way 12-mile hike starting at Logan Pass Visitor Center. This trail is often referred to as a sampler of Glacier National Park. With everything from grassy meadows to breathtaking vantage, this hike should be on your to-do list.
The best part? The Garden Wall. This super-strenuous 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. As you overlook the turquoise waters at the base of Grinnell Glacier, you’re standing atop the Continental Divide.
Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats and marmots on this trail. Bring your binoculars and keep a safe distance from any and all creatures. Because this is a one-way hike, it requires more logistical planning than other hikes.
2. Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint
This 11-mile out-and-back hike should be on your bucket list. The viewpoint at the top of the trail has 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 near-freezing glacial melt.
The Grinnell Glacier hike starts at Many Glacier Hotel and winds Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine before climbing 1,600 feet to the viewpoint. Be prepared to see some of Glacier’s renowned wildlife up close and personal on this hike. I saw a mountain goat, a ram, and a black bear on my trip.
3. Hidden Lake Overlook
Starting at Logan Pass Visitor Center, this trail is routinely rated as one of the must-see hikes in Glacier. The 3-mile hike passes through grassy meadows and ends at a vantage point overlooking Hidden Lake.
If you have some extra energy, proceed all the way down to the shores of the lake. You descend 780 feet to the lakeshore, but you’ll have to climb that same distance back out.
4. Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars
This 4.5-mile hike is a moderate option for days between strenuous hikes like Highline Trail or Grinnell Glacier. As the only Lake McDonald area trail on this list, it is well suited for days where you’re traversing the park. This hike could provide a great break from the drive.
The first part of this hike follows the Trail of the Cedars loop – a handicap-accessible wooden boardwalk through towering trees. The trail then takes you through a forest out to Avalanche Lake.
This area of the park is some of the oldest growth in the park as it was untouched by recent forest fires. Hike through the shaded forest to Avalanche Lake and sit on the shore for a picnic.
5. Baring + St. Mary + Virginia Falls
This 6.5-mile out-and-back trail starts at Sun Point and takes you past 3 of the park’s more accessible, and well-known, waterfalls. The trail from Baring Falls to St. Mary Falls winds along St. Mary Lake and is the perfect place to spot quietly feeding deer and other wildlife.
After stopping at St. Mary Falls, proceed on (and up!) to Virginia Falls, a waterfall dropping over 50 feet. You can hike up to stand underneath the main falls, but be careful, the rocks are slippery.
Stop at the top of Virginia Falls, refuel, and then begin your trek back to the Sun Point parking lot – a little over 3 miles.
Read More: 19 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
More Things to Do in Glacier National Park
While hiking is the most popular activity in Glacier, there are so many other activities, drives, and day trips. Here are my favorites.
1. Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
This scenic drive is essential for every trip to Glacier National Park. Since it’s the main road through the park, you’ll do this in bits and pieces throughout your trip. But, I recommend doing it all at once and stopping along the way.
If you’ll be flying into Kalispell or approaching Glacier National Park from the west, it’s a great introduction to the park as you travel to your accommodations on the east side.
Going-to-the-Sun Road runs through the park connecting the Apgar Visitor Center on the west side to the St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side. The most scenic, and dangerous (sheer cliffs and drop-offs), part of the road is in Logan Pass. Stop often in the pull-offs to get out and take a look around. You won’t regret it.
The park also provides video and audio accompaniment for Going-to-the-Sun Road. Download these tours ahead of time to listen to as you drive! Want the full breakdown of all the essential stops on Going-to-the-Sun Road? Well, you’re in luck. I’ve written a whole post on navigating Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Read More: 20+ Best Stops on Going-to-the-Sun Road
2. See Sunrise at Two Medicine Lake
Two Medicine gets a lot less traffic than other areas of the park, like Logan Pass and Many Glacier, which means sunrise here is serene and crowd-free. You don’t have to be a photographer to enjoy this sunrise.
Bring your iPhone and snap some photos of the sun burning orange on the mountains over Two Medicine Lake (the photo here was taken on my iPhone). The perfectly still waters mirror the mountain peaks and magnificent colors of the sky.
Just take my word for it, this will be your favorite view of the trip. After sunrise, grab a coffee at the Two Medicine General Store and take the leisurely stroll out to Paradise Point (less than half a mile).
Looking for more to do in Two Medicine? Glacier Park Boat Company also offers tours at Two Medicine Lake. These usually aren’t as crowded as the tours at Many Glacier and can be booked day-of at the kiosk on-site.
3. See Sunset at Wild Goose Island Overlook
A short drive from St. Mary Visitor Center, Wild Goose Island Overlook is the perfect spot for sunset. Think it looks familiar? It was featured in the opening scene of The Shining.
Arrive at least 30 minutes before sunset to find parking and claim your vantage point. By the time the sun is going down, the viewpoint will be home to many photographers and their tripods.
4. Take a Day Trip to Waterton, Canada
About an hour north of St. Mary Visitor Center, Waterton is a small alpine town perched on Waterton Lake. Explore the townsite – home to many quaint shops and restaurants. The 2-hour scenic boat tour on Waterton Lake is a must-see.
You must buy your tickets in person at the marina, but we didn’t have an issue buying out tickets a few hours ahead of the 1 pm tour. Line up 45 minutes ahead of departure time to ensure a spot on the top deck of the boat for optimal viewing (it will be windy and chilly though so bring layers!).
This is an informative and immensely scenic tour with the potential for seeing wildlife. Have your camera and binoculars ready! The tour used to stop and dock at Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park.
As of 2019, the US National Park Service no longer has the funding to maintain staffing at the Goat Haunt dock, so the boat does not stop. But even from the boat, you can see areas of the Goat Haunt section of Glacier National Park unreachable by any means except backcountry hiking.
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN WATERTON
Devastated by the 2017 wildfires, the scenic Akamina Parkway to Cameron Lake is currently closed to car traffic. If you’re interested in bicycling (or hiking), rent a bike in Waterton and ride the 10 miles (16 km) out to Cameron Lake instead.
Finish your trip to Waterton with a visit to the Prince of Wales Hotel. If you’re feeling fancy, stop in for afternoon tea. If not (I wasn’t), check out the hotel and the view from behind. Overlooking Waterton Lake, the view from the Prince of Wales Hotel is a grandeur one of the Canadian Rockies. Don’t forget to bring your passport if you plan to visit Waterton!
5. Eat Huckleberry Pie
Native to the area, huckleberries are found in just about everything in Montana. We’re talking huckleberry jam, taffy, ice cream, syrup, alcohol, and most importantly…pie! Stop in at Two Sisters Cafe in Babb for a slice of huckleberry pie. And don’t forget to take back some huckleberry souvenirs for friends and family!
6. Spot the Milky Way
One of my favorite national park activities, stargazing in Glacier National Park rewards you with a star-filled sky. If you’re lucky and in Glacier during a new moon, you’ll have a good chance of spotting the Milky Way. Check night sky visibility using the Clear Sky Charts.
Find a spot in the park with minimal light and observe. Better yet, bring your camera and take some long exposure shots. We drove into the park around 11 pm in September and parked at a pull-off on Going-to-the-Sun Road just west of Wild Goose Island Overlook, but most places in the park will allow you to see the stars.
7. Eat Dinner at the Ptarmigan Dining Room
After days of hiking and cooking dinners at home, treat yourself to a nice dinner at the Many Glacier Hotel. With no advance reservations, you’ll have to wait a while for a table.
Grab a drink and enjoy the sunset over Swiftcurrent Lake. This is the perfect place to try Montana’s specialty: bison. The bison short ribs are phenomenal. And if you haven’t had enough huckleberry yet, get a huckleberry cocktail or huckleberry dessert.
I’m an advocate for choosing one night per trip to #treatyoself. There’s no better place to do that than eating dinner while the sun sets over Swiftcurrent Lake in the Ptarmigan Dining Room.
General Tips for Your Trip to Glacier National Park
- Carrying bear spray is a necessity. Keep it in a holster on your backpack or belt loop for easy access. Know how to use it. Check with where you’re staying as it may be provided. If not, you can rent it at local sports shops or the airport. You cannot fly or cross the border between USA/Canada with bear spray, so get it locally. Read more about day hiking essentials you should take on every hike.
- Get a 4WD vehicle, especially for going to Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas. It’s not off-roading but you’re better off than people we saw scraping up the bottom of their sedans. If not 4WD, at least get a small to midsize SUV that’s FWD.
- Get to the parking lots early – especially at Many Glacier and Logan Pass. It’s difficult to find parking spots at Logan Pass after about 7:30 am and Many Glacier after about 8:30 am.
- Go to the Super 1 grocery store in Columbia Falls. The rest of the areas don’t have major grocery stores. Bring 1-2 collapsible cooler bags for meats/dairy that need to stay cold, especially if you’re staying in St. Mary or another east-side town. There are no grocery stores on that side of the park and it’s about a 3-hour drive from Columbia Falls to St. Mary.
Looking for more tips on what to pack for your trip? Check out my guides on the best hiking gear, what to pack for a road trip, and essential camping gear for all my favorite gear picks and tips to make packing for your trip a breeze!
Frequently Asked Questions About Glacier National Park
How many days do you need in Glacier National Park?
Plan to spend at least 3 days in Glacier National Park. This will give you enough time to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road and hike popular trails. To see more than just the highlights, I recommend spending 5-7 days.
Which Glacier National Park entrance is best?
The west entrance of Glacier National Park is most popular due to its proximity to Kalispell and Columbia Falls. The St. Mary entrance on the other side of the park provides closer access to the Logan Pass and St. Mary regions.
When should I avoid Glacier National Park?
The best time to visit Glacier National Park is from June to October. During the summer, all roads are open, but it’s crowded. To see the most of Glacier, avoid visiting in winter when much of the park is closed.
Final Thoughts on This Guide to Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. Better yet, it has hikes for everyone. After a week in Glacier in 2019, I’m ready to go back and explore more. Next time I plan to do more backcountry hiking now that I’ve seen the highlights.
If you’re only in Glacier for a few days, don’t miss:
- Highline Trail + Garden Wall – a strenuous one-way hike with an add-on trail to overlook Grinnell Glacier
- Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint – a strenuous hike to see the rapidly disappearing glaciers
- Going-to-the-Sun Road – the main route through the park and one of the best scenic drives in the country
Here’s a few reminders:
- If you’re planning to stay in coveted on-site campgrounds and lodges, book 6 months and 13 months, respectively, in advance.
- Always, always, always carry extra water and bear spray. Be sure you know how to use bear spray and have it easily accessible fastened to your backpack or belt loop.
Want more ideas for your trip to Glacier National Park? Check out more travel guides to help you plan an incredible trip!
- The Best 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary for 2022
- The Best Glacier National Park Itinerary: 7 Days in Paradise
- Going-to-the-Sun Road 2022: What You Need to Know (+ 22 Must-See Stops!)
- 19 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park You Need to Explore
- How to Hike the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park