Are you planning a trip to Glacier National Park but aren’t sure where to begin?
Tucked away in northern Montana, only miles from the Canadian border, Glacier National Park offers superb mountain escapes, world-class hikes, and one of the best scenic drives globally.
With over 700 miles of hiking trails and the legendary Going-to-the-Sun Road, there’s no shortage of incredible things to do in Glacier National Park. So, how do you prioritize your time in this impressive park?
This guide covers the top things to do in Glacier National Park to help you plan your trip. You’ll also find tips on when to visit, getting to Glacier, where to stay, and recommended itineraries.
Glacier National Park is requiring all visitors to have a reservation to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road and enter the North Fork region from May 27 to September 11, 2022. Read this guide to the Going-to-the-Sun reservation system for more information.
Are you looking for more ideas for your trip to Glacier National Park? Don’t miss these posts!
- 19 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
- All About Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2022
- 3-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary
- 7-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary
This post may contain affiliate links, where I may a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read more in this disclosure policy.
Glacier National Park At-A-Glance
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!
- Best Self-Guided Tour: My favorite way to learn more about the park is with GyPSy Guides, a narrated self-guided tour perfect for road trips and scenic drives. The Glacier Going-to-the-Sun Road Guide provides incredible commentary and detail about the history and geology of Glacier.
- 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!).
What is the best month to visit Glacier National Park?
While parts of Glacier National Park are open year-round, the best time to visit is from late June through September, when Going-to-the-Sun Road is open in its entirety. Unfortunately, glacier experiences harsh winters with heavy snow from fall through spring, closing many of the park’s roads.
Going-to-the-Sun Road, the only route through the park’s heart, is only open all the way across from mid-to-late June to early October. The exact dates vary each year depending on snowfall and construction projects. For the remainder of the year, visitors can only access short sections of Going-to-the-Sun Road near the east and west entrances.
To avoid crowds, the best time to visit is in mid-September. Crowds tend to die down slightly after Labor Day. However, the best way to avoid crowds and congestion is to start your day early, around sunrise.
Here’s a quick overview of what to expect during each season in Glacier:
- Spring: Temperatures remain cold, with daytime highs slightly above freezing and overnight temperatures below freezing, keeping the snow from melting until mid-May. The most accessible areas of the park are the lower elevations near Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake. Plowing of Going-to-the-Sun Road is typically completed in mid-June.
- Summer: This is the most popular time to visit Glacier National Park since all park roads and visitor centers are open. Temperatures are often over 80 degrees during the day, and hiking trails are snow-free. On a typical summer day, there can be more than 25,000 visitors in the park. The best way to avoid summer crowds is to arrive at trailheads before 8 AM.
- Fall: After Labor Day, crowds tend to drop off, making September a great time to visit to avoid crowds. Lodges start closing in September, and Going-to-the-Sun Road closes for the season in early October. By November, heavy snow begins, and many hiking trails become inaccessible.
- Winter: This is the ideal season for solitude and quiet in Glacier National Park. Only a few areas are open in winter, like Lake McDonald, Apgar Village, and St. Mary. Navigating the park is difficult since Going-to-the-Sun Road is mostly closed. Expect heavy snow and freezing temperatures.
How to Get to the Things to Do in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana near the Canadian border. Given its remote location, most visitors choose to fly to one of the regional airports and drive to the park (unless they live within driving distance or are on a road trip!).
The best airports for flying to Glacier National Park are:
- Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell (FCA) – This small airport is only 30 minutes from the west entrance and is best for those only visiting Glacier National Park.
- Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) – This is a larger airport located 5 hours from Glacier National Park but only 1.5 hours from Yellowstone. If you’ll be visiting both parks, flying into Bozeman is a great option. Read more about Yellowstone National Park here.
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.
Where to Stay Near Things to Do at Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has seven lodges and several campgrounds, and backcountry lodges. In addition, there are a handful of towns near the park entrances that offer hotels, motels, private campgrounds, and vacation rentals.
However, given Glacier’s short summer tourism season, lodging inside and outside the park fills up far in advance.
- If you want to stay at a park lodge, book a year in advance when reservations open.
- If you want to stay at a reservable campground inside the park, book six months out when reservations open.
- To stay at a nearby hotel outside the park, book six to nine months out for the best availability.
Glacier National Park Lodges
The most sought-after accommodations in Glacier National Park are the lodges. The park is home to five lodges, ranging from rustic motels to swiss-style chalets.
- Many Glacier Hotel – A swiss-style lodge with stunning views and the delicious Ptarmigan Dining Room in Many Glacier
- Lake McDonald Lodge – A swiss-style lodge with fantastic lake views and a handful of restaurants
- Swiftcurrent Motor Inn – A rustic option with a camp store and close trailhead access in Many Glacier
- Village Inn at Apgar – A motel-like inn with both standard and full-kitchen rooms near the west entrance
- Apgar Village Lodge – A rustic lodge near the Village Inn at Apgar offering cabins and motel-style rooms
- Rising Sun Motor Inn – A rustic option with a restaurant and a gift shop near St. Mary Lake along Going-to-the-Sun Road
- Motel Lake McDonald – A no-frills motel near the Lake McDonald Lodge and nearby restaurants
To book a stay at one of the in-demand park lodges, book your lodging 13 months in advance when reservations open.
Campgrounds in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has nine first-come, first-served campgrounds and five reservable campgrounds. I recommend these campgrounds for staying near popular trailheads, especially for those visiting Glacier for the first time:
- Many Glacier Campground – Reservable 6 months in advance
- St. Mary Campground – Reservable 6 months in advance
- Rising Sun Campground – Normally first-come, first-served
Staying Outside of Glacier National Park
If you are staying outside the park, I highly recommend finding accommodation on the park’s east side. Many of Glacier’s best hikes and activities are located closer to St. Mary and Many Glacier. If you stay on the east side, you’ll save hours driving each day.
- The Cottages at Glacier in St. Mary, only 4 minutes to the St. Mary Entrance
- Great Northern Resort in West Glacier, located 5 minutes from the West Glacier Entrance
- Cedar Creek Lodge in Columbia Falls, located 20 minutes from the West Glacier Entrance
Entrance Fees for Glacier National Park Activities
Glacier National Park charges an entry fee of $35 per vehicle. Your entrance fee admits you to the park for seven days.
However, if you’ll be visiting other national parks in the next 12 months, you can save money by purchasing the America the Beautiful National Park pass. The annual pass is particularly valuable if you also plan to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton on your trip.
You can get your national park pass online for only $80, saving you time at the entrance station upon arrival!
In 2022, Glacier National Park also requires reservations to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road (in addition to the national park entrance fee). You can read more about the reservation system in this detailed blog post on driving Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2022.
Best Things to Do in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has excellent activities for all types of travelers, from experienced hikers to casual road trippers. This section covers the 21 best things to do in Glacier National Park, including hikes, scenic drives, lodges, tours, and more!
Don’t miss the best sights in Glacier on your upcoming trip! This free, printable guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road covers all the best points of interest, plus tips on avoiding crowds along Glacier’s best scenic drive and an exclusive map!
Download your free Going-to-the-Sun Road guide here.
1. Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the top scenic drives in the United States, called the “Crown of the Continent.” Built in the 1930s, Going-to-the-Sun is a National Historic Landmark and an engineering marvel.
This 51-mile scenic drive winds and snakes through the heart of Glacier National Park, navigating steep drop-offs and sharp turns. Going-to-the-Sun Road connects many of the park’s best hiking trails, viewpoints, lodges, and visitor centers.
At its highest point near Logan Pass Visitor Center, Going-to-the-Sun Road also crosses the Continental Divide!
Due to heavy snowfall and harsh winters, much of Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed from fall to spring. To drive across Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll need to visit Glacier National Park from mid-June to early October.
There are more than 20 incredible viewpoints along Going-to-the-Sun Road, but don’t miss these spectacular stops:
- Lake McDonald Lodge
- The Loop
- Big Bend
- Logan Pass Visitor Center
- Jackson Glacier Overlook
- Wild Goose Island Overlook
If you only have time for one activity in Glacier National Park, don’t miss driving Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Read More: Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2022
2. Hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail
The Grinnell Glacier Trail is one of the most scenic and most popular hikes in Glacier National Park. The trail climbs through the mountains in Many Glacier up to a viewpoint of Grinnell Glacier, one of the few accessible glaciers in the national park.
The 11-mile hike starts at the Many Glacier Hotel and winds along Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. Then, the trail gains elevation, passing Lower Grinnell Lake until reaching the final viewpoint.
The trail ends at the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint at Upper Grinnell Lake. You can see several glaciers here, including the trail’s namesake: Grinnell Glacier. The crystal blue water and icebergs are spectacular and make this one of the most visually stunning hikes in the park.
If you want to hike less distance, you can cut off the first part of the hike by taking the Glacier Park Boat Company tour. The boat tour allows you to start from the far side of Lake Josephine, saving you nearly 4 miles of hiking roundtrip. You simply take the first part of the tour in the morning, complete the hike, and finish the tour in the afternoon.
Read More: 19 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
3. Cross the Continental Divide at Logan Pass
Logan Pass is not only the highest point along Going-to-the-Sun Road, sitting at 6,646 feet. It’s also where Going-to-the-Sun Road crosses the Continental Divide, a unique geological phenomenon.
The Continental Divide is a long line running across the ridge of the Rocky Mountains. On one side, water flows out and down to the Pacific Ocean. Water flows out to the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of the divide.
Standing at this unique point is a bucket list item for many visitors to the Rockies and Glacier National Park.
The Logan Pass area is also incredibly scenic, with plenty of wildlife and excellent hikes. Be sure to stop during your drive of Going-to-the-Sun Road to see Logan Pass Visitor Center and say you crossed the Continental Divide!
4. Hike the Highline Trail
The Highline Trail is often referred to as a sampler of Glacier National Park, thanks to the diverse landscapes it passes through. The trail follows the Continental Divide through valleys, mountain ridgelines, and forests for the ultimate full-day, one-way hike in Glacier.
The hike starts at Logan Pass Visitor Center and ends at The Loop, clocking in at just under 12 miles. Since the trail is one way, most hikers choose to take the park shuttle back to Logan Pass or park a car at each trailhead.
The trail follows a rocky cliffside above Going-to-the-Sun Road before opening up to a grassy valley. The trail then winds around the mountains, providing incredible views.
About halfway through the hike, an offshoot trail called “The Garden Wall” takes you to one of the best views in the park: Grinnell Glacier Overlook. This super-strenuous offshoot adds 2 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
From Grinnell Glacier Overlook, you’re standing atop the Continental Divide and overlooking several alpine lakes, Grinnell Glacier, and the expansive McDonald Valley.
The final stretch of the trail passes the Granite Park Chalet and winds through a forest devastated by recent wildfires.
The Highline Trail is one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park but should only be attempted by experienced hikers carrying plenty of water.
Read More: Ultimate Guide to the Highline Trail
5. Hike to Hidden Lake Overlook
The Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the park thanks to its relatively short distance and easily accessible location just off Going-to-the-Sun Road. The 3-mile hike takes you out through a grassy meadow to a spectacular lake vantage point.
The trail starts at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Be sure to arrive early in the morning to find a parking spot! The first part of the hike follows a boardwalk path before finishing on a dirt trail out to Hidden Lake Overlook.
The expansive meadow is the perfect place to spot wildlife like mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots, and bears.
The hike is moderate, with some decent elevation gain. However, most hikers can manage Hidden Lake Overlook, making it family-friendly.
6. Take a Boat Tour
One of the more unique ways to see Glacier National Park is by boat! And inside Glacier, there’s only one concessionaire permitted to run tours on the crystalline, glassy lakes found throughout the parks.
Glacier Park Boat Company is a historic, family-owned company running tours on its handcrafted wooden boats since 1938. Each boat tour takes you around a scenic lake, with entertaining and educational narration from experienced guides.
There are four boat tours available in Glacier National Park:
- Many Glacier tour you across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine with a short hike. The Many Glacier tour is my favorite boat tour in Glacier.
- St. Mary tour sails through one of the most popular lakes in the park, passing the infamous Wild Goose Island.
- Lake McDonald tour traverses one of the largest lakes in the park, starting from the popular Lake McDonald Lodge.
- Two Medicine tour covers the quieter Two Medicine Lake, known for having fewer crowds and incredible sunrises.
7. Take the Red Bus Tour
Another excellent option for tours is the famed Red Bus Tour. If you don’t want to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road in your vehicle, taking a driving tour is the perfect alternative!
Red Bus Tours features a fleet of iconic open-air buses that date back to the 1930s. Each bus features a rollback top for panoramic views along the drive. And each bus only accommodates 17 passengers and an informative chauffeur and guide, perfect for learning more about the park with a more personalized experience.
Tours are only offered in the summer once Going-to-the-Sun Road is fully open across Logan Pass, typically around mid-June.
There are several tour options, ranging from a few hours to full-day trips:
- Big Sky Circle Tour covers all of Going-to-the-Sun Road, plus Two Medicine and Highway 2 in a loop. It starts at Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier and lasts 8 hours.
- Eastern Alpine Tour covers Many Glacier and the eastern side of Going-to-the-Sun Road. It picks up in Many Glacier, St. Mary, and Rising Sun and lasts 2.5 to 4.5 hours.
- East Side Crown of the Continent covers Many Glacier and all of Going-to-the-Sun Road. It picks up on the east side of the park in Many Glacier, St. Mary, and Rising Sun and lasts 6 to 8 hours.
- Old North Trail Tour covers Two Medicine, Many Glacier, and the eastern side of Going-to-the-Sun Road. It picks up in Many Glacier and St. Mary and lasts 6 to 8 hours.
- Huckleberry Mountain Tour covers the less-visited North Fork area and the western side of Going-to-the-Sun Road. It picks up at Lake McDonald and Apgar Village and lasts 3.5 hours.
- West Side Crown of the Continent Tour covers Many Glacier and all of Going-to-the-Sun Road. It picks up on the west side of the park at Lake McDonald or Apgar Village and lasts 8 to 9.5 hours.
- Western Alpine Tour covers the western side of Going-to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass. It picks up at Lake McDonald and Apgar Village and lasts 3 to 4 hours.
- Mountain Majesty Tour covers all of Going-to-the-Sun Road. It picks up at Lake McDonald and Apgar Village and lasts 6 to 7.5 hours.
8. See Two Medicine at Sunrise
Two Medicine is one of the lesser-visited areas of Glacier National Park. Fewer crowds come here because it is tucked away about an hour south of St. Mary, wholly disconnected from the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.
This area is home to an incredibly still and picturesque lake, a campground, a general store, and a boat dock where Glacier Park Boat Company operates a tour.
Two Medicine is best visited at sunrise. You can watch a genuinely inspirational landscape illuminate with few crowds as the golden sun breaks the horizon. It’s one of the most serene experiences in Glacier National Park.
After sunrise, consider taking a boat tour or exploring the short trail to Paradise Point.
9. Hike the Avalanche Lake Trail
The Avalanche Lake Trail is one of the best hikes on the west side of Glacier National Park. The 4.6-mile trail takes you through an old-growth cedar forest spared by recent wildfires.
Starting across the street from the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area, this hike first follows the Trail of the Cedars before continuing to Avalanche Lake. Once you reach the lake, you’ll have a spectacular view of several waterfalls and the avalanche chutes that give the lake its name.
If you want to escape some of the crowds at the initial viewpoint, continue to the far side of Avalanche Lake. Here there is plenty of room for a picnic lunch.
The Avalanche Lake Trail is perfect for hikers looking for a moderate hike near Lake McDonald Lodge.
10. See Glacier National Park’s Wildlife
Glacier National Park is renowned for its wildlife. Therefore, any trip to Glacier National Park should include sightings of its beautiful animals scattered throughout the park.
In Glacier National Park, you’ll find a wide variety of wildlife, including mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, marmots, grizzly bears, and black bears.
One of the best ways to see wildlife in Glacier National Park is on a hike. You are more likely to see wildlife the further away from busy roads, like Going-to-the-Sun Road. Your chance of seeing wildlife is so high that the National Park Service requires all hikers to carry bear spray on trails.
It’s important to give animals in Glacier plenty of space. For less-aggressive animals like mountain goats and marmots, keep at least 25 yards away. For more aggressive animals like bears, keep at least 100 yards away.
These are some of the best places in Glacier National Park to see wildlife:
- Many Glacier is home to trails like the Grinnell Glacier Trail and Iceberg Lake Trail. These trails are popular places to see both grizzly and black bears. You’ll likely see mountain goats and bighorn sheep too!
- Fishercap Lake in Many Glacier is known for moose sightings. So, in the late afternoon or evening, head here and wait by the pond’s shores for any moose to come down to feed.
- Logan Pass, specifically the Highline Trail and Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, are excellent places to see the mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and marmots.
11. Visit the Many Glacier Area
Aside from Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier is one of the most visited and most picturesque areas of Glacier National Park. This area is located in the northern part of the park. To access Many Glacier, you’ll need to leave Going-to-the-Sun Road at St. Mary and head north to Many Glacier Road.
Many Glacier is home to the best lodge in the park: the Many Glacier Hotel. This historic swiss-style chalet features rustic hotel rooms, incredible views, and the best restaurant in the park, The Ptarmigan Dining Room.
You’ll also find several more lodges and campgrounds here, making Many Glacier one of the best places to stay inside Glacier National Park, especially for those that enjoy hiking and wildlife.
Popular hike trails here include Grinnell Glacier, Grinnell Lake, Iceberg Lake, Cracker Lake, and the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail. Visitors can also take a boat tour of Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine with Glacier Park Boat Company.
12. Visit Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald is one of the few parts of Going-to-the-Sun Road open year-round. Located at a lower elevation on the west side of Glacier National Park, Going-to-the-Sun Road is accessible to Lake McDonald even in the winter and shoulder months.
It’s often one of the first stops for visitors entering the park from the West Entrance, located only a few short miles from Apgar Village and West Glacier.
Lake McDonald is one of the largest lakes in the park, measuring over 10 miles long by 1 mile wide. The glacially carved lake is also incredibly deep, at nearly 500 feet.
You’ll find several hotels in Apgar Village and the historic Lake McDonald Lodge along the lakeshore. This swiss-style lodge was built in the early 1900s, with excellent views of the glacial valley from the back boat dock.
In addition, you’ll find campgrounds, restaurants, boat tours, and non-motorized boat rentals.
13. Hike the Trail of the Cedars
Trail of the Cedars is one of the few handicap accessible trails in the park. The short 1.4-mile loop follows a boardwalk path through old-growth trees in a historic forest.
The trail starts across the street from the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area and winds through a cedar forest spared by recent forest fires. The trail also features several informative signs and interpretive displays.
If you’re looking for a senior-friendly or family-friendly trail in Glacier National Park, the Trail of the Cedars is the perfect option!
14. Visit Waterton Lakes National Park
If you have a whole week to spend in Glacier National Park, I highly recommend going to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Located about 1.5 hours north of St. Mary on the east side of Glacier National Park, this day trip is truly incredible.
Waterton Lakes and Glacier have partnered to form an international park called the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Waterton is home to the massive Waterton Lake, a glacially carved lake split between Canada and the United States.
In Waterton, the best thing to do is the Waterton Cruise Boat Tour. This 2-hour tour takes you along Waterton Lake with excellent views of the surrounding Canadian Rockies and the Goat Haunt area of Glacier National Park.
You can also explore the quaint restaurants and shops in the Waterton townsite, only a short walk from the Waterton Cruise boat dock. Don’t miss the stunning and luxurious Prince of Wales Hotel on your way out of town!
Remember, you will have to cross the United States – Canada border when heading from Glacier to Waterton, so don’t forget your passport!
15. Visit Bowman Lake in North Fork
If you’re looking to explore off-the-beaten-path, head to the North Fork area of Glacier National Park. Located off a dirt road on the west side of the park, North Fork is home to the magnificent Bowman Lake and the unique Polebridge Mercantile.
Bowman Lake is an excellent spot for relaxing in a peaceful setting with a picnic lunch. It’s also a popular spot for paddle boarding and kayaking, which can be rented from places nearby (as long as you can transport it yourself!).
The Polebridge Mercantile is not technically part of Glacier National Park but is located on the way to Bowman Lake in North Fork. Don’t miss this spot for delicious pastries and unique souvenirs.
16. Stay at the Many Glacier Hotel or Lake McDonald Lodge
Staying in a Glacier National Park lodge is one of the best ways to experience the beauty and history of this incredible Montana park. While there’s no shortage of lodges inside Glacier National Park, the best places to stay are the Swiss-style chalets: the Many Glacier Hotel or Lake McDonald Lodge.
The Many Glacier Hotel is the crown jewel of Glacier’s lodges. This historic chalet was built in 1914 by the Great Northern Railway Company and was one of the original destinations for visitors to Glacier National Park. The hotel has gift shops, cafes, bars, and an excellent restaurant, The Ptarmigan Dining Room.
You’re presented with glorious and unparalleled views of Swiftcurrent Lake and the surrounding mountains from the back of the hotel. In addition, a stay in the Many Glacier Hotel provides the best access to Many Glacier’s popular hiking trails like the Grinnell Glacier Trail and the Iceberg Lake Trail.
The Lake McDonald Lodge is located on the western side of Glacier National Park along Going-to-the-Sun Road. While not quite as impressive as the Many Glacier Hotel, this lodge is similar in architectural style. It provides excellent access to attractions on the west side of the park, like Lake McDonald, Avalanche Lake, and Trail of the Cedars.
17. Hike the Iceberg Lake Trail
In a park filled with crystal blue waters, this alpine lake is one of the best. Iceberg Lake’s teal waters often have icebergs (as the name implies) floating in the water, even in the summer. This 10-mile trail provides incredible views of the lake, plus Mount Wilbur and the Continental Divide.
The trail starts behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and shares the first 3 miles with the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail. As you proceed through this first section, be on the lookout for bears, particularly in September.
Continue straight at the split from the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail, just after Ptarmigan Falls. Once you reach Iceberg Lake, walk around to find your unique vantage point away from the crowds and eat a snack.
18. Escape the Crowds by Backcountry Camping
If you crave solitude and adventure, take a trip into Glacier National Park’s backcountry. With seemingly endless miles of backcountry hiking trails, you’ll find no shortage of incredible multi-day backpacking trip options.
To hike in Glacier’s backcountry, you’ll need to obtain a backcountry permit. These permits are released in a lottery system each spring, with an additional number of permits released on a walk-up basis. You can read more about the Glacier backcountry permits here.
19. Stay at the Granite Park Chalet
If you’re interested in exploring Glacier National Park’s backcountry but don’t want the hassle of hauling all your gear, consider spending a night at the Granite Park Chalet instead!
The Granite Park Chalet is a rustic backcountry lodge located along the Highline Trail. Here you’ll find a set of cabins complete with beds and pit toilets. You can even rent linens and buy dehydrated meals and packaged food. All you need to bring is your hiking bag and a change of clothes!
This backcountry lodge is open in the summer only and books up quickly each January. You can read more about staying in the Granite Park Chalet here.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious backcountry experience, look into the Sperry Chalet instead. This lodge provides hot meals, private rooms, and comfortable bedding.
20. Hike St. Mary and Virginia Falls Trail
St. Mary and Virginia Falls Trail take you to two of the park’s most famous waterfalls located along St. Mary Lake. This moderate hike is perfect for a leg stretch while driving Going-to-Sun Road.
Starting at the St. Mary Falls Trailhead, you’ll follow the 3.6-mile trail through a wildfire-burned forest. It’s the perfect area to spot wildlife like deer quietly feeding.
You’ll come to St. Mary Falls first. The trail then continues uphill for another mile to Virginia Falls. This tall cascade is impressive and one of the best waterfalls in the park.
21. Participate in Adventure Sports in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has plentiful opportunities for adventure sports and activities. Here you’ll find everything from horseback riding to whitewater rafting to fly fishing.
If you have several days in Glacier National Park and are looking for a unique experience that isn’t sightseeing or hiking, check out some of these guided tours from companies that operate within Glacier National Park:
- Rent kayaks and paddleboards on Lake McDonald from Glacier Park Boat Company
- Go whitewater rafting with Glacier Guides, Glacier Raft Co., Great Northern Resort, or River Wild.
- Try fly fishing with Glacier Guides, Glacier Raft Co., Great Northern Resort, or River Wild
- Take a guided horseback riding trip with Swan Mountain Outfitters
How many days should you spend in Glacier National Park?
You need at least three days in Glacier National Park to see the highlights and top attractions. Below are some recommendations for spending your time in Glacier National Park.
- If you only have one day: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road and hike Hidden Lake Overlook.
- If you have 2-3 days: Add a hike to Grinnell Glacier Overlook or the Highline Trail in addition to the one-day itinerary above. Read more in this 3-day Glacier National Park itinerary.
- If you have 4-5 days: Add additional hikes and guided tours to your trip. For example, consider hiking the St. Mary Falls Trail, visiting Two Medicine, and taking a boat tour.
- If you have 6+ days: Explore the west side of the park, like the Avalanche Lake and Trail of the Cedars hike, or take a day trip to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Read more in this 7-day Glacier National Park itinerary.
Frequently Asked Questions About What to Do in Glacier National Park
What is the most scenic drive in Glacier National Park?
Going-to-the-Sun Road is the most scenic drive in Glacier National Park. This world-class road spans 50 miles and runs through the heart of Glacier National Park. If you only have a day in Glacier, don’t miss this stunning scenic drive!
What can you do in Glacier National Park without Going-to-the-Sun Road?
If Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed or you can’t get a reservation, consider visiting the Many Glacier or Two Medicine areas instead. These areas are only open in the summer but provide incredible hikes and scenic activities off of Going-to-the-Sun.
When should I avoid Glacier National Park?
The busiest time in Glacier National Park is summer due to the short tourism season and harsh winters. To avoid crowds in the summer, try visiting on weekdays and starting your day at sunrise, arriving at trailheads before midday.
Can you swim in Glacier National Park?
While you can technically swim in many of Glacier National Park’s lakes, the water temperature is never warm enough to make it comfortable for swimming. So instead, consider renting a kayak or paddleboard to explore areas like Lake McDonald.
What is Glacier National Park known for?
Glacier National Park is known for its impressive glacially carved valleys, bucket list hiking trails and the stunning 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road. This national park is often called the Crown of the Continent and is home to part of the Continental Divide.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do Near Glacier National Park
While Glacier National Park is filled with incredible things to do, you can use this guide to prioritize your time in the park.
If you only have a few days, I recommend focusing on these top things to do in Glacier National Park:
- Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
- Hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail
- Hike the Highline Trail
- Hike the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail
- Take a Boat Tour (my favorite is the tour in Many Glacier!)
Are you looking for more helpful tips to plan your trip to Glacier National Park? Read these posts!
- 3 Day Itinerary: How to Spend 3 Days in Glacier
- 7 Day Itinerary: How to Spend 7 Days in Glacier
- Hiking: 19 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
- Scenic Drive: Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2022
- Highline Trail: How to Hike the Highline Trail
Don’t miss the best sights in Glacier on your upcoming trip! This free, printable guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road covers all the best points of interest, plus tips on avoiding crowds along Glacier’s best scenic drive and an exclusive map!
Download your free Going-to-the-Sun Road guide here.