Looking for the best things to do in Glacier National Park? You’re in luck–we talk about where to stay, practical info, and what to do in Glacier.
On the northern side of Montana, near the border with Canada, you’ll find the one-of-a-kind “crown of the continent.”
Known for its glamorous glaciers, majestic mountains, lovely lakes, and untouched forests, this section of the Rocky Mountains is one of American’s favorite national parks.
Because of the snowy winter conditions, the best time to visit is typically between late June and early September.
With nearly 1.7 million visitors in 2020, Glacier National Parks draws travelers from all over the United States and the world.
On top of the obvious hiking and sightseeing, there are many other things to do in Glacier National Park while you’re visiting.
Where to Stay in the Glacier
- Great Outdoor Center – The cottages have spacious rooms with Wi-Fi and are a wonderful place to stay to reach places like Avalanche Lake and Lake McDonald since it’s located in West Glacier.
- St Mary Village – This lodge has excellent facilities, lovely balcony views, and a great location: near Saint Mary Lake, making it easy to hike the Highline Trail, one of the best in the park if you can drive to Logan Pass.
Glacier National Park Fee and Hours
The entrance fee to the Glacier National Park is $35 per vehicle and is valid for seven days. Single entry is $20 per person (on a bike or foot).
Still, if you’re planning on visiting a couple of US national parks within 12 months, you might want to check out the America the Beautiful Pass to save money!
As for the opening hours, the park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year, but some roads might be closed due to snow outside of the summer months. The Glacier NPS website has updated info on that.
Now, let’s take a look at what to do in Glacier National Park!
Best Things to Do in Glacier National Park
1. Hike In Glacier National Park
If you’re a mountain lover or national park explorer, you already know that you have to earn the best views!
This park is no different, if you’re looking for the best alpine scenery and dopest spots to see the glacial lakes, you’ve got to hit the trails. Hiking is one of the main things to do in Glacier National Park.
With 50 day hikes available for park-goers, there’s plenty of options for you to choose from.
The question is, how do you choose? Well, we’ve put together a list of the best hikes in Glacier National Park, plus essential tips to help you plan your day in the mountains!
We even split them up into groups based on difficulty, so you can make sure your whole group can make it to the views.
2. Gaze Upon the Glacial Lakes
Nothing quite compares to the turquoise waters of a glacial lake, and if you’ve done any research on Glacier National Park at all, you know that these glacial tarns and glacially-carved lakes are a huge part of the allure.
Many of our favorite treks end up with spectacular views of some of the most beautiful lakes.
You can tackle the Hidden Lake Trail, Avalanche Lake, Iceberg Lake, or Grinnell Glacier, where you get panoramic views of Swiftcurrent Lake, Josephine Lake, and of course, Grinnell Lake.
Other lakes are accessible by car for those who might not enjoy or be able to hike.
Some of the most famous are Two Medicine Lake, Lake McDonald, and Saint Mary Lake, an alpine lake where you can see the tiny Wild Goose Island.
You can catch views of these lakes with just a short walk to the viewpoints or lakes themselves.
3. Wander Your Way to the Waterfalls
Other epic destinations from our favorite Glacier National Park trails are waterfalls! The most famous waterfall trail is St. Mary and Virginia Falls trail, which tends to be very busy but for a good reason.
The trek is relatively easy, plus you get two waterfalls for the price of one. The nearby Baring Falls and lesser-known Redrock Falls trails also make the list of our favorite hikes.
There are over 200 waterfalls throughout the park, and it would be impossible to see them all on one trip. A few other favorites are Sacred Dancing Cascade, Apikuni Falls, Grinnell Falls, and Redrock Falls.
No matter which one you choose, we know you’ll get some epic photos. Protip: use the long exposure setting on your camera to get that flowing-water look.
4. Board a Boat on a Glacier National Park Lake
The Glacier Park Boat Company is a family-owned excursion operator that has been running boat rides since 1938.
They have options for boat tours on four of the park’s lakes: St. Mary Lake, Two Medicine, Many Glacier, and Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park.
If you’re looking for incredible views from the water plus commentary from the boat captains about the flora and fauna and history of the area, then join The Glacier Park Boat Company for a boat tour.
5. Ride A River Raft Down the Raging River
If you feel like you need to pick up the pace a bit and sneak some action and adventure into your Glacier National Park trip, why not try your hand at white water rafting.
You will be able to feel the intense energy of mother nature as you roar down the raging river! The Glacier Raft Company is one of the highest-rated that offers both whitewater and calm water raft trips.
They offer a variety of different trips depending on exactly what you’re looking for. They offer half-day trips, full-day trips, inflatable kayak trips, and even self-guided trips.
If you’re really looking for an adventure, join one of their multi-day river trips.
These include all your meals, rafting, fishing, and camping. River rafting is one of the most exciting things to do in Glacier National Park!
6. Tag Along With a Wrangler on a Trail Ride
It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced rider or you’ve never even seen a horse in person before. You can join a wrangler and visit Glacier National Park on a trail ride!
We can’t think of a better way to explore the backcountry than on horseback. Choose between a 1,2, or 3-hour trails ride or even a drop camp experience, where you can stay in overnight campgrounds in the backcountry.
Swam Mountain Outfitters is the only horseback riding operation inside Glacier National Park.
Keep in mind that riding may not be easier than walking, as you’ll be using muscles you didn’t even know existed.
They recommend you start with short trips and work your way up if you’ve never been on a horse before.
7. Get Educated with a Course at The Glacier Institute
If exploring the park isn’t quite enough for you and you’re wondering what to do in Glacier National Park to learn more about your surroundings, you should look into one of the many courses they offer at the Glacier Institute.
Their mission is “strengthening connections to the natural world through outdoor education” and they offer a variety of programs aimed at youth, adults, and families.
You can choose between guided day hikes, personalized educational tours, adult field courses, youth programs, or family adventures.
No matter which program you choose, you’ll find yourself with a deeper connection and understanding of Mother Nature in all her beauty.
8. Figure Out Fly Fishing
You don’t need a special license to fish at any of the Glacier National Parks lakes and streams; however, you do need to be cautious to follow all rules and regulations.
The park offers a wide variety of fish species, but all native fish caught must be released. The best fishing in the park is at the backcountry lakes.
If you’re interested in trying some Montana fly fishing, you can leave the park and try the nearby Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
To fish here, you will need to obtain a Montana fishing license which you can purchase online.
If you’re a beginner who is looking for some guidance, you can book a fly fishing tour with the Glacier Raft Company. They will teach you the basics and help you pull out some rainbow and cutthroat trout.
9. Cruise Along the Going-to-the-Sun Road
When you think about what to see in Glacier National Park, perhaps the most well-known and most-traveled activity is the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and it’s no surprise why.
It’s basically the sample platter of some of the most breathtaking views the park has to offer. Since it is so popular, it gets very busy, so start your journey early!
Throughout about 50-miles, you will have a chance to take in gorgeous glaciers, wondrous wildlife, towering mountains, and plunging valleys.
If you’re pressed on time, you can make a few stops at the viewpoints, including Logan Pass, to take in the most impressive, sweeping views.
If you’re fortunate enough to have plenty of time, there are endless options of hikes you can take along. Either way, the Going-to-the-Sun Road will not disappoint.
10. Bike Your Way to Breathtaking Views
If you’re hardcore and up for the challenge, you can tackle the Going-to-the-Sun Road by bike!
Feel the wind in your hair as your cruise along the narrow, winding roads precariously perched on the side of the mountain. This trip is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re up for the challenge, you will be rewarded!
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is only open for bicycles during the early season due to the congestion of cars during peak season. You can check out regulations and restrictions here.
If you’re not able to ride the main road, there are other options available for cyclists.
Bicycles are permitted on all paved and unpaved roads in the park, plus there are four trails where you’re allowed as well.
However, other than on unpaved roads, you won’t find true mountain biking opportunities in the park.
The Flathead National Forest and other locations within the Flathead Valley have mountain biking trails with varying terrain and difficulty levels.
11. Explore in the Winter by Ski or Snowshoe
If you’re an experienced skier, consider visiting Glacier National Park in the winter.
You’ll find fewer crowds as well as less lodging and less accessibility, but you’ll be rewarded with an untouched winter wonderland.
In this brochure prepared by the National Park Service, you can find helpful information about the different routes available for cross-country skiing and snowshoe.
These popular trails have a high risk of avalanches, so it’s important to check the weather and chat with rangers before you set off on your adventure.
If your skiing skills aren’t quite up to par for backcountry skiing, you can also try snowshoeing. You can rent snowshoes in a nearby town and walk along the unplowed sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Exploring Glacier National Park in the winter is a unique experience that most people never try.
12. Ride the Red Bus
For some people, driving along the edge of a cliff can be a bit unnerving. If you would prefer to sit back and take in the stunning views while someone else does the driving, the Red Bus tours are perfect for you.
Not only does it take the stress out of driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but you get to ride in a fun, vintage 1930s bus while learning more about the park than you ever would self-driving.
On top of learning about the park’s history, you’ll be transported in a piece of history as well! These 33 Red Buses have been in operation since the 30s!
They are known as the “oldest touring fleet anywhere in the world.” Riding the red buses is one of the oldest things to do in Glacier National Park.
13. Climb a Montana Mountain
While this area isn’t specifically well known for its rock climbing, that is one of the things you can do while in Glacier National Park.
There are a number of climbs for everyone, from beginners to experienced mountaineers. Nothing beats the adrenaline rush and views from the side of a mountain that you just scaled!
You can hire a guide like those over at Rock Climb Montana. They offer expert instruction with experienced guides as well as all the equipment you need.
Their popular hiking spots are Stryker Rock, Kila Rock, and Koocanusa Rock. Who knows, you might be totally hooked after you learn the basics and head home with a new hobby!
14. Keep Your Eyes Peeled For Wildlife
No matter what activity from above you’re participating in, keep your eyes open in hopes of spotting wildlife!
According to the National Park Service, Glacier National Park is home to six amphibians, 276 species of birds, 71 species of mammals, three reptiles, and an unknown amount of insects and fish.
Wildlife spotting is one of the most exciting things to do in Glacier National Park. You might even spot a grizzly bear (don’t forget the bear spray), mountain lion, or mountain goat!
15. Wander the Western Downtown Whitefish
You will likely find yourself passing through Whitefish as you head to Glacier National Park, but it is worth stopping and hanging out for a bit.
The downtown area will have you feeling like you’ve stepped back in time to a small western town.
Swing by the Amtrak station, which houses a small museum, grab lunch at one of the quaint restaurants or meander through one of the cute little shops to grab some gifts to bring home.
If you plan to stay a bit longer, there are plenty of summer and winter activities in Whitefish as well.
There are spas, breweries, theaters, a farmer’s market plus outdoor activities like paddle boarding, ATV rentals, skiing, and more hiking trails.
16. Hike and Take In the Beauty at Waterton Lakes National Park
Just across the Canada border, you’ll find one of the most beautiful places in Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park.
Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks together form the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
You will want to include a day trip in your itinerary to cross the border and see this Canadian beauty by yourself! If you do stay for a day, you might want to book a night at the Prince of Wales, the iconic hotel with jaw-dropping views!
In short, this Canadian park is a quiet and wonderful place to experience, so be sure to check it for yourself.
Getting to Glacier National Park
By far, this is the easier way to get to Glacier. It gives you the freedom to craft your own itinerary and allows you to come and go as you please.
You can also reach the Glacier by train. Amtrak’s Empire Builder runs between Seattle and Chicago and stops in both West Glacier and East Glacier.
If you don’t want to drive to the park, this is a good option. Still, if you decide you need a car in the park, you can always rent one.
You can find some private shuttles departing from Glacier National Park Airport, Flathead Valley, and Whitefish.
Getting Around the Park
Renting a Car
Getting around the park by car gives you a lot of freedom. Even if you don’t want to drive there yourself, you can rent an afforadable car at Rental Cars and enjoy some scenic drives at Glacier.
The park offers an affordable shuttle service that stops at major spots along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Pretty handy!
Wrapping Up on What to Do in Glacier National Park
With amazing views, beautiful lakes, and endless trails, Glacier is a place like no other in the US, let alone North America.
If you’re looking for an incredible place to unwind and get outdoors, this park in Western Montana is everything you need!
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