Best Things to do in each Section of Glacier National Park Montana
If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, Glacier National Park is the best place to go.
With over 700 miles of hiking trails, pristine lakes, and colorful wildflowers, it’s hard not to be awestruck by this natural wonder.
While hiking is certainly the most popular activity, there are plenty of other things to do!
In this article, we’re going to cover some of the top sights and attractions in every section of Glacier National Park Montana.
Glacier National Park Best Things To Do
Glacier National Park is broken up into 9 distinct sections and each one is unique in its own way. If you only have a short time to visit we recommend choosing a section or two and focusing on the activities within that specific area.
- North Fork
- Goat Haunt
- Belly River
- Many Glacier
- Lake McDonald
- St Mary
- Two Medicine
- Waterton Lakes (Canada)
Drive On Going-to-the-Sun Road
One of the most scenic drives in America is Going-To-The-Sun-Road. It stretches 50 miles from the Glacier National Park West Entrance to St Mary Lake on the east.
Along the way you’ll see everything from distant glacial lakes to lower pastoral valleys nestled among the mountains.
The drive peaks at Logan Pass which is 6,646 feet in elevation and one of the most popular locations in the park.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road takes you through the entire park in about 2 hours so it’s the perfect way to see the highlights.
Visitors should note that going-to-the-sun road is only open from about June to mid-October each year depending on snowfall.
Explore The Logan Pass Area
Logan Pass is the highest elevation reachable by car and a popular starting point for two of the most spectacular hiking trails: Hidden Lake Overlook, and the Highline Trail.
Hiking to the Hidden Lake Overlook
The Hidden Lake Overlook is an easy, boardwalk hike that’s 2.8 miles long and perfect for the whole family.
Hikers get to enjoy expansive views of grassy mountain slopes and wildflowers. And along the way, you’re likely to spot mountain goats and bighorn sheep grazing in the grasses.
The best part of the hike is the Hidden Lake Overlook where you get panoramic views of the admired lake and surrounding mountains.
Hiking The Highline Trail
Leading hikers alongside the continental divide, the Highline Trail is one of the most famous hikes in Glacier National Park.
This trail is a point-to-point hike that goes about 12 miles from the Logan Pass Parking Lot to “The Loop” on Going-to-the-Sun road.
Most people hike the path one direction and then ride the free shuttle back to their car.
Even though the hike is long, it’s rated moderate and goes by fast. The trail is mostly downhill and has some fantastic views along the way.
The Highline Trail will impress you with stunning views, wildlife, and wildflowers around every corner. One of the best features is the “Garden Wall” section where you can witness thousands of mountainside wildflowers.
Even though the elevation gain is only about 800 feet, you should not attempt this hike if you’re scared of heights.
One section of the trail, known as “The Ledge” is only about 4-6 feet wide and has steep cliffs on one side falling over 100 feet to Going-to-the-Sun Road below.
Fortunately, the park service has added handrail cables for constant support.
See The Waterfalls In St Mary Valley
Located nearby Logan Pass, the St Mary Valley is home to several of the best waterfalls that can’t be missed.
Virginia Falls is one of the best waterfalls in the entire park. Hikers can stand right at the base and cool off in the misty spray.
The best part about the hike to Virginia Falls is that you get to pass several other waterfalls along the way.
St. Mary Falls is just a short hike from the roadside but feels a world away. The water cascades down three tiers of rock and dips beneath a picturesque footbridge which captivates visitors.
Hiking around the St Mary Valley, you’ll get to witness American Dippers which bob into the rocks and waterfalls looking for food.
Explore The Many Glacier Area
Many Glacier is a bustling, hub of activity within Glacier National Park.
This is where tourists can spend the night in a Swiss-style hotel, join a guided tour, paddle in the lakes, or take a picturesque hike to the nearby glaciers.
Lake Josephine, and the Swiftcurrent Lake are two of the best lakes in the area.
Things To Do In The Many Glacier Area
- Spend a night in the Many Glacier Hotel
- Join a Red Bus Tour
- Go horseback riding
- Paddle in the lakes
- Take a boat tour on Swiftcurrent Lake
- Hike along the trails to overlooks and waterfalls
Hiking Trails in Many Glacier
- Apikuni Falls
- Craker Lake
- Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint, and Grinnell Lake
- Iceberg Lake
- Piegan Pass
- Poia Lake
- Ptarmigan Falls, Ptarmigan Tunnel, and Ptarmigan Lake
- Redrock Falls
- Swiftcurrent Pass and Swiftcurrent Nature Trail
Spend A Night In The Many Glacier Hotel
Before embarking on either the Cracker Lake or Grinnell Glacier trail, make sure you stop at the Many Glacier Hotel. You don’t have to lodge at this hotel to make it a stop during your trip, and once you see it, you’ll understand why.
It’s an architectural and historic beauty nestled along the Swiftcurrent Lake bank.
This Swiss-style rustic hotel exudes warmth to welcome guests and visitors inside for a bite to eat or a quick souvenir pick-up.
The area itself acts as a trailhead hub, with many hiking trails spurting out from the surrounding terrain.
Suppose you want a break from hiking and exploring. In that case, Many Glacier Hotel is the ideal spot to take a load off, get something to eat, and re-energize while still experiencing Glacier National Park’s unique atmosphere.
Ride On The Red Bus Tours
If you can’t choose a single activity one day, you can take one of the park’s famous Red Bus Tours, which can act sort of like an intimate Glacier National Park overview.
These tours have been around since the 1930s, and the iconic red bus you board is one of the original buses restored for use in modern times.
The tour takes you round trip along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and ranges between two and a half to nine hours in duration depending on where you climb aboard.
The Red Bus tour makes many stops throughout its journey to allow for pictures and jaw dropping views.
The frequent stops make this tour extremely accessible. So, if you finish up with a hike early and don’t know what to do next, you can hop on a Red Bus Tour and head somewhere else!
Go Horseback Riding In Glacier National Park
Horseback riding is a popular attraction anywhere you go. But in Glacier National Park, it’s a century-long tradition that will make you feel like a real cowboy during Western Expansion.
Guided horseback rides can be found inside the park and takeoff from Many Glacier, Apgar, and Lake McDonald.
The tours will carry you along trails that hikers normally don’t experience. This opens up a whole new level of exploration into the park you may otherwise never get to see.
Horseback riding is a great way to explore the area without having to wear out your own feet. They’re also a great break from the standard National Park activities.
Knowledgeable rangers will give you a bit of park history along the way and make the adventure even more personal and memorable than you could accomplish on your own.
Relax In The Lake McDonald Area
Lake McDonald is Glacier National Park’s largest lake, and arguably one of the most beautiful.
It’s famous for the crystal clear, mirror-like surface and thousands of colorful, smooth rocks that stretch for miles along the shoreline.
Standing on the western shore, you can look across the water and witness snowy mountain peaks reflected off the surface with pristine clarity.
This lake was carved by massive glaciers thousands of years ago and it’s currently home to a diverse array of plant and animal species.
Many tourists will set aside a full day for the visiting Lake McDonald. The peaceful area is great for taking in the views, setting up a picnic, or stopping by the rustic Lake McDonald Lodge.
Walking paths around the lake also break off into numerous hiking routes, serving as a trailhead hub for further adventures.
Hike Trail of the Cedars
One of the most picturesque hikes in the Lake McDonald Area is Trail of the Cedars.
This trail cuts through the dense forest along a raised boardwalk, making it a relatively easy trail to navigate.
Here, the towering and historic Cedar trees flank you on both sides for an unforgettable scene and rich, woody smells. Not to mention, the Trail of the Cedars is one of the only wheelchair-accessible hiking paths within the Park.
You also get up close and personal with the lush forest flora and fauna, and if you’re lucky, you can get quick glimpses of some Glacier National Park wildlife.
On your hike, you’ll come across Avalanche Creek via a footbridge that offers aerial views of Avalanche Gorge.
You can even take this trail to Avalanche Lake. Along the way, you’ll get pictures of the cascading glaciers as they slice through the gorge.
Once you get there, you can relax beachside and enjoy the scenery at 8,600 feet.
Paddle On Two Medicine Lake
Once a busy hub of tourist activity, Two Medicine has decreased in foot traffic since the Going-to-the-Sun Road’s development, making it the Park’s ideal destination to avoid dense population without sacrificing the captivating views.
Here, the mountains encompass a pool of deep blue water, Two Medicine Lake. The hills slope lazily toward the lake as if it’s a volcano’s sparkling crater.
Branching off from the Two Medicine area, you’ll find various hiking trails that head to astonishing waterfalls and some with ascents to panoramic views of the region below.
If you want, you can even make your stay at Two Medicine longer than an afternoon adventure by wilderness camping. Two Medicine is one of the permitted wilderness camping areas within Glacier National Park.
To experience even more of all that Glacier National Park has to offer, you can hop on a ferry at Two Medicine Lake.
The ride transports tourists across for easy access to both sides of the region, so you don’t have to hike all the way around if you don’t prefer. Plus, the ferry ride is a fun, short voyage to take advantage of.
Explore the North Fork and Goat Haunt Areas
For travelers in search of solitude, a trip to the North Fork and Goat Haunt Area makes the perfect retreat.
This section is only accessible via rough dirt roads which take nearly all day to travel and services are limited. So there are considerably less visitors.
But, adventurers who are up for the journey get rewarded with some of the most isolated and wild terrain around.
If you find yourself in the North Fork Area, Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake are two destinations that you cant miss.
Raft On The Flathead River
Two sections along the Flathead River are popular for whitewater rafting. The Middle Fork and the North Fork are jointly managed by the National Park Service and the National Forest Service.
Several local raft companies offer guided tours on the river. Adrenaline junkies will love the challenging half-day or full-day trips that will carry you alongside the mountains. The tours offer Class II and Class III rapids so even inexperienced paddlers can join.
For those looking for a slower ride, families can embark on a relaxed float tour.
Every passenger in the boat gets a window seat to Glacier National Park’s natural beauty. You can look out for wildlife along the shoreline and embrace the crystal clear water below.
Travelers who wish to set out on their own can obtain permits to paddle the river as a self-guided trip.
Camping And Backpacking
One of the best ways to experience Glacier National Park is to spend as much time within the wilderness as possible. And you can do that through backpacking and camping.
Adventure travelers can spend their days hiking through the vast forest and journeying along all of the trails they please.
13 established campgrounds are located in Glacier as well as hundreds of opportunities for primitive camping. Most of the campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis so it’s a great place for a last-minute trip.
When you’re ready to stop for the night, you don’t have to factor in how much time it’ll take you to get back to your lodging; instead, you can unpack your tent and spend the night beneath the stars.
Experiencing the park during the off-hours also gives you exclusive access to backcountry trails that are less popular during the day.
What is the best time of year to visit Glacier National Park?
The peak season in Glacier National Park runs from June through September when the weather is mild and all facilities, attractions, and amenities are open.
How much does it cost to enter Glacier National Park?
The entrance fee for a 7-day pass per private vehicle is $35. Per person on foot or bike is $20.
Is there cell phone service in the park?
Cellular coverage and reception in Glacier National Park is limited depending on your carrier. It’s best to check in advance and plan accordingly.
What activities are available in the park?
Visitors can explore Glacier National Park through hikes, camping, whitewater rafting, fishing, horseback riding, guided tours and more.
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