Glacier National Park

Please note – in recent years Glacier’s roads require an advance reservation to drive. Find up-to-date information on the park’s website

Glacier National Park, also known as “The Crown of the Continent” suits its name well. The park holds a vast landscape of jagged, sky- scrapping, peaks, glaciers cascading down mountain slopes, turquoise lakes dotting verdant valleys and of thick, lush, forests, stretching to the horizon.

The Park is located in the high heart of the Rocky Mountains, in northwestern Montana, and borders the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The park’s alpine landscape was shaped by glacial flow during the last ice age, over 10,000 years ago. The area was declared a national park in 1910.

Int the 1930’s, after years of complex planning and construction, ‘Going to the Sun’ road, which traverses the park was inaugurated. The road allows its visitors to reach the heart of the park’s vast wilderness, and immerse themselves with a prestige alpine landscape. The road winds well above the tree line, and crosses the Continental Divide. Driving this road is a must for all visitors to the park, as well as hiking along its many unique trails.

When to visit Glacier National Park

The best season to visit Glacier National Park is summer thru early autumn (early June to mid September), although ‘Going to the Sun’ road is usually still closed in early June.
During the rest of the year, the area is covered in snow and most of its roads and services (visitor centers, campgrounds and hotels within the park) are closed.
‘Going to the Sun’ road which is the main reason to visit the park, is usually open in its entirety from the end of June or the beginning of July to the beginning of October (sometimes the road is open until  later in the year,  depending on the weather and the amount of snow).

Where to Visit and for How Long:

Glacier National Park is large, and its main hiking areas are far apart. You can devote anything from a one day visit to a multiple day stay in the park, which will mostly be focused on hiking throughout its territory. The park’s campgrounds are particularly beautiful, and by themselves justify an extended stay.

For the average visitor who is short on time, it is recommended to dedicate at least one full day (two nights) to the reserve, which will include a trip (round trip or only one way depending on your trip’s itinerary) on the spectacular Going to the Sun Road and stopping at various points along it. If your time is short and your starting and ending point is the small town of Saint Mary to the east of the park, you can drive up to Logan Pass. Once at Logan Pass you should go hiking, for example on the great Hidden Lake Overlook.

If visiting for two days, you should also visit the Many Glacier area in the park’s northeast, which has many great alpine hiking trails.

For those on a three day visit it is recommended to visit the park’s western area, and go boating at Lake McDonald and hiking in the region’s thick forests (the Avalanche Lake trail is great and highly recommended). You can also visit the Two Medicine area in the park’s southeast.

Glacier National Park is packed with hiking trails (along which there is also a high chance of seeing animals), and those who like to hike can dedicate extra days towards it. During summer the sun sets late in this northern area (sunset only around 9:30 p.m., darkness around 10:30 p.m.) therefore you can make the most of your days.

The parks different regions and aforementioned trails: Many Glacier – red, Going to the Sun Road – yellow, Two medicine – pink, Lake McDonald – black, Hayden Lake Trail – blue, Avalanche Lake – green:

Entrances to the Park:

Glacier National Park has four main entrances: in the west, an entrance near Apgar Village, which leads to the western part of Going-to-the-Sun Rd; In the east, an entrance near Saint Mary (Saint Mary) leading to the eastern part of the road; In the northwest, an entrance in the Many Glacier area, leading to an amazing drive through a valley surrounded by glaciers; In the southwest there is an entrance in the area of Two Medicine that leads to a beautiful lake via a spectacular drive.

Saint Mary, near the park’s eastern entrance, is the logistical center for most visitors to the reserve (hotels, restaurants, gas stations, etc.). Large cities close to the park are Missoula and Great Falls in central Montana. Both cities have an airport.

The park’s four entrances (marked yellow):

Glacier National Park (yellow) and large cities with airports in the area.

Roads and Transportation in the Park:

Going-to-the-Sun road traverse the park  from east to west. The entire drive (about 50 miles) without stops takes close to two hours. Generally, the road is open from the end of June or the beginning of July until the beginning of October (depending on weather and snowfall). The road is un-passable for vehicles longer than 21 feet (those traveling in a trailer can use the park’s bus service when active). The rest of the park roads are also open only during summer and can close depending on the weather during autumn.

A free shuttle service operates in the park during summer along Going-to-the-Sun Rd. These shuttles have 15 stops along the way. The service operates from July to early September depending on the weather. Shuttles leave the Apgar visitor center for Logan Pass every 15-30 minutes, and from St. Mary’s Visitor Center for Logan Pass every 40-60 minutes. Both rides take between an hour and an hour and a half. To travel from the eastern side to the western side of the park and vice versa, you need to change buses at the pass.

Lodging and Camping in the park:

There are several hotels in the park’s territory, but it may be difficult to find a vacant room during summer. You can also stay in the small towns outside the park, with the closest one to the park’s eastern area being Saint Mary (see recommended hotels in Saint Mary and East Glacier here). The towns next to the western and southern sides are Whitefish and Hungry Horse. Most of the hotels in the area are open only during summer.
There are also many great campgrounds in the park most of which are open only during summer. Not all campgrounds offer booking in advance, and during July and August (especially on weekends) those that don’t usually fill out in the afternoon. The best time to arrive in order to secure a site is checkout time, which is 12:00 PM. There are also  some private campgrounds near the eastern park entrance, near Saint Mary.
For those hiking, a wilderness camping permit is also available.

Attractions and Activities in and near Glacier National Park:

For a map of Glacier National Park and other Northwestern destinations click here.

For other National Parks in the US and Canada click here.

For a list of all National Parks in the US ranked click here.

many glacieron the way to Many Glacier

Two Mediceneon the way to Two Medicine 

Bowman Lakedusk at Bowman Lake

Glacier National Park WildlifeGlacier National Park is a great place to spot wildlife, such as this male moose.
photo: Yuval Degany 

Avalanche Lake Trailhiking in the snow to Avalanche Lake

Avalanche LakeAvalanche Lake

Glacier National Park Wildlifemountain goats at the park

Glacier National Parkclose up of a mountain goat
photo by Yuval Degany

an up close encounter with mountain goats on the trail

Glacier National Park Wildlifea black bear in the park
photo by Yuval Degany

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