Where is Glacier National Park?
Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana on the U.S. Canada border. The park features three entrances; West Entrance is located near Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls. St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier entrances are near the town of Browning.
Missoula, Montana, which is about 140 miles south of the park, is the largest nearby city.
What is Glacier National Park famous for?
Glacier National Park is known for spectacular mountain views, including six different peaks in the Rocky Mountains. Of course, it’s also well-known for its namesake, featuring some 25 named glaciers.
The park is also famous for its rugged terrain, which features 175 named mountains, about 1,200 lakes and streams, and more than 200 named waterfalls.
Glacier also straddles the continental divide, with water running westward to the Pacific ocean and eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. At its center is the Triple Divide Peak, which is considered the apex of North America, marking it the center of the divide.
What is the best month to visit Glacier National Park?
The best month to visit Glacier National Park is July.
July is the middle of the peak season in Glacier National Park. It’s also the most temperature time of year in this cold weather region, with highs in the 70s and lows dropping into the 40s at night.
Make sure to have rain gear and even a winter weather jacket with you as snow isn’t uncommon this time of year at the park’s higher elevations.
During July, all of the park’s shuttle services are running, and you’re less likely to experience severe weather that closes roads in the winter, spring, and fall months, including the main drag: Going-to-the-Sun Road. As this is the peak season, you will encounter steeper rates for accommodations and fewer vacancies.
What to do in Glacier National Park?
How many days do I need in Glacier National Park?
Due to its rugged terrain and large size, you’ll need 3 to 5 days to fully experience Glacier National Park.
This is in part due to how remote the park is with its location in northern Montana. The nearest airport is in Kalispell, Montana. The closest city of any substantial size is nearly 150 miles away. For this reason, it makes sense to spend more time at the park if you’re going to make the trek to get there.
Start out at East Glacier with a visit to Logan Pass. Make this stop your first in order to find a parking spot. Then continue to Hidden Lake, which is about 5.5 miles round trip. Take a short hike to one of the falls in the area, including St. Mary’s Falls, Virginia Falls, and Baring Falls, before taking a boat ride on Saint Mary Lake in Rising Sun.
On day 2, visit West Glacier, where you can choose one of several hiking trails, including Trail of Cedars, and Avalanche Lake, before visiting the picturesque Lake McDonald. Finish your trip by visiting Many Glacier and hike the Grinnel Glacier Trail or Iceberg Lake Trail for tremendous views of the surrounding peaks.
With the extra two days, you have time to visit Two Medicine Lake, where you can rent a canoe, rowboat, or small motorboat to take a self-tour of the lake. You can also visit Aster Falls, which involves a short three-mile hike.
Take a full day to hike Highline Trail at Logan Pass. This epic trail offers unbelievable views of the park as it traverses the continental divide.
How to get to Glacier National Park?
Depending on what part of the park you’re trying to get to, there are several airports to choose from.
Below, we’ve listed the best airports for reaching the park’s main entrances.
- Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). Located near Kalispell about 30 miles west of the West Entrance, Glacier International Airport offers service from Alaska, American, Delta, Allegiant, and United airlines to major hubs such as Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis. Rental car agencies at this airport include Avis, Enterprise, Alamo, Dollar, Budget, and Hertz. You can also rent a Jeep from Glacier Jeep Rentals.
- Missoula International Airport (MSO). This airport is located about 150 miles south of the West Entrance in Missoula, Montana. It offers service from Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines, with all except Frontier offering non-stop flights to all major hubs in the U.S. All major rental car agencies are available from this airport.
- Great Falls International Airport (GTF). Located 130 miles to 165 miles east of the East Glacier Park, St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier entrances, Great Falls International Airport offers service from Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines. Rental car services at this airport include Dollar, Avis, Alamo, and Enterprise.
With its location in the Rocky Mountains, elevation changes from other parts of the country can be dramatic. Make sure to prepare your body by drinking plenty of water and have a full water bottle on hand to hydrate as your body acclimates.
There are four entrances to Glacier National Park, with St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glaciers in close proximity to each other on the park’s east side. The West Entrance is located on Glacier’s west side.
From Kalispell, take Highway 2 north about 33 miles north to West Glacier and the West Entrance.
From Great Falls, take US Highway 89 North about 125 miles to Browning, where you can follow signs to the Two Medicine, St. Mary, or Many Glaciers entrances. Take the St. Mary entrance to access Going to the Sun Road and St Mary Visitor Center. Head to the Many Glacier Entrance for access to Many Glacier Valley.
- From Kalispell, Flathead County’s Eagle Transit offers two round-trip shuttles a day during the summer to Glacier’s Apgar Visitor Center. The shuttle departs Kalispell at 7 a.m. and leaves the park at 8:30 p.m. The cost of the shuttle is $5 round trip. Park entrance fees do apply.
- From Whitefish, Amtrak’s Empire Builder train departs every morning at 7:41 am with stops in West Glacier, Essex, and East Glacier Park. The train returns in the evening, departing East Glacier at 6:41 pm, Essex at 7:41 pm, and West Glacier at 8:23 p.m. Tickets range from $7 to $20 depending on when you purchase them.
What to see in Glacier National Park?
This must-do scenic ride winds around the mountains for some 50 miles along cliffsides, affording you unbelievable views of the park. It crosses the Continental Divide at a height of more than 6,600 feet.
This road is the main thoroughfare through the park and offers access to many hiking trails. It’s only open during the summer months due to snow. Access this road either via the West Glacier Park Entrance or St. Mary Entrance on the park’s east side.
St. Mary’s Falls
This gorgeous waterfall tumbles through a series of rock cliffs with tremendous power. Its beautiful blue-green color is what makes it worth the trip. This waterfall can be reached with a short 1.7-mile round trip hike with an elevation change of 260 feet.
You can also extend this trip another 1.4 miles to add the Virginia Falls to your hike. The trailhead for this hike is located about 11 miles from the St. Mary’s Visitor Center.
The Highline Trail is perhaps the most famous hike in the park. In fact, many serious hikers make the trip to Glacier just to bag this hike. It features unbelievable mountain views.
This difficult 12 mile-hike follows the continental divide and ascends nearly 2,000 feet. It begins on the north side of the Going-To-The-Sun Road at Logan Pass.
This popular spot for photographers provides a spectacular view of the mountains, which surrounds this peaceful setting. Trail of the Cedars, which is the trail to Avalanche Lake is about 4.5 miles with a nominal elevation gain of 500 feet, making it a moderate hike.
Access the trailhead by heading 2 miles north from the West Glacier Entrance before turning right onto Going-To-The-Sun Road. Travel north about 14 miles to the trailhead.
Check out a glacier
The park has its name for a reason. Although the glaciers are in relatively remote parts of the park, there are a few that are accessible, including Salamander Glacier, Jackson Glacier, and Grinnell Glacier, all of which can be viewed either by car or via a hike.
Given that the glaciers are slowly disappearing, they are a popular attraction at the park.
Amanda Williams is a writer, plant-nerd, and outdoor enthusiast. She has traveled extensively, around the U.S., throughout Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Everywhere she treks, she takes time to enjoy the outdoors. John Muir is her hero. She aspires to inspire people to live better as he did.