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Visiting Glacier National Park in Montana? The best spots you must see!

Updated: Mar 25


Wildflowers at Glacier National Park, Montana

Tucked deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in beautiful Montana, lies a piece of natural beauty that will enchant your soul - Glacier National Park. This park, often affectionately called "the Crown of the Continent," is a true treasure for adventurers, nature lovers and travelers longing to escape from the daily hustle and bustle. If you're lucky, you can also spot lots of wildlife: bears, moose, deer, reindeer, squirrels, mountain marmots, mountain goats, ...


There is so much to see and do, you can do beautiful hiking, kayaking, rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking, ... in short, a must-visit destination for anyone who loves nature.

You can easily spend a week there, especially if you want to take in the piece of Canada in the North. But 3 days is certainly the absolute minimum.


What can't be missed here?


Enjoy a ride through heaven by 'Going-to-the-Sun Road'

Views on Going-to-the-sun Road at Glacier National Park, Montana

One of the most iconic experiences in Glacier National Park is the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This scenic road cuts through the heart of the park, offering unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and waterfalls. As you climb up, you can feel the excitement increase as the vistas unfold before you. This road is not only an ingenious feat of road construction, but also a gateway to adventurous hikes and unforgettable photo opportunities.

It is incredible how this road of about 80 km in length could have been built in 1933.

It is best to start at the park entrance at West Glacier and then drive via Lake McDonald (where you pass some beautiful waterfalls) towards Logan Pass (2025m), the highest point on the road. Here you also have a good chance of spotting mountain goats & big horn sheep. If you want to park here, it's best to get there as early as possible because the parking lot fills up quickly and stays full almost all day. Continue towards Saint Mary visitor center where the road ends in East Glacier. Along the way you may encounter black bears, grizzlies, moose, mountain marmots, squirrels and/or deer.

Map of Glacier National Park, Montana

Practical info:

- Park entrance ticket: 20$ per person and 35$ for a vehicle, the entrance ticket is valid for 7 days.

- If you want to enter the park by car between 26/5-10/9 you must make a reservation in advance to enter the park, before 6am and after 3pm you do not need a reservation.

- Do this reservation well in advance, because access is limited because they want to avoid traffic jams inside the park

- To hike in the park you also need bear spray, which you can buy everywhere but also rent in the park. You never know if you will come face to face with a bear on one of the trails.

- If you don't want to drive yourself, you can also use the Red Bus Tours. These antique buses, drive through the park and during the ride the driver tells about the history of this route and nature.

- There is also a free Shuttle Service (note that this is based on first come, first served, so full is full).



Do a water sports activity on Lake McDonald


Kayaking on Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana

This is the largest lake in Glacier National Park, 16 km long and about 150m deep. The lake was created by erosion of the glaciers surrounding the lake. The glaciers also carved out smaller hanging valleys with beautiful waterfalls that can be accessed via numerous hiking trails. McDonald Falls can be admired from a number of vantage points along the going-to-the-Sun Road. The closest visitor center here is Apgar Visitor Center.

On the lake you can do numerous fun water activities such as: kayaking, paddle boarding, renting a motorboat or jet ski or just swimming.

If you enjoy horseback riding, you can also take a guided tour here.


Practical info:

- you can stay at Lake McDonald at two places:

Lake Mcdonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Motel

For more information, click here

- Do you have your own boat or kayak? Then have it inspected at one of the inspection points, as no uninspected craft may be launched in Glacier National Park.



Visit the beautiful fauna and flora around 'Two Medicine'

Map of Two Medicine, Glacier National Park, Montana

Two Medicine is reached via East glacier and has a separate access road next to the Going-to-the-sun road. You are immediately enchanted here by the majestic mountain peaks that surround Two Medicine Lake. At a beautiful sunrise, it is fantastic to admire the reflection of the mountains in the water. (Please note from 6 a.m., reservations are also required here). The tops of the mountains are usually still slightly covered with snow. You can start right here with a hike (see map above) or choose to take a boat trip on the historic "Sinopah" boat over the calm waters of the lake while learning more about the Blackfeet culture (the original Indian inhabitants of this area). This wooden boat is the oldest working boat in Glacier National Park (since 1938), cost: 19 $ per adult, kids, 9.5 $ from 4 years old.

On the other side, you can then hike to Upper Two Medicine Lake (route #12 on the map). This is a beautiful hike through forest and meadows with numerous wildflowers such as Beargrass, Indian Paintbrush,.... Along the way you may encounter grazing elk, curious mountain goats and sometimes even a grizzly bear (be sure to always bring your bear spray!)

On the way back you can also take a detour towards "Twin Falls" (no.11 on the map). As the name says, these are two waterfalls running side by side, nice to take a short break.


TIP: Take plenty of water with you. At the beginning of the boat trip you can buy something in the "camp store" but afterwards there are no shops. Mosquito milk and sun milk are also not a luxury in the forest and at these lakes.


Hike among the lakes of Many Glacier

Map of Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana

Grinnell Lake at Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana

Also here you can start with a boat tour across the lake. This tour starts at the shore of "Swiftcurrent Lake", where you take the boat "Chief Two Guns" across the lake, after a short walk of about 320 meters you reach the shore of the second lake "Lake Josephine", here you board "The Morning Eagle" which will take you to the other side where you can start the walk towards Grinnell Lake. More information and reservation for this boat trip can be found here , note: also for this route you need a reservation! You reach Many Glacier via East Glacier from Babb.

Grinnell Lake is definitely worthwhile, the water is a beautiful turquoise blue like in the Caribbean, unfortunately much colder.

In fact, it is filled by the Grinnell Glacier with some beautiful waterfalls that you can observe well from the shores. Also here you have the chance to spot some wildlife in addition to the beautiful nature, for example, moose regularly come to drink on the shores of the lake and you will see plenty of cute squirrels at the moorings of the boats.


TIP! On your return trip from Grinnell Lake to the boat, you can take a short detour to the Hidden falls. A narrow trail (is marked along the way) will take you to this waterfall, which is in the middle of the forest.



Admire spectacular views of Saint Mary Lake


Map of St Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

. Mary at Glacier National Park, Montana

Almost at the terminus of the Going-to-the-Sun road, you reach the huge Saint Mary Lake. Park at the parking lot where you can hike towards 'Baring Falls'. You will hike through an impressive landscape of dead white trees (destroyed by a forest fire a few years ago). You can hike here towards the lake on the 'Siyah Pass' trail and afterwards also the 'Sun Point Nature trail'. We saw a moose swimming in the water there looking for food.

The lakes and creeks in this park contain millions of colorful stones located on the shores and bottom. This colorful surface consisting of blue, green, purple, yellow, brown and gray stones, was created by differences in the iron content of the water.



Rafting at Glacier National Park

Rafting at Glacier National Park, Montana

If you love water and adventure, a rafting tour is definitely not to be missed.

There are several companies that offer rafting, we chose 'Glacier guides Montana Raft' You can choose between the 'Scenic float' or a 'Whitewater rafting', if you are a bit adventurous you obviously go for the latter. We chose for a half day Whitewater rafting with dinner (rafting in the afternoon) there are also combinations with lunch, then you choose the full day option, you can also choose to just raft without a meal.

A half day takes about 3 hours + possibly your chosen meal option. A full day with lunch takes about 5-6 hours.

Prices:

half day single rafting: $ 81/adult, $ 61/child (5-12 years)

half day rafting + dinner: $ 113/adult, $ 93/child (5-12 years)

full day rafting, including lunch: $ 152/adult, $ 124/child (5-12 years)



Remember, it is important to be respectful of nature and follow park rules to maintain the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Enjoy your adventure in Glacier National Park!


Want to read more about Montana? Take a look at Jenny's travel post from Little Wandering Wren: Why visit Montana?


Questions? Ask them in the comments.


 *Disclaimer: This post contains affiliated links which means that purchases made through these links reward Destination Explorer a small commission without any additional charge for the purchaser. 

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Wandering Wren
Wandering Wren
Nov 06, 2023

I loved seeing how different two trips with the same person could be a few weeks apart. This post is great full of very helpful information for those planning to say Yes to Montana!

Happy Wanders!

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Thanks Jenny! Loved your travel post as well!

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Guest
Aug 31, 2023

I am so excited for an upcoming trip to Glacier, it sounds incredible. This post has helped a lot with what to see and what I shouldn't miss! Thank you.

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Thank you so much for reading! If you need anymore help, let me know! Enjoy your stay in Glacier.

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Guest
Aug 30, 2023

Wow Inge, what a great post! We visited Glacier National Park in 2021, during the wildfires. Although still gorgeous, we didn’t get to experience the area to the fullest. Reading your post made me want to go back.

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There were some wildfires in July too unfortunately, but we were lucky with the winds, so we had some clear sites!

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