How to Enjoy Glacier National Park
Located near Kalispell, Montana on the Canadian border, Glacier National Park is named for the more than 50 glaciers found throughout the park. The park offers a mixture of sightseeing, outdoor activities, and historical and scientific experiences to visitors year-round, with options for guided and self-guided tours. There are many ways to enjoy Glacier National Park, so it’s best to plan your trip in advance to make the most of your time!
Make your reservations at least 4-6 months before your trip.Glacier National Park is extremely busy throughout the year, but the peak season happens from June through August. No matter when you plan on going, make arrangements well before your trip to avoid conflicts.
- If you’re planning a trip for a large group and will need more than 1 room, make your reservation 6-8 months in advance to ensure that you have all of the space that you need.
Book a room at an on-site hotel or chalet for easy access to the park.Many visitors choose to stay at one of the on-site lodges located throughout the park. Pick a hotel based on where you want to spend your time, such as Lake McDonald, Apgar Village, or Rising Sun. If you want to stay in a chalet, look in the Backcountry area.
- Hotels tend to have more amenities that campgrounds won’t, like private bathrooms and continental breakfast. Check with the hotel to see what’s included in your stay.
Pitch a tent and camp at one of the 13 campgrounds in the park.Most campsites are first-come-first-serve, so try to arrive early in the day and pick your camping spot. Once you arrive, fill out a registration paper within 30 minutes and pay the fee, which is around -, for each night that you’re there.
- There are a few campsites that take reservations online, including Fish Creek and St. Mary. Others, like Apgar and Many Glacier, have a select number of spots available to reserve. Try to reserve your place within 3 days if it’s the offseason, or 6 months if it’s the peak season.
- You can camp with an RV or trailer at all of the campgrounds except for Bowman Lake, Cut Bank, Kintla Lake, Logging Creek, Quartz Creek, and Sprague Creek.
Select your accommodations based on what you want to do in the park.Glacier National Park is extremely large, so try to focus your trip on the most important activities that you want to accomplish. If you’re interested in hiking, pick a hotel near the entrance of plenty of trails. If you want to go boating or rafting, opt for lodging near one of the lakes or streams. This will make traveling throughout the park easier and save time during your trip.
- Some hotels and chalets offer special deals on guided tours of the surrounding area if you’re staying in the hotel.
- If you’re planning on camping in the park, you can move between various campgrounds throughout your trip to be close to a variety of activities, but remember that some of them require reservations.
Doing Physical Activities
Hike or bike on the nature trails to enjoy the wildlife.The park has over 700 miles (1,100 km) of hiking trails for both beginners and advance hikers. Plan to hike in a group, and print out a map of the trail in advance to avoid getting lost. Check the weather and trail conditions online or at a ranger station before you embark on your hike.
- If you’re planning to go hiking, wear sturdy footwear, bring plenty of water, carry bear spray and sunscreen, and dress in layers. Always bring snacks or a lunch for the trail to keep your energy up.
- The park service also recommends that you download and fill out a “Day Trip Plan” and leave it at the front desk of your hotel. This plan includes where you’re planning to go, how long you’ll be gone, where your car is, and can help in the case that you need to be rescued from the park.
Go cross-country skiing if you visit during the winter months.Check the skiing and snowshoeing maps of the park online to see approved trails, which are normally unmarked. Make sure you have enough food and water for your trip, and bring along a map and GPS in case you get lost or turned around on the trail. Always check the weather, road closures, and avalanche conditions of the park before you embark on your trip.
- Never ski on frozen lakes or waterways in the park, as this can be dangerous.
- If you plan to take your dog skiing with you, make sure they have the proper gear, such as a safety vest, padded boots, and water dish, and always keep them on a leash.
Take a boat out on one of the many lakes after having it inspected.If you plan to take a canoe, kayak, sailboat, or other type of boat on the water in the park, be sure to have it inspected at an inspection station, like Lake McDonald, North Fork, or St. Mary Ranger Station. Make sure each person has a flotation device, and only take your boat on waters where you’re permitted to sail.
- Boats with gas-powered motors must be quarantined for 30 days before going on the water in the park to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species that can harm the ecosystem.
- Non-motorized boats do not have to be quarantined, but do have to be inspected before going on the water.
Fish in the lakes and streams throughout the park where permitted.Plan to fish throughout the park anytime from late May to November 30th, when the season officially ends. Remember that different areas of the park have different regulations for fishing. If you’re interested in a different fishing experience, try ice fishing in winter on one of the lakes that are open year-round, like Lake McDonald.
- If you plan to fish, look up the regulations for the lake or stream where you’re going to be fishing. In some cases, you may need to get a permit, or you might only be able to catch and release, rather than keeping the fish.
- Some lakes have limits on how many fish you can catch of a certain species. Be sure to look this up before you begin fishing to avoid breaking any park rules.
- Never leave your fishing equipment or bait unattended, and only use 1 rod per person.
Sightseeing and Taking Tours
Drive along the Going-to-the-Sun road for beautiful views of the park.If you have a car in the park, take a sightseeing trip along the Going-to-the-Sun road, which is the main route in the park. It’s free to drive along the road, and you can drive up to the highest point in the park, called Logan’s Pass. Bring your camera and don’t be afraid to stop along the road for photos!
- Always be cautious when driving along the road, as pedestrians and bikers frequently cross the road while they’re exploring the park.
- It takes about 2 hours to drive the entirety of the road without stopping.
- It has both residential and alpine routes, which are normally open starting in mid-June or early July until mid-October.
Visit popular photography spots to get the perfect shot.If you’re interested in sightseeing, be sure to pack your camera for the trip. Visit Swiftcurrent Lake, Two Medicine Lake, or Saint Mary Lake for the perfect sunrise shot. If you love wildflowers, take your camera to Logan Pass between mid-June and mid-August. Since the glaciers in the park are rapidly melting, take a day to see Grinnell Glacier in the Many Glacier Valley.
- There are also a variety of waterfalls where you can set up a long-exposure on your camera to get the perfect moving water shot.
- If you want a good picture of the stars, Glacier National Park is the perfect place to get it! Head to Logan Pass or the Head of Lake McDonald from May-October to get a shot of the Milky Way Galaxy on a clear night. While you’re in the park, check the Aurora Forecast to see if you might be able to see the Northern Lights during your trip!
- When on a photography excursion, always stay on the path and stay a safe distance from wildlife, moving water, and protected areas.
Take a guided tour for an informative experience.Sign up for a tour by bus, boat, raft, horseback, or foot to get background about the park from a ranger or guide. Some tours, focus on one aspect of the park’s history, like the bus tours which focus on the history and traditions of the Blackfoot Tribe. Consider taking a field course if you’re interested in learning more about nature the environment of the park.
- To reserve your spot on these tours, call the park at (404) 888-7800 and tell them which type of tour you’d like to take.
- Some tours, like hiking and horseback tours, can last anywhere from 1 day to 7 days. Others, like the bus and boat tours, last a few hours.
- Tickets for hourly tours are normally about per adult. For longer tours, expect to pay around 0-0 per person for every day of the tour.
Attend a “Native America Speaks” program to learn about Native Tribes.During the summer, members of the Blackfoot, Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille hold meetings and discussions about the culture and history of Native America in various campgrounds and lodges. Plan to attend one of these afternoon and evening events on select dates in July, August, or September. For more information about the tribes, take a guided tour of the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, Montana.
- Some programs that include musical performances have an entrance fee that goes directly to the park, program and performers.
- For programs that take place in the Museum of the Plains Indian, the entrance fee is for adults and for children. There are discounts for senior citizens, school groups, and group tours.
Having a Safe Trip
Stay on marked trails and paths while exploring the park.When you’re exploring, remain along the marked trails and trace your location on a map or GPS to avoid getting lost. If you leave the path, you risk endangering yourself and the members of your group. For overnight hikes, only stop and camp in approved areas, and plan your stops in advance.
- If you’ve never gone hiking before, stick to beginner trails to stay safe. The terrain will be easier and you’ll be less likely to become fatigued and exhausted on the trail.
View the wildlife from a safe distance at all times.For wildlife like moose, elk, mountain goats, deer, and coyotes, try to remain at least 75 feet (23 m) away at all times. If you encounter a bear or wolf, stay at least 300 feet (91 m) away from the animal. If you find yourself too close to an animal, don’t make any sudden movements, and slowly back away to safety.
- Never feed, harm, or touch an animal that you see in the park, including small animals like snakes or mice. Only use bear spray if the bear acts aggressively toward you.
- If you want to get good wildlife pictures, consider investing in a telephoto lens for your camera before your trip, which will allow you to take pictures from a safe distance.
Exercise caution near lakes, streams, and rivers to prevent accidents.When you’re walking or biking near a stream, river, or lake, stay away from slippery and mossy rocks and logs. Never try to wade cross fast-moving streams, even if you’ve done it before. Always wear a life vest when you’re on a boat or raft, and avoid leaning over the edge of the vessel.
- Never gather water from the streams or lakes for drinking without boiling or filtering it beforehand.
Check the park conditions to see if there are any dangerous or closed areas.The weather in the park can change rapidly, no matter what season it is. Go online, stop at a ranger station, or visit a welcome center to ask a park employee about road and area closures, weather alerts, and other important information for your acitivities.
- In the summer, the park is sometimes affected by wildfires, which can be fast-moving and incredibly dangerous.
- In the winter, keep an eye on avalanche and blizzard warnings, which happen frequently.
Pack the right clothing for the weather during your trip.If you’re planning to visit during the peak season, bring short-sleeve shirts, shorts, sturdy shoes, and a jacket and long pants for layering. During the rest of the year, pack a variety snow-safe clothing like snow pants, insulated jackets, long-sleeve shirts, lighter coats, and snow boots.
- If you plan on hiking and being outdoors on your trip, be sure to pack thick hiking socks, bug spray, and sunscreen.
- If you travel with a pet, be aware that pets are not allowed on many park trails and must be kept on a leash or caged when in areas where they are allowed. You can board your pet at a kennel in one of the communities near Glacier National Park if you're planning a lengthy visit.
Video: Peaceful music, Relaxing music, Instrumental Music "Glacier National Park" By Tim Janis
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