What to Do at Glacier
Get out on the trails on a guided horseback ride inside the park at Many Glacier, Lake McDonald, and Apgar. Contact Swan Mountain Outfitters for information and reservations: www.swanmountainoutfitters.com/glacier.
Rent canoes, kayaks, and rafts to ply the waters of Flathead River, which forms the south and west boundary of Glacier National Park. For information, see www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/boating.htm.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is considered one of the most scenic drives in the nation. The 52-mile route traverses the park from west to east, following the Continental Divide. Numerous lookout points and trailheads give visitors ample opportunities to enjoy broad panoramas and hikes through temperate forests. The road in its entirety generally is open only during the summer months, starting around mid-June. Check the park's road status updates before starting your drive.
Iceberg Lake offers a long (10 miles round-trip) but relatively easy hike that leads to picture-perfect Iceberg Lake, an ideal place for a picnic.
Highline Trail extends for five miles but can be as long or as short as you desire. Even a brief stroll along this trail, which skirts the park's Garden Wall, a steep ridge, offers rewarding views with little elevation gain.
Piegan Pass is an easy-to-moderate hike that traverses shady woods, wildflower-blanketed valleys, and spectacular mountain passes.
Hiking to Swiftcurrent Pass, a 13.2-mile round-trip with a 2,300-foot elevation gain, is not for the faint of heart. But views of cascading waterfalls and soaring mountains make up for the effort.
Glacier is home to more than 70 species of mammals, including grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats, and marmots. Two hundred and sixty bird species reside in or travel through the park each year. Plant life ranges from dense coniferous forests to sparsely vegetated mountaintops, with several plant varieties endemic to the northern Rocky Mountains. Bear grass—the bulbous, white, flowering plant featured on many Glacier postcards—blooms in five- to seven-year cycles, each plentiful year followed by four to six years of sparse bear grass blooms.
Wild Goose Island Lookout offers one of the most popular photo opportunities along the Going-to-the-Sun Road for a reason. Photographs of tiny Wild Goose Island, dwarfed by St. Mary Lake and the mountains beyond, convey the immensity and grandeur of Glacier's famed landscape.
Hidden Lake Overlook can be reached by walking approximately 1.5 miles from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. The trail to the overlook can be crowded at times, but the views of the lake are more than rewarding. Go at dawn or late afternoon, when the shadows and interesting light enhance the contours of the landscape.
Smart Traveler Strategies
Hop on one of the free Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttles to leave the mountain driving to professionals as you take in the expansive views (July-September).
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Pick up a copy of the Glacier Explorer publication (available throughout the park) for a complete listing of park activities and events, including boat-and-hike trips to Grinnell Glacier, ranger-led nature presentations, and lectures by members of the Blackfeet Indian Nation.
Excursions Outside the Park
For more Rocky Mountains grandeur and to visit the majestic Prince of Wales Hotel in the quaint lakeside town of Waterton, visit Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park, which features 195 square miles of scenically rugged landscapes webbed with trails.
For world-class rafting on the North, Middle, and South Forks of Montana's Flathead River, head approximately 30 miles southwest of Glacier park to Flathead National Forest.
Thirty miles southeast of the park, in Browning, Montana, you can peruse art, historic clothing, and other artifacts made by Northern Plains tribal peoples at the Museum of the Plains Indian.
Venture 60 miles southeast of Glacier to hike or ride horses in the Pine Butte Swamp Preserve, one of the last strongholds of grizzly bears in the plains.