Glacier National Park is one of the best national Park in US that is popular as “Crown of Continent”. The park has astonishing scenery and wilderness with 700 miles of hiking trail. The Park is spread across million acres making the park to separate in different areas namely West Glacier, Going-To-The-Sun Road, Many Glacier, Two Medicines, North Fork, Goat Haunt (Canada).
Visit Apgar Visitor Center
On entering the park from West Glacier Entrance station, Apgar visitor center is the first place that I would recommend stopping by. This is a good place for tourist to grab a map, park newsletter, learn about road, trail conditions or closures and also talk to a ranger for things to do in Park. There is nothing much to do at Apgar visitor Center. But it is always crowded and packed with tourists looking for basic information.
The visitor center offers facilities like restrooms, water fountain, book store, Ranger led activities, trip planning information. Visitor center has a huge parking lot where tourist can park and leave the car behind and hop in to Park’s free shuttle to explore the attractions in the park.
Visit Lake McDonald Lodge
Lake McDonald Lodge is the best place to stay at with in the park on the shore of Lake McDonald. Even if you are not staying, it is worth to have a quick glance in Swiss chalet style Lodge. It is one of the Historic Hotels of America.
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Trail of Cedars
This is very popular trail at park with a view of beautiful waterfall. The trail is very easy with wooden paved platform which is wheelchair accessible and you could bring a stroller on it as well.
Visit Lake McDonald
There are many pullout points by Lake McDonald. Get out of the vehicle and take a short walk down to the beach. The beach has small colorful rocks and the lake water is clear and cool. If the climate permits, you can go for a swim.
Drive Going-To-The-Sun Road
One of the most popular things to do at Glacier National Park is driving through the Going-To-The-Sun Road. The 50-mile scenic long road runs through the heart of park and connects the West Glacier and East Glacier. The drive itself is one of the biggest attractions of visiting Glacier National Park.
It may be bit stressful driving for some one as the roads are small and you are on edge of Rocky Mountains and valley. But the drive is very scenic. There are multiple pullout points where you can stop to take pictures.
The Weeping wall is mountain rocky section where a waterfall splashes down on the road for quarter a mile distance. Some visitor enjoys the free cleaning of their vehicle by just parking their vehicle below the falls.
There are many beautiful scenic pull out points along the Going-To-The-Sun road. For more information do read Driving Going-To-The-Sun road.
Visit Logan Pass Visitor Center
The road reaches the highest point in the park where Logan Pass visitor center is located. Logan Pass is the place where the Continental Divide pass through. Logan Pass Visitor Center is at very scenic place which in house popular trails of the park – The Highline trail, Hidden Lake Lookout and the Hidden Lake trail.
Highline Trail is popular among hikers for its unique exhilarating experience. Hiking the starting portion of Highline trail gives you the excitement you looking for. We loved Hiking the Highline trail at Logan Pass. It can be done with small children and family seeking adventures.
Hike to Hidden Lake Lookout is popular among visitors. For hikers looking for solitude then proceed past to Hidden Lake Lookout and continue hiking towards Hidden Lake. Hike to Hidden Lake drops elevation and has many switch backs.
Even if you are not hiking, stop at Logan Pass Visitor Center to experience the humongous mountains view surrounding the visitor center. The alpine meadows bloomed with colorful wild flowers are worth the stroll on wooden trail behind the Logan Pass Visitor Center. The road continues further in the east to St. Mary Entrance station.
Hike to St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls is a popular day hike at Glacier National Park.
Wild Goose Island Overlook
Between Logan Pass and the St Mary entrance station, there is famous pull out point known as Wild Goose Island. This is a popular destination among tourist so pull over, get down and capture some beautiful photos.
Visit St. Mary Visitor Center
St. Mary Visitor Center has best exhibits, museum, gift shops and a movie of hour and half to enjoy, water fountain, restrooms, book store and Ranger Led activities. Visitor can park their vehicles and hop on the free shuttle to different attractions in the park.
Visit Many Glacier
Many Glacier is part of glacier National park. It is not accessible from within the park. One needs to exit the park at St. Mary’s Entrance/Exit station in East and then drive on Highway 89 towards Babb and then take route 3 for Many Glacier Entrance. Drive to Many Glacier is scenic.
The roads get bumpy with big potholes once on route 3. Many Glacier hotel is very famous for its Swiss style architecture. Drive to Many Glacier offers picturesque view of Many Glacier Hotel with Swift current lake in background.
For more information on what to do at Many Glacier. Do Read my next post on Things to do at Many Glacier.
Visit Two Medicines
Two Medicines is again part of Glacier National Park that is not accessible from within the park. Once upon a time, Two Medicine was the primary destination of Glacier National Park before the Going-To-The-Sun road was constructed where tourist arrived by train.
From West Glacier Village drive on route 2 to East Glacier Park towards Two Medicines. One gets a feeling of completely leaving the Mountain area and then entering back in to the mountains. Two Medicine Lake is very beautiful amidst the rugged mountains.
Visit Canada and the Waterton Lakes National Park
If you are US citizen or have valid visa to visit Canada, then you would like to visit the Waterton Lakes National Park. It is part of Glacier National Park but in Canada and know with that name. The famous attraction the “Goat Haunt” falls in Canada. You need valid passports and documents to cross the border and visit Waterton Lakes National Park.
Where to See Wild life
There are plenty of wild life in Glacier National Park. Always carry Bear Spray while hiking on trails in the park. Follow the Bear Safety rules and keep 100 yards distance when encounter with them. There are many other wild life in the park that you get to see next to the road you driving on, next to parking lot or on the trails.
We got to see bears for few consecutive days in the fields next to the road when we were driving west from St. Mary’s Entrance station towards Rising Sun around 7 pm to 8 pm later in the day. One was very closed to the road and the grizzly baby bear was roaming in to the fields.
Big Horn Sheep
Big Horn sheep are sighted at Logan Pass. We got to see a herd of Big horn sheep grazing in the meadows next to Highline trail. Second time, we were passing through Logan Pass and saw Bighorn sheep running next to the road and then disappearing in to meadows.
We saw mountain goats’ multiple times on trails to Hidden Lake lookout and Hidden lake trail. We had some unnerving experience with mountain goats. Once while we were hiking Highline trail, mountain goat showed up after a blind turn spot right in front of us. And Second time, a mountain goat followed us from Hidden lake trail for some time. Both of the time we realized that we were just visitors in their home territory. They were returning back to their homes in mountains.
Red Bus tours
If you just want to sit and enjoy the scenic road and capture beautiful photos, you can take Red Bus tours. It is around 3 hours’ drive in a day that takes you through the park and stops at famous pull out points and let tourist get down to view and take pictures. Red Bus tours provide pick up and drop facility from all the lodges in Glacier National Park. For more information do check on Red Bus Tours.
When to Visit Glacier National Park
Best time to see the park depends on you on what you are looking to see? Some portion of the park specially Going-To-The-Sun Road and Logan Pass opens during late June or early July due to snow in the mountains.
After mid August till September, it is wild fire season there. It may vary depending on the climate conditions. Therefore, the window to visit Glacier National Park is very short. I would recommend better planning and prioritizing things to do at Glacier National Park that you would have missed during earlier visit.
Where to Stay
I would highly recommend staying in the lodges/hotels inside the park as that saves lot of time commuting to park and also you get best experience in rustic place.
Lake MacDonald Village Lodge (West Glacier)
Lake McDonald Village Lodge is perfect place to stay in Glacier National Park near to the West Entrance. The historic lodge is popular for its rustic and the Swiss Style chalet architecture.
Many Glacier Hotel (East Glacier)
If you are staying in Many Glacier area, then Many Glacier Lodge Hotel is the best place to stay. Scenery and the hotel looks like as very much in Switzerland.
Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins – Visitors/Hikers looking for Solitude experience in rustic cabins prefer to stay at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins. The cabins are near to trail leading to famous Swiftcurrent Pass and other trails to Iceberg Lake, Ptarmigan Lake and the unique 183-foot Ptarmigan Tunnel.
Glacier Park Lodge (East Glacier)
Glacier Park Lodge is perfect combination of rustic style and luxury. The huge lobby area looks like a place seen in movies.
Budget Friendly and Economic Hotels
St. Mary Lodge & Resort, Glacier General Store and Cabins is economic and next to St.Mary Entrance station.
Due to popularity of Glacier National Park all the lodges and hotels within the park gets fully booked. So plan well in advance and make reservation. Nearest famous towns with shopping malls like Costco, Walmart and Target are located at Whitefish and Kalispell. Visitors prefer to stay at hotels or resorts at Whitefish or Kalispell.
Have you been to Glacier National Park? Feel free to comment below and let me know your favorite spots at Glacier National Park.
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