glacier national park
It can be a little overwhelming—albeit exciting—to wrap your head around how you might spend your time exploring our 1-million-acre park, whether you’re looking for an hours-long guided trip or a multiday excursion. From driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the summer to snowshoeing along the shores of Lake McDonald in the winter, the park’s four distinct seasons provide endless possibilities. Here are some suggested itineraries to help you along. Happy travels.
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Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road
If you have just one day in Glacier National Park, you’re well-advised to spend it driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Start your journey in West Glacier. Before making your way into the west entrance of the park, be sure to stop in town to gas up your car and pick up water and snacks for the day. Once you’re inside the park, visit Apgar Village and the Montana House (open year-round) before taking in the view from the southern end of Lake McDonald. After dipping your toes in the lake, travel along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to St. Mary. Take advantage of the various pull-outs and scenic viewpoints along the way. Recommended stops include Trail of the Cedars, Logan Pass Visitor Center, Jackson Glacier Overlook, Sunrift Gorge and Sun Point.
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Explore Two Medicine
If you’ve already driven the Going-to-the-Sun Road, we suggest traveling to one of the more undiscovered areas of the park, like Glacier National Park’s Two Medicine Valley. Prior to the opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in 1933, Two Medicine was one of the busiest locations in the park. Today, it’s a refuge for visitors seeking a quieter experience in the Crown of the Continent. Located a short drive from East Glacier Park, Two Medicine is easily accessible to all travelers. Pack a lunch (or pick one up in East Glacier Park) and plan to spend the day there. Make your first stop at Running Eagle Falls—named in honor of a female Blackfeet warrior—and take the short hike to the falls. Continue on to Two Medicine Lake and take a boat tour with Glacier Park Boat Company, or rent a kayak, canoe or rowboat and take in the beauty of the area from the water. End the day by attending one of the talks from the Native America Speaks Program at Two Medicine Campground.
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Snowshoe Glacier National Park
For a serene winter experience, strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald Valley. During winter (January – March), the National Park Service offers free ranger-led tours on Saturdays and Sundays. Suitable for varying ages and abilities, the walks encourage participants to search for signs of wildlife and discover plants and animals that call the park home. In addition, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the shores of Lake McDonald and the trail system at Marias Pass are prime areas for snowshoeing.
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Day One: The Going-to-the-Sun Road
Spend your first day in Glacier National Park driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. You can drive the road from west to east and back or you can turn it into a loop tour by driving the road from West Glacier to St. Mary and heading back to West Glacier via East Glacier Park and Highway 2. Be sure to take advantage of the various pull-outs and scenic viewpoints along the way. Recommended stops include Trail of the Cedars, Logan Pass Visitor Center, Jackson Glacier Overlook, Sunrift Gorge and Sun Point.
Day Two: The North Fork
Today will take you to one of the wildest sections of the park: the North Fork. Accessed by a gravel road, the North Fork is one of the most scenic and off-the-beaten-path sections of the park that’s accessible by car. Be sure to take advantage of the stunning views into the park as you make your way up the Outside North Fork Road. Polebridge, a small off-the-grid town (the community is powered by solar panels and generators) just outside the park’s border, anchors the area. Here you’ll find a historic mercantile, saloon, cabins for rent and a hostel. Be sure to stop into the Polebridge Mercantile for some of the best pastries in the West. After fueling up on goodies, rent a kayak or canoe (or bring your own) and head into the park to Bowman or Kintla lakes for a few hours of paddling on the clear blue waters.
Day Three: West Glacier
Spend the final day of your trip participating in some of the activities and adventures around one of the park’s hubs—West Glacier. Start your morning on a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters at their West Glacier corral. After taking in the view along the trail, head out on a half-day fly-fishing or whitewater rafting trip along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Along the way, you’ll learn about area history and local legends. Round out the night with dinner at the Belton Chalet.
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Day One: The Izaak Walton Inn
Start your journey at the historic Izaak Walton Inn in Essex. Located between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, the Izaak Walton Inn is a quiet winter oasis that offers 20 miles of on-site groomed cross-country and skate skiing trails. The inn also offers guided excursions in Glacier National Park. After a day in the mountains, unwind with dinner and local beer at The Dining Car in the Izaak Walton Inn.
Overnight at the Izaak Walton Inn.
Day Two: The Going-to-the-Sun Road
Make your way to the snow-covered Going-to-the-Sun Road. During the winter, most of the road is closed to vehicular travel as snowfall creates a sanctuary for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The road is plowed from the west entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge and snow lovers can access the road just past the lodge.
Overnight options include The Belton Chalet cottages and Historic Tamarack Lodge & Cabins.
Day Three: The North Fork + Columbia Falls
Start your day with breakfast in Columbia Falls before venturing to the North Fork. Make your way to Polebridge, a must-see tiny town just outside the park’s border. Be sure to stop into the famous Polebridge Mercantile for some of the best pastries in the West. You’ll also find a saloon, cabins for rent, and a hostel. If you want to do some hiking, be sure to bring your snowshoes for a heart-pumping walk along Camas Road before returning to Columbia Falls and relaxing with a massage at Meadow Lake Resort.
Lodging options include Meadow Lake Golf & Ski Resort and North Forty Resort.
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Day One: West Glacier
Start your trip in West Glacier, located right outside the west entrance of the park. After stopping into the Crown of the Continent Discovery Center for coffee (and to peruse their many Montana-made items), continue on to one of the local raft companies for your late-morning trip on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. After having lunch riverside, make your way into the park for a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters at their Apgar corral. End your first evening with dinner at the historic Belton Chalet and watch the trains roll past.
Day Two: The Going-to-the-Sun Road
Today will be spent in Glacier National Park driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Drive the road from west to east. (Or if you prefer to leave the driving to someone else, take a red bus tour). Along the way, be sure to take advantage of the various pull-outs and scenic viewpoints. Recommended stops include Trail of the Cedars, Logan Pass Visitor Center, Jackson Glacier Overlook, Sunrift Gorge and Sun Point. After a day in the park, fill up on a family-style dinner at Johnson’s of St. Mary or Two Sisters Café in Babb.
Day Three: American Indian History
Known as the “Backbone of the World” to the Blackfeet Nation, Glacier National Park has historical and spiritual significance to many of Montana’s First Nations. Learn about the park from the perspective of the Blackfeet Tribe on a guided trip with Sun Tours. After the tour, soak up more of the area’s American Indian history by visiting the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, taking a trail ride on the Blackfeet Nation with Glacier Gateway Outfitters or attend one of the park’s Native America Speaks programs. Unwind with dinner at Bison Creek Guest Ranch or Serrano’s Mexican Restaurant in East Glacier Park.
Day Four: Many Glacier
Take the short drive north from St. Mary to one of the most visually stunning areas of the park—Many Glacier. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for moose and bear, as this area is home to many of the park’s wildlife. Once you arrive, check out Many Glacier Hotel—a Swiss-style property that sits on the eastern shore of Swiftcurrent Lake. (You can snag breakfast, lunch or dinner here.) The area is also known for its many outdoor recreational options, including trail rides, hiking trails and guided boat tours. At the end of the day, unwind with a Montana-themed cocktail on the hotel’s deck as you watch the sun set behind the mountains.
Day Five: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
Cruise north along the Chief Mountain International Highway to Waterton Lakes National Park. Along the way, you’ll see incredible views of Chief Mountain (a sacred site to the Blackfeet Tribe) before crossing the international border into Alberta. Once you arrive in Waterton Lakes National Park, stop at the Prince of Wales Hotel for a stunning view of Waterton Lake and the small town of Waterton. Once in town, stroll through downtown, rent a tandem bike, take a boat tour or set out on one of the area’s many hiking trails.
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