When to visit
- Very Favourable
What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Glacier National Park is so vast that it stretches across the border into Canada, under the name of Waterton Lakes National Park! It is important not to confuse it with Glacier National Park in Canada, which is located near Revelstoke, BC. The American park is by far the more impressive of the two.
Glacier National Park features 25 glaciers, more than 700 lakes and dozens of hiking trails for exploring the beauty of nature. It also offers an ideal habitat for a wider diversity of wildlife than can be found anywhere else in the Rockies. If you are lucky you may see wolves, coyotes, cougars or bears.
Season: Open year-round, 24 hours a day
Shuttle service in the park? Yes (see box below).
Visitors Centres: Apgar Visitor Center (West Glacier entrance) is open daily from May 13-June 9 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., June 10-September 4 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and September 5-October 14 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (in low season, open only on weekends, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). Logan Pass Visitor Center is open daily from June 18-September 4 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and September 5-30 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed in low season). St. Mary Visitor Center is open daily from May 26-June 17 and August 13-September 30 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 18-August 12 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and October 1-8 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed in low season).
Admission fee: $35/vehicle, including occupants. Valid 7 days. Purchase an America the Beautiful Pass for $80 if you plan to visit 2-3 parks.
What makes this park exceptional is the primitive and unspoiled beauty of its landscapes. Since being established as a national park in 1910, special attention has been made to preserving its natural ecosystem. More than one hundred years later, these efforts allow visitors to enjoy a truly exceptional experience.
Many Native Americans still call the park "the Backbone of the World" in recognition of the immensity, solidity and awe-inspiring nature of its landscapes. Since the 19th century, Glacier National Park has also come to be known as "the Crown of the Continent".
On the Canada/USA border between Glacier and Waterton Lakes parks lies the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park, a UNESCO Historical Site. To visit the peace park, you will need to check the border crossing operating hours (whc.unesco.org/en/list/354).
Watch out for the valley's natural inhabitants: it is important to remember that deer, coyotes and bears are part of the landscape.
Drive slowly, especially in the vicinity of wildlife. You will better appreciate the scenery and avoid causing any unfortunate accidents.
As a preventive measure, do not leave food in your vehicle and always keep your distance when photographing wild animals.
The highlight not to be missed during your visit to Glacier National park is the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road, a spectacular 84-km drive from West Glacier to St Mary, with a stop at Logan Pass to walk to the lake. The vistas are breathtaking and there is a good chance of sighting wildlife, such as bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
Many hiking trails can be accessed from Going-To-The-Sun Road, offering magnificent views. Trail of the Cedars is a short, easy hike for families with children. The Hidden Lake Overlook trail (a 3-mile loop) provides good opportunities to see wild animals in their natural habitat.
Note: the road does not open until mid-May or mid-June, and closes again in mid-September or mid-October due to heavy snowfall.
Also note that it is not possible to drive from Avalanche Creek to Sun Point with a vehicle more than 21 feet long or 8 feet wide. You can use the park's free shuttle service to make the most of your visit.
If you plan to go hiking, be sure to bring warm outer layers of clothing, as it can be much colder at higher elevations. Good hiking boots are also essential, as you could encounter snow even in the middle of summer!
A free hop on, hop off shuttle system provides two-way service along Going-to-the-Sun Road, from early July to early September.
Two routes are available: West Side Service from Apgar Visitor Center to Logan Pass, and East Side Service from St Mary Visitor Center to Logan Pass.
To travel the entire length of the Going-To-The-Sun-Road from the Apgar Visitor Center to St. Mary Visitor Center and back, or vice versa, is approximately 7 hours and you will need to change buses at Logan Pass. Be sure to plan your day accordingly.
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
THE HUCKLEBERRY PATCH CANNERY ($)
Along the way to West Glacier, make a stop at Huckleberry Patch Cannery, a small restaurant and store offering the best huckleberry pie in the region. This sweet tart wild berry grows only in moist mountain areas and is hand picked and processed into a delicious assortment of products such as jams, jellies, toppings, pies and treats. Enjoy a slice of pie and pick up some gourmet treats in the store. Open daily in summer from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., in spring and fall from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and in winter from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
8868 US Hwy 2 East, Hungry Horse / 406-387-5000
RUSSELL’S FIRESIDE DINING ROOM / LAKE MCDONALD LODGE ($$-$$$)
Located at Lake McDonald Lodge on the shores of Lake McDonald, this restaurant offers a unique dining space that recalls the building’s hunting lodge origins. The menu features locally-inspired American classics prepared with quality Montana ingredients wherever possible. Also offers interesting vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.
Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier NP / 406-892-2525
BELTON CHALET GRILL DINING ROOM & TAP ROOM ($$$)
This intimate 45-place restaurant is housed in the Belton Chalet, a magnificent historic building built in 1910 and fully restored in 2000. Enjoy an exceptional culinary experience with the imaginative and inventive dishes of Chef Earl James, prepared using the best ingredients from local Montana growers. Weather permitting, ask to be seated on the terrace: you won't regret it! Open daily from early June through the end of September, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
12575 Hwy 2, West Glacier / 406-888-5000
- Very Favourable