Visiting Glacier National Park was an unforgettable experience for our family.
Located in Montana, Glacier National Park is a must-see destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor enthusiasts alike. With breathtaking views, diverse wildlife, and endless hiking trails, it’s no wonder why this park is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.
However, with so much to see and do, it’s important to plan your visit carefully to make the most of your time. Here are some top tips for visiting Glacier National Park and how to avoid common mistakes that visitors make.
Reservations Are a Must
One of the most important things to keep in mind when planning your visit to Glacier National Park is that reservations are a must. Due to the popularity of the park and the need to protect natural resources, the park service has implemented a reservation system for visitors. This means that if you want to enter the park, you will need to make a reservation in advance. This is a newer policy and will most likely continue long term.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most iconic features of Glacier National Park. This winding road takes you through the heart of the park, offering breathtaking views of the mountains, glaciers, and valleys. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are vehicle length limits of 21 feet on this road. This means that if you are driving an RV, you will not be able to drive it on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. But don’t worry, there are shuttles available if you don’t have a car to drive and you’re just driving an RV.
There are many scenic overlooks throughout the park that you will want to stop at. These overlooks offer some of the best views in the park, so be sure to take your time driving and watch for vehicles pulling in and out of these overlooks. Keep in mind that these overlooks can be very busy, so be prepared to wait a bit for a parking spot.
Glacier National Park has a ton of hiking trails, many of which are for more experienced hikers. It’s important to choose the right trail for your skill level and experience. We recommend using the AllTrails app to decide which trails will work best for you and your family. If you are new to hiking, be sure to start with an easy trail and work your way up to more challenging ones.
Hidden Lake Trail
This moderate trail takes hikers through a beautiful alpine meadow and offers stunning views of Hidden Lake and the surrounding mountains. It’s a great trail for families with older children and offers a chance to see wildlife like mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
This strenuous trail takes hikers along the Garden Wall, a towering rock formation that provides panoramic views of the park. It’s a popular trail among experienced hikers and offers a chance to see wildflowers and wildlife.
Trail of the Cedars
This easy, wheelchair-accessible trail takes hikers through a beautiful cedar forest and along Avalanche Creek. It’s a great trail for families with young children and offers a chance to see the park’s unique plant life.
Grinnell Glacier Trail
This strenuous hike will take you through rugged terrain, over creeks, and along the shore of the stunning Swiftcurrent Lake. The trail ends with a panoramic view of Grinnell Glacier and the surrounding mountains.
Two Medicine Lake Trail
This moderate trail takes hikers through a beautiful forest and along the shore of Two Medicine Lake. The trail offers great views of the lake and the surrounding mountains and is a great trail for families with older children.
Iceberg Lake Trail
This strenuous hike takes hikers through a beautiful valley and over rocky terrain to Iceberg Lake, where they can see glaciers and ice chunks floating in the lake. It’s a great trail for experienced hikers and offers a chance to see wildlife like grizzly bears and mountain goats.
Avalanche Lake Trail
One of my favorite hikes was Avalanche Lake Trail. This is a moderate hike that takes visitors through a beautiful cedar forest along Avalanche Creek, leading to the stunning Avalanche Lake. This trail is a great option for families with older children, as it is relatively short and easy to navigate. The trailhead is located at the Trail of the Cedars trailhead, which is also wheelchair accessible.
The trail follows Avalanche Creek as it winds its way through a lush forest of cedars, hemlocks, and firs. Along the way, visitors can see waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife. The trail is also a great place to spot birds, as it is home to many species of songbirds. The trail ends at Avalanche Lake, a beautiful glacial lake surrounded by towering peaks. At the lake, visitors can enjoy the peacefulness of the lake, the sound of the waterfalls, and the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The hike to Avalanche lake is a great way to experience the beauty of the park and appreciate the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area.
If you have some extra time, be sure to check out the small town of Pole Bridge. This town is located at the north end of the park and is a mostly dirt road to get there. However, it’s well worth the trip, as there is a lot of wildlife viewing and amazing views of the river.
It is a hidden gem that offers visitors a chance to escape the crowds and experience the park in a more rustic and remote setting. One of the main attractions of Polebridge is the historic Polebridge Mercantile, a general store that has been in operation since the early 1900s.
The Mercantile is famous for its homemade bear claws, a delicious pastry made with layers of flaky dough, and a sweet, gooey filling. These treats are a must-try for anyone visiting Polebridge and are a great way to fuel up before hitting the trails.
Polebridge is also a great place to spot wildlife, as the area is home to a wide variety of animals, including grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, and wolves. Visitors can also enjoy the beautiful scenery of the North Fork of the Flathead River, which runs through the town and take in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
In addition to hiking and wildlife viewing, Polebridge is also a popular spot for fly fishing, rafting, and kayaking. The town is situated at the edge of the park, so it’s a great starting point for exploring the remote wilderness areas of Glacier National Park. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an adventure-filled vacation, Polebridge is a great destination that offers something for everyone.
JR Ranger Program
If you’re visiting Glacier National Park with kids, be sure to take advantage of the JR Ranger program. This program is designed for children and is a great way to introduce them to the park and its natural resources. Children can participate in a variety of activities and earn a badge for completing the program.
Pack Snacks and Water
There are not many options for food or concessions in the park, so be sure to pack snacks and water. Also, be aware that not many restaurants in the outlying areas have food after 9 pm, so plan accordingly. Make sure you have enough to eat and drink before you head out for a hike or a drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Visiting Glacier National Park in One Day
If you’re lucky enough to only have one day to visit Glacier National Park, make sure to take the time to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The road is the main thoroughfare through the park and offers some of the most breathtaking views of the glaciers and mountains.
Take your time driving and pull over at the many scenic overlooks to take in the views and snap some photos. You can also hop on one of the shuttle buses that run along the road if you don’t have a car or if your car doesn’t meet the length requirements.
Remember, RVs are not allowed to drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road due to the road’s vehicle length limits of 21 feet. This restriction is in place to protect the road’s infrastructure and to ensure the safety of all visitors. The road is steep and winding, and larger vehicles like RVs have a harder time maneuvering through these tight turns.
However, if you’re traveling in an RV, you can still visit Glacier National Park. There are several campgrounds in the park (we stayed at Glacier Peak Campground) that can accommodate RVs, and you can take one of the shuttle buses that run along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to see the sights.
In conclusion, Glacier National Park is a must-see destination for nature lovers, RVers, and outdoor enthusiasts. With its stunning glaciers, majestic mountains, and varied wildlife, it offers visitors a chance to experience the beauty of the natural world in all its glory.
By following our top tips for visiting Glacier National Park and using our free trip plan, you’ll be able to make the most of your time in the park and have an unforgettable experience. Remember to make a reservation in advance, take advantage of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, explore the many scenic overlooks, and take part in the Jr. Ranger program. And don’t forget to pack snacks and water, as food options are limited inside the park.
Whether you’re traveling with family or friends, have one day or several, there’s something for everyone at Glacier National Park. So, plan your trip today and experience the grandeur of this natural wonder for yourself!