Yes, Glacier National Park is way up there on the Canadian border in Montana. But let me tell you — it is worth it to take the trip and go visit this unbelievably beautiful place.
Before we started traveling full time I had honestly never heard of it. Once we started traveling full time, people started to tell me how amazing this national park in Montana was. I was interested and had to see for myself, and wow! They were right! My husband and I often joke that since we visited, it ruined almost everywhere else in the U.S. for us. It is that amazing!
Here are 19 amazing things to do in Glacier National Park this year. Yup, I said it: THIS YEAR. Don’t wait for the perfect time make it happen. THIS YEAR! OK, I think I got the point across.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most popular activities in Glacier National Park, so be sure to check to see if it is open when you are planning on going. This scenic road is weather-dependent, and sometimes it doesn’t open until July, so you’ll want to check before your trip. We went in August and it was open all month.
I would argue this is the most beautiful drive in the United States. You start from either the west side or east side entrance of Glacier and steadily climb until you reach the highest point you can drive to, which is a Logan’s Pass.
The drive up is breathtaking. Like seriously, take-your-breath-away amazing. You will probably want to stop at least 20 times to get out to take pictures. One of the most popular views to take pictures of is Wild Goose Island in the middle of St. Mary Lake. On the drive you will see waterfalls and mountains as far as the eye can see. Plus, if you are lucky, you might see a bear, mountain goats, or big horn sheep. The scenic views can’t be beat.
Note: In 2023, a Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Vehicle Reservation is required for each vehicle accessing the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Reservation Area from May 26 through September 10, 2023, from 6 am to 3 pm. The reservation is good for three consecutive days. You can find more information about the Vehicle Reservation System here.
Note that there is a size limit on vehicles that can go on the road (21 feet long 8 feet wide and 10 feet high). There is a reason they set these restrictions, so follow them! This drive is definitely not easy and there are a few scary parts.
What we noticed is once we did it once, we got more used to it. But the first time up there I was freaking out a little bit. If you don’t want to deal with this, they do offer a Red Bus Tour that you can get on and they can drive you on the road.
Logan Pass is the highest point you can drive to in Glacier National Park. There is a visitor center here and also a really cool hiking trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook. Please note the parking lot is usually full, so be prepared to drive around to find a spot or to drive and park down the road and walk back up.
It is worth it to stop and check out the Visitor Center and talk to the rangers about the animals in the area. They also have a gift shop where you can pick up a few souvenirs and stickers to show people you were here.
One of our favorite things to do when we are in Glacier is to go hiking. Even if you aren’t a hiker, you should go hiking when you are in Glacier. Due to its increasing popularity, there are a lot of people visiting the park each year.
Want to know a secret? If you go on a 1-mile hike, you will most likely only see a handful of people. Everyone else is only going to the main attractions and aren’t making the extra effort to go on a hike. Like I said…go on a hike. You will be glad you did.
Here are some of the hikes we recommend at Glacier National Park.
TRAIL OF THE CEDARS
OK, this one doesn’t quite take you off the beaten path but it is still a really cool hike and worth doing. The Trail of the Cedars has an amazing waterfall with an unbelievable blue color. This hike also tends to be safer, since it can be busy and the chance of seeing bears is less.
The Trail of the Cedars is a boardwalk-type of trail, so it is doable for all ages. It is a popular one, so parking can sometimes be an issue. With that said, we always found a spot – and we were there in August which is the busiest month.
Read More: The Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
We had quite the adventure visiting Avalanche Lake, but it was still amazing (right when we reached the top it started to thunderstorm)! You start on the Trail of the Cedars and the veer up and off that trail to get onto this trail. And then you hike up for the rest of the way.
The hike is 4.5 miles round trip and you gain over 700 feet. But when you make it the top it opens up to this amazing lake surrounded by the mountains. It is such a breathtaking sight! I know this year the trail was closed for a while due to bear activity, so always have your bear spray.
Getting to the Hidden Lake trailhead is part of the fun. You go on the unebelievable Going-To-The-Sun Road and then stop at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. You then walk behind the visitor center to get to the trailhead.
This is another popular trail and is well marked and even has stairs. But it is a steep climb so be prepared for it to take a little while. The views as you are walking on the trail are spectacular so be sure to stop and turn around.
When we hiked it there was a family of mountain goats that walked right across the trail in front of us. It was quite the experience!
Another pretty grueling hike is the Grinnell Lake Trail at 7 miles round trip, but again I can’t say enough about the views. Plus, the lake is so beautiful and well worth the effort to get there. If you aren’t feeling up for the hike, you can pay and take a couple of boats to get here. No judgment – sometimes you just want a nice easy boat ride.
The boat will drop you off and you will still have a short hike to the lake or you can decide to do the longer hike up to Grinnell Glacier. Find out more about the Many Glacier boat tours here.
Apakuni Falls is an interesting hike that takes you through a thick forest so you don’t get quite as many of those amazing views on the way there. But once you reach the falls area and turn around you are rewarded with those beautiful views again.
This hike takes you to the bottom of a glacial waterfall – if you are willing to rock scramble a little bit to get up there. And if you are feeling up to it, you can walk out and stand under the FREEZING cold water.
This hike is 1.7 miles round trip with a gain of over 600 feet.
ST MARY FALLS/VIRGINIA FALLS
The hike to St. Mary and Virginia Falls is a nice hike that’s popular due to the shorter distance, yet it still takes you off the beaten path a little ways – unlike the Trail of the Cedars that has the boardwalk. The falls were beautiful and so powerful.
If you do this hike we highly recommend you continue on to the Virginia Falls. It is worth the extra distance.
This hike is .8 miles to St. Mary Falls and then an additional 1 mile to Virginia Falls for a total of 1.8 miles there and 1.8 miles back for a roundtrip of 3.6 miles.
BOWMAN LAKE AND POLEBRIDGE MERCANTILE
You actually leave the park and drive on a dirt road to get to the Polebridge Mercantile, which is an old store and bakery that has been there for a long time. They don’t have power, but instead run things off of a generator. It is a cool place.
You then continue down the dirt road and reenter the park at this tiny little entrance and then continue for a few miles on a 1 1/2 lane – 2 lane dirt road through the forest to reach Bowman Lake. I promise it is worth it!
The lake is beautiful and the perfect place to hang out and take in the scenery or if you are up for it go in for a quick dip to cool off! I think this place is getting more and more popular so I recommend getting there ASAP.
You know those pictures of Glacier National Park with the clear water, the colorful rocks, and the mountains in the background? That is Lake McDonald! To be honest, it wasn’t my favorite part of Glacier because I really fell in love with the mountains, but it is still beautiful.
There isn’t a large beach area but you can pull off at any of the pull out areas by the lake and walk down to hang out on the “beach.” We did this during the day and also once night at sunset.
Lake McDonald also has a nice visitor center area where you can go in to learn more about Glacier National Park, the animals, landscape, and talk to the rangers about recommended hikes and drives. Plus the kids can do their Junior Ranger program here.
Another of our favorite areas in Glacier is the Many Glacier area. This is a less visited area since it isn’t by any of the main entrances. If you are coming from the popular west entrance, you have to drive all the way through the Going to The Sun Road to get here. You are looking at a 2 – 3 hour drive.
It is closer to the east entrance, but you are still looking at a drive to get into this part of the park. But it is totally worth it! It is so beautiful and the mountains and surrounding area will just take your breath away.
The Many Glacier Hotel sits on the lake with the mountains behind it and has a European feel to it. We didn’t stay here but I wish we did.
There is also a campground and a general store as you drive further back into the Many Glacier area. We were pleasantly surprised by how good the food was and the variety of natural and organic options that they had. And don’t forget to stop in the convenience store next to the restaurant to get a soft serve huckleberry ice cream!
There are a few good hikes in the Many Glacier area: Grinnell Lake (mentioned above), Grinnell Glacier, and Apakuni Falls (mentioned above). The Ice Berg Trail is also here – you can see ice bergs on the lake even in August! But was closed when we were there due to bear activity.
Two Medicine is another section of Glacier National Park. Yes, it is a large park and is pretty spread out.
There are plenty of great hikes to do in this area, like Appistoki Falls, Running Eagle Falls, Scenic Point, or Upper Two Medicine Lake. But Two Medicine wasn’t one of our overall favorites.
If you are there for a while and looking to check out a different section of the park, then go for it. But I would keep this one lower on your list. It just wasn’t as drastic and breathtaking as some of the other areas.
Whitefish is a cute town that is about 30 minutes from the West Entrance side of the park. It has a cool main street with restaurants, shops and breweries. One of my husband’s favorite beers from all of our travels is brewed here: Good Medicine at the Northern Brewing Company.
You can come here to grab a bite to eat, shop, or to hang out on the grassy area at the far end of the town. They also have a public beach area on the lake which was fun with a floating pier for the kids to jump off of and kayaks to rent. Be aware the water is COLD. But we still went in and had fun!
GLACIER GUIDES RAFTING
Ready to get out and do some rafting?! With younger kids in tow we decided for the scenic float with Glacier Guides and Montana Raft and it was a perfect fit. We floated down the river and hit a couple small rapids but not to much. Then at one point you could get out to swim if you wanted to and our 6 year old did a backward roll right off the raft into the water!
As young as 6 can go on a low levels rapids trip if they would like. The guides were great on our trip and we would highly recommend getting out on the river while you are in Glacier.
Read More: RAFTING WITH KIDS WITH MONTANA RAFT
WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT
Looking for some resort life? The Whitefish Mountain Resort has it. Known more for its ski resort in winter it still does a great job in the summer. You can come here to do the ropes course, zipline, luge course and ride the ski lift up to the top of the mountain.
The top of the mountain has amazing views and is where we did some huckleberry picking. Nothing like eating fresh huckleberry off the branch!
Make sure to look for the freshly picked huckleberry stands while driving around outside of the park. They are everywhere and are worth a stop. The huckleberries are yummy!
There is a pretty good chance you will see a black bear or grizzly bear or both while you are visiting Glacier National Park – hopefully from your car and not from the trail! Plus moose, mountain goats, and big horn sheep. Always have your bear spray when out hiking and follow the recommendation on how far to stay away from the wildlife!
WATERTON LAKES NATIONAL PARK
Glacier National Park is amazing and you could spend months exploring it, but if you don’t think you will be back up this way again then take the trip up to Canada and Waterton Lakes National Park. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get there so it is a whole day event.
We did a couple of hikes in Waterton Lakes, but our favorite by far was Red Rock Canyon. There is a trail that walks along the rim of the canyon, but we climbed down into the canyon for an epic creek walk!
Fun fact: The Continental Divide forms the western border of Waterton Lakes National Park, which lies completely on the east side of the divide.
You can also stop at the Waterton Glacier International Peace Park. Learn more about what that is here.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK FAQ
What are the things you shouldn’t miss at Glacier National Park?
If you don’t have a lot of time and need to really prioritize your trip to Glacier National Park, the things you absolutely shouldn’t miss are Going-to-the-Sun Road, St. Mary Lake, and the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
How many days do you need at Glacier National Park?
There are so many things to do in Glacier National Park, you could spend years and still not see it all! With that said, to hit most of the highlights, you should probably plan for at least 5 days.
How long does it take to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road?
Going-to-the-Sun Road is about 51 miles long, so if you were driving it from one end to the other, without stops and without traffic, it would take about 2 hours. But! You’re going to want to stop, and traffic can get congested depending on when you’re visiting, so you should plan to spend 4 to 5 hours exploring the scenic route.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO MONTANA
- YOUR MONTANA VACATION
- WATERFALLS: 17 Amazing Waterfalls In Montana (Inside and Outside Glacier NPS)
- MANY GLACIER: 7 Awe Inspiring Things To Do In Many Glacier
- BOZEMAN: 12 Amazing Things To Do In Bozeman MT
- MISSOULA: 19 Amazing Things To Do In Missoula Montana
WHERE TO STAY IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
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