Glacier National Park

It bridges the border of two nations in an area of wilderness that still resembles the ice age, or at least a portion of it.  Glacier National Park, and its sister national park in Canada, Waterton Lakes.  Together they are known as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and represent one of the most pristine natural areas in North America, with history and outdoors fun that run the gamut all the way from Blackfoot Indian culture to the Continental Divide that runs down the center of the park to skiing down a glacier, one of more than fifty located there, all in the lower forty-eight states.  It's a wonderful place to visit, to camp, and hike, and fish, but gets less publicity than its natural wonders a state to its south, those of Yellowstone or the Grand Teton, even though it certainly gets tons of visitors, over two million per year.  But it's just magnificent, too, as all those visitors can attest.  Whether you ride into Glacier in your own personal car, truck, or van, take up a tour on a classic Red Bus that Glacier National Park has been known for for years, or hoof it around the copious amount of trails for the beginner to the expert, you'll have a marvelous time exploring this wonderful place.  And if you've got your passport in order (yes, a passport now to Canada), you can jump across the border and visit Canada's answer to Glacier.  It's a pretty fine place to do those things, too.

There's so much to do in Glacier for those on the more adventurous side of the equation or those that want a more relaxing time in nature.  There are more than 700 miles of hiking trails, boat rides, place to fish from streams to lakes, opportunities to learn about the history of the area from park rangers or wayside exhibits or park visitor center displays, and bus tours from the free Glacier National Park Shuttle in the summer to the guided tours on a historic Red Bus.  On the way you'll see those glaciers, those many beautiful vistas and lakes, more than a few trees and animals as well.  Although Glacier National Park can be a bit of a trek for those from the southwest or eastern parts of the United States, it will be well worth the extra miles trekked from them or from those well known locations.  And you'll get more than a few gulps of that pure mountain air that seems so rare in some of the places you've come from, too.

Things You Should Not Miss

1. Drive the Going to the Sun Road.  Whether you want to take this drive on a tour or shuttle, including the Red Bus, or in your own vehicle, the 48.7 mile drive takes you into the interior of the wilds of the park and to some just great vistas.  You'll be at 6,646 feet in elevation at its highest point.  And if you'd like to camp in this area, five of the Glacier National Park campsites are located along the road.

2. Never miss an opportunity to take a ranger guided tour.  The information and presentation that these guides give you fills in all the gaps about the history and natural wonders you are seeing.  These are some of the most knowledgeable folks in the national park or any universe about their subjects.

3. Take the Red Bus tour.  It's like going back in time to the late 1930s when these buses began to roll, and looks really cool, too.  The tours can be pricey for some pocketbooks, starting at $30, and include both 1/2 and full day options.

Glacier National Park
Granite Park Chalet, Glacier National Park (Photo NPS)

What is There Now

Park Visitor Centers

St. Marye's Visitor Center - Eastern Entrance to the Park near St. Marye's Lake.

Logan Pass Visitor Center 
- Located on the center of the park between the other two main centers on the Going to the Sun Road.

Apgar Visitor Center - Near the western entrance to the park and located on the western shore of Lake McDonald.

Lodging and Camping

Lodging - The lodges in inside Glacier National Park are special treats to stay in and require reservations most of the time.  Many are historic in their own right, dating back to pre World War I times.  They range from the magnificent Lake McDonald Lodge to rustic cabins to chalets that require a hike like the Granite Park Chalet above.

Available Lodging inside the park: Glacier Park Lodge (161 rooms), Lake McDonald Lodge, Inn, and Cabins (100 rooms), Village Inn Motel at Apgar (36), Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins (72), Swift Current Motor Inn and Cabins (88), Many Glacier Hotel (214 rooms), Apgar Village Lodge (48).

Outside the park, near the eastern and other entrances, there are other opportunities to stay, with motel and hotels that may meet your needs.  Check with Expedia or the local tourist agency for details.

Camping - Oh, boy, are there places to camp.  Inside Glacier National Park, there are thirteen campgrounds with over 1,000 campsites.  They vary in elevation, service, and opening dates, and there are backcountry opportunities, too.  Check at the visitor center for those.

The regular campsites running from north to south include Kintla Lake, Bowman Lake, Quartz Creek, Logging Creek, Many Glacier, St. Mary (nearest the eastern entrance and only 1/2 mile from the main visitor center), Rising Sun, Avalanche, Sprague Creek, Fish Creek, Agpar, Cut Bank, and Two Medicine.

Glacier Links

Glacier National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada
Glacier Park, Inc. Lodging
Agpar Village Lodge
Red Bus Tours

Nearby Attractions

Musuem of Plains Indians, Blackfeet Indian Reservation
Little Bighorn National Monument
Montana State Travel Site
Flathead Valley Convention and Visitor Bureau

Glacier Then and Now

Glacier National Park
The lodge on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.  (LOC)

Glacier Then

Yes, there were glaciers then and glaciers now, and mountains with peaks that rise to the maximum height of 10.438 feet in Mount Clevelend.  Three others top 10,000 feet, too; Kintla Peak, Mount Siych, and Mount Stimson.  However, one of the most interesting natural sights in Glacier National Park comes in the form of a thrust, the Lewis Overthrust is a high ridge that formed when the earth cracked and thrust up in a ridge with colorful layers of rock.  There are mountain lakes and valley lakes, a whole bunch of lakes numbering more than 250, with the largest, Lake McDonald, that is eleven miles long and one and one half miles wide.  Another, the Iceberg Lake, lies so high, at 6,000 feet, that icebergs flow there in the summer.  Yes, all in the lower forty-eight states of the USA.

Glacier Now

Glacier National Park

The Glacier National Park Shuttle System
- Beginning in summer of 2007, the Glacier Park shuttle system began ferrying folks around the park.  It takes you to some of the most popular locations in Glacier, including the Going to the Sun Road.  It runs from July to the beginning of September.  The shuttle is free and no tickets are required to board.  (Photo courtesy NPS)

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Visitor Statistics

Glacier National Park
2,190,374 visitors

#35 Most Visited National Park Unit

Park Size

Glacier National Park

1,012.905 acres (Federal)
1,013,322 acres (Total)

Source: NPS, 2013 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 369 units.

Glacier National Park

Car (7 Day) Summer (May to November) - $25
Car (7 Day) Winter (December to April) - $15

Individual by Foot, Bike, Motorcycle (7 Day) Summer - $12
Individual (7 Day) Winter - $10

Annual Pass - $35

Fees subject to change without notice.

Glacker National Park Weather

The park is known for its variety of weather conditions, particularly since the mountain elevations can be 10-15 degrees cooler than in the valley. And it gets wet here, both in rain and snow. May temps average 64.1 degrees for the high; July 79.1; January 28.5.  Lows average temps in  May 37.1; July 47.2; January 14.9.  So it gets cold here at night even in the summer.  Dress accordingly.


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