The Ultimate Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Visit 5 Main Sections

Brimming with alpine lakes, secluded meadows, snow-covered mountains, and impregnable “fortresses” of pristine forests, Glacier National Park is breathtaking, mesmerizing, and unbelievably captivating. The Crown of the Continent is how this Montana’s gem has been dubbed. Millions of travelers visit Glacier National Park every year, unable to resist its extraordinary natural beauty. Are you ready to join their ranks? Here is the ultimate Glacier National Park travel guide that includes 5 main sections of the area to start you off on this journey. 

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Visit Logan Pass

The Ultimate Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Tips, Map, and Everything You Need to Know before Your First Visit

Located in the northwest corner of Montana, Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the USA. From the sweeping hills, roaring waterfalls, and distant glaciers, the place is an outdoor adventurer’s dream come true.

Spread for miles on end, this remote area resembles rolling hills of Switzerland, so vividly praised in bountiful movies and novels. The similarities become even more profound as you visit different sections of Glacier National Park.

The greatest example here is the astounding Many Glacier area, which many claim to be the most beautiful corner to visit in the park. Home to the scenic lakes and abundant wildlife, it harbors the popular Many Glacier Hotel, built in the finest Swiss architectural traditions.

The historic masterpiece sits along the east shore of Swiftcurrent Lake and takes a central place in every Glacier National Park travel guide. And there’s certainly a reason for it. When we explored Many Glacier during our first visit, the largest hotel in the park stood out instantly. Impeccable in size and style, this charming place also had to make it into lodging section of our ultimate Glacier National Park travel guide

What to Expect to Find in this Glacier National Park Travel Guide

Since we came so close to discussing the content of this blog post, there is what you can expect to find here. This complete Glacier National Park travel guide takes you to the epic Going-to-the-Sun Road. Later, it introduces to you some of the photogenic lakes and valleys to visit in Many Glacier and sets you off on the unforgettable hiking adventures.

If you read this Glacier National Park travel guide thoroughly enough, you can even discover for yourself the best places to visit to see Montana’s wildlife.

Not the most exiting, but surely important topics such as getting around, the best time to travel to and explore Glacier National Park haven’t also escaped our attention and are fully discussed in this guide.

And I don’t know about you, but knowing the history of a place you visit – in our case Glacier – is as important as getting familiar with its present. Thus, rest assure, a short section of the Glacier National Park’s past has made its way into this travel guide as well. Although you can skip it, if you need to.

Without further ado, here is the ultimate Glacier National Park travel guide, introducing the 5 main sections of the area, to help you plan your first trip

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
The Going-to-the-Sun Road and Many Glacier are the two popular sections to visit in the park

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Fast Facts

  • Established: May 11, 1910
  • Size: 1,583 square miles (4,101 square km)
  • Location: Montana
  • Annual Visitors: 2-3 millions (varies yearly)
  • Fact: America’s 10th national park
  • Part of: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, World Heritage Site

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: History in a Nutshell

Despite its harsh weather conditions most of the year, Glacier National Park has allured people for centuries. The earliest human presence in the northern part of Montana dates back to over 10,000 years.

As the old records indicate, several different tribes, such as the Blackfeet Indians, the Salish and Kootenai Indians, has long adopted to the unfriendly environment. Picking edible plants and berries in summer and hunting buffalos had helped the first permanent residents survive and thrive in the area long before Europeans arrived.

The representatives of, as it was known back then, “civilized” world flocked to northwestern Montana much later. Their travel excursions, however, were rarely focused on the natural beauty of the Glacier National Park area. Instead, beavers and other pelts were the reasons of their visits. Shortly after, miners and later settlers looking for land to live and work on followed the hunters’s lead and moved to Montana.

Completion of the Great Northern Railway in 1891 allowed even more people to travel to the today’s Glacier National Park area. With newly-introduced ease of getting to and from the remote northwestern Montana, homesteading started to flourish.

When the pioneers finally settled into a routine and less effort was spent on mere survival, more and more people recognized the unprecedented beauty of the area. One of such nature enthusiasts was George Bird Grinnell. A zealous advocate of the northwestern Montana, he strived to preserve the area in its untouched conditions. Finally, on May 11, 1910, President Taft signed the bill, recognizing Glacier as the America’s 10th national park.  

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Visit Logan Pass in the most popular section of Glacier
Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Plan your visit to Many Glacier early in the morning

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Visit 5 Main Sections

When you travel to Glacier National Park frequently or even explore it on your very first visit, you can see why Grinnell was so passionate and protective of this secluded area. The place that has amazed millions of visitors for over 100 years still takes your breath away.

Today, though, it’s friendlier and more inviting. Whether you should thank modern technology for the existence of paved roads or see value in extended study of the area, travel to Glacier National Park has certainly become easier.

With that said, the modern day’s park consists of 5 more or less visited sections. The most popular of them are the mountainous Going-to-the-Sun Road and picturesque Many Glacier. The Two Medicine area comfortably enjoys serenity in the shadow of its more popular siblings. The other two sections of Glacier National Park still protect their secrets and share them only with a small number of outdoor adventurers that are willing to visit the most undisturbed areas of northwestern Montana.

Knowing your options helps plan your first visit to Glacier and the darest outdoor adventures thoroughly. Therefore, this Glacier National Park travel guide can’t go any further without giving your a short overview of these 5 areas.

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a scenic, mountainous road in the Rocky Mountains. The panoramic route connects the eastern and western sides of the park. Constructed in 1933, the Going-to-the-Sun Road almost instantly became the most visited area in Glacier National Park. Millions of visitors travel along the scenic route yearly, feasting their eyes on roadside creeks, waterfalls, and lush valleys Glacier National Park is famous for.

Hiking adventures abound here as well. Thanks to the favorite trails at Logan Pass and along Lake McDonald‘s shores, travel to this section of Glacier can last for days on end.

Thus, for many nature enthusiasts, the Going-to-the-Sun Road’s adventures don’t end after spending approximately 2 hours on the road while driving from east to west or vise versa. With 5 campgrounds and 3 visitor centers, this area of Glacier doesn’t let you travel away and visit the remaining sections of the national park so quickly. 

Road Conditions

A portion of the most-visited area of Glacier National Park, however, remains closed most of the year. Plowing of the farthest from the West Glacier or St. Mary/East Glacier entrances sections starts in early April. Yet the visitors must wait until late June or early July to travel along the entire scenic route in this part of Glacier.

When clean from the snow, the Going-to-the-Sun Road stays open for the rest of summer. The road closures can happen any time after Labor Day weekend, depending on the weather. In general, though, Glacier National Park closes the alpine portion of the route in mid-October, allowing its guests to visit only the areas closest to the entrances afterwards.

Need to Know: As of 2021, Glacier National Park has implemented a ticketing system to travel along the Going-to-the-Sun Road during the summer season. Due to increased visitation, parking becomes an ever-growing issue. The entry system is intended to eliminated the crowds and make a visit to Glacier National Park more enjoyable.

TIP: The entry passes can be obtained up to 60 days in advance at recreation.gov. Yet if you happen to travel to Glacier National Park spontaneously, make sure to get your entry pass at least two days in advance. The tickets are gone in a few minutes after their release. Thus, the best advice here is to plan your visit to Glacier National Park at least a week in advance. 

READ MORE: Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road: Tips and Entry Ticket & 21 Best Stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Visit Glacier: Hidden Lake Overlook
Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations

2. Many Glacier

Many Glacier is the second-popular area to visit in Glacier National Park. The place sits north of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, on the east side of the park. Some travelers insists that it’s the most beautiful area, a must-visit section of Glacier National Park.

Indeed, you can’t disagree with them. Alluring with its snow-covered mountains, aquamarine lakes, and gorgeous waterfalls, Many Glacier is as stunning as nature can only be. You can visit this section of Glacier National Park any time of the year and see its splendidness becoming even more irresistible as the seasons change.

If you travel to Glacier National Park to find a piece of Switzerland, Many Glacier once again tenders to your wishes. Home to the renowned Many Glacier Hotel, it added Swiss-style hospitality and comfort to your visit.

Longing for the unforgettable outdoor adventures? Spice up your visit to this picturesque area of Glacier National Park with boating or kayaking on Swiftcurrent Lake or travel on foot to astonishing Grinnell Lake

READ MORE: First-Timer’s Guide to Visiting Many Glacier: 1 – 2 Day Itinerary

3. Two Medicine

To visit Two Medicine in Glacier National Park, you must go off the beaten path. Located nearly 13 miles from East Glacier, this panoramic section is considered a hidden gem. Yet not that long ago, Two Medicine was the most popular area to travel to in Glacier National Park. Millions of outdoor enthusiasts flocked to the now secluded section of Glacier to visit its gorgeous lakes and chase its sparkling waterfalls.

After the Going-to-the-Sun Road opened for private vehicles, though, Two Medicine slowly lost its attractiveness. The number of people visiting this remote area started dropping. Today, fewer and fewer adventurers travel beyond the two popular destinations of Glacier National Park to see this breathtaking wilderness.

Fair enough. Nestled in the southeast corner of Glacier, the Two Medicine area requests a longer detour. But once you travel to this section of Glacier National Park, you need at least a day to visit all of its main attractions.

For those who decide to prolong their visit, the area has its own campground with campsites that operate of a first-come, first-served basis. A camp store and gift shop are also available, if you need to replenish your supplies before visiting the other remote corners of Glacier National Park.

When it comes to the outdoor recreational activities, the Two Medicine area has everything to keep you busy for days. From kayaking or canoeing on Two Medicine Lake to hiking to the ample waterfalls, the place wins the hearts of Glacier’s visitors at once. The most popular landmarks to travel to on foot here are Appistoki Falls and Aster Falls.

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Many Glacier is one of the most gorgeous areas to spend a day during your first visit to Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations

4. The North Fork 

The last two sections to visit in Glacier National Park are even more remote and secluded than the once-popular Two Medicine area.

Located in the northwest corner of the park, the North Fork allures the most adventurous visitors. The travel to this section of Glacier National Park is no longer a pleasant drive, but an adventure on its own. Unpaved roads intersect the North Fork area, preparing inconvenient surprises for its guests again and again. It’s the least favorite area of the first-time visitors of Glacier, as they have to learn how to avoid all possible road trip mistakes or deal with them on the spot.

Glacier National Park’s rangers recommend that the visitors travel to the North Fork prepared. Fill your tank beforehand, grab plenty of water and snacks, and know how to change flat tire yourself. Furthermore, vehicles over 21’ and trailers are not allowed to travel on the rough dirt roads of this secluded corner of Glacier National Park.

Hiking and Camping

Those who do visit this hidden gem in Glacier, though, are rewarded with magnificent views of Bowman and Kintla Lakes and scenic hikes. For the long day hikes, traverse such trails as Akokala Lake Trail, Bowman Lake Head Trail, Kintla Lake Head Trail, Logging Lake Trail, and Quartz Lake Trail. The shorter travel adventures revolve around Lower Quartz Lake, Hidden Meadow, and Covey Meadow Trails, all spanning from 1 to 3 miles one way.

TIP: Preparation is a key to an enjoyable visit to the North Fork in Glacier National Park. The area offers limited amenities and has no phone signal. The closest services are available in Polebridge, located outside the park.

The North Fork is of most interest to backcountry visitors. With four campgrounds (Bowman Lake, Logging Creek, Kintla Lake, and Quartz Creek), it promises the most memorable travel experiences in entire Glacier National Park. 

5. Goat Haunt

Goat Haunt’s location is by far the most alluring point. Known as the Gateway to the Northern Wilderness of Glacier, this section sits near the northern border of the national park. To the south, it neighbors with Upper Waterton Lake, a Canadian sibling of the favorite Montana bucket list destination.

Goat Haunt supersedes even the North Fork when it comes to remoteness and tranquility. They say if you want to explore Glacier National Park away from the crowds, be sure to travel to Goat Haunt. Indeed, the place is all an overnight backpacking adventurer can wish for. Packed with such incredible hikes as Boulder Pass Trail, Stoney Indian Pass Trail, Northern Highland Trail, and Waterton Valley Trail, the area has far more to offer than most visitors can ever imagine.

For a short visit, be sure to enjoy the scenic views of Glacier National Park from the Goat Haunt Overlook or travel to Rainbow Falls. Both of these landmarks sit just one mile from the trailheads and require less than an hour to complete the hike.

TIP: The most popular way to travel to this secluded area of Glacier National Park is by boat from Waterton Lakes National Park. While nature doesn’t abide by the political rules and borders, the visitors should certainly do. The Canadian and American hikers hardly have any problems with visiting and hiking in both national parks. Citizens of other countries can only travel on foot from the boat dock to a ranger station while visiting Glacier from Waterton Lakes National Park. Alternately, they can present proper documents that allow them to venture deeper into Montana. It’s the surest way for them to visit Glacier National park while arriving from Canada.

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: How to Get Around 

Driving is the best way to visit Glacier National Park and travel to its most secluded areas. Parking in Many Glacier and along the overcrowded Going-to-the-Sun Road, however, is not a piece of cake. To eliminate this issue, the park offers several options on how to get around. Let’s start with the most popular of them and eventually move to the alternative options on how to visit different sections of Glacier National Park. 

Visit Glacier National Park by Car

You can’t deny the convenience of having a car and visiting different areas of Glacier on your own terms. Driving is also the only option available if you long to explore Two Medicine, the North Fork, or Goat Haunt. Thinking about crossing the border and visiting Waterton Lake National Park? Then you definitely need a car.

Yet keep in mind that many roads within Glacier and some roads outside the national park are seasonal. Several areas of the park are inaccessible most of the year. Thus, be sure to check the road status updates frequently if you travel to Glacier National Park in fall, winter, or spring.

As we stated before, parking seems to always be an issue. In summer, the parking lots near the popular places often fill up by afternoon. Let’s say, if you’re planning to visit Avalanche Lake in the late morning and travel to Logan Pass or Many Glacier around noon, you’re too late. While you can still get lucky and claim an empty spot at any places you visit in Glacier, the park’s staff can simply turn your away at the entrances to the most popular sections.

TIP: Therefore, always try to travel to and within Glacier National Park early in the morning. Late afternoons can also work for a relaxed visit even to some of the most popular Glacier National Park’s landmarks. Avoid summer weekends and holidays if possible. Way too many people visit Glacier during these times.

Travel within Glacier National Park: Visit Going-to-the-Sun Road

As of the summer season of 2021, the park has introduced a ticketing system for the private vehicles traveling along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. On top of park’s pass, the visitors must have a separate entry ticket for the scenic drive. No cars are allowed to enter the route without a pre-purchased ticket with the visitor’s name on it. The rangers verify the identity of the purchaser upon arrival. 

Montana - Roads and Destinations
Driving is the best option to visit Glacier in fall, winter, and spring

Visit Glacier National Park by Park’s Shuttle

To further avoid congestion and eliminate the parking issue, Glacier National Park offers temporarily shuttle services. The buses travel along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier from July 1 (or when the scenic drive opens if after July 1) though Labor Day weekend.

During this time, the shuttles operate daily. The first bus of the day departs from the Apgar Visitor Center (West Glacier) and the St. Mary Visitor Center (East Glacier) at 7:00 a.m. The last shuttle travels from the Logan Pass Visitor Center to the above-mentioned destinations in West and East Glacier at 7:00 p.m.

TIP: You must have a Ticket-to-Ride to visit the most popular section of Glacier National Park by the shuttle. The pass can be purchased through recreation.gov.

Visit Glacier National Park by Hiker’s Shuttle

The hiker’s shuttles are by far the least reliable option to travel within specific sections of Glacier National Park. These buses operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Seating, however, is limited.

In East Glacier, the hiker’s shuttles run between Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, Many Glacier Hotel, and St. Mary Visitor Center. Tickets range from $7 (for children) to $14 (for adults).

Note: As of summer of 2021, the shuttle services has been suspended in West Glacier. 

Visit Glacier National Park: Guided Tours

Visit Glacier with Red Bus Tours

The historic Red Buses travel along the scenic route in both East and West Glacier. Each interpretive tour lasts 4 hours, entertaining its guests with park’s history and favorite natural landmarks. 

Visit Glacier with Blackfeet Perspective 

The Blackfeet Perspective offers a wider range of interpretive tours that lasts from half day to full day. Custom tours are also available. The buses travel along the Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road and throughout the land of the Blackfeet Nation. 

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Logan Pass - Roads and Destinations
A summer visit to Glacier includes traces of all four seasons: lush greenery, snow, and hints of yellow tones

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: The Best Time to Visit

With the prolonged road closures due to the unfavorable weather conditions, you can’t help but put Glacier National Park into the category of seasonal parks. Yet unlike Yellowstone National Park, the Montana’s favorite attraction welcomes the travelers all year round. At the same time, you are able to visit most of the elevated areas in Glacier only during the summer season.

Visit Glacier between Late June and Mid-September

It’s worth to repeat it again, you can travel to Glacier National Park all year round. The northwestern Montana remains open 365 days a year except for the unplowed roads. The best time to visit Glacier National Park, however, is late June through mid-September. During this time, all roads are open, and the visitors can travel between the main sections of Glacier National Park unrestricted.

Who can visit Glacier National Park during this time? Pretty much everybody: first-time travelers, returning outdoor adventurers, families with kids… With plenty of things to do and almost every trail open, you’re here for your most unforgettable summer experiences.

Consequently, the majority of Montana’s enthusiasts visit Glacier National Park and enjoy its epic vistas and natural wonders during the summer season, making it the busiest time. 

Visit Glacier in Late September – October

Fewer travelers visit Glacier National Park when the days get colder and the park’s roads began to close. Following the partial closure and a steep decline in the number of visitors, some lodges and stores cease their operations after Labor Day weekend.

If you travel to Glacier National Park in fall, plan on staying outside the park. On the bright note, it becomes relatively easy to find a parking spot. Moreover, accommodation rates drop in response to the decrease in visitation.

Yet don’t assume that fall takes away all the fun from the Montana’s crown jewel. Visit Glacier National Park in October and feast your eyes on the brilliant foliage displays. The remaining open hiking trails still take you to the glorious landscapes. Frequent rain, however, often puts your plans on hold during this time. 

Visit Glacier from November through April

From the end of fall though mid-spring, Glacier National Park rests. Snowy blanket envelopes its sweeping hills and buries the once well-trodden trails. Many roads take a break as well, keeping their unplowed blankets until warmer days. The temperatures often stay well below freezing, scaring away the majority of the warmth-loving visitors.

Those who visit Glacier National Park during this time can rely only on personal vehicles to get around. The shuttles and visitor centers cease their operations for the whole season. All of the park’s lodgings are closed as well. It’s recommended to visit towns and communities outside Glacier National Park and look for the accommodations there.

The slowest season of the year, however, has its own beauty. The winter wonderland suits Glacier, making it look magical and slightly bewildering. The cold resistant travelers can’t wish for the better time to visit Glacier National Park.

The most popular areas finally enjoy their much-coveted solitude and tranquility. Apart from it, winter activities, such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing, take over hiking, boating, and bicycling.  

Visit Glacier in May – June 

Glacier National Park slowly resumes its operations and opens its scenic roads and trails at the turn of the season. The shuttles begin to transit within the park, yet their services are still limited. Many roads are still closed, as even at the beginning of summer, snowy storms can occur.

More nature enthusiasts visit Glacier National Park now. Their numbers, however, remain low. Consequently, the hotels nearby can still please every budget traveler.

This time of the year, Glacier National Park allures mostly bicyclists. Whitewater rafting is the second popular activity. 

Going-to-the-Sun Road - Roads and Destinations
Drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road and visit some of the highlights of Glacier along the way

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Top 10 Experiences for Your First Visit

Glacier National Park is unique in a sense that you can find something to do and see anywhere in the park. Whether you drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road or visit secluded corners of Many Glacier or Two Medicine, the park promises a plethora of unforgettable experiences and tons of photo opportunities. To get more specific on what to expect from the area, here are some of the best places to visit and irresistible things to do in Glacier National Park.

1. Visit Lake McDonald, the Largest Lake in Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald is the largest water body within the park. Stretching along the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, it encompasses a myriad of scenic trails, astounds with some of the best views, and entertains with its secluded coves and boat rides. 

2. Hike Trail of the Cedars

The Trail of the Cedars is indeed a special place to visit in West Glacier. Famous for its tall cedars clustering closely to each other, it slightly reminds of Sequoia National Park. Yet the walk through the old-growth forest along the 0.7-mile loop is only part of the attraction.

The highlight of this short visit to West Glacier is Avalanche Gorge. Adorned with fern and mosses, it served as a temporary haven for roaring waters of Avalanche Creek before they rush under a wooden footbridge and stream farther down the hill.

READ MORE: The 9 Best Trails for Hiking with Small Kids (ages 4-6) in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Avalanche Lake
Lake McDonald - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Lake McDonald

3. Visit Avalanche Lake, one of the Highlights of Glacier National Park

As you hike farther along the Trail of the Cedars, a well-trodden path forks to the left. 2 miles later, it reaches Avalanche Lake, one of the most gorgeous places to visit in Glacier National Park. 

READ MORE: How to Hike to Avalanche Lake (+ The Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Gorge)

4. Take a Boat Tour

If hiking is not your cup of tea, explore the aquamarine lakes of Glacier National Park from a deck of the boat. Some of the best places to visit for this type of activity include Swiftcurrent Lake in Many Glacier and St. Mary Lake at Rising Sun. 

5. Fall in Love with Logan Pass

Whether you are an avid hiker who can’t wait to tread along the scenic trails or a keen animal lover, Logan Pass is a perfect place to visit in Glacier National Park. The highest point in the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor has long been a favorite of landscape photographers as well.

Brimming with yellow wildflowers with the snowy mountains and occasional mountain goats and bighorn sheep in the background, Logan Pass is the epitome of the park’s natural splendidness. 

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Jackson Glacier Overlook
Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Visit Glacier National Park: Lake McDonald

6. Visit a Glacier

While exploring Glacier National Park, you must visit or at least see… well, a glacier. The easiest place to admire the frozen snow atop the mountains is at the Jackson Glacier Overlook. Just travel along the Going-to-the-Sun Road until you see an unmissable sign to the observation point. Pull over and enjoy the view.

To visit the favorite glacier in Many Glacier, hike along the Grinnell Glacier Trail with the outstanding views of quaint Grinnell Lake.  

7. Visit Glacier National Park’s Waterfalls 

Where to start here? If you visit Glacier National Park during the peak season, the waterfalls and streaming down creeks great you near and far. A number of the cascading falls can be seen while traveling along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

For a short hiking adventures, visit St. Mary and Virginia Falls, both sitting in East Glacier. The out and back path runs for 3.6 miles. Need a longer trail to stretch your legs after traveling through Glacier National Park by car? Add Baring Falls to the above-mentioned waterfall duo for a nice, approximately 6-mile East Glacier visit. 

READ MORE: The 14 Most Photographed Cascades and Waterfalls in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Aquamarine St. Mary Lake

8. Visit St. Mary Lake in East Glacier

The second largest lake in Glacier National Park, St. Mary Lake is a dream destination to visit for all outdoor adventurers. Enticing with its aquamarine water, the place boasts some of the most panoramic vistas, a number of waterfalls, and photogenic Wild Goose Island. 

9. Visit Many Glacier

While exploring Many Glacier during your first visit, you don’t need any specific destinations to feel like you’ve just been transported to a hilly region in Switzerland. The area is breathtaking to say the least. Packed with the towering glaciers and pristine lakes, Many Glacier is often considered the number one place to visit in the park. 

10. Visit Two Medicine, a Hidden Gem of Glacier 

Two Medicine kills two birds with one stone: it amazes with its natural beauty and allows to explore the park away from the crowds. Often overlooked, this section of Glacier National Park is the biggest hidden gem to visit and explore through and through. Some of the highlights of this area are Two Medicine Lake, Running Eagle Falls, and Aster Falls.

READ MORE: 10 Incredible Places not to Miss in Glacier National Park

Visit Glacier National Park: Map

Visit Glacier National Park - Map - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Visit 5 Main Sections. Source: National Park Maps
Going-to-the-Sun Road - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Roadside creeks and waterfalls
Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Sacred Dancing Cascades

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: How Many Days do You Need for Your First Visit

Ideally, you need at least 3 days to visit all major sections of Glacier National Park. Neighboring Waterton Lakes National Park asks for an additional day. So you look at minimum 4 days for your first visit to the Glacier National Park area. With so much time on your hands, you can stick to the following itinerary.

TIP: If you have only 1 or 2 days, visit Glacier anyway. Adjust this itinerary and skip the places that can wait for your next trip.

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: 4-Day Itinerary

Day 1: Drive along the Entire Going-to-the-Sun Road

It takes approximately 2 hours to travel from the West Glacier Entrance to the St. Mary/East Glacier Entrance. While enjoying the scenic drive, make a few stops along the way to visit some of the favorite places in this area of Glacier National Park. Hike to Avalanche Lake early in the morning. Head straight to Logan Pass afterwards and explore its alpine meadows while walking uphill to the Hidden Lake Overlook.

Pack your evening itinerary with the gushing waterfalls nestled along the shores of St. Mary Lake. You can hike to all three major waterfalls in this corner of Glacier (St. Mary Falls, Virginia Falls, and Baring Falls) or visit just one of them.

Day 2: Visit Many Glacier

The first long hike to do in Many Glacier is indisputably the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Trail. The 10.6-mile, round-trip hike takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to complete. Spend the rest of the day admiring the gorgeous views at Lake Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lake. Boating or kayaking is another great option to finish your visit to Many Glacier. 

Day 3: Escape the Crowds at Two Medicine

Visit some of the most popular lakes, such as Two Medicine Lake and Cobalt Lake, do any hikes outlined in the 5 Main Sections of this Glacier National Park travel guide, or chase the astounding waterfalls dotting the area. 

Day 4: Explore the Canadian Side

Cross the border and spend a day in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Note: In reality, though, each of the Glacier National Park’s sections require at least two days. Thus, even while having 4 days, all you can do is to visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road and Many Glacier. We did just that during our first visit to Glacier National Park. Do I need to say that we barely scratched the surface and left plenty of natural attractions to explore the next time we travel to Glacier? We certainly did. 

Many Glacier Hotel - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Many Glacier Hotel
St. Mary Village Great Bear Lodge - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide: St. Mary Village Great Bear Lodge

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Where to Stay in and near the Park

One thing is sure. You want to stay within Glacier National Park or as close as possible to it, especially when you travel during the summer season when the influx of visitors makes getting around the area quite problematic.

The park features 13 campgrounds spread out across the different sections. The most popular campsites to visit in Glacier are nestled along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Here you can stay at either the Apgar, Sprague Creek, Avalanche, Rising Sun, and St. Mary campgrounds. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance as the sites are usually fully booked during the busy season.

Despite a sense of complete immersion into nature, camping is a favorite pastime of only a small number of people visiting Glacier National Park. Luckily, the area has several hotels and lodges ranging from basic rooms to rustic cabins and glamorous accommodations. Consider the following lodgings when you visit Glacier National Park next time. 

  • Many Glacier Hotel. The Many Glacier Hotel is the largest lodge within Glacier National Park. The place sits on the eastern shore of Swiftcurrent Lake in Many Glacier. 
  • Lake McDonald Lodge. The Lake McDonald Lodge offers 82 rustic, but comfortable rooms and convenient location to visit some of the landmarks in West Glacier.
  • Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. The Switfcurrent Motor Inn is another popular destination to visit and stay at in Many Glacier.
  • Apgar Village Lodge. Located in West Glacier, the Apgar Village Lodge is the first place to stay at if your plan to visit the Lake McDonald area.

Accommodation Outside Glacier National Park

If driving is not an issue, consider the following accommodations to stay at during your first visit to Glacier National Park.

  • The Lodge and Resort at Lake Mary Ronan. If you want to visit more jewels of Montana on your way to or from Glacier National Park, be sure to stop at the Lodge and Resort at Lake Mary Ronan. The place sits approximately 1 hour 20 minutes away from the national park and breathes peace and tranquility in the best Montana style. 
  • St. Mary Village Great Bear Lodge. Nestled right outside the St.Mary Entrance, the St. Mary Village Great Bear Lodge offers rustic rooms and a great location for the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Furthermore, it’s one of the best places to stay at in you plan to visit the Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas the following day.
  • Travelodge by Wyndham Kalispell. Travelodge by Wyndham Kalispell suits well budget travelers. The hotel is located approximately 40 minutes away from West Glacier. Thanks to the closest airport to Glacier National Park, Kalispell is the best place to visit and stay at on your first or last day in the area. 
Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Places to Eat 

Your choices are rather limited when in comes to dining within Glacier National Park. The best way to ensure that you can replenish your energy with nourishing food is to visit a grocery store near Glacier and stock up on some snacks and basis foods, such as bread, nut butters, and fresh produce. For an occasional treat and hot meal, visit the following cafes and restaurants nestled in Glacier National Park. 

  • Eddie’s Cafe. Located inside the Apgar Village Lodge, the Eddie’s Cafe treats the tired hikers to delicious burritos, wraps, burgers, and salads. Its Thai wrap is always the first choice for vegan visitors.  
  • Russell’s Fireside Dining Room. The Lake McDonald Lodge is home to the Russell’s Fireside Dining Room with its classic breakfast options, hearty burgers and cheeseburgers, salads, and yummy desserts. For vegan and vegetarian visitors of Glacier National Park, the restaurant prepares fresh brown rise and quinoa bowls. 
  • Heidi’s. For a quick grab-and-go meal, visit the Heidi’s, located at the Many Glacier Hotel. Here you can find hot and cold snacks such as pre-made sandwiches, breakfast pizzas, and drinks. 
  • Two Dog Flats Grill. Classic American menu awaits the guests at the Two Dog Flats Gill, located at the Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins. Visit this humble spot in East Glacier to savor its signature soups or build your own burger.  
Montana - Roads and Destinations

Visit Waterton Lakes National Park on a Day Trip from Glacier National Park

For the majority of Montana’s guests, a visit to Glacier National Park often includes a short trip across the border to Waterton Lakes National Park. Straddled the northern Rocky Mountains along the American and Canadian border, the both parks form Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Officially established in 1995, this protected area is home to the remarkable snow-capped mountains, alpine lakes, and abundant creeks fed by the glaciers. Over 300 terrestrial species of animals dwell here, occasionally surprising the visitors with their company. 

Montana - Roads and Destinations
Logan Pass - Roads and Destinations
Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Logan Pass

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: Admission and Fees

Visit Glacier National Park by Car

$35 is a standard fee to visit Glacier National Park by car. The entrance pass is valid for 7 consecutive days per one vehicle.

Visit Glacier National Park by Bicycle or on Foot.

The visitors traveling on foot or by bicycles must pay $20 upon arrival. It’s called a single entry fee. 

Visit Glacier National Park by Motorcycle

$30 is an entrance fee for those who visit Glacier by motorcycle.

Visit the Going-to-the-Sun Road from both West and East Glacier

As of the summer season of 2021, the online reservation system for the Going-to-the-Sun Road has been implemented. The entry pass costs $2 and must be purchased online at recreation.gov before arrival.

All the visitors must present their entry tickets along with the Glacier National Park entrance passes at the West Glacier or St.Mary Entrances. You can’t travel along the scenic route and visit some of the favorite Glacier National Park’s landmarks along the way without the pre-purchased pass.  

Visit Glacier National Park: Annual Pass

If you plan to visit Glacier National Park several times a year, consider purchasing an annual pass, which costs $70.

Visit Glacier with America the Beautiful Pass

The best option, however, is to get the America the Beautiful Pass. You pay $80 and visit all national parks, including Glacier, and the majority of national monuments any time within a year of your purchase.

TIP: The entrance fee is required to visit Glacier National Park. If the entrance station is not staffed, follow instructions available at the gate for self-payment. The holders of the unexpired America the Beautiful Pass can visit the park immediately. 

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Glacier National Park Travel Guide, Visit 5 Main Sections - Roads and Destinations
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