Planning our trip to Glacier National Park, I forsook the idea of exploring everything the area had to offer. The place was too big after all. Instead, I focused on the places one should never miss when in Glacier National Park.
Top 10 Places One Should Never Miss in Glacier National Park
At 1,583 square miles, Glacier is one of the largest national parks in the USA. The irresistible wilderness is nested in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, near the Canadian boarder.
Every spring and summer, this oasis of lush valleys and glacier-capped peaks allures with the most epic views over some of the most stunning destinations in the country. From breathtaking Hidden Lake to Swiss-countryside-like Many Glacier, and picture-perfect Logan Pass, there is not end to the places one should not miss in Glacier National Park.
With the beginning of the winter season, though, most of these scenic destinations go into hibernation. While Glacier National Park still plays a welcoming host, heavy snowy blankets cover the ground, providing solitude to the places that just a couple of months ago were regarded impossible to miss.
This cycle repeats itself every year. The pleasure of finally being able to explore the most coveted natural landmarks reaches its culmination when the snow melts. People all over the world flock to Montana’s favorite park. Hiking along more than 700 miles of trails, they make sure not to miss any of the attention-worthy places Glacier National Park has to offer at that time.
Places We didn’t Want to Miss in Glacier
We certainly were no exception. Saving the trip to Glacier National Park for mid-summer, we hoped to see all the must-visit destinations, hike along several favorite and secluded trails, and dive deeper into all those places that were regarded unmissable.
Our dreams indeed came true and all our wishes were granted thanks to the favorable weather and a bit of luck. After venturing to different sections of the park, we agreed that these 10 places are the things you want to explore and certainly never miss during your first visit to Glacier.
Is this list subjective? Absolutely. But once you see any of these natural wonders, you understand why we consider them the places you shouldn’t miss when in Glacier National Park.
THE TOP 10 PLACES NOT TO MISS IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
1. Going-to-the-Sun Road – One of the First Places not to Miss in Glacier
Running through the park from the West Glacier entrance to the St.Mary/East entrance, the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the first places you can’t afford to miss in Glacier.
The panoramic route spans 50 miles of park’s diverse terrain. Alpine lakes and blooming meadows, roaring waterfalls, creek-divided valleys… The Going-to-the-Sun Road has gathered the best views to see and the most charming natural attractions to explore in the park.
The most popular places – the ones that also fall into the category of the landmarks that you don’t want to miss in Glacier – include jaw-dropping Logan Pass and alpine Avalanche Lake. Different in many ways, both places display the natural beauty of the area and deliver more than you can expect.
Hiking is another thing not to miss while exploring the astounding places clustered in the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor in both West and East Glacier. From a short walk along the Trail of the Cedars to a day hike along the Highline Trail, the area caters to the needs of all its visitors.
If driving and taking in the views is your way of exploring a new place, then roll down your window and admire the mountainside waterfalls and u-shaped valleys without slowing down for a bit.
Surprise and a sense of unpredictability prevail in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area. I’ve never met anybody who says that this scenic drive is not worth your time. So do yourself a favor. Don’t miss this scenic route and all the incredible places it houses when visiting Glacier National Park next time.
2. Avalanche Lake
Pristine forest surrounding an alpine lake. Glacier-fed waterfalls cascading down the mountainside. These are just a few places you can’t miss in the Avalanche Lake area in West Glacier.
Starting at the Trail of the Cedars trailhead, the path runs toward mesmerizing Avalanche Gorge, crossed a narrow footbridge, and continues farther into the woods until it comes across the Avalanche Lake Trail junction. Here, the dirt trail forks to the left and for about a mile winds along the right bank of Avalanche Creek.
Once the path displays enough of the natural splendidness of this side of Glacier, it leaves the creek behind and dives deeper into the forest. Not many spectacular places festoon your walk afterwards, hardly ever suggesting that it’s one of the sections of Glacier that you can’t miss.
Disappointment may strike you at some point. But it lasts only until you reach the shores of Avalanche Lake. Here your troubles and the long, 2-mile walk from the Avalanche Lake junction are paid off completely. Embraced by the mountains with the rushing down falls, the place is the epitome of natural brilliance and magnificence.
3. Lake McDonald
Among all the places located within West Glacier, Lake McDonald is the easiest not to miss. The largest lake in the park sits in the western corner of the Going-to-the-Sun Road area. Offering a wide range of activities, such as boating, kayaking, and swimming, it’s considered one of the most popular places in Glacier.
The size of the lake surely plays not the last role here. Spanning 10 miles in length, it rewards the visitors with some of the most popular as well as secluded spots right near the scenic road.
4. Logan Pass (+ Glacier National Park’s Hiking Places You Should Never Miss in this Area)
Can you ever miss the highest peaks, lakes, hanging gardens – all those places in Glacier National Park that require a little bit of effort? Well, you probably can if you are not a particularly active guy or gal.
Yet fear not. You can still comfortably explore the alpine meadows and even watch Glacier’s wildlife without any strenuous hikes at Logan Pass. At 6,646 feet, the unmissable landmark is the highest point along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Adorned with the blooming valleys, scenic overlooks, and even its own visitor center, Logan Pass astounds with its unmatched beauty. The spectacular views open up right behind the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Walk up and down raised boardwalk to take in the sights and watch mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears abounded in this area.
For those who feel a need to stretch their feet, the Hidden Lake Overlook and Highline Trails are the places not to miss in this elevated area of Glacier. While the first feels like a nice walk uphill, the latter spreads for more than 10 miles, taking the whole day to complete.
TIP: Parking is an ongoing issue at Logan Pass in summer. Arrive early to claim your spot or you risk to miss this place altogether. Once the parking lot is full, rangers turn away all other visitors.
5. Waterfalls You Should not Miss in Glacier National Park
And you surely can’t miss such abundant places as waterfalls during your visit to Glacier National Park. Streaming down the mountainsides along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, hiding in the woods a short and a long walk away from the roads, these falls are indispensable parts of the park.
Each section of Glacier has its own stars. The most coveted waterfalls in the Going-to-the-Sun Road area include St. Mary Falls, Virginia Falls, and Barring Falls. In Many Glacier, Apikuni Falls steals the show. Running Eagle Falls and Appistoki Falls are the two places you can’t miss in the Two Medicine region, an often overlooked area of Glacier National Park.
6. St. Mary Lake
Back to the Going-to-the-Sun Road area. This time, however, to its eastern side, where St. Mary Lake resides. Similar to Lake McDonald, the second-largest lake in Glacier is not one of the places you can easily miss.
Stretching for almost 10 miles, St. Mary Lake parallels the scenic route. A myriad of easy pull-offs dot its shore, offering ample vistas of the lake and its surroundings. Occasionally, the wildlife roams near the shore, stopping the lucky visitors in their tracks.
Although the aquamarine lake is an attraction on its own, its tiny Wild Goose Island has long been included in the list of the most beautiful places you can’t miss in Glacier. The photogenic spot sits near the eastern shore of St. Mary Lake. It became even more famous after being featured in the opening scene of the movie “The Shining”.
7. Many Glacier and Top Places You Can’t Miss Here
Home to mesmerizing alpine lakes, snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls, Many Glacier is one of the favorite sections in Glacier. No need to stress out that the Many Glacier Valley, a place that reminds you of hillsides of Switzerland, is one of a few places you can never afford to miss in Glacier.
Whether you are into day hikes or relaxing vacation by a picturesque lake, Many Glacier is the right place to be. Famous for the Swiss-style-designed Many Glacier Hotel, the area houses a plethora of natural attractions you can’t find anywhere else in the park. Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, and Swiftcurrent Lake are some of the most alluring of them.
TIP: One thing you do want to miss in Many Glacier is being turned away at its entrance. Similar to Logan Pass, the rangers can close the entry to area once the parking lots are full. So be an early bird in order not to miss some of the most gorgeous places in Glacier National Park.
8. Grinnell Glacier
A crown jewel of Many Glacier, Grinnell Glacier is a long, 10.6-mile, round-trip hike that starts at the Many Glacier Hotel or Grinnell Glacier trailhead. The journey, however, is rewarding. Passing by a few emerald-green lakes and mountainside waterfalls, it’s one of the main places you can’t miss when visiting Many Glacier.
The hike is strenuous, though. Elevation gain is 1,600 feet. Yet none of these matters when you sit by a waterfall near the glacier, looking down at epic Grinnell Lake.
TIP: From time to time, mountain goats and bears join you for the view. So be extra vigilant and pay close attention to your surroundings.
9. Two Medicine – One of the Lesser-Known Places You Can’t Miss in Glacier
Many visitor of Glacier National Park stick only to the most popular places and willingly or unwillingly miss its hidden gems. Once the most popular section of the park, Two Medicine surely feels it the most.
Nestled in the southeastern corner of Glacier, this region is off of the popular routes. Those who make it all the way to Two Medicine, however, are thrilled to find the remarkable realm of scenic lakes, majestic mountains, and cascading waterfalls.
10. Waterton Lakes National Park
Waterton Lakes National Park is technically not one of the places you shouldn’t miss while exploring Glacier National Park. Property of Canada, it’s not even a bucket list destination to visit in Montana. Yet as part of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, it’s the next place to add to your list of top 10 places not to miss in Glacier.
Regarded as a quieter version of the U.S. national park, Waterton Lakes is yet to surprise you with its own scenic landscapes. Start with a guided boat tour on Waterton Lake and dive deeper into the charming kingdom of lakes, meadows, and mountains.
TIP: If you’re not in a rush to get back to Glacier, road-trip to Banff National Park, one of top places not to miss in Canada.
Things to Know beyond Places You Should Never Miss in Glacier National Park
Hours of Operation
Glacier National Park is open 365 days a year. Due to heavy snow and frequent avalanches, though, many roads within Glacier are closed from late September through mid-June. This automatically makes you miss some of the Glacier National Park’s favorite places, such as Logan Pass, when visiting the area during the slow or shoulder seasons.
Glacier National Park Entrance Fees
Entrance fees is $35 per car. The ticket is valid for seven consecutive days. Annual passes and national passes, such as the America the Beautiful pass, are also available.
Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry Ticket
As of the summer season of 2021, entry ticket to the Going-to-the-Sun Road is required. You can purchase the pass at recreation.gov. Those who fail to obtain the entry ticket automatically miss out on the opportunity to see many of the Glacier National Park’s places mentioned above.
Be Bear Aware
Glacier National Park houses the largest concentration of black and grizzly bears. The wild animals roam freely in the park and can attack.
Plan to Spend at Least 3-4 Days in Glacier
It you don’t want to miss any of the places we’ve outlined above, plan to stay in Glacier National Park for at least 3 days. The place is huge. The number of the natural landmarks you can’t afford to miss here grows exponentially to the amount of time you spend in the park.
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