5 Main Sections of Glacier National Park to Visit

One of the most beautiful national parks on the West Coast of the U.S., Glacier National Park consists of 5 sections, each boasting unique appeal and attractions.

Last updated: June 1, 2024

Main sections of Glacier National Park - Roads and Destinations
5 main sections to visit in Glacier National Park

The 5 Main Sections to Visit in Glacier National Park

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 five main sections of Glacier National Park every year, seduced by their extraordinary natural beauty. 

When you travel to Glacier National Park frequently or even explore it on your very first visit, you can see precisely why George Bird Grinnell, a zealous advocate of the northwestern corner of Montana, worked tirelessly to protect the area in its raw state. More than a century later, the place still takes your breath away.

Today, though, it’s friendlier and more inviting. Arrayed with just enough paved road to make travel more convenient, Glacier National 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 main sections of Glacier National Park, North Fork and Goat Haunt, 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 the northwestern part of Montana.

Let’s travel to these 5 areas of Glacier National Park and explore their crown jewels and hidden gems.  

Need to Know: As of the summer season of 2024, three out of five sections of Glacier National Park require a vehicle reservation. These areas are the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier, and North Fork.

Iconic Photo Spots in Glacier National Park - Roads and Destinations
Many Glacier – one of the most picturesque sections of Glacier National Park


1. Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a scenic, mountainous road in the Rocky Mountains and one of the most visited sections of Glacier National Park. The panoramic drive connects the eastern and western sides of the park. 

Constructed in 1933, the Going-to-the-Sun Road almost instantly became the favorite area of Glacier National Park. Millions of visitors travel along the scenic road yearly, feasting their eyes on roadside waterfalls and creeks, snow-and ice-capped mountains, and lush meadows the park is famous for.

Hiking adventures never end here as well. From the gorgeous Hidden Lake Overlook and other scenic hikes at Logan Pass to favorite trails along St. Mary Lake and Lake McDonald’s shores, a trip to this section of Glacier can last for days on end.

What is the Going-to-the-Sun Road?

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 50-mile scenic road that takes 2 hours to drive from one end to the other. Home to dozens of panoramic overlooks, roadside waterfalls, and resplendent alpine lakes, it is also the owner of 5 campgrounds and 3 visitor centers. Furthermore, it’s one of the best places to see abundant Glacier’s wildlife

When Is the Going-to-the-Sun Road Open? 

The lower sections of the scenic drive are open all year round. The alpine part of the most-visited area of Glacier National Park, however, remains closed most of the year. Plowing of the elevated sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Roads starts in early April. Yet visitors must wait until late June to travel along the entire scenic drive.

When clear from the snow, the Going-to-the-Sun Road stays open for the rest of the summer. The alpine section closes again any time after Labor Day weekend, depending on the weather. Normally, Glacier National Park keeps this area of the Going-to-the-Sun Road open until mid-October.

READ MORE: The Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park

Main sections of Glacier National Park - Roads and Destinations
St. Mary Lake | Main sections of Glacier National Park

2. Many Glacier – One of the Most Beautiful Sections of Glacier

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

Indeed, you can’t argue 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 enjoy its different facades as the seasons change.

Where to Stay in Many Glacier

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 adds Swiss-style hospitality and comfort to your visit.

Things to do in Many Glacier

Longing for unforgettable outdoor adventures? Spice up your visit to this picturesque area of Glacier National Park with boating and kayaking on Swiftcurrent Lake or hiking the breathtaking Grinnell Glacier Trail

Grinnell Lake - Roads and Destinations
Grinnell Glacier Trail | Main sections of Glacier National Park

3. Two Medicine

To visit Two Medicine, one of the lesser-explored sections of Glacier National Park, you must go off the beaten path. Located nearly 13 miles away from East Glacier, this panoramic area is considered a hidden gem. 

Yet not that long ago, Two Medicine was the most popular area to visit in Glacier National Park. Millions of outdoor enthusiasts flocked to the now secluded section of Glacier to walk along the shores of its gorgeous lakes and chase its sparkling waterfalls.

After the Going-to-the-Sun Road opened for private vehicles, Two Medicine slowly lost its attractiveness. The number of people visiting this remote area dropped. Today, even fewer adventurers travel beyond the two above-mentioned areas of Glacier National Park to see this breathtaking wilderness.

Camping in the Two Medicine Area

Fair enough, though. Nestled in the southeastern corner of the park, the Two Medicine area requests a long detour. For those who are down for a real adventure, the area offers its own campground with campsites that operate on a first-come, first-served basis. A camp store and a gift shop are also available, if you need to replenish your supplies before venturing deeper into the remote corners of Glacier National Park.

Things to Do in the Two Medicine Area

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

Main sections of Glacier National Park | Roads and Destinations
Two Medicine Lake. Photo by Tony Reid (unsplash) | Main sections of Glacier

4. North Fork 

The last two sections of 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 entices the most adventurous visitors. The trip 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, bombarding unprepared visitors with inconvenient surprises again and again. 

TIP: 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 a flat tire yourself (a road trip mistake that cost us the full day at one point during our national parks’ travels). 

Need to Know: Vehicles over 21’ and trailers are not allowed to travel along the rough, dirt roads of this secluded section of Glacier National Park.

Things to Do in North Fork

Those who do visit this hidden gem in Glacier are rewarded with magnificent views of Bowman and Kintla Lakes and scenic hikes.

For long day hikes, trek along such trails as Akokala Lake Trail, Bowman Lake Head Trail, Kintla Lake Head Trail, Logging Lake Trail, and Quartz Lake Trail. 

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 the key to an enjoyable visit to the North Fork section of Glacier National Park. The area offers limited amenities and has no phone signal. The closest services are available in Polebridge, nestled outside the park.

Camping at North Fork

The North Fork area is popular with backcountry visitors. With 4 campgrounds (Bowman Lake, Logging Creek, Kintla Lake, and Quartz Creek), it promises the most memorable travel experiences in the entire Glacier National Park. 

Main sections of Glacier National Park | Roads and Destinations
Bowman Lake. Photo by Bill Stephan (unsplash) | Main sections of Glacier

5. Goat Haunt

Goat Haunt’s location is by far the most alluring. 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 Upper Waterton Lake, a Canadian sibling of Montana’s favorite site.

Goat Haunt supersedes even the North Fork in its remoteness and tranquility. They say if you want to explore Glacier National Park without crowds, travel to Goat Haunt. 

Things to Do in Goat Haunt

Indeed, the place is all an overnight backpacking traveler 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 scenic views of Glacier National Park from the Goat Haunt Overlook or travel to Rainbow Falls. Both of these landmarks sit just one mile away from the trailheads and require less than an hour to complete the hike.

Things to Know before Visiting these Remote Sections of Glacier

The most popular way to travel to this secluded area of Glacier National Park is by boat from Waterton Lakes National Park, Canada. While nature doesn’t abide by political rules and borders, visitors should certainly do. Canadian and American hikers have no problems with visiting U.S. and Canada’s national parks. (Be sure to have your valid passport, though.) 

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 must present proper documents (passports and visas if required) that allow them to venture deeper into Montana. 

Montana - Roads and Destinations
5 main sections of Glacier National Park

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.