Top 7 things to do in Glacier National Park
I could go on and on about all things to do Glacier National Park. You can always check out the National Park Services website for a longer, more detailed list, but these are my favorite things to do as a local in the area. I certainly get to spend a great deal of time in Glacier National Park each year (summer and winter), and its by far one of my favorite places to go. So, I've complied a great list of things to do while you're in the park, whether a local or traveling to the area. If you are traveling to the area and you're looking for lodging in Glacier National Park, check out my blog post dedicated to places to stay in and around Glacier National Park. I, of course, can't forget to mention that I am a Glacier National Park Photographer specializing in families, couples, and seniors. I enjoy capturing those unique memories of vacations, so don't hesitate to reach out if you want your adventures photographed!
Okay, lets get to the good stuff, why you're really here! Check out all the fun adventures below that will help fill your vacation week(s) with lots to do! This is just a starter list, so don't feel restrained by the 7 listed below, the opportunities are ENDLESS!
Hiking on the hundreds of miles of established trails
There are so many areas in the park that you have the option of hiking at. West Glacier, The North Fork (Bowman & Kintla), Two Medicine, Logan Past, East Glacier, Many Glacier and so much more. There are over 700 miles of established hiking trails in Glacier National Park. From day hikes, to multi-day backpacking trips, there is a skill level for everyone!
Some of my favorite things I recommend bringing with you on day trips includes; good hiking shoes, layers (in case it gets cold), snacks, camera, plenty of fluids to drink, and a good spirit. Remember to use good trail etiquette and Leave No Trace!
My Favorite hikes: Apgar Lookout, Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet, and Iceberg Lake
Resources: Use the All trails app for trail information and GPS. Check the weather before departing for the day, you want to make sure you're prepared for whatever presents that day. Always check the trail status before making the trek over Logan Pass or Marias Pass to do a hike! Sometimes there are closures due to weather, trail conditions, or wildlife.
Biking the iconic Going-to-the-sun Road
Wait, did you just say... biking the Going-to-the-sun? YUP! You bet I did! With endless views and leisure time to take it all in (without the car behind you honking), its a treat for sure!
Honestly, I really only recommend this activity during the late spring/early summer when the higher portions of the road are closed to traffic. The road has no shoulders/bike path so it's a little sketchy with vehicle traffic, not something I recommend personally. When the road is closed to traffic, you can bike at your leisure, however once vehicle traffic is present there are restrictions during busy season. Biking the road is no easy feat, its ALL uphill till you get to Logan Pass, so consider your activity skill level before planning this activity. Most years the road opens fully to vehicle traffic by Late June/Early July.
Tips: Rent an E-bike ($130/day), they are now allowed on the Going-to-the-sun road. This will help you power to the top of Logan Pass! Bring a backpack full of the essentials to keep you prepared for your day, including a hydration bladder or water bottles. Check the weather before departing for the day and be sure to have bear spray on you, the bears start waking up in the spring!
Rafting in the scenic waters of Montana
Glacial blue waters, so clear you can count the rocks on the river floor... or see the fish swimming along! This is high on my recommendation list, partly because I go rafting every year myself. I love being out on the water, whether its a scenic float or a full day whitewater adventure! There are a multitude of local raft guide companies (Glacier Raft Company and Great Northern are two of my faves) and they all are amazing! I recommend afternoon trips, Montana gives the best afternoon sunshine and warms you up just enough that you'll wanna take a dip in!
If you're more adventurous than floating in a raft, consider doing a whitewater kayak adventure!
Tip: Wear polarized sunglasses on the River, they help tremendously while on the water and get yourself an eyewear retainer in case things get crazy on the river, you won't want to lose your favorite pair of sunglasses! Also, bring a Nalgene or other reusable water bottle with you for hydration on your trip, I recommend having a carabiner clip on your bottle to clip it to the raft!
Follow the local raft companies on social media for special offers and deals throughout the year!
Things to do Glacier National Park
Camping in the majestic scenery of Glacier
Camping, glamping, backpacking... starry nights and northern lights! Camping in Glacier National Park is such a treat and a memorable experience. You can camp in the front country with reservations or day of walk-in, or get permits for backcountry camping. Or you can steal reservations for a night at a Chalet (see more below). Take in those fiery sunsets, frosty mornings, campfire smores. I can't recommend enough enjoying the experience that is camping, in the park. There are options to camp in all seasons, so check em out!
Tip: Book your reservations well in advance! 6+ months ahead of time of camping and get your backpacking reservations in March (they have a lottery system for backing reservations). When camping, keep all your food and other scented items in your car or in the bear boxes at night, you don't want to attract unwanted critters or wildlife to your tent at night! Staying inside the park allows you to be the closest to adventure, and therefore less driving. Bring a Yeti cooler with you to keep your food/drinks extra cold!
Resources: You can booking camping reservations HERE. Fish Creek and Many Glacier campgrounds are the only ones taking reservations for the 2021 calendar year, the rest are first-come, first-serve only. You can check out all the details on backcountry permits on this site, making reservations or you can do walk in first-come first-serve backcountry permits in person at a backcountry permit office.
Drive the Going-to-the-sun Road
You mustn't miss this activity, of all that are available! A road I've been on hundreds of times, it still takes my breath away every single time!! Glacier National Park has a special place in my heart, from the snowy trees in winter time, to the burnt orange leaves in the fall, I love it at every season. Even through you really can only drive the Going to the run road between the months of June-October (more accurately, July-September, if your taking into consideration late snow removal in June and early closures in the fall for construction). Consider taking a red bus tour (when they start running again) for an excursion you'll never forget!
Tip: The Going-to-the-sun road is BUSY. I recommend driving it super early, be up before sunrise! Avoid the park on major holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day), these weekends tend to yield incredibly long lines, wait times, and minimal lodging.
Resources: Check out this interactive map with drive times to different locations within the park! It's highly insightful for planning you day and trip. Not many realize that getting from one place to the next takes so long (between speed limits, traffic, weather, and wildlife).
Stay in a historic Chalet
I touched more on this in another blog (Top 7 places to stay in and around Glacier National Park) so you can get some in depth details there. However, this is hands down... a once in a lifetime memory to make! Heck, if you can get reservations, do it every year. For the sunsets alone, or watching the moon in your chalet window at night, or the breathtaking views on your trip to the chalet... its so worth it! I could go on and on! After experiencing Granite Park Chalet for the first time this past year myself, I fell even more in love. I had the opportunity to stay two nights and I loved every experience.
Tip: Bring bug spray or if you plan to hang out outside around the chalet bring a Thermacell with you, if you've got the space in your backpack. If you've not heard of them, nows the time to look it up! Its a staple in our camping box, I use the backpacker one since we always have fuel canisters on hand. Order your food to be ready at the chalet for you on arrival (granite park chalet), vs packing it all in. Save yourself the extra weight on your back!
Resources: Make reservations for Sperry Chalet or Granite Park Chalet online during January each year. Not sure how to pack your bag or what to pack? Check out this helpful blog post that breaks it down (you may not need everything listed, but it sure does give a thorough list to get you thinking about whats important and a must have on your trip).
Fishing in the rivers and lakes
I'm no pro fisherman, but it's a really nice perk to be able to fish in a National Park without getting an out of state permit when you're traveling. Its relatively low cost or free (if you bring your own pole) and fun for the whole family. Be sure to read all the rules and regulations prior to doing so, and also check out the Montana Fishing Regulations handbook, it has a great fish identification index at the back which is helpful to learn and know what you're catching.
Tip: Looking to advance your skills from regular fishing to fly fishing? This helpful blog has some great information, providing your with the low down about fly fishing in Glacier National Park!
BONUS! Hire a Glacier National Park Photographer!
In all seriousness, the more important part of vacation is having someone capture those amazing adventures! I'm a local and I'm filled with the greatest tips and tricks to help make your vacation a memory you won't forget! I come with experience and a fun attitude. Check out my portfolio here, you'll see just a sampling of my work with Families, Couples, and Seniors. So don't hesitate to reach out via my Contact Form and I'll be in touch! Until then, have fun planning your trip!