Before we started traveling full time I had honestly never heard of it. Once we started traveling full time people started to tell me how amazing it was. I was interested and had to see for myself. WOW were they right. My husband and I often joke that since going here it has runined almost everywhere else in the US for us. It is that amazing!
Here are 19 Reasons you should take your family to Glacier National Park this year. Yup I said it. THIS YEAR. Don’t wait for the perfect time make it happen THIS YEAR. OK I think I got the point across.
This is definitely the main highlight of visiting Glacier National Park so be sure to check to see if it is open when you are planning on going. You don’t want to go to Glacier National Park and not see the Going To the Sun Road. Sometimes it doesn’t open until July so be sure to check to see when it will be open. We went in August and it was open all month.
I would argue this is the most beautiful drive in the US. You start from either the west or east entrance of Glacier and steadily climb until you reach the highest point you can drive to at Logan’s Pass.
The drive up is breathtaking. Like seriously take your breath away amazing. You will probably want to stop at least 20 times to get out to take pictures – seriously 20 times. On the drive you will see waterfalls and mountains as far as the eye can see. Plus if you are lucky you might see a bear, mountain goats, or big horn sheep. Plus the views wow the views.
Note there is a size limit on vehicles that can go on the road (21 feet long 8 feet wide and 10 feet high), there is a reason they set these restrictions so follow them!! This drive is definitely not easy and there are a few scary parts.
What we noticed is once we did it (I should say my husband did it) we got more use to it. But the first time up there I was freaking out a little bit. If you don’t want to deal with this they do offer a Red Bus tour that you can get on and they can drive you on the road.
Logans Pass is the highest point you can drive to in Glacier National Park. There is a visitor center here and also a really cool hike to Hidden Lake. Please note the parking lot is usually full so be prepared to drive around to find a spot or to drive and park down the road and walk back up.
It is worth it to stop and check out the Visitor Center and talk to the rangers about the animals in the area. They also have a gift shop where you can pick up a few souvenirs and stickers to show people you were here.
Planning a National Parks road trip? The America the Beautiful Pass covers entrance for an entire year to all the US National Parks and over 2,000 federal recreation fee sites. Fees are covered for everyone in the car for per-vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites. This is a no-brainer, friends. While fees vary, you’ll likely break even after two visits. Plus, REI will donate 10% of pass sale proceeds to the NPS Foundation.
One of our favorite things to do when we are in Glacier is to go hiking. Even if you aren’t a hiker you should go hiking when you are in Glacier. Due to its increasing popularity there are a lot of people visiting the park each year.
Want to know a secret. If you go on a mile hike you will most likely only see a handful of people. Everyone else is only going to the main attractions and aren’t making the extra effort to go on a hike. Like I said go on a hike. You will be glad you did.
Here are the Hikes we recommend in Glacier National Park:
Trail of the Cedars
OK this one doesn’t quite take you off the beaten path but it is still a really cool hike and worth doing. It has this amazing waterfall. One of those with that unbelievable blue color and it tends to be safer. Meaning since it is so busy the chance of seeing bears is less.
It also has a boardwalk type of trail so it is doable for all ages. It is a popular one so parking can sometimes be an issue. But we always found a spot – and we were there in August (the busiest month).
We had quite the adventure visiting here but it was still amazing (right when we reached the top it started to thunderstorm)! You start on the Trail of Cedars and the veer up and off that trail to get onto this trail. And then you hike up for the rest of the way.
The hike is 4.5 miles round trip and you gain over 700 feet. But when you make it the top it opens up to this amazing lake surrounded by the mountains. It is such a breathtaking site! I know this year the trail was closed for a while due to bear activity so always have your bear spray.
Getting to this trailhead is part of the fun. You go on the uneblievable Going To The Sun Road and then stop at the Logan Pass visitor Center. You then walk behind the visitor center to get to the trailhead.
This is another popular trail and is well marked and even has stairs. But it is a steep climb so be prepared for it to take a little while. The views as you are walking on the trail are spectacular so be sure to stop and turn around.
When we hiked it there was a family of mountain goats that walked right across the trail in front of us. It was quite the experience!
Another pretty grueling hike at 7 miles round trip but again I can’t say enough about the views. Plus the lake is so beautiful and well worth the effort to get there. If you aren’t feeling up for the hike you can pay and take a couple of boats to get here. No judgement – sometimes you just want a nice easy boat ride.
The boat will drop you off and you will still have a short hike to the lake or you can decide to do the longer hike up to Grinnel Glacier. Learn more about this hike and the boat here: http://glacierparkboats.com/tour/many-glacier/
This is an interesting hike that takes you through a thick forest so you don’t get quite as many of those amazing views on the way there. But once you reach the falls area and turn around you are rewarded with those beautiful views again.
This hike takes you to the bottom of a Glacial waterfall – if you are willing to rock scramble a little bit to get up there. And if you are feeling up to it you can walk out and stand under the FREEZING cold water.
This hike is 1.7 miles round trip with a gain of over 600 feet.
St Mary Falls/Virgina Falls
This nice hike is popular due to the shorter distance yet it still takes you off the beaten path a little ways – unlike the Trail of the Cedars that has the boardwalk. The Falls were beautiful and so powerful.
If you do this hike we highly recommend you continue on to the Virginia Falls. It is worth the extra distance.
This hike is .8 miles to St. Mary Falls and then an additional 1 mile to Virginia Falls for a total of 1.8 miles there and 1.8 miles back for a roundtrip of 3.6 miles.
Glacier National Park can be a busy place so we tired to find the places that were less busy and less well known. We found that with the Polebridge Mercantile and Bowman Lake. You actually leave the park and drive on a dirt road to get to the Polebridge Mercantile which is an old store and bakery that has been there for a long time. They don’t have power but instead run things off of a generator. It is a cool place.
You then continue down the dirt road and reenter the park at this tiny little entrance and then continue for a few miles on a 1 1/2 lane – 2 lane dirt road through the forest to reach Bowman Lake. I promise it is worth it!
The lake is beautiful and the perfect place to hang out and take in the scenery or if you are up for it go in for a quick dip to cool off! I think this place is getting more and more popular so I recommend getting there ASAP.
You know those pictures of Glacier National Park with the clear water, the colorful rocks, and the mountains in the background. Yup that one. That is Lake McDonald! To be honest it wasn’t my favorite part of Glacier – I really fell in love with the mountains but it is still beautiful.
There isn’t a large beach area but you can pull off at any of the pull out areas by the lake and walk down to hang out on the “beach”. We did this during the day and also once night at sunset.
Lake McDonald also has a nice Visitor center area where you can go in to learn more about Glacier National Park, the animals, landscape, and talk to the rangers about recommended hikes and drives. Plus the kids can do their Junior Ranger program here.
Another of our favorite areas in Glacier is the Many Glacier area. This is a less visited area since it isn’t by any of the main entrances. If you are coming from the popular west entrance you have to drive all the way through the Going to The Sun Road to get here. You are looking at a 2 – 3 hour drive.
It is closer to the East entrance but you are still looking at a drive to get into this part of the park. But it is totally worth it!!!! It is so beautiful and the mountains and surrounding area will just take your breath away.
The hotel here sits on the lake with the mountains behind it and has a European feel to it. We didn’t stay here but I wish we did!!
There is also a campground and a general store as you drive further back into the Many Glacier area. We were pleasantly surprised by how good the food was and the variety of natural and organic options that they had. And don’t forget to stop in the convenience store next to the restaurant to get a soft serve huckleberry ice cream!!
There are a few good hikes in the Many Glacier area: Grinnell Lake (mentioned above), Grinnel Glacier, and Apakuni Falls (mentioned above). The Ice Berg Trail is also here – you can see ice bergs on the lake even in August! But was closed when we were there due to bear activity.
This is another section of Glacier National Park. Yes, it is a large park and is pretty spread out. But wasn’t one of our favorite. If you are there for a while and looking to check out a different section of the park go for it. But I would keep this one lower on your list. It just wasn’t as drastic and breathtaking as some of the other areas.
Whitefish is a cute town that is about 30 minutes from the West Entrance of the park. It has a cool main street with resturants, shops and breweries. One of my husbands favorite beers from all of our travels is brewed here: Good Medicine at the Northern Brewing Company.
You can come here to grab a bite to eat, shop, or to hang out on the grassy area at the far end of the town. They also have a public beach area on the lake which was fun with a floating pier for the kids to jump off of and kayaks to rent. Be aware the water is COLD. But we still went in and had fun!
Ready to get out and do some rafting?! With younger kids in tow we decided for the scenic float and it was a perfect fit. We floated down the river and hit a couple small rapids but not to much. Then at one point you could get out to swim if you wanted to and our 6 year old did a backward roll right off the raft into the water!
As young as 6 can go on a low levels rapids trip if they would like. The guides were great on our trip and we would highly recommend getting out on the river while you are in Glacier.
Looking for some resort life? The Whitefish Resort has it. Known more for its ski resort in winter it still does a great job in the summer. You can come here to do the ropes course, zipline, luge course and ride the ski lift up to the top of the mountain.
The top of the mountain has amazing views and is where we did some huckleberry picking. Nothing like eating fresh huckleberry off the branch and also cool to think that a bear could have been doing the same thing off of the same branch at some other point during the day.
Make sure to look for the freshly picked Cherry stands while driving around outside of the park. They are everywhere and are worth a stop. The Cherry’s are yummy!!
There is a pretty good chance you will see a black bear or grizzly bear or both while you are here – hopefully from your car and not from the trail! Plus moose, mountain goats, and big horn sheep. Always have your bear spray when out hiking and follow the recommendation on how far to stay away from the wildlife!
Where To Stay
If you are looking for a place to stay when here we highly recommend the Timberwolf Campground and lodge if you are looking for something more rustic. Or else if you want a hotel then see if you can get a room at one of the hotels in Glacier National Park – that would be pretty sweet!!
More From Montana (and the area)
- Things To Do In Billings, MT + Best Southeast Montana Day Trips
- 5 Amazing Places To Stay When Visiting Glacier National Park
- Visiting The Breathtaking Going To The Sun Road In Glacier
- 5 Spectacular Things You Must Do In Mammoth Hot Springs
- Wyoming Ski Resorts, Including The One Regulars Want Kept Secret
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