Top 10 Things to do in Montana Glacier National Park

With stunning alpine scenery, stunning aquamarine lakes, and glacier-capped mountains, few places on earth are as pristine and magnificent as Glacier National Park in Montana. Tucked away in northwestern Montana, just miles from the Canadian border, there are many things to do in Montana Glacier National Park. It offers some of the world’s most scenic drives, world-class hiking trails, and superb mountain escapes. In fact, it was declared a protected region in 1910 during the first flowering of the American Conservation Movement. So, it’s no surprise that it ranks with the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone among the most astounding natural wonders in the United States.

This is the kind of national park where you simply want to get out of your car every few meters and go exploring. So, if you want to see mountain slopes covered in a blanket of wildflowers, wildlife, and waterfalls, then Glacier National Park should definitely be on your list. Here’s a detailed guide to explore what is called the “Crown of the Continent.”

Red Bus Tour


One of the best things to do for practically everyone is taking the famed Red Bus Tour. These tours take place in a fleet of iconic open-air buses from the 1930s but modified in 2002. Every bus has a rollback top for panoramic views and can accommodate only 17 passengers, which makes it an intimate experience. What’s more, they all come with informative guides and chauffeurs who’ll regale you with tales, stories, and facts for a more personalized experience. Do not that these tours take place only in the summer, typically around mid-June, when the Going-to-the-Sun Road is entirely open across Logan Pass.

The best part is that there are many tour options, ranging from a few hours to full-day trips. One of the longest tours is the West Side Crown of the Continent Tour. The pick-up point is on the west side of the park, and it lasts around 8-9.5 hours. If you have less time, the Eastern Alpine Tour covers the eastern side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road and lasts 2.5-4.5 hours.

Red Bus Tour in Glacier National Park - by Fred Dunn, Flickr
Red Bus Tour in Glacier National Park – by Fred Dunn, Flickr

Logan Pass


Logan Pass is the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, sitting pretty at 6,646 ft (2,025 meters). It’s also the highest point in the park, accessible by car, and is part of the Continental Divide. Basically, the Continental Divide is a unique geological phenomenon that runs across the Rocky Mountains ridge. Furthermore, water flows out into the Atlantic Ocean on one side and down to the Pacific Ocean on the other. Standing at Logan Pass allows you to enjoy sweeping views of wildflower fields, jagged mountains, and lots of wildlife across the park. Think endless carpets of purple, magenta, pink, and yellow, blanketing the entire area in an absolutely dazzling manner.

In fact, since Logan Pass is a bucket list item for many travelers, we recommend visiting early in the morning. It’s when the sun’s rays are just breaking out over the mountains, so you can enjoy epic photo ops. Please note that since Logan Pass is very popular, the large parking lot fills up quickly—sometimes as early as 6 a.m.!

Logan's Pass - by RTCA NPS, Flickr
Logan’s Pass – by RTCA NPS, Flickr

Hidden Lake Overlook Trail


If you’re a hiking junkie, then hiking the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is one of the best things to do in Glacier National Park. This is also one of the park’s most popular hikes due to its relatively short distance (3 mi, 4.8 km) and the fact that it’s easily accessible from Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The trail begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and meaders through a verdant and grassy meadow to a spectacular vantage point overlooking the lake. Moreover, the meadow is a fantastic place to spot lots of local wildlife, like bears, marmots, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. The first part of the hike is a boardwalk path before it transforms into a dirt trail that heads out to Hidden Lake Overlook. Make sure that you arrive early in the morning so you don’t have an issue finding a parking spot. Most hikers can manage this hike as it’s a moderate one with some decent elevation gain. So, it’s one of the best family-friendly things to do in the park. 

Hidden Lake Overlook - by Katie Wheeler, Flickr
Hidden Lake Overlook – by Katie Wheeler, Flickr

Lake McDonald


For many people, one of the very first pictures they’ll see of Glacier National Park is a stunning photo of Lake McDonald with its multi-colored rocks and clear water. And let us tell you that the rocks are every bit as beautiful in person as they are in the pictures. In fact, one of the most memorable things to do here is to walk down the shores and touch these rocks. What makes the lake so popular, besides being the national park’s largest, is that it’s a four-minute drive from the West Entrance Station. So, it’s at a lower elevation, especially for those who cannot handle a lot of altitude change. Additionally, it’s one of the few spots along the Going-to-the-Sun Road that is open throughout the year, even in the shoulder and winter months.

But that’s not all. Sitting at the southern edge of Lake McDonald is Apgar Village, one of the most popular villages in the national park. It’s home to many hotels, including the historic Swiss-style Lake McDonald Lodge that sits right along the lakeshore. Designed in the early 1900s, it offers splendid views of the glacial valley. The best bit? You can go horseback riding, hiking, and even on boat tours along the lake.

Lake McDonald - by JD Hascup, Flickr
Lake McDonald – by JD Hascup, Flickr

Grinnell Lake


We can’t talk about Many Glacier without talking about stunning Grinnell Lake and the equally stunning hike that leads to it. The strenuous and arduous 10.6 mi (17 km) Grinnell Glacier Trail hike features a whopping 1600 ft (490 meters) elevation gain. However, if you do manage to conquer it, this hike has it all: a glacier, emerald green lakes, waterfalls, stunning alpine scenery, and a fantastic chance to spot wildlife. It winds along Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes, finally passing Lower Grinnell Lake.

And, of course, at the top is a viewpoint of Grinnell Glacier at Upper Grinnell Lake, making it one of the national park’s few accessible glaciers. If that sounds tiring to you, you can even shave off 3.4 mi (5.5 km) by taking a boat across Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lakes. But all said and done, the crystal blue icebergs and water are spectacular enough to take your breath away.

Grinnell Glacier Trail - by David Fulmer, Flickr
Grinnell Glacier Trail – by David Fulmer, Flickr

Many Glacier


For many nature lovers, Many Glacier is one of their favorite areas in Glacier National Park. It’s not surprising, given that it’s one of the most beautiful areas in the park, narrowly beating Evening-to-the-Sun Road. With glaciers, waterfalls, lakes, and massive, snow-covered mountains, this picturesque region is a hiker’s paradise.

What makes Many Glacier so popular is that you can stay here overnight in what is the best lodge in the park, the Many Glacier Hotel. This historic Swiss-style chalet is home to incredible views, rustic yet luxurious rooms, and The Ptarmigan Dining Room, the best restaurant in the park. Even if you don’t stay here, there are many more options for lodges here, and even campgrounds for those who love to live in the heart of nature. One of the park’s most sought-after and popular campgrounds is the Many Glacier Campground, which is home to 110 campsites. This is the perfect place for those who enjoy hiking, camping, and wildlife.

Since it sits in the northern part of the park, you need to get off Going-to-the-Sun Road at St. Mary, heading north to get to Many Glacier Road.

Many Glacier - by Loren R. Miller, Flickr
Many Glacier – by Loren R. Miller, Flickr

Trail of the Cedars


If you’re looking for a hiking trail in Glacier National Park that’s handicap-accessible, then that would be the Trail of the Cedars. Get this: it’s a flat trail, it’s just over a mile long, and it’s easy. This trail begins across the street from the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area and follows a boardwalk path through old-growth cedar trees in a gorgeous, thick, and historic forest. When you go further, it winds into a gravel trail, all along which you’ll find interpretative displays and informative signs.

The highlight is the sensational views of Avalanche Gorge from the top of the trail. However, what families visiting this park will like the most is that since this is a loop trail, they can walk it in either direction. The coolest bit, though, is that due to its easier nature, it’s also senior-friendly, making this one of the national park’s best family-friendly trails.

Trail of the Cedars - by Warren LeMay, Flickr
Trail of the Cedars – by Warren LeMay, Flickr

Wild Goose Island


The tiny but oh-so-spectacular Wild Goose Island lies on Saint Mary Lake and is one of the most photographed spots in Glacier National Park. It was made famous as the opening shot in the 1980 movie, The Shining. In fact, you might recognize the opening shots of the movie, which show Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island. If you want this exact view, park in the small parking lot labeled “Wild Goose Island Lookout” on Google Maps on Going-to-the-Sun road. But that’s not all. There are many overlooks along the entire road where you can simply stop and admire the sceneries wherever you feel like. Did you know that you can also see one of the scenes from Forrest Gump right down the road? Yes! The road is seen when Forrest jogs through Montana’s mountains on his trek across the country and back. 

Wild Goose Island - by Diana Robinson, Flickr
Wild Goose Island – by Diana Robinson, Flickr

Two Medicine


It’s ironic that Two Medicine is the least visited region of the park, even though it was first visited before Going-to-the-Sun Road was constructed in 1932. Since it’s more remote and less accessible than the park’s other popular areas, it has fewer visitors too. So, if you have to get off the beaten path away from the hustle, so to speak, then Two Medicine is where you should be. It’s a 90-minute drive from Apgar and Many Glacier each and an hour’s drive from St Mary. It’s one of the best regions for day and backcountry hikes and is home to an incredibly still and picturesque lake.

But it’s not devoid of facilities; it even has a general store and a campground for those who want to stay overnight to enjoy the beauty of the region. Did you know there’s a boat dock too? Check out the tour schedules and timings for Glacier Park Boat Company. That said, Two Medicine is best visited at sunrise, and watching the golden rays break the horizon is one of the park’s most serene experiences. 

Two Medicine, Glacier National Park - by Antony Caldaroni, Flickr
Two Medicine, Glacier National Park – by Antony Caldaroni, Flickr

Going-to-the-Sun Road


It’s ironic that one of the most popular roads through Glacier National Park is also one of its must-see attractions. We’re talking about Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is one of the most beautiful drives in the country. The 53-mi (85.3 km) road twists and turns through the Continental Divide, topping out at Logan Pass. You can park here, stretch your legs, and enjoy the views before taking your pick from the many hiking trails that start here.

It takes approximately two hours to drive the entire length of the road, which has more than 20 scenic overlooks and turn-outs. The best of the lot are the Loop, Lake McDonald Lodge, Logan Pass Visitor Center, Big Bend, Jackson Glacier, and Wild Goose Island Overlooks. While the stretch of road between Logan Pass and The Loop is the best, we equally love the one between St. Mary Visitor Center and Logan Pass. Usually, Going-to-the-Sun road is open from the June end/early July through mid-October, with the dates depending on snowfall. Check out the official national park official national park website for more details.

Going-to-the-Sun Road - by Harshil Shah, Flickr
Going-to-the-Sun Road – by Harshil Shah, Flickr

Cool Facts About Glacier National Park

  • Mountain goats are the official symbol of Glacier National Park. So, you’ll frequently spot agile mountain goats hanging on the edges of steep mountain cliffs.
  • How would you like to travel in a historic red-colored bus called a ‘jammer’? Visitors had enjoyed tours of the park in style in jammers since the 1930s. In 2002, they were eventually restored and modified to run on alternative fuel.
  • The 53-mile (85.3 km) long Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the world’s most scenic drives. It appeared in the opening credits of The Shining and is a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, a National Historic Place, and a National Historic Landmark. 
  • While you shouldn’t set your heart on it, the Aurora Borealis, a.k.a. the Northern Lights, can sometimes be spotted in the park if you’re very lucky.

Where to Stay in Glacier National Park

How much time to spend at Glacier National Park?

This isn’t a place where you can simply spend a weekend; plan a trip for at least five days. If you want to make the best of your time, consider a four-night visit, two in East and West Glacier each.

What is the most famous part of Glacier National Park?

The most popular (and accessible) attraction in Glacier National Park is Going-to-the-Sun Road. Not only is it a scenic drive into the heart of the park, but there are many adventure and scenic stops too.

What’s the best time to visit Glacier National Park?

If you’re interested in spending long sunny days hiking through the park, try visiting between early July and late September. Not only is the weather mild, but nearly everything is accessible.

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