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10 Things To Do In And Near Glacier National Park

10 Things to Do in and Near Glacier National Park

Montana’s Glacier National Park gets top marks for natural beauty. In fact it’s been called the Switzerland of America. To justify that name consider this; over its one million acres there are 175 named mountains, 200 named waterfalls, 25 named glaciers and literally hundreds of lakes and streams. And the area surrounding the park is also a hotbed of beauty. 

Crystal clear Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park

Crystal clear Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is a fantastic destination in summer, offering an incredible range of activities. Enjoy these 10 things to do in and near Glacier National Park.

Beautiful mountainscape near Logan Pass

Beautiful mountainscape near Logan Pass

Go for a bike ride

If you’re looking for an epic day on your bike, cycle the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Start at Lake MacDonald and go as far as you can turning around when you’ve had enough climbing. Note that the road doesn’t typically open to cars until late June or early July so you’ve got a lovely long window of car-free biking. Once the road is open to cars, you can only cycle it before 11 AM and after 4 PM. Electric bikes are not allowed on the road before it opens to cars.

No matter when you plan to bike – check the Glacier National Park website for road updates.

Stunning views on the Going -to-the sun road from the seat of a bike

Stunning views on the Going -to-the sun road from the seat of a bike

Go mountain biking

If you’re based in West Glacier then it’s only a 30 minute drive to get to Whitefish, a mecca for mountain bikers and the “the place to be” according to Outside Magazine. There’s an extensive, easy to access trail system that will appeal to all level of riders. 

Mountain biking on trails near Whitefish, Montana

Mountain biking on trails near Whitefish, Montana – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit 

Need a paddle fix?

Lake McDonald, the largest lake in Glacier National Park is an exceptional place to paddle. The water is unbelievably clear and even when you’re far from shore you can see the rocks on the bottom. Explore this bluer than blue lake in a rowboat, a kayak, a canoe or rent a paddleboard. 

Some of the creeks and rivers are great for kayaking too but check in at the Visitor Centre in Apgar for suggestions and current conditions.

Enjoying a peaceful, family-friendly paddle

Enjoying a peaceful, family-friendly paddle – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit 

Take a boat tour

For people not comfortable paddling a boat, there’s the option of boat tours in the park. On Lake McDonald enjoy an exceptionally scenic one hour tour on a wooden boat. Or check out the glaciers via two historic wooden boats on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, both of which originate from Many Glacier, near the east end of the park.

The Morning Eagle runs on Lake Josephine

The Morning Eagle runs on Lake Josephine

Take a hike

You’re spoiled for choice in the park with over 700 miles of hiking trails. If you want what has been called the most rugged, scenic and wildlife-rich mountain hike in the lower 48 do the 14.2 mile Grinnell and Highline Loop link. Want something fast and easy? Do the 1.9 mile return trip on the Rocky Point Nature trail for stunning views of Lake McDonald and the mountains in the vicinity of the Sperry Glacier. For anything else check in with the Apgar Visitor Centre for a map and recommendation to fit your hiking ability.

Go rafting

Looking for a scenic float trip? Sign up with one of the local rafting companies to do a trip on the Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River at the southwestern border of Glacier National Park. While there are family-friendly options you can also get your thrills on Class II and III waters. Trips are accessed from the west entrance of the park.

If a combo of fly-fishing and rafting sounds appealing, that can also be arranged. Montana waters offer prime habitat for both native Westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout. 

Legendary fly fishing on the North and Middle Fork of the Flathead River

Legendary fly fishing on the North and Middle Fork of the Flathead River – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit 

Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road

For a memorable experience drive the Going-to-the Sun Road, one of the most beautiful drives in the United States. It will take at least two hours if you do the full 52 mile one way drive in the summer. The highest point on the road – Logan Pass, is 32 miles from the west entrance and a good turn around point if you don’t want to do the whole thing. You will need to be patient on a beautiful summer day as people slow to a crawl to gawk at the mountain scenery. Note that there are size restrictions with regards to RV’s on this road. 

The Going-to-the-Sun Road offers breathtaking scenery

The Going-to-the-Sun Road offers breathtaking scenery

Look for wildlife

Glacier National Park is home to loads of wildlife both large and small. Larger mammals include black and grizzly bears, wolves, elk, moose, cougar, Bighorn sheep, mule and white-tailed deer, lynx, coyote and wolverine. There are 50 small mammal species along with over 250 bird species that have been sighted. The bottom line – endless possibilities for nature viewing and photography. But use common sense and give animals space. If you’re out for a hike be sure to carry bear spray.

Take the Red Bus tour

Hop onboard a vintage 1930 red bus and learn about the park through the eyes of a guide. They’re considered to be the “oldest touring fleet of vehicles anywhere in the world” and as such seats may be a little less comfortable than you’re used to. But you’ll learn a lot and with roll back-tops you’ll see the sights. The west side tours operate from May 18 – October 20th this year while the east side tours run from June 8th until September 22nd.

West Glacier 

West Glacier, the main western access point to Glacier National Park, is a great family destination with so many things to do practically on its doorstep. From West Glacier you’ve got great access to the town of Whitefish, Whitefish Ski Resort and of course Glacier National Park. 

Go to nearby Whitefish for some beach time, but don’t expect warm water. If you need a shopping or restaurant fix you’ll get it here too. In summer the Whitefish Mountain Resort offers a range of family-friendly activities including a rope course, an incline slide, zip-lining and mountain biking. 

In West Glacier itself there are a couple of golf courses, along with shopping and restaurants.

What are the access points to Glacier National Park?

There are two main access points to Glacier National Park. The eastern part of the park is accessed via the town of St. Mary – about a three hour drive south of Calgary. West Glacier is on the doorstep of the western part of the park – roughly a five hour drive from both Spokane and Calgary. Both access points offer accommodation options just outside the park. But in West Glacier I have a two night giveaway to entice you to the area. See the bottom of the post for more information.

Where to stay 

New this year is the West Glacier RV Park and Cabins. With its ideal location behind the “hustle and bustle” of West Glacier Village you and the kids can enjoy the campground experience – roasting marshmallows, enjoying a quiet sunset with your significant other or grabbing a quick meal at the West Glacier Restaurant.

Couple enjoying a campfire

Couple enjoying a campfire – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit 

Your home away from home with a forest background

Your home away from home with a forest background – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit 

 

West Glacier RestaurantWest Glacier Restaurant – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit 

Home for the night with the dog

Home for the night with the dog – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit 

A Two Night Giveaway

Be one of the first to stay at the brand new West Glacier RV Park & Cabins in West Glacier. I have a two night giveaway that includes your choice of an RV site (you need your own RV) or cabin. To enter leave a comment telling me what you’d like to do on a visit to Glacier National Park. I’ll notify the winner via email or a Facebook message and you’ll have 24 hours to respond before the next winner is chosen.

The contest runs from May 16 – May 31, 2019 at 6 PM MST.  Note that there are two blackout periods – all of July and Labour Day weekend. 

Win a 2 night stay in West Glacier, Montana at the new West Glacier RV Parks & Cabins

Thank you to the Pursuit for making this post possible.

Leigh McAdam

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 20 Comments
  1. Leigh,
    You’ve Givin me some amazing travel destination ideas throughout the years that I’ve followed your post and Glacier National Park looks like another great one! There’s something about hiking in the mountains that rejuvenates the soul. I would definitely enjoy biking the Going to the sun road and also mountain biking at Whitefish. Rafting and ziplining are things I always try to include into my vacations, Glacier National Park is definitely on my bucket list.

  2. I would love to check out this new resort! I’d bring our kayaks to paddle on Lake McDonald then relax with a beer afterwards.

  3. I would love to do more hiking in Glacier National Park in Montana. Lots of great information in your blog. Thanks ????

  4. I would absolutely love to hike, kayak, practice with my new camera and picnic in Glacier National Park ????
    With my spouse whom I haven’t been able to see much since Christmas!
    I love this post, and the area!

  5. Glacier was the bucket list trip my kids chose for this summer. We can wait. The top item on our family list to see is Grinnell Glacier and depending on how kids are doing we would like to tackle a couple more longer hikes. Thanks for the chance.

  6. If I was to win I would try the kayaking as we are planning a trip on Maligne lake this summer in Jasper and want all the practice we can get. I’ve driven this road a few times and it absolutely beautiful. Don’t forget to buy some Huckelberry product.

  7. Would love to visit Glacier National Park! Hiking and taking a boat ride sounds like a great way to spend a weekend!

  8. As an avid hiker (leaving tomorrow to hike the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike!!) the 700 miles of hiking trails sounds really appealing and would be on the to do list on a trip to Glacier National Park.
    I’d also love to hike in from Waterton into Glacier- I’m surprised you didn’t mention this considering the two make up an International Peace Park and the Alberta/Canada focus of this blog.

  9. Leigh,

    I would be ecstatic to return to Glacier National Park! This park is near and dear to my heart, as I worked there for 3 summers right out of college. Its beauty cradled me out of college, and helped me forge new interests in my life, mainly backpacking! I would love to return, and visit with friends who live in Whitefish, go for a mountain bike ride, backpack to turquoise glacial lakes and road bike the stunning Going-to-the-Sun Road. Thank you for bringing these amazing memories to me on this Friday and your wonderful blog! And I hope I will be the fortunate winner to enjoy this prize, and reunite with this spectacular place!

  10. Hike, hike, hike!
    Ever since moving to calgary 20 years ago, my passion is hiking. I would love ???? discovering the Glacier National Park in Montana.

  11. I haven’t visited Glacier NP since I was a teenager! I’d love to finally cycle or drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, and backpack up to an impossibly beautiful mountain lake.

  12. Another destination to add to the bucket list! What a great destination to explore, where does one start? Personally, to cycle on the Road to the Sun Highway would be tops on the list closely followed by some hiking but truly so many ways to take in all the beauty it has to offer! That said, if lucky enough to receive this opportunity, I would like to pass it along to family having a July wedding but no planned honeymoon – it would be a lovely memory for them to start their married life together. Thanks for the post, I always enjoy reading your facebook updates!

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