Things to Do in Glacier National Park, Montana

Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park
Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park in Montana 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.

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

A visit to Lake McDonald is one of the top things to do in Glacier National Park
Crystal clear Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park

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Beautiful mountainscape near Logan Pass
Beautiful mountainscape near Logan Pass

Go for a bike ride in Glacier National Park

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 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

How about some 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 in Glacier National Park?

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 paddle -one of the family-friendly things to do in Glacier National Park
Enjoying a peaceful, family-friendly paddle – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit

Go on a boat tour

For people not comfortable paddling a boat, there’s the option of boat tours in Glacier National 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, in the east end of the park.

The Morning Eagle runs on Lake Josephine and the boat ride is one of the things to do in Glacier National Park
The Morning Eagle runs on Lake Josephine

Take a hike in Glacier National Park

You’re spoiled for choice in Glacier National 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.

One of my favourites so far has been The Iceberg Lake Hike in Glacier National Park.

Spectacular Iceberg Lake
Spectacular Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park

Go rafting on the Flathead River

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 - one of the fun things to do in Glacier National Park
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. 

In 2024 you will have to make reservations to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Dates vary according to what entrance you start at.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road offers breathtaking scenery - one of the top things to do in Glacier National Park
The Going-to-the-Sun Road offers breathtaking scenery

Look for wildlife in Glacier National Park

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 that is less than 3 years old.

Take the Red Bus tour

Hop onboard a vintage 1930 red bus and learn about Glacier National 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 mid-May to mid-October while the east side tours run from the first week of June until the third week of September.

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. 


Places to stay near Glacier National Park

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.

Check out 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.

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 Restaurant – Photo credit: Glacier Park Collection by Pursuit
West 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

St. Mary near the Going-to-the-Sun Road

You can also stay in the village of St. Mary, just a few minutes drive from the eastern end of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. I highly recommend a couple of nights in the cute, newTiny Homesin St. Mary Village. You can cook in your tiny home or go to the restaurant, a one minute walk away.

A collection of 10 Ting Homes at St. Mary Village
A collection of 10 Tiny Homes at St. Mary Village just outside the park gates of Glacier National Park

East Glacier Park Village

East Glacier Park Village, served by Amtrak, lies immediately to the east of Glacier National Park. For a place to stay check out the historic 102 year oldGlacier Park Lodgewith its grand great rooms.

It’s got an onsite golf course and shuttles are available to Many Glacier and Two Medicine. From there you can take boat rides into the park or go for a hike.

The breezeway is a great place to pull up a chair and curl up with a book
The breezeway is a great place to pull up a chair and curl up with a book and a glass of wine

More travel inspiration for the western United States

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Fun things to do in Glacier National Park, Montana

Thank you to the Pursuit for making this post possible.

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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