Two unbelievable itineraries to discover Montana’s Glacier Nationwide Park

An early product of the budding American conservationist motion within the 1910s, Montana’s Glacier Park is a poster little one for the US Nationwide Park motion and ranks alongside the likes of Yellowstone and Yosemite as one of many United States’ most awe-inspiring pure wonders.

A lone street bisects an excellent panorama of towering crown-of-the-continent mountains laced with plunging waterfalls and glassy turquoise lakes and surrounded by dense forests. On this nearly intact pre-Columbian ecosystem grizzly bears and wolves sit on the prime of the meals chain, whereas good park administration has saved the place each accessible and authentically wild.

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Exploring Glacier Nationwide Park on a three-day street journey

Nearly all of the Glacier’s guests don’t stray removed from the Going-to-the-Solar Street, a 50-mile-long engineering marvel and nationwide historic landmark constructed within the Thirties with the categorical goal of creating the park’s wilderness accessible to everyone. This itinerary incorporates the street’s “biggest hits” but additionally burrows north and south to the hubs of Many Glacier and the Two Drugs valley.

Day 1: Driving the Going-to-the-Solar Street

Enter the park by way of the West Gate and proceed two miles to Apgar Village. Get your bearings on the LEED-certified Customer Heart and admire the glassy expanse of Lake MacDonald backed by the brooding peaks of the Rockies. Eddie’s Café is an efficient place to gas up earlier than the drive east.   

Arguably probably the most spectacular street in America, the historic Going-to-the-Solar Street begins by inauspiciously monitoring the forested shores of Lake McDonald to an eponymous lodge, an compulsory pit-stop for anybody eager to get an eyeful of rustic “parkitecture” structure. Past the lodge, the street begins an extended ascent to Logan Move switching again sharply at a good bend often known as “the Loop” and breaking out of the timber into sub-alpine terrain. It’s price preventing for a parking spot at blustery 6646ft Logan Move atop the Continental Divide the place aspiring hikers can loosen their legs on the three.2-mile round-trip Hidden Lake Overlook Path whereas communing with Dall sheep, alpine flowers, and considerable species of vacationer.

Delicate adjustments in vegetation seem as you descend on the street’s dryer japanese aspect. Worthwhile stops for brief hikes embody St Mary Falls and Solar Level – the latter gives nice views over bright-turquoise St Mary Lake. Each trails are round 1.7-miles round-trip with choices to probe additional into the wilderness.

End the day by descending to the japanese service village of St Mary with its customer middle and cluster of eating places and lodging.  

Glacier Nationwide Park is house to house to each black bears and grizzly bears © Chris LeBoutillier / Shutterstock

Day 2: Boating and mountaineering within the Many Glacier Valley

Load up with breakfast within the Snowgoose Grille within the St Mary Village resort earlier than heading north to the Many Glacier Valley, a pure potpourri of verdant meadows and rippling lakes anchored by the strategically positioned Many Glacier Lodge, deftly designed by the Nice Northern Railway in 1915. Revel for some time within the resort’s attractive predominant lounge with its raised stone fireplace after which join a 3 to four-hour afternoon boat and hike tour incorporating guided excursions on each Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes.

Afterwards, motor again to St Mary stopping at Two Sisters Café  simply outdoors the tiny ranching neighborhood of Babb for an appetite-busting American dinner. As night time closes in, roll into the Dusty Star Observatory subsequent to the St Mary Customer Heart for a ranger-led after-dark astronomy program.  

Day 3: Experiencing East Glacier and rafting the Flathead River

Head south to the quiet Two Drugs Valley, one of many park’s less-traveled corners imbued with Native American legends and endowed with all creatures nice and small. You could end up with ursine firm as you stroll the placid shores of Two Drugs Lake. Carry bear spray and preserve a secure distance.

Again within the automotive, set the GPS for East Glacier, a tiny railway village dominated by the illustrious Glacier Park Lodge, a triumph of early twentieth century “parkitecture” the place you possibly can recline on a rocking chair and research the Native American paintings.  

Seize a espresso and candy snack on the onsite Empire Café earlier than driving for 60 miles alongside Freeway 2 to West Glacier the place you possibly can enliven your afternoon with a half-day whitewater rafting journey on the Flathead River with a waterside barbecue dinner thrown in.

Creator’s tip: Head north to Polebridge  

When you’ve bought spare time in your palms (and a automotive), I strongly advocate paying a go to to Polebridge, an off-the-grid neighborhood positioned 27 miles up an unpaved street north of the park’s west entrance. Polebridge is a traditional slice of frontier-spirit America, a unusual neighborhood of round 100 folks, surrounded by nature and anchored by a 108-year-old mercantile that sells legendary huckleberry pastries.

Man hiking in Glacier National Park, Montana
You’ll be able to discover Glacier Nationwide Park by foot utilizing the park shuttle system © Galyna Andrushko / Shutterstock

Hike Glacier Nationwide Park with no automotive

This adventurous itinerary depends totally on the wonderful free nationwide park shuttle system to get round and celebrates the park’s predominant raison d’être: backcountry mountaineering. To lighten your load, ebook forward for in a single day stays within the park’s two historic backcountry chalets.  

Day 1: Climbing over the Continental Divide

You’ll must get to Many Glacier by bus for the beginning of this energetic itinerary. Spend the morning nosing across the historic lodge and seize a lightning-fast lunch at no nonsense ‘Nell’s, earlier than setting off on the Swiftcurrent Move path. Winding for six.8 miles by way of the Swiftcurrent valley, the path ascends steeply by way of bear nation by way of vertiginous switchbacks to a move on the Continental Divide. From right here, it’s one other 1.2 miles to the lofty turnaround, an outdated hearth lookout. After appreciating the vista, return to the move and descend to the backcountry Granite Park Chalet the place you possibly can eat (freeze-dried meals), drink, sleep and be merry.

Day 2: The Highline Path

From the chalet it’s a spectacular 7.6-mile above-the-treeline traverse to Logan Move on the Highline Path throughout the steep, flower-strewn expanses of the “Backyard Wall”. For an additional adrenalin rush, you possibly can scramble as much as the Grinnell Glacier Overlook on the Continental Divide (further two miles) or keep on alongside the favored Hidden Lake path (further three miles) once you attain Logan Move. Free park shuttles head again to civilization in Apgar Village on the Going-to-the-Solar Street each quarter-hour. Benefit from the surroundings.

Day 3: Relaxation and rest in Apgar

On day three, hang around Apgar Village and luxuriate in some “R ‘n’ R” by Lake MacDonald. Kayaks and canoes can be found for hire for many who merely can’t chill. The close by Customer Heart is the go-to place to investigate path circumstances, chat with rangers and see what free night packages are on provide. It’s nicely price strolling the 2 miles into West Glacier within the night to bask in craft beer and calorie loading steaks on the Belton Chalet Grill & Taproom.

Sperry Chalet built by the Great Northern Railway in Glacier National Park, Montana
In a single day in one of many backcountry huts like Sperry Chalet © Shutterstock / Nikki Yancey

Day 4: Sallying forth on the Gunsight Move path

On the morning of day 4, take the free park shuttle from Apgar, altering buses at Logan Move and persevering with down the japanese aspect of the continental divide to the Jackson Overlook and the beginning of the two-day 20-mile+ Gunsight Move path.     

It is a magnificent journey, most of it above the treeline, taking in lakes, alpine meadows and touch-the-sky passes topping out at 7055ft. Gunsight Move on the 9.2-mile mark is on the Continental Divide; Lincoln Move, three miles additional on, is the path’s highest elevation. The backcountry Sperry Chalet (13.3-miles), rebuilt after a 2017 hearth, offers three correct cooked meals and in a single day relaxation in primary non-public rooms.

Day 5: Descending from Sperry Chalet to Lake McDonald 

After an evening on the Sperry Chalet, you’ve got two choices. Proceed straight right down to the end line on the shores of Lake McDonald (6.7-miles, all downhill), or incorporate a prolonged side-trip by scrambling as much as the hulking however retreating Sperry Glacier (roughly seven miles further). Ranger-led hikes are generally accessible right here.  

Whichever route you select, a post-hike beer and burger within the bar at Lucke’s Lounge within the Lake McDonald Lodge is de rigueur. From right here, free park shuttles will motor you again to Apgar Village and the West Entrance.

Creator’s tip: Arrive by prepare

The cross-continental railway was one in all America’s most interesting however most ignored innovations and helped open up Glacier to peculiar residents. For me, arriving on the in a single day Empire Builder prepare from Seattle is an integral a part of the park expertise. Not solely is the journey magnificent, however the prepare drops you proper in West Glacier and inside strolling distance of the park entrance.

Must know


There are 13 front-country campgrounds inside the park. Eight are first-come, first-served; 5 might be booked upfront; six are accessible to RVs; and three are open year-round. Costs vary from $10 to $23 per night time.

There are 65 designated walk-in backcountry campsites. A $7 allow should be procured upfront to make use of them.

Entrance charges

To enter the park, it’s essential to buy a seven-day move which prices $35/20 per automotive/particular person.

All automobiles should pre-register below a brand new park pilot scheme designed to cut back congestion.

When to go to

One of the best time to go to is between Memorial Day (late Could) and Labor Day (early September). Exterior these occasions, climate might be fickle, and lots of services are closed.

Getting there

The park is positioned in northwest Montana. The closest hub city is Whitefish. The closest airport is Glacier Park Worldwide Airport in Kalispell, 26 miles to the southwest.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder train stops near the park’s east and west entrances with connections to Chicago and Seattle.