The dramatic panorama of Glacier Nationwide Park was shaped within the final ice age when glaciers sculpted its peaks and valleys. The atmosphere can be influenced by the Continental Divide, which runs by the middle of the park and produces two considerably totally different climates. On the west facet, lush forests of hemlocks and western cedar are fed by the Pacific watershed; on the east facet, dry, Arctic air coming down from Canada creates extra open vistas and arid circumstances.
Above the treeline in Glacier are alpine meadows that come alive in summer time with glacier lilies, bear grass, monkey flower, balsamroot and different wildflowers. Increased nonetheless are the jagged peaks of 175 mountains, and 25 glaciers that feed turquoise lakes and streams. All of it provides as much as among the most awe-inspiring surroundings in North America, and folks from everywhere in the world are drawn to expertise the park’s pristine magnificence firsthand.
If you happen to plan on visiting, test our options for getting probably the most out of your journey. The Nationwide Park Service can be an excellent useful resource for info on tenting, day mountaineering, backpacking, biking, boating and fishing in Glacier.
Tenting in Glacier
There are 13 Nationwide Park Service (NPS) campgrounds in Glacier. Most of them can be found on a first-come, first-served foundation. The entire campsites at Fish Creek and St. Mary may be reserved prematurely, together with half of the campsites at Many Glacier and half of the group websites at Apgar.
5 campgrounds within the park supply primitive tenting, with no flush bogs or working water (Bowman Lake, Lower Financial institution, Kintla Lake, Logging Creek and Quartz Creek). Campgrounds are typically open from late-Might to mid-September, relying on snowpack. Tenting charges differ between $10–$23 per evening throughout the summer time season. To see which campgrounds are open and to test on tenting charges, go to the Campground Standing Web page. All of Glacier’s campgrounds are in bear nation, so it’s necessary to retailer meals and different scented objects outdoors of your tent.
Listed here are just a few of our favorites campgrounds within the park:
Bowman Lake Campground (48 websites; non-reservable)
Bowman Lake Campground is on the finish of an extended dusty drive to a quiet nook of Glacier with simple lake entry. The 32-mile highway from the west entrance of the park takes you thru the small neighborhood of Polebridge, the place a cease on the Mercantile is a should. The campground has loads of bushes that present shade and privateness. No crowds right here, simply tranquil scenes of glacier-fed lakes and rugged peaks. Make sure to deliver bug spray as a result of the lake is well-liked with mosquitoes as effectively.
Many Glacier Campground (109 websites; half-reservable)
This campground is on the heart of all of it, with nice mountaineering and an historic lodge close by. It’s additionally prime grizzly habitat, the place you possibly can catch a glimpse of bears and different wildlife. All that makes Many Glacier a preferred tenting vacation spot, so you must count on crowds. However the sights are effectively value it. Half of the campsites at Many Glacier are open to advance reservations.
Fish Creek Campground (178 websites; reservable)
Fish Creek is a quiet and peaceable different to close by Apgar campground, however nonetheless shut sufficient to the west entrance of the park to choose up provides on the normal retailer. If you happen to’re touring to Glacier by prepare, the west entrance can be a cease on Amtrak’s “Empire Builder”, which runs from Seattle to Chicago. The campsites at Fish Creek are open to advance reservations.
Backpacking and Climbing in Glacier
Glacier is a paradise for hikers and backpackers. It has greater than 700 miles of trails by a backcountry of alpine meadows, rugged mountains and glacial lakes. The mountaineering season within the park is comparatively brief as a result of Glacier sits on the Canadian border and lots of trails are at excessive elevations. It truly snows each month of the 12 months within the park, and a few high-country trails aren’t snow-free till July and even August.
Whether or not you’re planning a brief day hike or an extended journey into the backcountry, the park’s free shuttle service might help along with your transportation wants. The shuttle runs alongside the Going-to-the-Solar Street, from the west entrance at Apgar to the east entrance at St. Mary. As a result of it makes stops at or close to some trailheads, it provides you added choices. As an alternative of doing round-trip routes, you possibly can hike one-way, then use the shuttle to return to your car should you park close to one of many shuttle stops. The fee-based East-Aspect Shuttle travels between St. Mary and different park areas, together with Two Medication and Many Glacier.
Backcountry Tenting Permits: Permits are required for all backcountry tenting in Glacier and value $7 per evening, per individual. Stroll-in permits may be obtained at one of many park’s Allowing Areas the day earlier than or the day of your journey begin date. Half of all websites in backcountry campgrounds are put aside for walk-in campers. In summer time months, there may be a variety of competitors for permits, so plan on arriving early at a allowing location the day earlier than the beginning of your journey.
Backcountry Advance Reservations: Securing an advance reservation eliminates the stress of competing for a walk-in allow throughout the summer time. Backcountry websites may be reserved beginning March 1 for teams of 9–12 campers and March 15 for teams of 1–eight campers. Purposes may be submitted on-line solely. There’s a processing charge and software charge for every reservation request you submit. It usually takes a month earlier than you hear again in your allow standing. The tenting charge of $7 per evening, per individual is due while you decide up your allow at a allowing location.
To submit an software, go to the park’s Advance Reservations web page. For extra details about particular person campsites and their opening dates, view the Backcountry Campsite Map. Excited by doing an in a single day river journey? Discover all the data you want on the River Tenting Permits web page. Guided rafting journeys are additionally accessible by Glacier Guides.
Glacier is house to a variety of wildlife, together with grizzly bears, so make sure to test the park’s Bear Security web page earlier than hitting the path. Security ideas embrace all the time carrying pepper spray and all the time mountaineering in teams reasonably than solo.
Backcountry Meals Storage: The park has 65 backcountry campgrounds with 208 campsites. They’re all geared up with lockers or bear poles to retailer your meals safely. You’ll must deliver a weatherproof meals and rubbish bag together with a 30 ft. rope for hanging the bag.
To study present circumstances within the backcountry, together with path closures and wildfires, go to the park’s Path Standing web page and Backcountry Weblog.
Really useful Hikes and Backpacking Journeys in Glacier
Avalanche Lake Day Hike (simple; four.zero miles round-trip)
Right here’s a soothing hike with minimal elevation acquire that provides you an excellent style of what Glacier is all about. The path makes its means alongside Avalanche Creek by a forest of towering cedars and western hemlock bushes. After 2 miles, you attain the turquoise water of Avalanche Lake, tucked away in a glacial valley. The summit of Little Matterhorn stands on the far finish, the place large waterfalls ship icy water cascading all the way down to the lake. This generally is a busy hike, so arrive early to beat the group. It’s additionally an excellent hike for households. On the trailhead, an accessible facet journey alongside a boardwalk takes you thru the Path of the Cedars to Avalanche Gorge.
Purple Rock Falls Day Hike (simple; four.2 miles round-trip)
With solely 100 ft. of elevation acquire, this brief hike may be very household pleasant and provides you an excellent mixture of waterfalls, lakes and geology. Start on the Swiftcurrent Cross Trailhead at Might Glacier. A brief means in, there’s a facet path to Fishercap Lake with a transparent view of close to mountains. If you happen to arrive on the lake early within the morning, you would possibly see a moose. One other mile up the path is Purple Rock Lake, which has a pleasant seaside for swimming and views of Swiftcurrent Glacier and Mt. Grinnell.
Comply with the path alongside the north shore of the lake previous sections of crimson crimson rock, which is how this path obtained its title, and eventually Purple Rock Falls. When you’ve got the time, you possibly can return to the path and proceed one other 1.5 miles to see extra falls and Bullhead Lake.
Highline Path Day Hike (reasonable; 11.eight miles one-way)
Climbing the Highline is the quintessential Glacier expertise. It begins at Logan Cross, the place the Going-to-the-Solar highway crosses the Continental Divide at 6,646 ft. Described right here, it’s a one-way hike with a return shuttle to the move. The path runs alongside the western facet of the divide, a 5-mile stretch often known as the Backyard Wall. The start of the hike, which pulls crowds that quickly skinny out, is reduce right into a stone ledge with a steep drop-off that can have you ever reaching for the protection cable hooked up to the wall. From right here, you get a powerful view of the whole lot to the west together with, peaks, valleys, Lake McDonald and, snaking its means as much as the move, Going-to-the-Solar Street. The path then breaks into sloping meadows lined in wildflowers with the occasional stream crossing. There’s an excellent probability of seeing mountain goats and big-horn sheep grazing on the slopes, and possibly a bear as effectively.
After the route climbs to a move between Mount Gould and Haystack Butte, it continues by open floor with continuous views. At 7.6 miles you attain Granite Park Chalet, a country stone lodge the place hikers can keep in a single day in a no-frills setting. From this level, the path descends by a wooded stretch often known as The Loop. It emerges onto Going-to-the-Solar Street, the place a shuttle bus can return you to the trailhead at Logan Cross.
Piegan Cross Day Hike (moderate-strenuous; 9.2 miles round-trip, 12.eight miles one-way to Many Glacier)
A very good mixture of forest and high-alpine mountaineering, the Piegan Cross path begins on the Siyeh Bend, 2.2 miles east of Logan Cross on the Going-to-the-Solar Street. The trailhead is at an elevation of 6,200 toes and climbs greater than 1,600 ft. to the move, so the path gained’t be freed from snow till round July. Do the hike round-trip to the Piegan Cross, or prepare a shuttle and proceed from the move to Many Glacier.
The primary couple of miles take you thru a forest of spruce and fir, the place it’s possible you’ll come throughout elk. At 1.2 miles, go left on the Piegan Cross junction, and at 2.7 go left once more on the Siyeh Cross (one other nice hike) junction. The path breaks into meadows and ultimately climbs onto open talus slopes. Forward of you is the hump of Piegan Mountain topped by Piegan Glacier. Mountain goats, ptarmigan and marmots can usually be seen alongside the path, the place you get excellent views into the valley south and ultimately of the Backyard Wall and Bishop’s Cap. Take pleasure in a break on the move, the place you’re surrounded by towering peaks, then head again or proceed one other eight.2 miles all the way down to the Many Glacier space.
Triple Divide Cross Day Hike or Backpack (simple–reasonable; 14 miles round-trip)
This can be a brief backpacking journey or longer day hike in a less-crowded space of Glacier. The path begins at Cutbank Creek Ranger Station and strikes simply alongside the creek for four miles. Then it rises step by step up the Atlantic Creek Valley. Though fewer individuals go to this a part of Glacier, the views are simply as superb as anyplace else within the park, and in summertime the meadows are teeming with colourful wildflowers.
Simply over four miles in, you’ll attain the Atlantic Creek campground. Pitch your tent, then hike a few miles to Medication Grizzly Lake (simple) or take an extended, steeper path to Triple Divide Cross (reasonable).
If you happen to hear the tumbling of rocks as you hike by the sphere of talus across the move, it’s most likely bighorn sheep transferring throughout the slope. Hike this part throughout the rutting season in late August or early September, and also you’re more likely to hear a loud cracking as ram horns collide.
Boulder Cross Path Backpack (reasonable–strenuous; 27 miles round-trip, 31.5 miles one-way to Kintla Lake)
One of many extra adventurous journeys in Glacier, this one takes you into the guts of the backcountry with its unforgettable surroundings. The journey truly begins in Canada’s Waterton Lakes Nationwide Park on the Waterton marina, the place you’ll take a Shoreline Cruise boat south to Goat Hang-out again in Glacier. The path climbs steadily by a forest and reaches Janet Lake about three miles in. There’s a campsite simply above the lake that makes an excellent stopping level should you plan on beginning the hike late. If you happen to get an early begin, an excellent first evening campsite is one other three miles up the path at Lake Francis or one other 5 miles at Brown Cross.
Because the path continues, you emerge from the forest and start having fun with some superb views of hovering peaks, alpine meadows and glacier-carved valleys. At eight.5 miles in, you attain Brown’s Cross, the place huckleberries are plentiful in early August. Past there, the path climbs extra steeply alongside the facet of Mount Chapman earlier than persevering with west to Boulder Cross at 7,410 ft. Snow can linger alongside this portion of the path effectively into August. If you happen to do that as an out-and-back, you’ll flip round at Boulder Cross. Or you possibly can proceed it as a through-hike and prepare a pickup at Kintla Lake.
Cross-country Snowboarding & Snowshoeing in Glacier
Glacier is a ravishing place to discover all 12 months lengthy, not simply in summer time. The park has a particular customer information should you’re visiting low season. Winter is a superb time to expertise Glacier on skis or snowshoes. For maps of ski trails within the park and recommendations on easy methods to keep away from hypothermia view the Cross-Nation Snowboarding and Snowshoeing web page and obtain the brochure. Earlier than heading into the backcountry, additionally test present avalanche circumstances.
Kayaking and Canoeing in Glacier
If you happen to deliver a kayak or canoe to Glacier, you’ll discover plenty of locations to discover by water, together with Lake McDonald, Lake Sherburne, St. Mary Lake, Higher Waterton Lake and Decrease Two Medication Lakes. Lake McDonald is sort of 10 miles lengthy, so you might spend a day or extra paddling alongside its shores alone. Lake fishing can be open all 12 months in Glacier, so should you take pleasure in fishing you’ve obtained another reason to deliver your canoe or kayak while you go to. Take into account that the water in all the park’s lakes and rivers may be very chilly even in the course of summer time.
To stop the unfold of dangerous aquatic invasive species, the park service requires all hand-propelled watercraft to have a self-certification kind. Obtain the free on-line kind or decide one up throughout enterprise hours at one of many park’s ranger stations, customer facilities or backcountry allow places of work. They’re additionally accessible at many boat launches. The signed kind needs to be saved in your private possession or within the canoe or kayak.
To study extra about kayaking and canoeing in Glacier, together with boating guidelines and rules within the park, go to Glacier’s Boating web page.
Ideas for Visiting Glacier
Attending to Glacier Nationwide Park
Situated in northwest Montana alongside the Continental Divide, the park may be accessed from the east and west. The West Glacier entrance on Route 2 is close to Kalispell, Whitefish and Columbia Falls, and it takes you to the Lake McDonald space, Park Headquarters and the Apgar Customer Heart. From the east, you possibly can enter alongside Freeway 89 through St. Mary, Two Medication and Many Glacier. Amtrak companies either side of the park. Name 855-733-4522 for extra info.
When you’re inside Glacier, there are many choices for getting round and having fun with the surroundings. The park’s free shuttle service runs alongside the Going-to-the-Solar Street, from the west entrance to the east entrance. See the park’s Instructions & Transportation web page for info on touring to Glacier. The park’s Street Standing web page lets you understand about roads which might be closed due to winter climate or different causes.
Park Charges and Passes
Charges for getting into the park rely upon the kind of move you select and your car. You’ll be able to go for a single-use park move ($30 for 7 days), an annual parks move or the America the Lovely Interagency Annual Cross that covers all nationwide parks and federal charge areas. See all charge particulars on the charges and passes web page.
Glacier is open all 12 months lengthy, however customer services and Going-to-the-Solar Street shut when winter climate arrives. The standard customer season is from late Might to early September. Fall generally is a lovely time within the park, however you’ll must be self-sufficient. If you happen to’re concerned with snowshoeing or cross-country snowboarding, winter generally is a nice time to go to as effectively.
The climate within the park may be unpredictable any time of the 12 months. The Continental Divide creates a conflict of climates, with heat, moist air coming in from the west and chilly, dry Artic air transferring in from the northeast. That conflict has been recognized to create winter blizzards that drop greater than 40 inches of snow in at some point. In reality, snow can fall any month of the 12 months in Glacier.
A typical summer time day could have highs within the 70s and nighttime lows within the 40s. Each of these averages will drop at larger elevations. Common temperatures within the winter are within the 30s and youths respectively, though it might plummet to 10 or 20 beneath. If you happen to’re mountaineering in summer time, make sure to pack a rain jacket even when it’s sunny on the trailhead. Packing an additional layer of insulation is a good suggestion as effectively, particularly in case your hike takes you excessive within the mountains the place chilly winds can blow off mountain glaciers.
You’ll be able to test on highway and path closures and on the park service’s Street Standing web page and the Path Standing web page. View the native climate and forecast right here.
Guidebooks and Maps
The park service has interactive path maps for five normal areas within the park. For extra detailed variations, the Glacier Nationwide Park Conservancy, official non-profit fundraising accomplice of Glacier Nationwide Park, has a superb choice of books and maps for the world. You may as well discover guidebooks and maps at fitnessinf.com.
Glacier is house to a wide range of wildlife, together with moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, wolves, mountain lions, wolverines, coyotes and a big numbers of each black and grizzly bears. Examine the park’s Bear Security web page to discover ways to hike and camp in bear nation. To view different wildlife safely, the park service has plenty of Security Ideas value studying.
If you happen to plan on doing any mountaineering or backpacking, it’s all the time a good suggestion to test in with the closest customer heart or backcountry workplace for info on latest animal exercise.
Written by Steve Burke. fitnessinf Missoula Retailer Supervisor Sean Kissane contributed to this text.