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How to Visit Glacier National Park


Hi adventure fam! If you saw, I just got back from the most epic week exploring Glacier National Park! But an adventure like this takes a lot of planning, especially for GNP! Here is everything you need to know to make the most of your trip.


Reservations

GNP has 4 separate corridors that require reservations between the hours of 6am-3pm. Reservations can be made 4 months in advance, but they also release some vehicle reservations 24 hours in advance for more last minute plans! So to get into each corridor you have 3 options. Enter before 6 or after 3, grab a reservation early, or hope you can get one the day before you go.


My advice: plan early and get reservations the day they are released. They sell out in minutes! For more information on reservations, click here. And click here to make your reservations when the time comes! Keep reading for more information on all the corridors to help you choose where to spend your time!


Can't get reservations? Don't be discouraged! To get access to the corridors, you can book a campsite or hotel room as well as a boat or vehicle tour in the area! And for the Going to the Sun Road, a vehicle reservation is good for 3 days, so you don't need a separate one for every day. The other corridors are only valid for 1 day!


Where to Stay

Where you want to stay will depend on what activities you want to do in the park! For a cheaper option, outside the park is going to be your best bet as lodging in the park (other than camping) is very pricey.


We were hosted our first night at Glacier Bear Condo in Whitefish and had the best time! Their condo sits about 45 minutes from the West entrance of GNP and the area was gorgeous. You have a private balcony and hot tub with mountain views, and the condo sleeps 6 comfortably.



For summertime they had bug spray, bear spray, hiking packs, trekking poles and more for us to use to enjoy the outdoors, and in the winter you have a private ski locker so you can easily hit the slopes! They have multiple fireplaces, a parking garage and a cozy yet modern vibe. It was an awesome option if you want to get out of the park crowd a bit or go skiing in Whitefish in the winter! This is a perfect option if you mainly want to explore West Glacier. Click here for more information.


In the park, the cheapest option will be camping, but once again for this you HAVE to plan ahead. We tried for over 2 weeks before we finally scored a campground. These sell out as soon as the sites are released at 8:00am MDT on a rolling basis 6 months before your trip. Click here for reservations and more information.


We stayed at the Saint Mary Campground which was perfect for us as we were close to the east entrance of the park with easier access to Many Glacier and Two Medicine, but if I were to do the trip again, I would spend more nights over in the Many Glacier area as it was near all of our favorite hikes (and wildlife galore). The Many Glacier campground is notorious for being hardest to get, and it can often close due to bear activity, so keep that in mind.



Speaking of Many Glacier, we splurged and spent our last night at the Many Glacier Hotel right on Swiftcurrent Lake. Don’t get me wrong, this hotel is old and basic, closer to motel like accommodations, but the view is worth every penny. Splurge for a balcony with a lake view, you won’t regret it! We saw moose swim in the lake, beavers, grizzlies along the shore and nearby mountain meadows, and the views can’t be beat. The on site restaurant is also delicious (hello huckleberry cheesecake).


What to Do

Glacier is definitely a park with plenty to do! Here are a few of my personal favorites.


Hiking: This is the absolute number one activity to do here. The hikes are GORGEOUS! I will warn you, most trails here are intimidating and long, but the treks are beyond worth it, and there are definitely some more family friendly options too. Click here for all my favorite hikes in Glacier.


Going to the Sun Road: This is the main road that crosses from one side of the park to another. Vehicle restrictions apply here (vehicles cannot be more than 8 feet wide, 10 feet tall, and 21 feet long), and once again you do need a reservation. But if you secure a vehicle reservation it is valid for 3 days, or if you stay at certain campgrounds (including Saint Mary), admission to the road is included.


There are numerous stops along the way! Far too many to list here, so click here for my Going to the Sun Road 2 day Itinerary!


Water Activities: Glacier is well known for its lakes, and there is so much to do at all of them! At Swiftcurrent Lake you can take boat tours or rent kayaks/canoes. The boat tour sells up far in advance as many people use the boat to cut off several miles from the Grinnell Glacier hike, so book as early as you can. They also accept walk ups for a waitlist if room opens up. This is the same for Two Medicine Lake as well!


Lake McDonald: Another lake definitely worth a stop. This lake is long: 10 miles, so there is plenty to do! Stop by the Lake McDonald Lodge to see the beautiful chalet like hotel and stroll along the shore. And do not miss Apgar Village which has the best gift shops in the park. Plus Eddie’s Café is the spot for huckleberry ice cream! In Apgar Village there is another place to rent watercraft, or just sit along the beach and photograph the famous colorful pebbles along the bottom of the lake.


Wildlife Spotting: The wildlife in GNP is nearly unmatched, and we had some incredible encounters when we were here. The key to wildlife spotting is of course, patience. Animals are most active around dawn and dusk (especially dusk for the bears), so you have to start your day early and end later if you want your best chance of seeing them!


Always remember to be responsible when wildlife spotting. That means remaining AT LEAST 25 yards from moose, elk, sheep and goats, and 100 yards from the bears. The rangers are vigilant in this park, and we saw them correcting far too many people getting too close to the animals. Please let the animals be and enjoy from a distance, and bring your camera to zoom for some awesome photos!


Remember this is grizzly country so always carry bear spray and store all food in a vehicle or bear box. A fed bear is a dead bear, and GNP recently had to put down a bear because humans didn’t store their food properly which led to an aggressive bear defending its food source. For more information about responsible wildlife spotting, click here.




I’ll break down the best spots to see them by animal we encountered!


Moose: The moose of GNP love lakes! We saw them swimming in Swiftcurrent Lake several times, and Saint Mary Lake along the Saint Mary Falls Trailhead. But you are nearly guaranteed to see one at Fishercap Lake. To reach this lake, walk a very short distance on the Swiftcurrent Trail and veer off on the footpath to the left. We watched this guy (I named him Marvin) eat his dinner for so long and loved it!


Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goats: These guys are often seen along the Highline Trail, at Logan Pass, along the Grinnell Glacier trail, and Siyeh Bend. But look up in the hills throughout the park and you may spot them!


Grizzly Bears: There are an estimated 300 grizzly bears in GNP! We weren’t lucky enough to see any on the trails, but we saw several in the Many Glacier corridor. Beware that GNP reserves the right to close any section of the park including the campgrounds for bear activity. We saw several trails and areas closed due to dangerous bear activity. Great places for grizzlies include Apikuni Falls, Cracker Lake, Iceberg Lake, Grinnell Glacier, near the Granite Park Chalet, and Swiftcurrent Pass. But they are all over, so be patient and your chances of spotting one are good!


Black Bears: We actually only saw 2 black bears in GNP, but for them keep an eye out at some of the lower elevations and more forested areas including Avalanche Lake, along Going to the Sun Road, and along Many Glacier Road.


Beavers: Swiftcurrent Lake is the place we saw beavers swimming! They were most active in the evening here. A tip for spotting wildlife is to actually look for people looking at something. Several times people spotted something before us and helped us spot them too!


Elk: The elk of GNP are more elusive than in Colorado, but keep an eye out in the meadows on the east side of the park, especially near Two Dog Flats.


Marmots are seen throughout the park but are common on the hikes at Logan Pass. And there are coyotes and even wolves in GNP, but we didn’t see any during our trip.



Western Montana: Can’t get reservations to GNP or want to escape the crowds for a bit? Western Montana has so much to offer! Drive around Flathead Lake and grab some cherries from one of the many stands on the east side (trust me, they are delicious). Visit Kalispell and grab a huckleberry Milkshake at Norm's Soda Fountain. Stop at one of the many wineries in Big Fork. The things to do in this region are nearly endless, so click here and here for all Western Montana has to offer!


Head up to Canada: Did you know Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada is only about 30 miles from East Glacier? We didn't get the chance to go, but it looks beautiful, so pack those passports and check it out! If you do, let me know if I should add it to my next trip!


This is just a start of the adventure you experience in Glacier National Park. We had the most incredible time, and I am already planning another trip to Western Montana.


If I didn't answer any questions you have about Glacier, click here for more FAQs, or drop me your question in the comments below! Happy adventures, fam!


*I was compensated in exchange for media promotion for this blog post.

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