There’s a place where mountains disappear into alpine lakes, wildlife roams free and abundant, and breathtaking views await around every turn. Welcome to Glacier National Park!
Part of the world’s first international peace park, Glacier NP is located in northern Montana and is seamed to Waterton Lakes National Park at the border of Canada and the USA.
Many of the roads in this mountainous paradise are only open from July – October due to snowpack. It’s important to plan your trip accordingly and check on road conditions if you wish to see all the park’s driving attractions. Even in mid-summer, be prepared for chilly weather and the possible snow flurry that can catch many visitors by surprise!
Glacier National Park is home to many species of animals, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, glacial blue creeks, and scenic roads that wrap around the mountainsides for some of the best views in the country. There’s no wonder why it’s on so many traveler’s bucket-lists!
Your Perfect Glacier National Park Itinerary
Day 1 of Your Glacier National Park Road Trip
Your adventure in Glacier begins on the eastern side of the park in Many Glacier, which boasts the “best” mountain views. The Many Glacier Road runs just north of the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. With all there is to see on this less commonly explored route, it is well worth exploring for a full day.
From the small town on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation, Babb, head towards the Many Glacier Entrance to begin your Glacier National Park adventure!
Ask any park employee or former visitor what their favorite area of Glacier National Park is, and the answer will likely be Many Glacier.
The first few miles of road are pretty socked in with vegetation, but drive cautiously because this is a popular area for wildlife crossings! Watch as the landscape begins to reveal itself.
Now, this is where it starts to get really good. Get your camera ready!
As you near the lake, the sky-scraping mountains of the Lewis Range begin to come into view to the west. Trumpeter Swan can occasionally be spotted swimming along the shores in the fall and spring.
As you continue on the Many Glacier Road, there are lots of scenic turnouts providing photogenic views of the rocky peaks. Keep on the road toward the Many Glacier Hotel. There, you’ll head over to the docks and hop on a boat shuttle to get to your first hike of the day, Grinnell Lake! There is a small fee for taking the shuttle and one transfer is required to reach the trailhead.
Although hikers can forgo the boat shuttle and hike from the hotel area, this convenient and scenic fairy shaves 5 miles off the round-trip distance making the total excursion a manageable 3 miles. Expect to take about 2-3 hours with a 20-minute boat shuttle, great for those who have a limited amount of time.
When you land at the final dock, follow the signs toward the Grinnell Lake Trail.
After about 1/2 mile you’ll be met by a suspension bridge that extends over the glacial blue stream. Just before crossing the bridge, check out the side trail (to the left) that will take you to a beautiful hidden waterfall. It’s worth the very short uphill climb for the view that awaits!
Back on the main route, cross the bridge one hiker at a time.
Just a little bit farther and… there it is! The magnificent Grinnell Lake with Grinnell Glacier nestled in the nearby peak in the background. A great spot for a group photo and a snack break. There are no bad views here!
On the way back to the Many Glacier Hotel, you can take the shuttle boat again or opt to hike around the lake adding some extra miles and opportunities to see wildlife. The choice is yours, but plan accordingly because there is much to see here if you can’t tell already!
Many Glacier Hotel
That hike was something else, and now your legs deserve a little break.
Relax in the comfy chairs along the hotel’s deck and lawn while you hydrate and have a bite to eat.
We know this is the exact view you have been dreaming of!
When you’ve taken plenty of photos and are ready to depart the Many Glacier Hotel, continue on the main road toward Swiftcurrent. Watch for Bighorn Sheep along the roadway!
At the end of the road, you’ll find a campground, general store, dining options, and a visitor center. Redrock Falls is accessed via the Swiftcurrent Pass Trailhead, which is near the campground.
This trail is famous for its moose sightings and, like all other areas of the park, sees the occasional bear. This easy 3.5-mile out-and-back trail has very little elevation gain and is good for all abilities. Huckleberry ice cream waits for you at the general store!
That’s all for today! Spend tonight in one of the conveniently located campgrounds or lodging accommodations. Rest up, refuel, and get ready for another exciting day in Glacier National Park.
Day 2 of Your Glacier National Park Road Trip
Wasn’t the Many Glacier area of the park beautiful? You may feel like there’s no way it can get any better, but it’s about to!
Today you’ll be exploring the well known scenic drive, the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This route stretches 50 miles East to West across the park, and is often snowed in until July!
Since we’re still on the eastern side of the park, today will begin from the St. Mary Entrance. As you drive alongside St. Mary Lake, you will pass by several scenic turnouts.
Take the time to pull off the main road and enjoy the mountain views!
Our first official stop of the day is going to be at Rising Sun. Here you will find the easy 1/2 mile out and back trail that brings you along the rocky shore of St. Mary Lake.
This is the perfect morning walk for uninterrupted views of the dramatic peaks on the far side of the lake.
Sun Point Nature Trail
Take in your last bit of the beautiful St. Mary Lake with another easy hike on the 1.7 mile out and back Sun Point Nature Trail. With epic views and frequent wildlife sightings, this is one you just can’t miss.
If you want to cover a little more distance than what we have planned, a visit to St. Mary and Virginia Falls will add on a few miles. We still have quite a bit of ground left to cover today, so plan accordingly!
Welcome to the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road at 6,646 feet!
You’ll have the perfect view of the towering Clements and Reynolds Mountains in the Lewis Range! Take your binoculars out and see if you can spot any bighorn sheep roaming in the scree fields.
Bird Woman Falls Overlook
Continuing on the main road, it’s all downhill from here, elevation wise!
Not far after the famous flows of the Weeping Wall, the overlook for Bird Woman Falls is a must-see attraction on the right side of the road. You will find varying information on the actual height of this waterfall.
The signs at the overlook list 492 feet, while the World Waterfall Database says the falls is 960 feet. Go see for yourself! Which measurement do you think is correct?
Trail of Cedars Nature Trail and Avalanche Lake
Enter the magical forest of giant old-growth cedars! Some of these massive trees tower over 80 feet tall. The trees are easily accessed via the Trail of Cedars Nature Trail right near the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area. The boardwalk trail weaves through the trees offering appearances by the icy blue waters of Avalanche Creek.
That was a beautiful scenic drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but by now you’re probably ready to get a good hike in to really stretch out your legs. From the Trail of Cedars, follow signs to the Avalanche Lake Trail.
This 5.7-mile out-and-back trail is a moderate hike along Avalanche Creek and leads up to astonishing views of Avalanche Lake. The trail is nicely shaded for most of the way, which makes it perfect for warmer mid-afternoon hikes in the summertime.
The famous rainbow-colored rocks of the Lake McDonald shores wait for you at the end of the Going-to-the-Sun road. You may have seen photos of the shores sprinkled over social media, but now you get to see the real thing, no filter needed! Some of the best places to view the lake are the Sprague Creek Picnic Area and the Apgar Village Area.
A perfect way to end your Glacier National Park road trip. This is where we leave you to find your next adventure in the little town of West Glacier. Happy trails!