Best of Glacier National Park

Bryanna Royal  |  07.02.2017

Glacier National Park remains at the top of our list of places to visit in the U.S. When we were there, my husband and I agreed we have probably ruined ourselves for a lot of other locations around the country that just won’t be able to compete with Glacier!

From the gorgeous views to the fresh mountain air and the crystal clear glacial water, this place is simply beautiful! We always considered ourselves beach people, but the mountains of Glacier keep pulling us back. So now we must wonder, is it okay to be beach and mountain people?

There are a variety of things to do in and around Glacier. And, like we always recommend, the way to truly see the park is to get out of your car and go beyond the normal tourist attractions. The best way to do this is with hiking. And don’t worry, not all of the hikes are 6-mile, strenuous hikes. All of them were completed by our four kids, ages 4 to 8 at the time.

Here are the top things to do in Glacier National Park:

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road

WOW. Like really, WOW. This may be the prettiest drive in all of the U.S. You start from the Lake McDonald area and drive through a forest of pine trees before beginning to ascend into the mountains.

Give yourself lots of time on this drive because you will likely want to stop at every pull out to take a picture that was better than the one you just took! It is also important to take this drive in each direction, as you get a different viewpoint depending on what direction you are driving.

As you make the climb, you drive through a tunnel in the mountain and pass a waterfall that cascades down and splashes you if your windows are open. Plus, there is a good chance you are going to see some wild animals!

In full disclosure, there are parts of this drive that can be scary. The edge of the mountain is RIGHT there! It is also important to note that there are restrictions on height and width of the vehicles that are allowed to drive up there. So, be sure to check their website before going.

2. Logan Pass Visitor Center

After you make it to the top of the mountain on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you will want to stop at Logan Pass to have a look around and take the short 2-mile hike to Hidden Lake. This is an uphill hike with stairs, and it is usually heavily populated.

Be aware that Logan Pass can be a good 20 degrees colder than the Lake McDonald area. It is a good idea to bring an extra jacket, hats and gloves just in case (even in the summer).

3. Trail of the Cedars

This is a short, fairly-flat boardwalk hike to a beautiful waterfall. It can be busy due to its easy access, but it is worth it. This is one of those waterfalls where it looks like someone dyed the grass and water because you can’t believe the colors are natural!

If you are feeling up to it, you can also go on the Avalanche Lake Trail – which starts right off the middle of the Trail of the Cedars. It is an uphill climb the whole way, but seeing the lake at the top of the mountain is beautiful!

4. Bowman Lake and Polebridge Mercantile

Remember how I recommended getting off the beaten path? Here is one of those opportunities that doesn’t include hiking. But it does include a little off-roading (don’t worry, I think your car can handle it).

On the West side of the park, drive about 90 minutes from the Lake McDonald area – some of that is on a dirt road. You will first reach Polebridge Mercantile which is an awesome store with yummy pastries. (In order to get here, you do leave the park for a short time).

From there, you will head back into the park. Then take a dirt winding road through the trees to get to Bowman Lake. Be forewarned, it is a 1-1/2 lane road with two-lane traffic. But, if you drive slowly and stay alert, you will be fine.

They have a campground back there, or you can just park and walk out to the lake area. If you have a kayak or paddleboard, bring it!

5. Many Glacier

Another section of Glacier that will take you outside of the main park is Many Glacier. They have a hotel, campground, and more amazing hikes. Not ready to hike? Even the drive is beautiful, so it is worth a visit.

If you do enjoy hikes, we recommend the Apakunee Falls hike. But, as with any time you hike in bear country, be sure to have your bear spray with you. And check in at the visitor center to see if any trails are closed due to bear activity.

6. Grinnell Lake

Located in the Many Glacier section of the park, you can get to this lake by taking a 7-mile hike or you can opt to take two boat rides to get there. I, of course, will recommend the hike, but totally understand if you want to take the boat.

The boat will drop you off just a short walk to the lake, or you can up the ante and do a 3-mile hike to Grinnell Glacier.

As with all the other hikes in this area, it is breathtaking. And being in the mountains and seeing all the beauty around you makes all the effort worth it!

7. Whitefish Resort

Looking for a break from all this hiking? Check out Whitefish Resort. It offers a ropes course with zip-line, a luge type of ride and a gondola that you can take up to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, you can enjoy a drink or dinner while looking out over the surrounding mountains and the town of Whitefish.

8. Whitefish

Whitefish is a quaint little town that is located about 30 minutes from the West Glacier entrance and it has a great selection of shops, restaurants, and festivals throughout the summer. If you are looking to take it easy for a few days, this is a great spot to come!

They also have a public beach where you can rent kayaks and go out on the lake, another fun way to spend the day!

These were a few of our favorites, but Glacier has so much more to offer and we highly recommend staying there for a few weeks, getting your hiking shoes on, and exploring this amazing part of our country!

When we were there, we stayed at an RV park that was about 8-miles from the west entrance of Glacier National Park: Timber Wolf Resort. There were stores, gas stations, internet – everything we needed. Then we would pack up the car and head into Glacier where there was NO internet or cell coverage, which was fine by us!

To learn more about our trip, check out our page on Glacier National Park where we share a variety of posts on things to do.

Want to hike more? Check out our page on best hikes in Glacier! Or check out the official Glacier National Park page for information about the park and campgrounds/RV parks in the park.

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  1. Tom & Lynda Adams Posted on 08.08.2017

    Glacier National Park is #1 on our list to visit very soon. We also have a home in Georgia but actually live in Florida. Great pictures and just can’t way to get “On The Road Again”….Montana is calling our name !

  2. Judy Aselton Posted on 07.09.2017

    We had a fmily reuinion at Glacier a couple years ago. Others were in a rented home with rented van, but we went in our Access Premier with JEEP in tow and parked in RV park about a mile from West Entrance and near
    our relatives. Great time had by all, saw most everything mentioned,
    white water rafting also and so glad she mentioned Pole Bridge because
    that was my favorite side trip. Bakery goods awesome, but you have to get there EARLY in morning or they are sold out. We also stopped at another store/eatery in Pole Bridge and got a wood carved wolf head that now hangs on the wall in our N. Ga. Mtn. cabin as a reminder of that great trip. That was my 3rd visit to Glacier in about 37 years, so we always try to find something different and there is always something. Also, we were there in July and it was Huckleberry season so there were great treats everywhere. Try some if you get there at the right time!

  3. Ray Collom Posted on 07.09.2017

    I visited Glacier in early June. Logan pass not open yet, in a 23ft. Navion cl C.
    21 ft is max on road over the Pass.

  4. Ron Posted on 07.08.2017

    Great article and pictures !! Thanks. Tried to go to Glacier 2 years ago in in late May/Early June and was snowed out and they closed the park. We will attempt to go again in late August or early September.

  5. Mike Posted on 07.08.2017

    I enjoyed you article. We have been to Glacier twice in the last 4 years. It is our favorite NP and we’ve been to many..We try to go to the less popular areas of the large parks to avoid the crowds. By the way we are beach people too we spend our winters in Sarasota Fl.

  6. Lewis Edge Posted on 07.08.2017

    Having just visited Glacier National Park in late May and early June of this year (2017) I find myself agreeing with Bryanna Royal’s praise. For those who prefer full hookups, staying in one of the commercial campgrounds outside the park is certainly an option. My wife and I stayed at the park’s Apgar campground which offers beautiful, shaded, pull-through sites, faucets with fresh water throughout the campground, a dump station and a nearby boat launching ramp for Lake McDonald. The nightly rate for campers is $20 or with a Senior National Park pass it is just $10. We found that having a car in tow behind our Itasca motorhome gave us access to roads and areas of Glacier that are not friendly to big rigs. For a reasonable hourly rate, small motorboats are available for rent at Lake McDonald Lodge, which also offers fine dining.

  7. David Kannas Posted on 07.08.2017

    We have visited both Waterton Provincial Park and Glacier and stayed at the lodges in both. You are right in that the parks are beautiful beyond description. There is one point that you did not talk about, however. Were you in an RV, and, if so, could you take it up Going to the Sun Road? Ours is a 24 foot Winnebago View. The time we were there we drove a conversion van, which worked well. The View may be another matter. Thanks for a great story.