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Glacier National Park - What to Know Before You Go

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Plan and Prepare for Your Glacier National Park Vacation
St. Mary Lake View in Glacier National Park

St. Mary Lake View in Glacier National Park

Angela M. Brown

When to Go to Glacier National Park
The best time of year to visit Glacier National Park during the warm summer months of July, August, and September. June is also a lovely time to go, but the higher elevations of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, including Logan Pass, may still be blocked by snow. Because of this, you'll enjoy smaller crowds in June. If you love snow sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, then winter is also a time you'll want to visit Glacier National Park. Spring can be cold and wet and is not a great time to explore the park.

Where to Stay When Visiting Glacier National Park
If you choose to stay inside of the park, or very near a park entrance, you'll have convenient access to the hikes, the lakes, and other park activities. You will be sacrificing something in the way of modern comforts, however. If you prefer air conditioning, Internet access, and varied dining options, lodgings in Whitefish or Kalispell are your best option. You will, however, spend additional time traveling to and from the park.

What to Do in Glacier National Park
A visit to Glacier National Park is all about the scenery. The park preserves a US portion of the Northern Rocky Mountains. Called "The Crown of the Continent" and "The Backbone of the World," the sharp peaks and steep valleys in this section of Montana combine with clear waters and wild-flower-filled meadows to yield spectacular views. During your time in the park, you can experience this unbelievable scenery on a scenic drive, a day hike, from a horse's back, on a boat tour, on a bike, or while floating the Flathead River.

How to Get to Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is located in the northwest part of the state of Montana.

By Air
Glacier Park International Airport is located in Kalispell, Montana. Kalispell is approximately 30 miles to the western park entrance at West Glacier; the charming mountain town of Whitefish is nearby. Rental cars and shuttles are available at the Kalispell airport.

By Train
The Amtrak Empire Builder rail route stops right in Glacier National Park at West Glacier, Essex, and East Glacier. Nearby stops are Whitefish, to the west, and Browning, in the east.

By Car
The primary freeways to Glacier National Park are Interstate 90 (from the east and west) and Interstate 15 (from the north and south). US Highway 2 runs along the southern border of the park and will take you to the West Glacier, Walton, and East Glacier entrances. US Highway 89 reaches the Many Glacier, St. Mary, and Two Medicine entrances on the east side of the park.

The Shuttle System in Glacier National Park
Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road can be nerve wracking for several reasons. It is a narrow, two-lane road with steep drop offs. Traffic backs up for summer road construction or for wildlife, making progress slow. Parking at turnouts and visitor centers is limited. Glacier National Park offers free shuttle service along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It has proven to be very popular.

Wildlife in Glacier National Park
You will see some wildlife along the roads and on hikes in Glacier National Park. The large animals are dangerous and should be enjoyed from a distance. Smaller animals, such as chipmunks, marmots, and Clark's nutcrackers, can be quite amusing. Be sure to review the bear safety guidelines at the beginning of your visit. Here is a small sample of the many birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects you may see during your Glacier National Park visit.

  • Grizzly Bears
  • Black Bears
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Gray Wolf
  • Elk
  • Mountain Goats
  • Cougars
  • Bats
  • Shrews
  • Skunk
  • Badger
  • River Otter
  • Beaver
  • Marmot
  • Chipmunk
  • Ladybird Beetles
  • Harlequin Ducks
  • Ptarmigans
  • Clark's Nutcrackers

Cell Phones and WiFi in Glacier National Park
Because of its remote and mountainous nature, there is very limited cell phone and WiFi access in the park, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Dogs in Glacier National Park
Dogs are not permitted on hiking trails or in any of the park lodges and facilities. Dogs on a leash are permitted in your vehicle, the parking lots, and at campgrounds.

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