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5 Best Activities to Do at Glacier Park
Guest post by: Caleb Cole | September 22, 2020
Planning a trip to Glacier, Montana’s breathtaking National Park? Then get inspired about all the exciting activities waiting to be discovered! Glacier, also known as the ‘Crown of the Continent’ is a wonderland of pristine forests, alpine meadows, imposing mountains, and sparkling lakes. We’ve listed the Top 5 Best Activities to do at Glacier Park, navigating you towards the best ways to explore the park’s unique wilderness, history, and solitude:
Glacier National Park has over 734 miles of hiking trails to explore, offering a match for all hiking abilities. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely, moderate hike through Glacier’s pristine forests, or want a more intense hike conquering rugged mountain ranges: Glacier has got you - and your hiking needs - covered! Popular hiking trails in Glacier are The Trail of the Cedars, Forest and Fire, Hidden Lake, Running Eagle Falls, and Swiftcurrent Nature Trails. If you’re an experienced hiker up for a real challenge, try the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail. This 21-mile route may be strenuous, but the view at the top makes every step worthwhile. Once you reach Grinnell Glacier Overlook, you stand roughly one thousand feet above Grinnell Glacier and enjoy a birds-eye view of Upper Grinnell Lake, Allen Mountain, Angel Wing, and Mt. Gould. There are also various guided hiking tours in Glacier Park. Glacier Guides offers guided hikes for both overnight and day hikes, and you can also join on a Ranger-led tour: where you explore Glacier with a park ranger.
From day hikes to weeklong adventures, easy strolls through wildflower fields to hardcore mountaineering: Glacier Park has the perfect trail for every outdoor enthusiast. Mix and match routes based on your personal preferences, and explore Glacier’s stunning scenery at your own pace! Oh, and don’t forget to pack the right hiking gear. For moderate hikes, basic hiking shoes will do, but for winter-time exploring and higher-elevation hikes, microspikes for hiking may be required. You can check what hiking gear is recommended for the season and trail by consulting Glacier’s visitor center, or by visiting the National Parks website.
Another fun way to explore Glacier’s unique wilderness and nature is by water. From a scenic dinner float to exhilarating whitewater rafting: there’s a boating experience for every kind of adventurer. Montana’s National Park has various companies that provide guided trips. Highly-rated is Glacier Park Boat Company, which offers scenic boat tours that provide a charming way to experience Glacier's majesty. The company uses historic boats that take you off the beaten path, gliding across beautiful alpine lakes nestled among rugged, imposing mountain peaks. Feeling more adventurous? Then exploring Glacier via a whitewater rafting adventure! There are various tour operators for rafting, including Great Northern Resort - which also hosts multi-day river adventures and guided fly fishing tours. For a Montana family vacation, consider a low-intensity (class II and III rapids) rafting or floating trip down the scenic Middle Fork of the Flathead River bordering Glacier National Park with Glacier Raft Company, Montana's oldest and most experienced rafting company. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or want to revel in the park’s outstanding beauty in a more relaxed setting: there’s a memorable boating experience waiting for you at Glacier!
Camping in Glacier National Park is permitted only in designated campgrounds. Fortunately, there are plenty of those to choose from! With approximately 1009 tent sites, Glacier is a prime spot to pitch a tent. There are 13 fixed campsites with basic amenities, most available on a first-come, first-serve basis. One of the most popular campsites in the park is Avalanche, located west of the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park. This campground is situated within old-growth cedar and hemlock trees and offers unique glimpses of birds and wildlife that inhabit the area. From this campsite, you enjoy easy access to the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake Trail: both amazing day hikes. During its regular summer season, Glacier Park even offers Ranger-led activities at certain campsites with amphitheaters, such as wildlife lectures and demonstrations, which are fun for kids and adults alike! If you want to explore the park in all its glory - from early morning birdsong to late-night stargazing - then camping is a fantastic choice to get the most out of your Glacier experience.
With its rugged peaks, incredible waterfalls, and abundance of wildflowers, Glacier is a paradise for photographers. The sunrise and sunset in the park bring a warm glow, reflected in cool lakes - whilst wildflowers add a splash of color to any scene in summertime: every angle of the park is mesmerizing. That is exactly why Glacier is a prime spot for any avid photographer to run wild. Besides nature photography, Glacier is also a fantastic spot for wildlife photography. The park is home to sheep, goats, deer, and larger animals such as bears, elk, and moose (which are frequently spotted on the east side of the park). If you’re extremely lucky, you may even be able to capture a wolverine, wolf, or mountain lion on camera. The park does advise wildlife photographers, whether you’re amateur or professional, to bring a telephoto lens and keep a distance from the animals, both for your own and the animals' safety. If you want to be inspired about the amazing photography scenes Glacier offers, be sure to check out the park’s Instagram feed and Flickr, where park photographers share some of their favorite images.
A trip to Glacier would not be complete without a visit to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier’s scenic highway. Completed in 1932, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a spectacular 50 mile, two-lane highway that bisects the Glacier National Park’s east and west. The road crosses the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass and passes through almost every type of terrain in the park. In 50 miles, you’re treated to incredible scenery that changes from large glacial lakes and cedar forests in the lower valleys to windswept alpine tundra atop the Logan Pass. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is dotted with scenic viewpoints and pullouts, so you’ll have plenty of chances to stop and admire the view, and take some amazing photos. The Going-to-the-Sun Road can be driven from either direction, but is worth traversing twice, as the view from each side of the road is different - and worth the extra mileage. Do note that while some portions of Going-to-the-Sun Road remain open all year, others - such as the alpine section - may be subject to closures depending on weather conditions. You can check the current conditions via Glacier’s website and review precious opening/closing dates, allowing you to plan your road trip accordingly.
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