Glacier National Park
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Glacier National Park | Visit Montana's Most Beautiful Park!

Since April 2022, my boyfriend and I have been traveling full-time by car America. And besides traveling and working, we explored many nature reserves. That's how we slept on the bottom of the Grand Canyon, we explored Arizona's forests, we climbed the mountains of Colorado and Nevada's deserts. But one of the absolute highlights of the past few months? That was definitely Glacier National Park!

Ryan and Ilse
Ryan and Ilse

Also read: Ice Lakes Trail in Colorado: Beautiful Lakes and Waterfalls

Plan your vacation to America here

Where is Glacier National Park?

Montana: The Wild West

Glacier National Park (location here ) is located in the north of the state of Montana. The name “Montana” comes from the Spanish mountain, which also means “mountains”. No wonder: Montana is vast, big and wild. Glacier is Montana's absolute hobbyhorse: wildly swirling rivers, snowy peaks, a rich history and of course glaciers: Welcome to Glacier!

Glacier Lily in Glacier National Park Montana
The famous yellow Glacier Lily is in full bloom in the summer months.

Montana is quite a large state, but has relatively few inhabitants (only 1 million). In Montana you will mainly find a lot of wildlife: moose, deer, elk, black bears, grizzly bears, eagles and even wolves.

The Canada Border and Waterton Lakes

Glacier National Park is adjacent to Canada and Glacier's sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park (Location here ). In 1932, the two national parks were merged by the Canadian and American governments. This is how the world's first International Peace Park was born! On the map you can see that Waterton Lakes is a lot smaller than Glacier.

Would you like to visit Waterton Lakes? Prepare yourself well! Unfortunately, you can't just cross the border with Canada. Due to the Covid-19 situation you are obliged to fill in an online form (ArriveCAN – click here For more information). You will also need to purchase a Canadian park pass.

What makes Glacier National Park so special?

The park has a special ecosystem, with many protected plant and animal species. In addition to its natural beauty, Glacier also has a rich history. Discover below the reasons why Glacier National Park attracts an average of 3 million (!) visitors every year.

1. The History of the Park

Glacier National Park was officially established in 1910, but of course the area has been around for much longer. 10.000 years ago, the first indigenous tribes, or “Native Americans” took up residence in the area. They lived in harmony with the land and worshiped the mountains and rivers… Until the American government intervened in the 19th century and pushed the tribes back into reservations. Forced by hunger and poverty, the tribes sold Glacier to the US government. A painful chapter in the history of the United States. To this day, this area is still very important to the Blackfeet, Kootenai, Salish and Pend d'Oreille tribes.

Also read: All National Parks in the United States of America | List

An elk's antlers | Glacier National Park
The antlers of an elk.

Construction of the main road “Going-To-The-Sun Road” (location here ), which runs through the heart of the park, is therefore a thorn in the side of the tribes. St. Mary Visitor Center (location here ) has an interesting exhibit on the park's relationship with the native tribes and the tone is thankfully somewhat apologetic…

2. The (melting) Glaciers

Like the name Glacier National Park suggests, the glaciers are a reason for many to visit the park. The oldest glaciers have melted away and now form the great lakes, such as Lake McDonald, Two Medicine Lake, and Saint Mary Lake.

A foggy evening at Two Medicine Lake | Glacier National Park
A foggy evening at Two Medicine Lake.

We took a free guided tour, where the Park Ranger told us about the giant primordial glaciers that formed here long ago. But like everywhere in the world, the glaciers in this park are also melting. Now there are 50 glaciers left in the park – but be quick: they are melting at a rapid rate.

St Mary Lake in Glacier National Park
A guided tour around St. Mary Lake.

The glaciers create beautiful glacial lakes in the valleys. In the summer the snow starts to melt and then a lot of ice water flows from the mountains into the lakes below. The bluer the color of the lake, the more glacial water! These lakes are not only beautiful to look at, but also wonderful to swim in – if you like a cold dip!

Water can be found everywhere in Glacier: Waterfalls, rivers and lakes.
Water can be found everywhere in Glacier: Waterfalls, rivers and lakes.

Did you know? You have a good chance of seeing moose swimming? Elk are good swimmers and love aquatic plants! For example, they can dive up to several meters under water to eat algae and other plants.

3. The Rocky Mountains

The mountains here are breathtaking. Not difficult, because they are the famous Rocky Mountains! They're not as tall as in Colorado, but that doesn't make them any less impressive.

Also read: An unforgettable ride through Rocky Mountain National Park

Snow-capped peaks and impressive vistas in Glacier National Park.
Snow-capped peaks and impressive vistas in Glacier National Park.

The snow on the mountain peaks in Glacier is there all year round. The mountains often bear the names of the native tribes. The native tribes don't call Glacier "The Backbone of the World" for nothing.

4. Wild animals, fauna and flora

That brings us to perhaps the highlight of Glacier National Park: Wildlife! The park is known for its wild inhabitants. Glacier is one of the few places in the US where wolves, moose, black bears and grizzly bears still have free play.

Deer Grazing in Glacier
Grazing deer, also called "deer".

The park thoroughly informs the visitor about how best to deal with these wild animals, in order to maintain a nice balance between humans and animals. Some good tips are: Wear bear spray, do not approach animals too close, do not leave food scraps lying around, ... This way you do not endanger yourself and the animals. Easy peasy!

What's the best way to visit Glacier National Park?

First and foremost: The Visitor Center!

Are you looking for information, answers to your questions, maps of the area and souvenirs? The visitor center has everything you need!

West Glacier, East Glacier and St Mary.
The three official entrances to Glacier National Park.

Glacier has three visitor centers: Apgar Visitor Centre in the West, Logan Pass Visitor Center in the middle of the park and Saint Mary Visitor Center in the East. Not only will you find a lot of nice gifts, stickers and books about the park, but rangers are also present to answer all your questions about the park.

If you would like to experience Glacier up close, you can go to the back country office in Apgar village or in Saint Mary. This is the perfect place to plan a hike in the park and reserve camping spots.

Good preparation

Preparation is everything, especially in the wilderness! Are you going for a walk? Be sure to bring bear spray, a sun hat and water. Beerspray can easily be bought in one of the stores.

Bear spray on hike in Glacier National Park
If you go hiking in the deep forests of Glacier, be sure to bring bear spray.

Are you going camping? Then hang your food on one of the poles or rent a “bear can”. Bears have a strong sense of smell and can smell your food from miles away! And at night in your tent, you don't want a bear in your camp, do you? Storing your food safely is therefore strongly recommended.

Going To The Sun Road…

Glacier is proud of its famous “Going-To-The-Sun Road”. This road is also called one of the most spectacular roads in America. The road runs through the heart of Glacier National Park. No less than 80 km long you drive through the park from west to east (or vice versa). The tour begins at the base of Lake McDonald, over Avalanche Creek, past Weeping Wall and Logan Visitor Center, toward Rising Sun and the beautiful Saint Mary Lake. Along the way there are more stops and places of interest where you can park.

Note, in Glacier you will find snow all year round. This also means that the roads are not cleared of snow until late. For example, the Goint-To-The-Sun Road didn't fully open until July 13 this year!

With the shuttle bus

Like Utah's Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon, Glacier operates shuttle buses. This shuttle system is not only convenient, but also free and environmentally friendly! In this way, the park does not have to build huge parking spaces. You park your car conveniently at the visitor center and take the shuttle bus to wherever you want in the park. The buses run in the summer months from 7 a.m. to 19 p.m.

By car

You can also drive yourself and visit Glacier with your car. In the summer months it can get very busy in Glacier and the park has recently started working with a reservation system. Between 6 a.m. and 16 p.m. you can only enter the park if you have a reservation for your vehicle. Since we had overlooked this – oops – we entered the park before 6 am – or after 16 pm. That works too!

Visit Glacier National Park by car? Don't forget to make a reservation!
Visit Glacier National Park by car? Don't forget to make a reservation!

Tip: A reservation is only required at West Glacier entrance. The east of the park, in East-Glacier, is not as crowded and reservations are not necessary.

By bike

Yes, the bicycle is a popular means of transport here! In Apgar and in the villages of West and East Glacier you can rent (electric) bicycles. The park is relatively bicycle-friendly and has many nice cycling paths. You will also occasionally see some cyclists on the famous Going-To-The-Sun Road. Are you tired after a whole day of cycling? Then you can easily take your bike on the shuttle buses.

Plan your vacation to America here

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Ilse Praet

10 years ago I experienced my first hiking trip in Sweden. Since then I have been addicted to walking. Camping under the stars, swimming in icy lakes and tasting pure mountain water! Recently I have been traveling full time across America with my friend Ryan in his Dodge minivan. Together we write and film our adventures and enjoy everything nature has to offer.

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