- Jonathan Chum
Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park
When you are looking for breathtaking views, year-round outdoor activities, and beautiful mountains, plan your vacation in the Rocky Mountains. It is the home for the best state and national parks, and one of them is Glacier National Park, located in Montana.
But what is the best time to visit Glacier National Park? It depends on your purposes. If you like hiking and beautiful landscapes, you should go there during the warm summer months of July and August. June, September, and October are also good months to visit this place. However, snow may block the higher elevations of some roads.
Nevertheless, when you plan to visit Glacier National Park for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, winter is the best time to go there. Spring is often wet and cold, so exploring the park during this season is not so enjoyable.
What to do in Glacier National Park?
It is hard to imagine a better place for hiking than Glacier National Park. They range from easy Trail of the Cedars to the arduous Grinnell Glacier. And it doesn't matter where to start your journey, as you will see beautiful alpine landscapes punctuated by glacial lakes, alpine meadows, and jagged peaks along any trail you go.
When it comes to lakes, you have an opportunity to see more than 700 of them when visiting Glacier National Park. Also, an excellent idea for a quick trip will be heading up north to the Waterton Lakes National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, let's learn more about things to do in Glacier National Park.
Lake McDonald is the largest lake in the Glacier National Park area. It is the central hub of activity on the west side of the park. Thousands of years ago, massive glaciers carved out its valley. Now this place is home to one of the park's most visited accommodations - Lake McDonald Lodge.
You can start your trip from this point, as you can find an array of activities there. They offer you boat and bus tours, ranger presentations, horseback riding, and two popular day hikes, Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Lake Trail.
Lake McDonald Lodge opens in May and closes in September, and you should make reservations in advance, as this place is in high demand. The park's free shuttle service, as well as all activities and tours, operate on the same schedule.
Visitors love this lake for its crystal clear water and rainbow-colored cliffs. They also say that its west shore is the most beautiful part of McDonald Lake. To save money on the park entrance fee and avoid crowds, you may visit it in early May. But remember that shops, roads, and restaurants will be closed until later in the month.
Trail of the Cedars
Trail of the Cedars is one of two trails in the park that are suitable for visitors with a stroller or wheelchair. It is a short - less than a mile - loop path, so you can hike it in either direction. It begins and ends on Going-to-the-Sun Road, the most impressive road of Glacier National Park.
Trail of the Cedars offers visitors a raised boardwalk going through an odorous red cedar forest with its old trees. And at the midway point, a beautiful landscape opens before you. You will reach a footbridge over Avalanche Creek, which impresses visitors with its gorgeous views of the magnificent waterfall surrounded by rainbow-colored cliffs.
Nevertheless, there is one problem. This trail is accessible to all visitors regardless of their age and skill level, so it is almost impossible to find parking during peak season.
Visitors love this trail, and many of them believe that Trail of the Cedars is the best hike in the park. This path offers guests the breathtaking landscapes of the canyon and Avalanche lake and is accessible to everyone.
To avoid crowded parking lots, you should visit this trail early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Moreover, there are many picnic grounds, so you can have lunch or dinner while enjoying the lovely cedar fragrance and beautiful views.
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
In 1932, Glacier National Park and Canadian Waterton Lakes National Park partnered to found the world's first International Peace Park. Now this place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Both these National Parks are biosphere reserves, known for their magnificent landscapes and a variety of plant and animal species.
You will not find an abundance of facilities in the park, but you can go to the nearby Waterton Village. It is a lovely small town with many hotels, gift shops, and restaurants.
You can also book boat tours or rent bikes there. Many tourists say that visiting this village is a must and recommend buying a boat tour offered by the local Waterton Shoreline Cruise company.
The American side of the park is much more crowded than the Canadian side. But both of them impress visitors with an abundance of wildlife and stunning views. You can even meet bighorn sheep there.
Also, since you are crossing a border, you will need your passport. Do not bring fresh fruit or vegetables, as they are not allowed through customs. The parks are open year-round. However, summer is the best time to visit them.
This two-lane highway divides Glacier National Park into east and west zones and crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most beautiful scenic routes in North America, and it is both a Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.
Tourists love this highway as it passes through all types of terrain the Glacier National Park offers. When driving on this road, you can see waterfalls, glacial lakes, alpine peaks, and cedar forests.
You can stop at one of the numerous rest stops and viewpoints to snap some photos and take in the view. In winter, some parts of the 52-mile highway are closed due to snow blockage, and the park administration fully opens Going-to-the-Sun Road in June or July.
Park visitors call this route breathtaking and Montana's most beautiful road. However, driving on this twisting drive can be problematic for timid drivers. Also, you should be careful and pay attention to the road. It is better to use rest areas for admiring these landscapes.
When you reach the midpoint of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you will arrive at the visitor center at Logan Pass. Located in the middle of the Glacier National Park, the center offers tourists trip-planning information and maps. It also features parking, restrooms, water fountains, exhibits, a bookstore, free shuttle service to other park centers, and ranger-led guided hikes.
It is best to take the free shuttle service to the Logan Pass visitor center, as most of the hiking tracks start there. But do not forget that even in summer, it can be cold and windy there. You should bring some warm clothes and appropriate shoes.
Also, there can be heavy traffic, as well as limited and crowded parking during high season. Logan Pass is open every day, and its schedule is the same as of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The entrance to the center is free with Glacier National Park admission.
Iceberg Lake Trail
Experienced hikers adore the Iceberg Lake Trail. Upon reaching the snow and ice-filled lake, you will have an exceptional opportunity to see the stunning sceneries of Continental Divide, Iceberg Peak, and Mount Wilbur.
The trail starts behind the homes at Swiftcurrent Lake. For the first few miles, it shares the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail, and it splits off near the Ptarmigan Falls. In the spring and summer, hikers can admire magnificent scenes of impressive alpine meadows while walking this trail.
Iceberg Lake Trail is excellent for enthusiastic hikers. However, it may be too challenging for casual visitors who are quite unfit, as this track is mostly uphill. You can meet bighorn sheep, mountain goats, or even grizzly bears along the way.
Late spring or early summer are the best times to visit this place, as you can see the floating icebergs on the lake. But it is still cold and rainy during this time.
If you are going to hike the Iceberg Lake Trail, you need to pack water, hiking poles, rain gear, and a picnic lunch to enjoy the view. Also, some parts of this track are known as prime bear habitats.
That's why park administration recommends carrying bear spray and hiking in groups. The Iceberg Lake Trail is free to access with the Glacier National Park admission.
Glacier National Park is a unique place. You can spend many days hiking its trails and admiring these gorgeous views. Although Glacier National park is open year-round, the tourist season is quite short. It starts in June and lasts till September.
The best months to visit Glacier National Park are July and August, as the weather is warm and sunny. But if you love cross-country skiing, winter is also a great time to visit it.
Whenever you go to Glacier National Park, you will have many things to do there. And you will remember these stunning views and beautiful trails for the rest of your life!