When To Visit Glacier National Park
The park is open year-round though the Going-to-the-Sun Road remains closed until late June most years.. Since its closed from Lake McDonald Lodge to St. Mary, I suggest visiting Glacier no earlier than late June.
Tours, lodging and activities begin in June too. If avoiding crowds, consider visiting Glacier in September before the snow falls and the seasonal lodging closes.
Weather in Glacier National Park
Winter: Highs 30s F , Lows teens
Spring: Highs 50s F , Lows 30s
Summer: Highs 70s F , Lows 40s
FallHighs 40s F , Lows 20s
Precipitation average between one and three inches year-round. Snow can fall at anytime of the year. On average, temperatures are 10 to 15F degrees cooler at higher elevations.
The Crown Of The Continent
Theres a reason Glacier National Park is called the Crown of the Continent. Inside the parks 1 million acres youll find glacial-carved terrain, rushing waterfalls, snow-covered mountain peaks and 734 miles of trails, all perfectly complemented by the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is a drive that can only be described as epic.
Traveling from Kalispell to Glacier National Park is easy, as its 32 scenic miles from downtown to the parks west entrance. The park is open year-round, which makes it easy to visit any time of year, with Kalispell as your home base. Along the way, youll drive through Bad Rock Canyon, cruise past the Flathead River and be given sneak peeks of the parks snowy mountain peaks. The west entrance, which is located in West Glacier, will take you directly onto the Going-to-the-Sun Road, as well as to Apgar Village and Lake McDonald. During the summer season, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open in its entirety and the 52-mile-long road takes travelers through the heart of the park over Logan Pass before ending at the east entrance in St. Mary.
And while its safe to say that Glacier National Parks top attraction is the Going-to-the-Sun Road, there are a variety of other places that are prime for exploration, including Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Essex and the North Fork.
And if youre missing Glacier National Park? You can check in anytime on the parks webcams, with views of Lake McDonald, Apgar Village, St. Mary and more.
Logan Pass Visitor Center
Located at the highest point along Going to the Sun Road , Logan Pass Visitor Center is a must-see stop during your Glacier National Park itinerary.
Due to its popularity, however, parking is extremely difficult to come by.
Be prepared to drive around for a while waiting for someone to leave.
I recommend slowly cruising the parking lot and following guests who appear to be leaving to try to snag their spot.
It is worth it. Just be patient.
When you do find a spot, stop into the visitor center, use the restrooms, and take in the panoramic views.
Next, head to the back of the visitor where youll find signs to begin the Hidden Lake Overlook trail or the more vigorous Highline Trail .
- Round trip length: 2.7 miles
- Time to hike: 2 hours
- Moderately difficult, exposed trail through alpine meadows, lots of wildlife sightings.
I highly recommend hiking Hidden Lake Overlook during your 3-day Glacier National Park itinerary.
Most visitors walk at least the beginning portion of the raised wooden boardwalk trail, but youre missing out by not hiking the 2.7 miles to Hidden Lake.
The path begins in a beautiful alpine meadow known as the Hanging Gardens and proceeds upward to an elevation where snow tends to linger around well into the summer.
Along with views of wildflowers and the gigantic Clements Mountain, youll likely meet marmots, mountain goats, Bighorn sheep, and mule deer .
Trust me, the views here will leave you speechless.
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Boat Tour In Glacier National Park
Take a guided boat tour in Glacier National Park with the Glacier Park Boat Company. Since 1938, the family-run business has been proudly giving boat tours at Lake McDonald, Two Medicine, St. Mary, and Many Glacier. While on the boat tours, learn about the vintage vessels, Glacier Park Boat Company, and Glacier National Park. With four locations, each trip is unique, offering tourists different views and new information about Glacier National Park. In addition to the boat rides, a few of the tours provide guided hiking options.
While staying at Mountain Meadow RV Park, we recommend the Lake McDonald Boat Tour. Your wooded RV spot or cozy, secluded cabin will be a short 30-minute drive to the launch point at Lake McDonald Lodge. The hour-long Lake McDonald cruise aboard the Desmet is sure to bring a smile to your face and leave you feeling relaxed. You can expect to see a good look at the mountains, dense forests, Upper McDonald Creek, Lake McDonald Lodge, homestead homes, and hopefully some wildlife.
Is It Too Touristy To Do A Boat Tour In Glacier Np
So many travelers these days want to distance themselves from being a tourist. Tourist. Such a dirty word. You know, its not bad to be a tourist as long as youre doing it responsibly. You can take a few minutes to sit in a lodge youre not a guest at. You can enjoy looking at taxidermy thats 100+ years old. You can go on a boat tourlike a tourist. Theres no shame in doing an activity that tourists do, as long as its responsible and respectful.
Tip: doing a touristy thing, such as a guided hike, is a great way to learn and connect with other travelers. If youre backpacking through Europe you meet travelers by necessity. Touring in the US, where we arent so open/friendly, you can meet other adventurers by joining a tour for a short time. Example: after two weeks on the road and being the only gay family that we saw, we actually started talking to some folks and learned that they were a couple from our home city, Seattle. It was a nice moment of connection.
When youve been traveling, whether on the road constantly or backpacking through the mountains, you sometimes just need to sit, but then you feel like youre wasting time. Heres your solution. Hop on a boat tour, relax, explore, relax, hike, relax, go about your trip.
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Recommendations On Boat Tours In Glacier
Couple traveling to GNP July 2016. 3 nights at Village Inn at Apgar, 4 nights at Many Glacier. Physically not able to do long hikes. Want to make use of boat tours.
What are best cruises within park and which nearest our two lodging locations?
Also, looking at scenic boat tour on Flathead River with Montana Raft while at Village Inn at Apgar. Feedback?
Help would be most appreciated.
Many Glacier is actually two boats with a short but for some steep hike between two two boats.
Many Glacier has a short Ranger led hike to Grinnell Lake ~ easiest of the boat hikes
Two Medicine has a short Ranger led hike to Upper Two Medicine Lake & Twin Falls
Not sure if St Mary is back up & running yet. Even if it is the Ranger led hike to St Mary won’t be taking place this summer as that trail burned in the Reynolds Creek Fire
Last & my least favorite is
Are you interested in hiking at all ? My favorite boat tours are the ones that give you an option to hike at the end.
Closest to your lodging will be the Many Glacier tour, the boat dock is right behind the hotel. You do have to be able to make a short walk between the two . At the boat dock at the end of the tour, you have the option of a 2 mile easy RT to Grinnell Lake.
The Lake McDonald tour will be about 30 minutes from Apgar. This is a tour only, no stops or hikes available.
The Two Medicine Lake tour will be about 1.5 hours from Many Glacier. There is an easy walk to Twin Falls from the boat.
Glacier National Park
St Mary Lake At Rising Sun Boat Tour
Glacier Park Boat Company dates back to 1938 when they first began offering boat touring services in Glacier National Park.
A must-do to this day, taking a narrated tour in one of their historic wooden boats is a family-friendly activity that tops the list of the best things to do in Glacier National Park.
The guides are incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the park which is why I cant recommend this tour enough!
The St. Mary Lake at Rising Sun boat tour begins at the Rising Sun boat dock, which is centrally located on St. Mary Lake .
The boat takes a close drive-by of the famed Wild Goose Island and provides epic, 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain peaks.
There is an optional, easy hike to Baring Falls during which the boat will wait 15 minutes while you walk to the falls and back!
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This Seems Like A Lot Of Information: Can You Help Me Make A Plan For This
Certainly! I created a step-by-step itinerary that incorporates the BEST boat tours and fits them into your schedule.
Glacier National Park is BIG and CROWDED. Its overwhelming to plan a trip to Glacier, especially if you havent been there.
Luckily, Ive worked there for years and I know the secrets and the best ways to structure your days to get the most out of your vacation.
Your vacation can be frustrating and full of missed opportunities, or you can have a GREAT TRIP, by buying our Glacier Travel Guide!
Go West, young traveler!
More National Park Boat Tours To Consider
Glacier National Park isnt the only one with boat tours of sorts. You can also find boating in Acadia National Park, Everglades National Park , Biscayne National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone, Isle Royale NP in Michigan and more!
Being on the water in a preserved place like one of Americas National Parks is really special and provides such a great, different perspective. We cant recommend it enough!
As you can see, doing a boat tour in Glacier National Park is worth the time and cost so many reasons to do it. And the Glacier Park Boat Co does a great job of guiding and being stewards of the land. Where else do you recommend getting out on the water for a new experience?
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Our Tours At St Mary Lake Are Closed For The 2022 Summer Season Reservations Are Available For Summer 2023
The tour begins at the Rising Sun boat dock, centrally located on St. Mary Lake, approximately 5 miles from Glacier National Parks East Entrance at the town of St. Mary. Conveniently located off of Going-to-the-Sun Road, this tour offers magnificent views only available from the water. Aboard the Little Chief or Joy II you will cruise close to the famed Wild Goose Island while enjoying epic 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks.
Fall In Glacier National Park
Autumn has quickly become the favorite time of year for locals to adventure into the park. With crisp mountain air, colorful foliage and fewer people, fall is one of the most jaw-dropping times to visit. Depending on the weather, the alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is typically open to mid-October. Discover all that fall offers on the blog.
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St Mary Lake Boat Tour
The boat tour on St. Mary Lake leaves from Rising Sun, a stop along the Going to the Sun Road that is 6 miles west of the St. Mary entrance gate.
The St. Mary Lake boat tour offers scenic rides, most of which give you the opportunity to leave the boat and take a 15-minute hike to beautiful Baring Falls and then return to the dock.
I cannot recommend this boat tour highly enough! The scenery simply cannot be beaten, and the experience of being on a wooden tour boat built in 1927 as it cruises through waves is quite unforgettable.
Watch this short video to get a great feel for what a boat ride is like!
The boat tours on St. Mary Lake depart at 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm, and 4:00pm. Each of these rides will take 1.5 hours round trip.
The 6:30pm boat tour is only one hour and does not give you time to leave the boat and hike to Baring Falls.
From the 10:00 and 2:00 boat tours, you may take an optional, free guided hike to St. Mary Falls with a Boat Company naturalist. The total boat trip and hike time requires 3 hours and 30 minutes.
|$22 adult $11 child|
St. Mary tour options. Prices are approximate and subject to change
To book a tour, call 257-2426 or visit reserve.glacierparkboats.com. It is best to do this in advance, but not required as this is one of the least busy of all the boat tour locations.
Staying Outside The Park
For those choosing to stay outside the park, I highly recommend staying on the east side of the park near St. Mary. Towns on the west side of the park provide more options, but St. Mary is closer to trailheads in Many Glacier and Logan Pass.
I highly recommend staying at the Cottages at Glacier. These cottages are walking distance from the St. Mary Visitor Center and are perfect for small groups. Most cottages have 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. The best part of these cottages is the view of St. Mary Lake. Be sure to book well in advance .
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Day : Many Glacier Boat Tour And The Grinnell Glacier Hike
Many Glacier is the most popular part of the park not located along Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Theres a reason I consider this the best 3-day Glacier National Park itinerary for hikers each day youll do more mileage than the last! One of the most scenic and rewarding hikes in the park is the trail up to Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint.
The strenuous Grinnell Glacier trail is 11.3 miles long and climbs 1,600 feet up to the glacier viewpoint.
Many Glacier Boat Tour
A popular option is to take the Many Glacier boat tour to shorten the hike. Glacier Park Boat Company is a family-operated business that has provided boat tours since 1938. Their tour of Many Glacier crosses two lakes, with a quarter-mile hike between. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable about the history of the park. I cant recommend this tour enough!
Another great perk of the boat tour is the capability to do a split round trip. You can take the boat out first thing in the morning, complete the Grinnell Glacier hike, and use your return trip in the afternoon. Youll disembark at the Lake Josephine dock, saving you 3.4 miles each way on your hike to and from Grinnell Glacier.
Book the 8:30 AM or 9:00 AM Many Glacier boat tours at least 6 weeks in advance as the morning tours fill up quickly. Youll have to pick up your tickets at the Many Glacier Hotel the morning of, so its important to arrive early.
Grinnell Glacier Hike
Dinner at the Ptarmigan Dining Room
Stargazing in Glacier National Park
Interpretive And Naturalist Tours
From ranger-led offerings to guided tours that share the history of the park from the perspective of the Blackfeet Tribe, there are lots of ways to take a deeper dive into the park. A few of note: NP ranger-led tours, Native America Speaks presentations and events, Glacier Institute, Glacier Sun Tours, Glacier Guides, Glacier Adventure Guides and Glacier Park Boat Company.
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Taking You Back In Time
Spend the day on the waters of Glacier Bay and see magnificent tidewater glaciers, ancient snow-capped mountains, whales, stellar sea lions, rare birds such as puffins, coastal bears, seals, eagles, and so much more.
Aboard our comfortable, high-speed catamaran, youll travel through dramatically different ecosystems moving from the fully developed rainforest that surrounds Glacier Bay Lodge to the lichen-encrusted rocks that exist on the edges of the massive tidewater glaciers of the park.
Midway through the day, the catamaran arrives at the faces of the Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers, two towering masses of ice and snow rising 245 feet above the ocean and stretching another 100 feet beneath the water. The ice that calves from the face of the two glaciers is an average of 200 years old so in a way, watching the ice break off of the glaciers is like watching the passage of time. This great Alaska vacation will leave you speechless.
This tour is the only scheduled day tour permitted inside Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve. Advance Reservations Highly Recommended.
Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park
With glacier-capped mountains, brilliant aquamarine lakes, stunning alpine scenery, and some of the most exciting hiking trails in the country, its no wonder that Glacier National Park is called the Crown of the Continent.
If you want to see waterfalls, wildlife, and mountain slopes covered in a blanket of wildflowers, put Glacier National Park on your list. This is the type of national park that just begs you to get out of the car and go exploring. Take a boat ride across Lake McDonald, paddle a kayak on Swiftcurrent Lake, or take your pick from epic hiking trails scattered throughout the park.
Here are the best things to do in Glacier National Park. Enjoy!
Important Update for 2021: There are numerous road construction projects in and outside of the park. The road to Many Glacier will be open, but due to a major construction project, expect delays of up to 40 minutes. The road to Many Glacier will close on 9/19/21. There is also road construction near St. Mary and along Going-to-the-Sun Road, which could cause minor delays. Visit the NPS website for full details. If you will be visiting the park between May 28 and September 6, you will need a timed entry ticket to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. Learn more here.
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