Monday, June 17, 2024

What Is The Best Boat Tour In Glacier National Park

About Glacier National Park Regions

St Mary Lake Tour & Hike, Glacier National Park 2012 – Part 1 of 2

Everywhere you turn, Glacier National Park has stunning views. The calm, reflective waters of Lake McDonald. The rocky, rugged terrain of the Highline Trail. The icy blue pool at Grinnell Glacier. You cant go wrong.

But before we dive into the details and the best things to do in Glacier National Park, lets get our bearings.

Glacier National Park has 5 main areas. Lake McDonald, Logan Pass, and St. Mary all lie along the parks famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Two Medicine and Many Glacier are on the east side of the park and North Fork and Goat Haunt are up to the north.

Tranquil Views Of Glacier National Parks West Side Await You On This Scenic Hour Long Boat Tour

The majesty of the Continental Divide and the tranquility of the emerald-hued lake are a must-see as you cruise along Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park . Climb aboard the historic vessel, DeSmet, the flagship vessel in our wooden boat fleet from the shore below the Lake McDonald Lodge.

Glacier Park Boat Company will be following current CDC Guidelines and Federal Transportation Guidelines. Masks are required at all times for ages 2 years old & up while interacting with our staff, including aboard tour boats, acquiring rentals and while at the ticket office. Masks will not be provided, please plan to bring your own mask with you. Passengers will not be permitted on tour boats or at the ticket office without a face covering.

Reservations with Glacier Park Boat Company at either Lake McDonald or St. Mary Lake at Rising Sun will guarantee entry to the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor on the day of your scheduled tour. While a reservation for entry will not be required, current Park entry fees still apply. Please be prepared to show your confirmation letter at the Park entry gate.

If you have a boat tour reservation at either Many Glacier or Two Medicine and would like to travel the Going-to-the-Sun corridor, a ticketed entry reservation will be required. For more information on the ticketed entry system at Glacier National Park, please visit their website at

Children under 4 FREE

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.

Also, dont forget hiking poles!

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Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park

When it comes to planning a trip to Glacier National Park, youre at the mercy of the weather. The park is blanketed in snow from October to May, sometimes even as late as June. Parts of Going-to-the-Sun Road near Logan Pass are only open from mid-June to early October.

I recommend planning your trip to Glacier National Park between July and early September. But keep in mind, because the park has such a narrow tourism season, it will be crowded. The best way to beat the crowds at Glacier is to start your day early .

Day : Many Glacier Boat Tour And The Grinnell Glacier Hike

Glacier National Park Boat Tours

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

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How To Plan Your Time

Ideally, plan on spending a minimum of two days at Glacier National Park. Even more time is better and you could easily spend a week here and never run out of things to do.

With one day, drive Going-to-the-Sun Road and visit the sights along the drive: Logan Pass, Hidden Lake, Lake McDonald, the Trail of Cedars, Avalanche Lake, and Saint Mary Lake. If you are a big hiker, get to Logan Pass by 7:30 am and hike the Highline Trail.

With two days, follow our one-day recommendation. Spend day two in Many Glacier and hike one of the trails.

With three or more days, add more time to Many Glacier, visit Two Medicine, or visit Waterton Lakes National Park.

to read our post about sample itineraries for Glacier National Park.

Day By Day Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days

Are you ready to discover the best things to do in Glacier National Park in 3 days? This guide breaks your trip down into 3 packed days. Youll see the highlights of the park, including Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier, and the Highline Trail.

Since youll only be here for a few days, I highly recommend arriving in Kalispell in the morning. This will give you plenty of time to explore and settle in before sunset on your first day.

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How Many Days Should I Spend At Glacier National Park

You could spend weeks in Glacier National Park, but lets be real none of us have that kind of time! So lets get to the point how many days do you really need in Glacier National Park?The answer depends on what youre interested in doing:

  • If you only want to drive through the park and see Going-to-the-Sun Road, you only need 1 day.
  • If you want to see the highlights and the most popular hikes, you need at least 3 days
  • If you want to hike Glaciers more strenuous, super scenic trails, you need at least 5 days.
  • If you want the ultimate first-timer experience, you need at least one full week in Glacier National Park.

Where Do Glacier Park Boat Tours Go

A scenic boat tour on the historic DeSmet on Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, Montana

In the Many Glacier area there are actually many lakes too. Many. The GPBC tour here takes you across two of them: Swiftcurrent and Josephine. True, you can hike to and along both, but the boat tour speeds up that process and if youve got kids, makes your day a whole lot easier. We mentioned in our post about hiking at Many Glacier that the Josephine/Grinnell Lake trail can be done with a stroller. Its true. Being accessible with a stroller is a godsend when youve got a little one that cant walk on their own. The boat crew is happy to help with getting on/off the boat and will make sure youre okay along the hike, if you choose to go.

Tip: go on the guided hike. If youve got kids then you know that there are never ending questions, especially when youre in a totally new environment. The guided hikes provide lots of simple information about the area, history, plants and wildlife. Take advantage of this. Our guide was incredible, flowing with knowledge and she took the time to connect with the kids.

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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.

Dont Have Time To Read It Now Save It For Later

When I was trying to decide where to go on a road trip this year Glacier National Park in the Fall was first on my list.

For years I had been dying to go and experience the majestic mountains of Montana for myself. I can confidently say that this was the best decision I made all year!

In this blog post, I aim to give you a clear idea about what Fall in Glacier National Park is like and how to make the best of it.

You will find the best times of year to go, places to stay, hikes to do and lakes to visit. I have even included my best photo tips for each location so you can capture your adventures the best you can!

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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!

Glacier National Park In September

Glacier National Park  A Stamp A Day

as there isnt any snow just yet. It is also a wonderful time to see wildlife and take photos!

I personally took my road trip the last week of September, arriving on the 26th and leaving on October 4th. The weather was beautiful and the fall foliage was at its prime.

Many locals told me they thought September was the best time of year to visit the crowds at Glacier National Park had dissipated but almost all of the hikes and roads were still accessible. If seeing fall foliage is your thing, then I would tend towards the end of September.

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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 .

Scenic Boat Tours In Glacier National Park

There are numerous glacial lakes in Glacier National Park to enjoy and the Glacier Park Boat Company offers a variety of scenic boat tours on five of the larger lakes Lake McDonald, Saint Mary Lake, Two Medicine Lake, plus a dual lake tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine in the Many Glacier area. Our personal favorites are the tours on Two Medicine Lake and the dual lake tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.

You can catch the Two Medicine boat tour on the northeast shore of Two Medicine Lake near the Two Medicine Campground and Camp store . There youll climb aboard the Sinapah, an historic old wooden vessel. The first part of the tour takes you along the northwest side of the lake as the guide draws your attention to points of interest, and explains how Two Medicine Lake got its name from the Blackfeet Indian Tribe. When you dock at the head of the lake, you can remain on the boat and continue your tour along the southeast side of the lake or you can disembark to hike on your own, or with a guide.

Answers to common questions:

Please visit the Glacier Park Boat Company website for more information.

Enjoy your adventure and dont forget your bear spray bears are known to inhabit these regions.


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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, you’ll 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

Glacier’s Historic Boats – 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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Glacier National Park In One Day

Its a large national park though Glacier can be explored in one day, if you start early. Spend the night on the western side of the park in the Apgar Village, Lake McDonald or outside the park in West Glacier.

Stop by the Apgar Visitor Center, located 2 miles east of the West Glacier Entrance. Grab Junior Ranger booklets, walk through the interpretive area.

Open daily from mid-May to September and weekends only for the rest of the year. Hours are 9 a.m. 4 p.m. Apgar Nature Center is housed in at 1929 log cabin and open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from mid-June to late August.

Head to the Lake McDonald, arrange for a boat tour on the lake. Afterwards, tour the Lake McDonald Lodge a historic property built in 1913 to 1915. Or have lunch at Jammer Joes. For an after lunch walk, consider the Apgar Bike Path, a level 1.5 mile walk.

One of the top things to do in Glacier National Park is driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50 mile scenic byway that travel east-west through the park. At Logan Pass, stop and enjoy the view and walk through the Visitor Center.

Continue driving Going-to-the-Sun Road to the St. Mary entrance, e eastern portion of the park. Exit Glacier National Park head north on U.S. Highway 89 to Babb. Many Glacier Hotel is located along the Many Glacier Lake. Stroll through the Many Glacier Hotel. another historic hotel. If you have the opportunity, have dinner at the Many Glacier Hotel, or nearby Swiftcurrent Inn.

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