Post Summary: Glacier National Park Itinerary Suggestions And Things To Do In Glacier National Park
Just seconds after stepping out of your car, you think to yourself, “Is this place real?”
Sweeping mountain views, fields of wildflowers, and mountain goats and pikas running on the trail in the distance…could life get any better?
But with all there is to see, how do you even begin to start planning a trip to Glacier?
If you’ve ever wanted to experience Glacier National Park and all its rugged adventure, you’ve come to the right blog post, my friends.
In this post, we’re sharing what to do in Glacier National Park, hike suggestions, places to stay, and more for your next epic trip to Montana.
Keep reading for our Glacier National Park itinerary download too!
The Complete Glacier National Park Itinerary (1-7 Day Trips!)
This post is based on a 7-day Glacier National Park Itinerary. Don’t have 7 days? Scroll down to see our smaller Glacier Itinerary examples to fit the exact days of your trip!
Getting To Glacier National Park
So where exactly is Glacier National Park located? It is located in the upper northwest corner of the state of Montana in the United States.
We decided to extend this circle outside of the state into Canada because you can’t talk about Glacier without mentioning Waterton Lakes National Park of Canada!
These two parks created the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which combines them into one park that shares an international border. The collaboration is meant to promote international goodwill and cooperation to protect the land.
Okay, now back to Glacier directions:
If you live in the Pacific Northwest like us, (or really, even Wyoming or Utah!) the easiest way to reach Glacier National Park is with a good ole road trip!
Here are some posts you should read about when planning your Glacier road trip:
- 101 Road Trip Questions To Spice Up Your Drive
- 30 Road Trip Essentials You Need To Be Packing
- Car Camping 101: The Complete Guide To Sleeping In Your Car
- 15+ Road Trip Planner Tools + Apps To Make Your Drive A Breeze
And here are some distances from major cities/attractions in the area:
- Kalispell, MT to Glacier National Park: 45 minutes. 35 miles.
- Missoula, MT to Glacier National Park: 2 hours 30 minutes. 140-ish Miles
- Spokane, WA to Glacier National Park: 4 hours 30 minutes. 270 miles.
- Bozeman, MT to Glacier National Park: 4 hours 50 minutes. 300 miles.
- Yellowstone, WY to Glacier National Park: 6 hours 15 minutes. 375 miles
Live far away? You can easily fly into Glacier National Park!
The most economic way to plan a Glacier National Park itinerary is to fly into either Glacier Park International Airport (FCA, GPIA) or Missoula, Montana (MSO). From there, rent a car, and drive a short distance to either entrance. The adventure is yours!
Getting Around Glacier National Park – Rent A Camper Van!
If you plan to camp all around the park, consider renting a campervan to easily live that nomadic life for the week. We highly recommend Outdoorsy – it’s like Airbnb but for recreational vehicles, and it comes with up to $1 million dollars in insurance!
**Just remember that the max length that a car can be to drive on Going-To-The-Sun Road is 21 feet, so make sure to rent a car under that length to drive around the park freely.
*NEW IN 2021 Going Forward* – Ticketed Entry for Going-To-The-Sun Road
Between May 27th and September 11th, the Going-To-The-Sun Road will be by ticket entry (permit) only. If you do not have a permit, you can still access the east side of the park via Highway 2.
This was set in place to manage the high traffic volumes on the highway. This is a dangerous road year-round, and too many cars can cause significant delays, accidents, and crowding. Glacier National Park is trying to manage the crowds by implementing the second pilot year for ticketed entry in 2022.
To reserve your entry tickets, head over to this website to book your tickets. Tickets are available 60-days in advance and will be valid for three consecutive days (as opposed to the 7-day window last year).
The Best 7-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary
Day 1: Lake McDonald and North Fork Area
This day is all about exploring the West Glacier area. West Glacier and the North Fork Area (known to be the area just northwest of the park’s border) are full of long lakes, unending forest roads, and lots of opportunities for camping and fishing.
Here are some of our favorite activities around West Glacier!
Explore Lake McDonald: Lake McDonald is the most popular lake in Glacier National Park – and for good reason, too!
From the colorful rocks on the shoes to the endless possibilities of boating adventures, you won’t be short of things to do at Lake McDonald.
Jump In The Water At Bowman Lake: Bowman Lake is probably the farthest attraction from anything else on your Glacier National Park itinerary.
However, far doesn’t mean you should leave this lake out! This place is known for its epic lake views, some of the best campsites in Glacier National Park, and incredible sunrises!
Day 2: Hike Avalanche Lake and Watch Sunset at Big Bend
Hike To Avalanche Lake: Avalanche Lake is an easy 4.5-mile out-and-back trail that takes you to one of the most beautiful lakes in Glacier National Park.
In the early season (early-mid June) the mountains in the background are covered with snow, and you can maybe even witness an avalanche (its namesake!) if you’re super lucky!
If you’re a beginning hiker, this is a perfect trail in Glacier to take. The elevation gain is only 730 feet with a good mix of uphills and downhills throughout the trail.
See Big Bend Around Sunset: Sunset at Big Bend is probably the most photogenic spot in Glacier National Park.
From the wildflower-blanketed meadow to towering peaks in the distance, there’s no better or more iconic view of Glacier than right here!
We suggest bringing a wide-lens on your camera or using the panoramic mode on your smartphone to capture the whole scene. Make sure to stay back a little bit after sunset too to catch blue hour!
Day 3: Going-To-The-Sun Road And Hidden Lake Overlook
Take A Tour of Going-To-The-Sun Road: Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is the main highway that runs right through the middle of the park.
On this 50-mile road, there are incredible viewpoints, trailheads, and a visitors center to make the most of your amazing week in Glacier National Park.
Trip Tip: If you’ve only got 1 or 2 days in Glacier, scroll down to the bottom of this post and see our example itinerary. Driving this road is probably the #1 thing you should do for a short trip!
Read More: All The Best Stops On Going-To-The-Sun Road
Hike To Hidden Lake Overlook: Hidden Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in Glacier National Park – and for good reason, too!
The trailhead is conveniently located steps away from the Logan Pass Visitors Center and this short trail really does pack a big reward.
Just over 3 miles out-and-back, Hidden Lake Lookout Trail brings you to a viewpoint where you can see the awe-inspiring Hidden Lake at the foot of Bearhat Mountain.
This place is absolutely incredible for sunsets, so we suggest making a quick hike here before you return to your Glacier accommodations for the evening.
Not ready to leave? Consider taking the Highline Trail in Glacier for epic views, glacier peeps, and even some R&R in the Granite Peak Chalet!
Day 4: St. Mary Area (Sun Point Nature Trail, Rising Sun)
Explore Sun Point Nature Trail: Sun Point Nature Trail is an easy hike in Glacier that brings you along the shores of St. Mary Lake and to at least three waterfalls!
This trail weaves in and out of an area affected by a 2015 wildfire, so the bare bones of the trees stand tall while giving you views of the mountain peaks across the lake.
This is an incredibly sunny, dynamic hike with lots of water features throughout the trail. This hike is best taken on a hot, sunny day where you can jump in the lake on the way back!
Discover More Spots On Going-To-The-Sun-Road: As you make your way towards East Glacier, there are plenty more stops to take on Going-To-The-Sun Road.
Here are some of our favorite quick stops on the east side to add to your Glacier National Park itinerary:
- Wild Goose Island (pictured below)
- Jackson Glacier Overlook
- Sunrift Gorge (lots of hiking trails from this starting point)
- St. Mary Visitors Center (great for a bathroom break and free wifi)
Go Camping In and Around The Park: What better way to immerse yourself in Glacier than sleeping under the stars?
The Rising Sun Campground is the perfect place to go camping if you are hoping to take more adventures in the Going-To-The-Sun Road area. It’s the perfect addition to any Glacier National Park itinerary!
Want to go camping for free? Check out our all-inclusive guide to finding free camping in epic locations!
Day 5: Many Glacier Area (Lake Josephine and Grinnell Glacier)
See Lake Josephine During Sunrise: Lake Josephine is a beautiful lake in the Many Glacier Area, known for its incredible sunrise views.
You can recognize this lake by the iconic Morning Eagle ferry boat docked on the shore and Mount Gould dead center in the background.
It’s a great place to stop and snap some photos if you’re taking the Grinnell Glacier trail (more on that below), but also a really amazing spot to take a dip!
Trip Tip: This is a trail with VERY frequent bear sightings. Come with a group of people, bring bear spray, and talk loudly to let them know you’re in the area!
Read More: Hike To Lake Josephine For A Sunrise Swim
Hike To Grinnell Glacier: Grinnell Glacier Hike is an 11.28-mile out-and-back trail that will take you by three different lakes (Lake Josephine, Grinnell Lake, and Upper Grinnell Lake) and a potential off-trail to see Hidden Falls.
Feast At The Many Glacier Hotel: Many Glacier Hotel is famous for its location on Swiftcurent Lake, but it is known by day hikers as having the best breakfast buffet in the area!
Stop by and enjoy the lobby, pay for an amazing breakfast (you deserve it after all that hiking!), and watch the charter boats take explorers across the lake.
Day 6: Many Glacier Area (Iceberg Lake And Ptarmigan Tunnel)
Many Glacier is a very popular spot to add to your Glacier National Park itinerary.
Hike To Iceberg Lake: Iceberg Lake is a 9.7-mile out-and-back trail that takes hikers to an alpine lake covered in ice chunks most of the year.
It’s an incredible trail filled with sweeping mountain range views, gorgeous wildflower meadows, and the most Gatorade-blue-colored lake you’ll ever see!
It’s a great trail if you are looking to stretch your hiking experience and start taking on longer hikes.
Consider The Detour To Ptarmigan Tunnel: Loved Iceberg Lake? Consider extending your journey to Ptarmigan Tunnel before heading back for the day. It took three months to excavate in September 1930.
It was originally used to connect some of the 12 chalets in the park, but now only one remains. The tunnel is now used as a cool feature for hikers to explore!
Ptarmigan Tunnel is a 250-foot long tunnel deep in the Many Glacier Area. Make sure to be bear-aware and pack plenty of water and snacks for hiking for the adventure!
Day 7: Two Medicine Area + Heading Home
Take It Easy at Paradise Point: On the last day of your Glacier National Park itinerary, consider checking out the Two Medicine Area, located in the Southeast corner.
An easy and beautiful hike to take here is to Paradise Point. Start at the South Shore Trailhead and take the easy 1.4-mile out-and-back trail to Two Medicine Lake.
At the end of the trail, you’ll encounter an iconic view of Glacier National Park – Painted Tepee Peak, Sinopah Mountain, Lone Walker Mountain, and Mt. Helen in the distance to create a beautiful and natural backdrop.
Drive Back To Kalispell/Glacier Airport Via Highway 2: While you CAN drive back through the Going-To-The-Sun Road, the easiest and fastest way to return to West Glacier and the nearest airports would be via Highway 2.
Don’t Have a Whole Week in Glacier National Park?
Don’t worry, this park can be enjoyed in any number of days! Here are some example itineraries for Glacier National Park, no matter how many days you have to spare.
Want this Glacier National Park itinerary in a printable form? Enter your email below and get it sent right to your inbox! We’re sharing a Glacier 7-day itinerary as well as bonus days to make the most of your trip to Montana!
*Come back soon for a Glacier National Park Itinerary Download!
Glacier National Park 2 Day Itinerary
- Day 1: Drive through the Going-To-The-Sun Road and sleep in East Glacier.
- Day 2: See the sunrise at Lake Josephine, head home!
Glacier National Park 3 Day Itinerary
- Day 1: Explore West Glacier (Lake McDonald, Hike Avalanche Trail) and sleep near Lake McDonald.
- Day 2: Drive Going-To-The-Sun Road, hike to Hidden Lake Lookout. Sleep at Rising Sun Campground.
- Day 3: Explore Many Glacier Area (Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine), and drive home.
Glacier National Park 5 Day Itinerary
- Day 1: Explore West Glacier (Lake McDonald, Hike Avalanche Trail) and sleep near Lake McDonald.
- Day 2: Drive Through Going-To-The-Sun Road, Hike to Hidden Lake Lookout. Sleep at Rising Sun.
- Day 3: Hike Sun Point Nature Trail to St. Mary Falls. Drive to Many Glacier and sleep at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.
- Day 4: Hike to Grinnell Glacier and see Lake Josephine. Dinner at Many Glacier Hotel.
- Day 5: Drive to Two Medicine Area, hike to Paradise Point. Head home!
Glacier National Park Map
Here is our Glacier National Park map, which includes the areas we talked about in this post, and other places to explore!
Browse the Glacier map below, or click here to save a version of this map so you can use it while you are out exploring!
Accommodations In Glacier National Park
Best Glacier Lodges
If you’re trying to maximize your time for all the amazing things to do in Glacier, consider staying in the park.
Lodges in Glacier National Park provide a really unique experience, with specific services and activities depending on their location within the park.
Here is the list of Glacier National Park lodges:
- Lake McDonald Lodge (Lake McDonald Area)
- Village Inn at Apgar (Lake McDonald Area)
- Many Glacier Hotel (Many Glacier Area)
- Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins (Many Glacier Area)
- Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins (St. Mary, East Glacier Area)
- Cedar Creek Lodge (Columbia Falls, Montana) Open in winter for surrounding ski areas.
IMPORTANT WINTER CLOSURE NOTE: All of these Glacier Lodges are closed during the winter and early spring seasons. Check availability and plan for your stay during opening times, which are between early May to mid-September.
Hotels Near Glacier National Park
Staying in hotels just outside of Glacier National Park is an affordable way to travel to Montana, and still be close enough to enjoy all the activities!
The closest towns to Glacier are Columbia Falls, Hungry Horse, Coram, and West Glacier. Lodging near Glacier National Park can be affordable and a great way to save a bit of money on your trip!
Best Glacier Camping Spots
Want to spend as much time in nature as possible? Consider camping in Glacier National Park!
We search for the best Glacier camping spots using The Dyrt, the largest campground database on the web! They have over 40,000 public and private campgrounds to browse and we love that you can filter them down to your exact preferences and price ranges. You can use their road trip planner, to help your research and connect all your favorite campgrounds along your route too!
Try their pro membership for FREE for 30 days! Use the code MANDAGIES to unlock your 30-day free trial, perfect for Glacier campground planning!
Here are some of the most popular Glacier campgrounds:
- Fish Creek Campground (West Glacier)
- Apgar Campground (West Glacier)
- Sprague Creek Campground (Going-To-The-Sun Road)
- Avalanche Campground (Going-To-The-Sun Road)
- Rising Sun Campground (Going-To-The-Sun Road)
- St. Mary Campground (St. Mary Area)
- Many Glacier Campground (Many Glacier Area)
- Two Medicine Campground (Two Medicine Area)
These are the main campgrounds, but certainly not all of them! There are plenty of backcountry sites, smaller Glacier campsites, and even free camping (keep reading)!
Free Camping Near Glacier? It’s possible!
Ready to immerse yourself in the wild, rugged adventure that surrounds your Glacier National Park itinerary? There are little known areas around the park that you can actually camp in for FREE!
But forewarning – it’s not for the faint of heart. Free camping means no amenities like bathrooms, running water, or potentially even cell service.
If this still sounds like your jam, read our complete guide to finding free camping spots here.
FAQ’s About Glacier National Park
Are There Actually Any Glaciers In Glacier National Park?
Yes! While they are disappearing fast, there are still 25 active glaciers left in the high elevation sections of Glacier National Park USA.
Why Is It Called Glacier National Park?
The park’s namesake is for the masses of snow and ice that formed the surrounding landscape. Over time, the glaciers carved out the mountain peaks and valleys to form the beautiful area we see today.
What is the Closest Airport to Glacier National Park?
The closest airport to Glacier National Park is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA, GPIA).
When Is The Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park?
Glacier National Park weather can be unpredictable, but we think the best time to visit Glacier is in the summertime – between June and August.
Does this time bring the crowds? Absolutely. However, it’s popular for a good reason! The great weather, beautiful wildflowers, and gorgeous sunsets are worth any crowd in our opinion.
If you are really opposed to coming when lots of people are visiting, we encourage you to research some backcountry camping options. This way you can have your peace and quiet while still enjoying Glacier in the peak summer months.
Want To See More Glacier National Park Pictures?
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