5 Secrets in Glacier National Park
Explore the Crown of the Continent Like a Local
PLEASE NOTE: Glacier National Park is instituting an online reservation system (ticketed entry) for the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor between the park’s West and St. Mary Entrances from May 28 to September 6, 2021. For more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gtsrticketedentry.htm
Glacier National Park is one of Montana’s most magnificent playgrounds. With over 1 million acres, 762 lakes, 563 streams, 175 mountains and 25 glaciers, as well as plentiful wildlife that make their home among its glacial-carved mountain peaks and valleys, there are many ways to explore Kalispell’s backyard treasure. And as any Kalispell local will tell you, no matter how many times you visit the park there is always something new to see. To make the most of your time, here are five must-see experiences and things to do in Glacier National Park.
- Travel Beyond the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
A stunning drive, the Going-to-the-Sun Road takes travelers into and through the heart of the park and crests the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. And while the road is a must-do for any visitor, there are lots of other hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path areas to explore, including the North Fork.
The North Fork encompasses a wild area that extends from the Camas Creek Entrance to the Canadian border and is accessible by a gravel road. Be sure to stop in the small town of Polebridge, Montana (where you can pick up a huckleberry bear claw from its famous Polebridge Mercantile and enjoy an ice-cold beer at the Northern Lights Saloon) before heading into the park entrance and venturing to Bowman or Kintla lakes. A stunning destination, Bowman Lake sits in a glacial-carved valley and fall is a particularly beautiful time to visit. Learn more about the North Fork and its hiking trails here.
- See the Park from a Historic Red Bus or Wooden Boat.
Inside the borders of Glacier National Park, there are two vintage ways to experience the park—on a red “jammer” bus or a wooden boat. A longtime tradition, Glacier Park Boat Company offers tours in Two Medicine, Many Glacier, St. Mary and Lake McDonald. Once you’re on board, boat captains will share history and insights of the park, while they also offer access to quiet hikes.
Additional in-park tours during the spring, summer and early fall include guided hikes with Glacier Guides and Montana Raft and interpretive tours of the park from the perspective of the Blackfeet Tribe with Glacier Sun Tours.
- See Glacier’s Official Mascot.
When it comes to Montana’s watchable wildlife, the first rule is to give them their space. The second is to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings, from grizzly bears to harlequin ducks and bighorn sheep to mountain goats. Often thought of as Glacier National Park’s official mascot, mountain goats are one of the rarest mammals in the lower 48 states. Well-suited for Montana’s mountainous terrain, their hooves (with traction-creating inner pads and dewclaws) help them be sure-footed on the park’s steep, rocky slopes. When you visit the park, especially when you venture to its higher elevations, keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats at Logan Pass and the goat lick along Highway 2. As you cruise the roads, be sure to look up as you’ll often spot their white coats as they frolic on ridges and mountainsides.
- See Real Glaciers.
While Glacier National Park was named for the glaciers that carved out its other-worldly terrain thousands of years ago, today it’s home to an estimated 25 glaciers. You can see some of the park’s glaciers from the Going-to-the-Sun Road (including Jackson Glacier) and others by getting out of the car and taking a hike. We recommend hikes to Grinnell, Sexton and Sperry glaciers to get up close to these geological wonders.
- Ancient Cultures and Tribal Traditions.
Called the Backbone of the World by the Blackfeet Nation, Glacier National Park is a sacred and special place to many American Indian tribes. There are ample opportunities to learn about Glacier from the perspective of the tribes, including at the St. Mary Visitor Center. Serving as the east entrance to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the visitor center has interactive exhibits on American Indian tribes and their connections to the land that makes up the park today. During the summer, the National Park Service also has a Native America Speaks program where Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribal members share their history and culture, with programs offered in park campgrounds lodges and at the St. Mary Visitor Center. Glacier Sun Tours also offers guided tours of the Backbone of the World.
- Travel Beyond the Going-to-the-Sun Road.