It’s safe to say that Montana’s Glacier National Park is a must-see destination. With more than 1 million acres of glacial-carved terrain, it’s the kind of place that stops you in your tracks and takes your breath away. From taking in the view of the Livingston Range from the foot of Lake McDonald to the sweeping meadows of the St. Mary Valley, there are abundant things to see and do inside the park boundaries. 

Whether you have visited in the past or if you’re planning your first visit to the Backbone of the World, here are five things you probably didn’t know about Kalispell’s backyard national park. 

1. 32 Miles to Kalispell’s Backyard Park 

From downtown Kalispell, Glacier National Park’s west entrance is a beautiful 35-minute drive, making it easy to use our mountain town as your home base for your northwest Montana vacation. And while Kalispell may be a city by Montana standards, our mountain town has an array of places to stay, sip, eat, shop and explore. Our best advice: book your stay in Kalispell (check out boutique properties, flagship hotels and more here) and then build your itinerary of things to do, including visiting Glacier National Park. 

2. You Can Visit the Park Without a Reservation 

Chances are, there may be a time when you want to visit Glacier National Park (including the North Fork) and you don’t have a vehicle reservation to enter it during the allotted time frame and hours. We say: that’s no problem. Check out how easy it is to visit the park without a vehicle reservation. 

3. No Reservation Needed for the St. Mary Entrance 

While Glacier National Park has been piloting a vehicle reservation system for the past few years, there are some changes for 2024. The biggest one? You don’t need a reservation to access the east entrance of the Going-to-the-Sun Road via St. Mary. Which means if you don’t have a reservation to cruise the road to the sun, you can head east on U.S. Highway 2, enter the park via St. Mary and drive the road east to west, exiting the park in West Glacier. See this post for more details on the when, where and how of this year’s vehicle reservation system. 

4. Listen to the Locals 

There’s nothing quite like summer in Glacier National Park, but ask a Kalispell or Montana local and they’ll tell you that their favorite times of year to play in the park are spring and fall. During spring, the park is lush with rushing waterways, waterfalls and the chance to hike, bike and walk on the Going-to-the-Sun Road before it opens to vehicular traffic. You can access the road by bike from both the west and east entrance and ride to your heart’s content. And while you can go on your own, Glacier Guides also offers rental bikes and guided rides. Fall is also a must-visit time of year, with brilliant shades of gold and yellow, and the Going-to-the-Sun Road is typically open through early or mid-October, depending on weather. Be sure to visit Two Medicine, the North Fork and Many Glacier during autumn, as they’re full of stunning foliage. 

5. Museums + Glacier National Park 

Beyond or after visiting the park, you can dig deeper into its history, culture and people, from tribal nations to artists and early explorers at two of Kalispell’s museums: the Northwest Montana History Museum and the Hockaday Museum of Art. Located in the historic Central School, the history museum has an educational Crown of the Continent exhibit that is well worth checking out. You can also see murals and work from artists at the Hockaday, which is housed in a 1904 Carnegie Library building. 

Want to learn more about Glacier National Park? Start here