Wanderlust America

Discover the beauty of Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park covers over 1 million acres and has 762 lakes, 563 streams, 175 mountains, and 26 glaciers. It has over 3 million visitors that cross its threshold every year. This is a lot considering the time and effort it takes to access the national park. It is one of the only places in of the United States to see endangered glaciers. Other than glaciers, there is also breathtaking scenery and millions of stars to stargaze at. Let us together take a deeper dive into the world of glaciers at Glacier National Park.  

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How to get there

You can now access the area around the Glacier National Park more conveniently due to the addition of new flights in the last couple of years. Among the major domestic carriers that have added flights are American Airlines, United, Delta, Southwest, and JetBlue.   

If you are arriving by car, from the west, get access to the Lake McDonald area, Park Headquarters, and the Apgar Visitor Center via Highway 2 east to the town of West Glacier. From the east, all three entrances can be reached by taking Highway 89 from the Great Falls through the town of Browning and following the signs from there.  

If you are coming by train, Amtrak’s historic Empire Building train line stops all year round at West Glacier and the Izaak Walton Inn at Essex and seasonally at East Glacier Park. The Glacier National Park also provides a shuttle for a small fee that transports West Glacier Amtrak passengers between the train depot, Apgar Village, and the Lake McDonald Lodge.   

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What to see and do at Glacier National Park

There is an adventure waiting for you when you arrive at the Glacier National Park. You can camp, backcountry hike, boat, fish, cycle and go skiing in the winter.  

  • Hiking – The National Park Service reports that more than half of the visitors to the national park like to hike while they are visiting. Avalanche Lake is a hike that you can access from the West Entrance but make sure you remember that there are a lot of crowds on this hike and parking lots tend to fill up quickly. This is a moderate hike and isn’t relatively easy. It is worth taking a hike here to see the great waterfalls and the clear lake at the top of the climb. Trail of the Cedars is a flat, wheelchair-accessible trail which is located at the base of the trail to Avalanche Trail. It is just one mile long and is perfect for families and if you’re looking for an easy trail to go on. Next is the Three Falls Trail which is a short hike and is right by a parking lot with a lot of picnic tables. John’s Lake Loop is also a not-so-challenging 2-mile circuit that includes some time spent in the forests as well as crossing a bridge.   
  • Boat – There are many guided boat tours available at Glacier National Park. Most of these are at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Rising Sun, and Lake McDonald. If you wish to merge a boat ride with a guided tour then you can do that many boat rides at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and Rising Sun. The price ranges for these boat tours from $16.75 to #33.25 for adults. The price for kids is $8.25 to $16.75 for kids between ages 4 to 12. Other than these, there are also rental boats available at Apgar, Lake McDonald, and Many Glacier. The rental price is usually about $22 for an hour for a double kayak.   
  • Bike Rides – You can rent a bike to explore Glacier National Park for $55 to $125 per day. You can also get an e-bike if you are ready to spend around $125 every day. The best time to ride your bikes around the park is when there are fewer cars and that would be around the second half of May and the first half of June when it is open to cyclists but not to vehicles.   
  • Wildlife – The biggest draw of Glacier National Park is perhaps its wildlife viewing. It is home to some of the most renowned animals in North America.   
  • Rafts – Glacier Guides and Montana Raft Company, Glacier Raft Company are among the companies that the U.S. Forest Service allows to operate rafts out of Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River. You will have to change into a wet suit so remember to plan for a wardrobe change. During peak season, half-day floats are about $71 per adult and $61 per child.   
  • Rock Climbing – Even though the quality of the rock is old and loose, the park does attract a lot of climbers. It is also a very famous destination for fishing and kayaking. Most of these are closed during the winter season though.  
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There are plenty of lodging options available near Glacier National Park. Here are some of these listed below    

  • Lodging inside the Park – Xanterra Travel Collection is the concessioner of all accommodations within Glacier National Park. Most of the large lodges have existed there for over a century now and hotels sell out quickly during peak season. Prices can range from $200-$400 per night. There is the Lake McDonald Lodge which has spectacular views and 82 dorm-style rooms. Although there is no air-conditioning, electricity televisions. Many Glacier Hotel is the largest hotel in the park and the rooms here are very basic with no air conditioning. There is also the Village Inn at Apgar, which is a motel-style property that was built in 1956. At last, there is the Sperry Chalet which was established in 1913 but was destroyed by a fire in the summer of 2017. It has since been rebuilt and reopened although getting access to it is very hard.   
  • Lodging near the Park – You can rent vacation homes especially if you’re traveling with a family or a group of friends. It can be an economical way to lay your head at night plus you get access to a full kitchen. Glacier Lookout Lodge is a rental home near the park with four bedrooms, a hot tub, and a deck. It is in Columbia Falls and is a 20-minute drive to West Glacier.   
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The best option is to do a grocery store run and always be ready to eat at a picnic table when you get the time. In the Apgar and West Glacier regions you do have some restaurants to choose from. Eddie’s has both indoor and outdoor dining. The menu includes salads, fish and chips, and a burger. There is also ice cream available right next door.   

Many of the lodges inside Glacier National Park have dining options available including Russell’s Fireside Dining Room at the Lake McDonald Lodge. There is also the Ptarmigan Dining Room at Many Glacier Hotel. Outside the West Glacier entrance, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants including Freda’s Bar, West Glacier Cafe, and Huckleberry Hut.   

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  • Make sure you book all your tours and experiences well in advance  
  • There are approximately 300 grizzly bears and 600 black bears in the Glacier National Park. This is their home, and you are just a visitor, so make sure you are carrying some bear spray with you.  
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