Glacier National Park is one of the most jaw-dropping destinations in the USA. Stunning scenery, incredible hiking trails and gorgeous lakes, this park will blow you away. Here’s your guide to the absolute best things to do in Glacier National Park!
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If you’ve seen photos of Glacier National Park and it’s on your travel bucket list, then you know it’s absolutely gorgeous. Whether you have limited time in the park or you spend two weeks hiking the trails in northern Montana, you’ll continually be impressed by its beauty.
From beautiful waterfalls in Glacier National Park to glacial lakes and one of the most stunning scenic drives in the US, there’s so much to offer visitors to the park.
It’s an incredible destination – let’s dive in!
Must-see video: things to do in Glacier National Park
Map of the best things to do in Glacier National Park Montana
If you’re a visual person, this map will help you plan your trip and alllll the best things to do in Glacier National Park!
You’ll see 3 areas of the park represented:
- Going-to-the-Sun Road
- Many Glacier
- Two Medicine
Note that Glacier National Park is huge (covering over 1 million acres) and there’s also the North Fork, Goat Haunt, Belly River and Walton regions of the park.
📍The land you’re hiking and exploring was original to 5 indigenous peoples: Blackfeet, Salish, Pend d’Oreille, Pikuni and Kootenai. Be respectful and celebrate the origins of this land before being settled by white people and taken over by the government. Learn more about their stories, here.
Best time to visit Glacier National Park
If you’re in the early stages of planning your trip and are wondering when is the best time to go to Glacier National Park, I got you! Because of the weather in northern Montana, there’s a short window of time that’s the absolute best time to go if you want to see most of the park.
The best time to see the full park in all its glory is mid-July to mid-September.
However, that’s when most people go to Glacier National Park, so expect the park to be busy and reservations are required (more about that below).
Alternatively, you can go earlier in the spring or later in the fall, just expect parts of the park to be closed, which includes the Going-to-the-Sun road and many of the Glacier National Park activities on this list.
May and June are great times to visit the park if you want to hang out at the lakes on the west side, east side or even do some hiking, like Avalanche Lake. Late June the weather is typically excellent, but the Going-to-the-Sun Road typically fully opens in July.
The changing fall leaves in September and October are gorgeous, too! It’s one of the reasons Glacier National Park is one of the best places to visit in the USA in September.
If you can visit the park mid-September through mid-October, you’ll see less crowding, yet most of the park should be open. It’s a fabulous time to visit! Keep this in mind when planning a trip to Glacier National Park. 🙂
Glacier National Park reservations
The National Park Service began requiring reservations for Glacier National Park in 2021 for certain periods of the year and times of the day. This is to ensure the land and resources are protected from over tourism, as well as providing a positive experience for those who have reservations.
👉You’ll need a timed entry reservation from late May through early September for most areas of the park to enter between 6:00am and 3:00pm. Plan early and get your vehicle entry passes here.
Alternatively, you can plan to arrive before 6:00am or after 3:00pm to enjoy the park and avoid getting a reservation.
In my experience, these passes go extremely quickly. Here are some tips to help you grab your reservation:
Getting a Glacier National Park reservation
- Plan early! Use the official park website to understand when the reservations will be available for the month and day(s) you’re planning to visit.
- Reservations can sell out within minutes for the entire month. Plan, plan, plan, then have a back-up plan with alternative dates.
- Be logged into your Recreation.gov account before the time the block of reservations are released and your credit card handy. You’ll want to be quick!
Note: even though you get a reservation, parking is not guaranteed. The Logan Pass parking lot often fills up by 7:00am during peak season!
Alright, there’s more tips on how to best enjoy your time at the park, but let’s continue on with the amazing activities and what to do in Glacier National Park!
Things to do in Glacier National Park
Wildlife viewing, scenic drives, photography opportunities, epic hikes and so much more. Here’s a list of the very best things to do Glacier National Park!
1. Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road
One of the most scenic roads in all of the USA, driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road absolutely must to be on your list when visiting Glacier National Park!
Completed in 1933, this 50-mile road was carved through the mountains, and at points is still only a one-lane road!
You can access the road through the east or west entrance, although it’s only open in higher elevation when the snow has melted for the season. The Going-to-the-Sun Road passes through the highest point in the park, at Logan Pass and has some of the best views!
With dozens of overlooks and points of interest along this road, you’ll want a full day to explore it! It’s by far one of the top Glacier Nation al Park attractions.
I’ve driven it many times and each time the park looks a bit different, based on the way the sun bounces off the mountain peaks.
Visit the official park website to see any Going-to-the-Sun Road closures.
RVs and wide vehicles cannot do the full route, as the narrow road doesn’t support large vehicles. So consider getting a rental car or bringing a smaller vehicle if you want to take the whole route.
Pro tip: pack some food for this drive! There’s extremely limited food options in the park, and the visitor centers often run out of grab-and-go sandwiches and such.
2. Discover the legend behind Running Eagle Falls
This waterfall is perfect if you’re looking to get off the beaten path, and don’t want to spend a long time hiking. Located in the Two Medicine region of the park, round trip it’s only 0.7 miles from the parking lot on a flat path.
Also called ‘Trick Falls,’ this waterfall is unique because during heavy flows, waterfalls from the top of the rock in addition to the middle of the rock (as pictured above).
Even more profound is the story behind the waterfall.
Named after a warrior, Running Eagle was a woman who lived hundreds of years ago. She fasted for 4 days, then found her vision above the falls, which is the most sacred and respected site by the Pikuni people.
She lived at a time when only men were allowed to fast, pray and find medicine so it was very spectacular. She continued on to be a powerful warrior, who was quite skilled and won many raids, before her death at about 30 years old.
Please consider this when visiting the falls, and be respectful.
Pro tip: the pool of water at the base of the falls is great for dipping your feet into! Bring your water shoes for this one.
3. Hike the Avalanche Lake Trail (one of the top activities in Glacier National Park)
Perhaps one of the most spectacular hikes in all of the park is the Avalanche Lake Trail. It’s certainly one of the best activities in Glacier National Park with kids, but adults will love it too.
The hike is 4.6 miles and it has a moderate incline. However, the views are phenomenal! It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Take your hiking shoes for this one, as the terrain varies.
It’s 10000% worth the time and energy to hike to Avalanche Lake! You will not regret this hike.
Make sure to check out the stunning mossy stream at the Trail of the Cedars on your way to Avalanche Lake Trail – so fun!
You’ll walk along the Avalanche Creek where rushing water will follow you most of the way. It’s a great hike on a hot summer day since it’s shaded most of the way.
Once you get to the lake, swap out your hiking shoes for water shoes and enjoy it. Or, pack a picnic lunch or snack and sit and enjoy the lake scene. It’s truly so beautiful and by far one of the best things to do in Glacier National Park.
4. Go paddleboarding on Lake McDonald
If you’re wondering what to do in Glacier National Park – look no further than water activities!
Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park and is honestly so stunning! Paddleboarding is an awesome way to get a unique perspective of Glacier National Park and the surrounding mountains.
Paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, canoeing – it’s simply a gorgeous backdrop for some fun water activities!
Unless you have your own stand up paddle board or kayak, you’ll want to rent one in Apgar Village, then hit the water. Whether you rent it for an hour or a half day and break on the shore for a picnic, the sights are sure to blow you away!
5. Check out the best viewpoint in Glacier National Park (near Logan Pass)
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Glacier National Park besides hiking, this is it!
Just before you get to Logan Pass from the west side of the park is a popular viewpoint that’s a must-see. It’s a gorgeous view of the Garden Wall and the Going-to-the-Sun Road. (On the map, it’s called the Mountain Goat Study Area – which is fitting because you can often see goats from here.)
The Garden Wall is the sharp, jagged mountain peaks on the right side of the photo above. It’s part of the Continental Divide, and is also where most of the Highline Trail is located. The Garden Wall got its name for the lush greenery and wildflowers that lie on the sides of the steep cliffs.
It’s truly hard to describe the beauty here. Glacier National Park is nicknamed the ‘Crown of the Continent’ because of it holds some of the most impressive mountain scenery in all of North America. These mountain ridges appear to be that crown.
The scale of this place can only be understood when trying to find the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the photo above. See the fine gray line on the right side of the photo, 1/2 way down? Yep, that’s the road.
Geez this place is stunning!
This lookout is where I’ve seen mountain goats several times. So even if you don’t see one right away, wait a few minutes to see if some will come by!
6. Hike to a glacier – Grinnell Glacier Trail (a favorite on this list of things to do in Glacier National Park)
If you’re up for the challenge, the hike to Grinnell Glacier is nothing short of amazing! Coming in at about 10 miles and 2,000 feet elevation gain and rated as hard, this day hike is an experience you won’t soon forget!
Grinnell Glacier Trail is located in the Many Glacier region of the park. And although there’s a few different variations of the trail – including cutting off a few miles via a boat ride – all of them end spectacularly!
Hike past Swiftcurrent Lake, Lake Josephine and Grinnell Lake, you’ll get to the summit at Upper Grinnell Lake and see the glacier. Just imagine being at a glacial lake with icebergs floating in it. So incredible!
Be sure to prepare well for this hike – bring supportive hiking boots, trekking poles, the 10 essentials and plenty of water! And get ready for the views! It’s by far one of my favorite hikes within the park.
7. Stand on the Continental Divide
While driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, make sure to check out the Continental Divide at Logan Pass.
Okay, so at this point you might be asking…
What’s the continental divide at Glacier National Park?
Or why is it interesting to see?
Well, when it rains (or as snow melts) right on the continental divide, when the rain falls on the mountaintop and runs down the east side of the mountain, it will end up in the Atlantic Ocean. If the raindrop runs down the west, it will ultimately end up in the Pacific Ocean.
So the mountain ridge in Glacier National Park creates a divide which tells the water where to flow. Pretty cool right?
8. Relax at Two Medicine Lake
The Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park is one of the more sleepy regions of the park. Still busy during peak season, but it’s easy enough to find some space between you and other groups.
Whether you’re visiting Glacier National Park solo, with your significant other, family or a group, you’ll enjoy some relaxation at Two Medicine Lake.
Soak in the environment, complete with the gentle sounds of lake waves, scent of the fresh mountain air and a slight breeze on your face as you enjoy the lake time.
And if you’re really in the mood for adventure, you could book a boat tour to see the lake. It’s a 45 minute tour, unless you hop off to hike to Upper Two Medicine Lake or Twin Falls, both of which are really beautiful! Return on the boat to shore for more relaxation.
What to do in Glacier National Park
Whether you’re visiting Glacier National Park for the miles of trails, stunning scenery or even the gift shops, let’s keep going with this list of the very best things to do in Glacier National Park Montana!
9. Check out Apgar Village
Apgar Village in Glacier National Park is one of the few places you can stay in the park (aside from camping). It’s a cute little village full of all the touristy things you’d expect.
Fun things to do in Apgar Village:
- Check in at the Apgar Visitor Center (near the village)
- Stay at the lodge or cabins
- Grab food at the café and ice cream shop
- Walk the pier on Lake McDonald
- Take a park tour and or go horseback riding
- Shop for souvenirs
- Rent equipment for water activities (like #4 above)
10. Hike the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail (top choice for what to see in Glacier National Park)
This hiking trail is an immersive experience, and one of the top things to do in Glacier National Park!
The Hidden Lake Trail has two variations – you can go to the overlook, which is about 2.7 miles round trip. Or you can hike to the lake and back, which is 5 miles round trip.
Note: the full trail is often closed due to high bear activity. The lake is rich in fish and is a major food source for park bears, so the NPS closes the trail as needed.
The trail to the overlook offers amazing views of the park and lake, plus wildlife viewing opportunities!
You’ll often see mountain goats and marmots along this trail. I’ve even seen bighorn sheep while on the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail!
Pro tip: even in the summer, the trail can be packed with snow. It’s one of the highest elevation hiking trails in the park. So be sure to grab your sturdy hiking boots and trekking poles for this one!
Note: parking at this trailhead – at Logan Pass – can be extremely tricky! Either plan to get there super early in the morning during peak season, or arrive midday and circle the parking lot until you find a spot from someone finishing up their hike.
11. Go canoeing on Swiftcurrent Lake (another favorite on this list of things to do in Glacier National Park)
If you’re looking for things you must see in Glacier National Park, this is it! Swiftcurrent Lake is an absolutely stunning lake in the Many Glacier region of the park.
Oversized, jagged mountain peaks make for a perfect backdrop to a fun water experience. During peak season, you can rent canoes or kayaks right on the lake in front of the Many Glacier Hotel. The morning time slot is reservation only, and the remainder of the day it’s first-come, first-serve, which is great for different travel styles.
Swiftcurrent Lake is the perfect place for a day on the water! The scenery is so mesmerizing, and once you’ve worked up an appetite, there’s even food at the hotel to recover.
12. See Jackson Glacier
If you only have a few days in Glacier National Park and you want to see a glacier without hiking, the best glacier is going to be Jackson Glacier. There’s a viewpoint of Jackson Glacier from the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Logan Pass and Saint Mary Lake.
From the viewpoint, you can see Jackson Glacier off in the distance. From the overlook you can opt to hike a 10-mile round trip to see the Jackson Glacier up close, if you’re up for the challenge.
Otherwise, enjoy this quick stop on this scenic road!
13. Go rock hunting at Lake McDonald
Okay so I know this is random, but please know that the rocks found at Lake McDonald are seriously stunning.
Never heard of a bunch of rocks called stunning before? Now you have. You’re welcome.
The crazy patterns and colors on the rocks along Lake McDonald are so fun. It reminds me of hunting for cool rocks at Firopotamos, Milos, one of the best Greek islands for couples to visit!
Anyhow, rocks and other earth matter can’t be removed from the park, so once you find some cool ones they have to go back to the lake. This is one of the most fun, and definitely more unique things to do in Glacier National Park!
14. See the famous Wild Goose Island
One of the most iconic views in the park, Wild Goose Island is a fun stop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It can be a quick stop by hopping out of your car and grabbing a photo at the viewpoint. Alternatively, there’s a path down towards the lake where you can get a slightly closer photo.
The tiny island in the middle of Saint Mary Lake is named after a tale of two Native Americans from separate tribes, falling in love on the island. Read more about the tale of Wild Goose Island here.
You may also recognize this tiny island from the intro scene of the classic movie The Shining by Stanley Kubrick.
15. Eat huckleberry ice cream (one of the most unique things to do in Glacier National Park)
Okay, so this one’s not in the park, but it’s part of the Glacier National Park experience! Huckleberries grow in the park, and years ago the locals figured out it made delicious ice cream.
I’m just going to put this out there….you need this ice cream in your life. If you like sweets. Or things that taste delicious. Maybe you’re just a foodie that likes to try new things.
Eat the huckleberry ice cream! Even multiple times. 🙂
You can find it at a few of the local ice cream spots in West Glacier. You can also find huckleberry pie, smoothies, jams, etc. in the area. Just go for it!
16. Hunt for huckleberries
Speaking of huckleberries, a fun activity (especially for kids) is hunting for huckleberries. During the summer months huckleberries are plentiful within the park!
On several different hiking trails in Glacier National Park we stumbled upon huckleberry bushes.
But just be on the lookout for bears. Grizzly bears and black bears also love huckleberries, so you may see them hunting for the same thing!
It reminds me of the time I saw a black bear absolutely devouring huckleberries by the pawfull during the Banff to Jasper drive along Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies. So crazy!
By the way, if you don’t have bear spray on your packing list, grab it now. Each adult in your group should have it handy at all times in the park.
More of the best things to do in Glacier National Park
With more spectacular views and unique experiences within the park, there’s so much yet to cover when it comes to the best activities in Glacier National Park. Let’s keep going!
17. Explore a roadside waterfall (one of the top things to do in Glacier National Park besides hiking)
These are fun! No more wondering what to do in Glacier National Park or things to see during this scenic drive!
You’ll find lots of roadside waterfalls while driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Depending on the season, of course!
There are several waterfalls that are so close to the road they splatter on your car! Some of the best waterfalls in Glacier National Park are visible from the road but require a short walk to get to.
Take some time to make a stop at a roadside waterfall, especially if you aren’t planning to hike to any of them. On one particular day during one of my trips to Glacier, we saw, swam in and explored 7 waterfalls in 1 day!
My favorite roadside waterfall is Lunch Creek. My family spent about 30 minutes exploring the trails nearby. And yes, it’s a great spot for a picnic lunch. 🙂
18. Check out Sunrift Gorge
This is a fun little activity if you’re wondering what to see in Glacier National Park. Maybe you already know what a gorge is! Or maybe you’re like me, and you have no idea.
Well the Sunrift Gorge in Glacier National Park was a pleasant surprise. Near Saint Mary Lake, it’s actually on the side of the road. Or at least part of it!
Walking down the path to the stream, we thought we were seeing it all. But then we walked up the path further and realized the gorge was an alley cut in the mountain by the water.
It was a really cool sight to see in real life. (Don’t ya hate it how pictures never do a place justice?!) And the water made a loud, intense noise as it passed through the narrow gorge.
The Sunrift Gorge reminds me of Box Canyon, one of the top things to do in Mt Rainier in Washington!
19. Go white water rafting
If you’re into high-adventure travel, then white water rafting must be on your list! One of the best ways to experience the park is on the water.
And bonus – you’ll see scenery different than the other regions of the park! One of the best tours in the area is rafting the Middle Fork section of the Flathead River.
White-water rafting is a 1/2 day adventure, and one that any adventure-lover is going to love!
20. Swim in an alpine lake
Okay so previously we talked about water activities on Lake McDonald. But honestly, just hanging out and swimming at any of the gorgeous lakes is a fantastic way to spend and afternoon.
All the lakes in the park have rocky bottoms, just remember to pack your water shoes! These are my favorite water shoes and have literally traveled all over the world with me – including Glacier National Park!
Insider tip: my family hikes with water shoes attached to our backpacks via carabiner clips, then swaps out the hiking shoes for water shoes and soak in all the streams and lakes where’s possible! It’s one of our favorite things to do in Glacier National Park!
Alpine Lakes worth putting your feet into
- Lake McDonald
- Upper Grinnell Glacier Lake
- Lake Josephine
- Avalanche Lake
- Saint Mary Lake
- Swiftcurrent Lake
21. Find mountain goats or bighorn sheep (a Glacier National Park must see)
Chances are, while you’re in Glacier National Park, you’l see some wildlife. Grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, pikas, deer – the list goes on! Seeing wildlife in the park can be a highlight of your trip – but definitely make sure you’re safe and give wildlife plenty of space.
After multiple trips to Glacier National Park, I can honestly say the best places to see wildlife are on hiking trails. Animals tend to stay away from busy parking lots and visitor centers, but if you can go for a hike, your chances will increase!
Pro tip: bring binoculars so you can view wildlife from a safe distance.
During our last time hiking the Grinnell Glacier Trail, we saw bighorn sheep, moose, pikas, a marmot and other groups of hikers that day saw 2 different Grizzly bears! (We didn’t get to see the bears but were very aware they could have made another appearance from the trail.)
An easy spot where wildlife is often spotted is the viewpoint near Logan Pass – see #5 above!
22. Have a rock skipping competition
So this activity can really take place at any lake, but it’s a lot of fun if you can catch a day where the water is still and reflective. Lake McDonald is one of the most photographed lakes in the park because of its reflective nature.
Seeing rocks skip 5, 6, 7, 8, or more times along the water, leaving ripples in the glassy water as they skip is a cool sight! So grab your kids or traveling companions and get to skipping some rocks!
My family has skipped rocks at many lakes at Glacier National Park – so fun!
23. Explore the West Side Tunnel
The West Side Tunnel is – as you guessed it – on the west side of Logan Pass. An honestly, it’s the first really interesting landmark after Avalanche Lake as you begin to climb the 3,000 feet incline to Logan Pass going from west to east.
This is a 2-lane tunnel (the east tunnel is just 1-lane!) but it’s unique features are these ‘window’s carved out of the side of it. It’s accessible with a small pull-off to stop nearby, and a small sidewalk to go into the tunnel.
Walk through the tunnel to a window and catch breath-taking views of the valley. I mean, this park just keeps getting more and more stunning with every turn!
My kids especially loved the tunnel echoes when they were young, and the waterfall that’s immediately beside the tunnel.
24. Get some beach time at Saint Mary Lake (one of the absolute best things to do in Glacier National Park)
This was one of my favorite activities in Glacier National Park! Saint Mary Lake is a gorgeous alpine lake on the east part of the park. There are many spots to head down to the lake to swim in the water.
You can enjoy an afternoon beach time after hiking to Baring Falls. The trail continues on after the falls, and if you pivot to the left, you’ll find a peaceful beach to relax on. Or, head to the lake after picknicking at Sun Point.
25. Go stargazing at night (must see in Glacier National Park)
Glacier National Park and its sister park over the border in Canada, Waterton Lakes National Park, is a designated Dark Sky Park. Which basically means it’s an amazing spot to see the milky way with your bare eyes!
This is an absolute must see in Glacier National Park, and a unique activity when it comes to national park experiences.
If you’re visiting the park during a clear night, you can catch the Milky Way from many areas of the park. Just be sure to wait long after sunset (which is late in the summer months) and be patient for the show!
Check out the ranger led astronomy programs to see if you can check out a star viewing party during your time in the park. It’s a phenomenal way to experience the park after dark!
And because Glacier National Park is so far north, it’s even possible to see the northern lights! It’s most spectacularly seen from Lake McDonald in the wintertime.
Stargazing is by far one of the best things to do in Glacier National Park!
Planning a trip to Glacier National Park: what to pack
Eeeek! I’m so excited for your trip to Glacier! You’re going to have the best time! Just one more quick recommendation: make sure you have the right gear.
Here are the things that I used, loved, and needed for my trip to Glacier National Park:
- Bear spray. Mentioning again because it’s so important: every adult traveling with you needs to carry it at all times.
- Water shoes. The lakes are rocky, and it’s quite refreshing to dip your toes into it.
- Quality hiking boots if you’re planning to do any hiking. These are my favorite hiking boots – affordable and durable. They’ve gone with me on trails all over, from a Banff summer to the best national parks for kids.
- Hiking socks. The right socks really matter and help prevent blisters while hiking. You’ll thank yourself!
- Trekking poles. Great for stability and momentum on any terrain during inclines and declines!
- Hiking backpack. Carry all your gear and the 10 essentials. My family loves Osprey hiking backpacks for the adults and Sunhiker backpacks for kids.
- Bug spray and sunblock, especially during the summer months. It can be so buggy in the park that my kids nicknamed a trail ‘mosquito forest’ for all the bugs!
- Binoculars. For safe wildlife viewing.
- Water and snacks. Use reusable water bottles or a water hydration system for your hiking backpack. Pack high protein snacks like trail mix or beef jerky to fight hunger while in the park, too!
- Satellite communicator. A 2-way satellite communicator allows you to call for help when you don’t have any cell service in the park (which is almost the entire park). I love my Garmin In-Reach Mini, and it’s gone on every hike with my family for years!
Best things to do in Glacier National Park (a recap)
Whew! From majestic mountain peaks to stunning scenic drives, this park is truly spectacular! Whether you’re traveling solo, with your significant other, family or a larger group, there’s truly something for everyone in this park.
Let’s review that list again, in a much quicker fashion…
What to do in Glacier National Park
- Drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road
- Discover the legend behind Running Eagle Falls
- Hike the Avalanche Lake Trail
- Go paddleboarding on Lake McDonald
- Check out the best viewpoint in Glacier National Park
- Hike to a glacier – Grinnell Glacier Trail
- Stand on the Continental Divide
- Relax at Two Medicine Lake
- Check out Apgar Village
- Hike the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail
- Go canoeing on Swiftcurrent Lake
- See Jackson Glacier
- Go rock hunting at Lake McDonald
- See the famous Wild Goose Island
- Eat huckleberry ice cream
- Hunt for huckleberries
- Explore a roadside waterfall
- Check out Sunrift Gorge
- Go white water rafting
- Swim in an alpine lake
- Find mountain goats or bighorn sheep
- Have a rock-skipping competition
- Explore the West Side Tunnel
- Get some beach time at Saint Mary Lake
- Go stargazing at night
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