Glacier National Park, located in northwestern Montana, is known for its rugged mountains, pristine forests, alpine meadows, and serene lakes. Nicknamed the "Crown of the Continent," the park also boasts over 700 miles of trails with numerous hiking options for all levels of hikers. The average visitor spends 2-3 days in the park, but you can definitely spend more time here with all the activities available. We visited Glacier National Park in July 2020 and the park was not fully open due to COVID restrictions. The itinerary below does not include much information on the Swiftcurrent/Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas of the park, as they were closed during our visit. It is also planned out for someone staying on the west side of the park in areas such as West Glacier or Apgar.
While the park is open year-round, mid-July through September is probably the best time to visit Glacier National Park as the daytime temperatures average in the 60-70s. Snow plowing of Going-to-the-Sun Road is complete by then and many of the best hiking trails are cleared. Check the park's status page to see which areas within the park are open to visitors.
The most convenient airport to fly into is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell which is 30 miles from the west entrance of the park. From here, you can rent a car to get around the region. Gas is not available in the park, so be sure to fill up prior to entering.
Please note that if you choose to stay and use a RV, you may still need a car to access most of Going-To-The-Sun Road as there are restrictions for the types of vehicles that are permitted. According to the National Park Service's website, "Vehicles, and vehicle combinations, longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet are prohibited between Avalanche Campground and the Rising Sun picnic area parking. Vehicle and vehicle combinations over 10 feet in height may have difficulty driving west from Logan Pass to the Loop, due to rock overhangs."
There are plenty of lodging options in and near the park. Peak season is typically May through September, so prices during these months tends to be higher. We chose to stay in the West Glacier RV Park and would recommend it to anyone interested in having an RV experience. It is located in a prime location adjacent to the small town. The park has free Wi-Fi, a front office and general store, campfire rings and picnic tables at every site, and clean bathhouses. We rented the RV through RVshare and had it delivered to our site which made for a great first RV experience since we did not have to deal with driving and maintenance. Some ideas of where to stay are listed below.
Glacier National Park and the surrounding region is home to grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, and other wildlife so it is important to be aware of precautions you should take to have a safe visit. Be sure to review the NPS site on safety prior to your visit. Make sure your food is stored properly and trash is appropriately disposed of, especially if camping, and be sure to carry bear spray with you while hiking with the canister being easily accessible. Bear spray can be bought or rented in general stores in the area. Maintain at least 100 yards of distance if you see a bear or wolf and never intentionally get close to one.
The Going-To-The-Sun Road is approximately 50 miles (80 km) long and spans the entire width of the park between the east and west entrance stations. If you drive without making any stops, it will take you roughly 2 hours to go from one end to the other. Some of the major attractions along the way include: Lake McDonald, McDonald Falls, Avalanche Trail & Trail of the Cedars, Weeping Wall, Birdwoman Falls, Logan Pass, Jackson Glacier Overlook, Saint Mary Falls, and Wild Goose Island Lookout.
With over 700 miles of trails, there are hikes scattered throughout the park for hikers of all levels. Some of the best and highly rated trails are Highline Trail, Siyeh Pass Trail, Grinnell Glacier Trail, and Swiftcurrent Pass Trail. These are rated moderate to strenuous in difficulty and are among the longer options for day hikes. John's Lake Loop, Avalanche Trail, and Trail of the Cedar are some easier options with beautiful scenery for those who do not wish to spend hours hiking on more difficult terrain. A list of additional easy hikes can be found here.
In addition to what is listed above, some ideas for other things you can do in the park include boating, biking, taking a guided tour, fishing, and participating in ranger-led programs. You can also head into Kalispell or Whitefish to explore the cities.