Julie United States 42 Comments

How many days do you need in Glacier National Park? How do you plan the perfect Glacier National Park itinerary?

The answer to these questions depends on several factors. How much time do you have? Do you want to get out and hike the trails or simply visit a few viewpoints and highlights? What time of year will you be traveling?

The short, easy answer would be to spend as much time as you can in Glacier National Park. With its stunning alpine scenery, scenic drives, thrilling hiking trails, and numerous chances to spot wildlife, you could spend a full week here and never run out of things to do.

Most likely, you don’t have that kind of time. In this post, get an overview on the best things to do in the park, when to visit, and get sample Glacier National Park itineraries, depending on your interests, travel style, and available time.

Whether you have just a day or two, or an entire week (lucky you!), we have some great options to share with you.

Interesting Facts about Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, also called the “Crown of the Continent,” is one of the most beautiful of the US national parks. Within Glacier National Park are two mountain ranges, more than 700 lakes, numerous glaciers and waterfalls, and a wide variety of plants and animals. This park spans the Continental Divide.

Native Americans inhabited this area before it became a national park. In 1895, the Blackfeet ceded the area to the US government. Glacier officially became a national park on May 11, 1910.

In 1932, Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed, which is one of the most scenic drives in the USA.

Glacier National Park is located in northern Montana on the border with Canada. Just across the US-Canadian border is Waterton Lakes National Park. In 1932, these parks were designated the world’s first international peace park, the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Glacier is one of the most visited national parks in the USA. In 2021, 3.1 million people visited the park, putting it 10th on the list of most popular US national parks.

Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Hiking to Grinnell Glacier in Many Glacier

A Quick Geography Lesson of Glacier National Park

There are several regions of Glacier National Park.

Going-to-the-Sun Road twists and turns through the center of the park and this is the most popular and most crowded section of the park. This is where many  visitors spend their time, since the drive is jaw-dropping and leads to some of the most popular sights, such as Avalanche Lake, Hidden Lake, the Highline Trail, and Logan Pass.

Many Glacier is located on the east side of the park, sitting to the north of Going-to-the-Sun Road. This area is more beautiful than Going-to-the-Sun Road, in my opinion, and the best place to go if you like hiking. The hikes to Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, and Cracker Lake start here.

Two Medicine and the North Fork are more remote and less crowded areas. If you want to journey into the backcountry, visit Goat Haunt.

If you plan to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road or visit the North Fork area, you will need to make a vehicle reservation during the summer months. Learn more here or keep reading for more information on Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Glacier National Park Map

Glacier National Park Map. The pink line is Going-to-the-Sun Road and the yellow line is the road to Many Glacier.

Going-to-the-Sun Road: Important Things to Know

Vehicle Reservation

Driving Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the best things to do in Glacier National Park. Since this drive is so popular, you now need a Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Vehicle Reservation to drive this road if you will be here during the busy summer months.

When Do You A Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Vehicle Reservation? You will need a permit from May 27 through September 11, 2022, between the hours of 6 am and 4 pm.

Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Vehicle Reservations have a processing fee of $2 and are valid for 3 consecutive days. These reservations are limited so make yours in advance! A portion are released 120 days in advance (reservations for July 1 are available on March 3) and the remainder are released at 8 am MDT the day before the effective date (a reservation for July 1 is available on June 30).

The vehicle reservation is an additional fee. You also have to pay the park entry fee. If you have an America the Beautiful Pass, you still need a vehicle reservation.

Make your vehicle reservation on Recreation.gov.

There are checkpoints in east Glacier (Rising Sun) and west Glacier (West Entrance Station and Camas Road Station) where you will show your reservation permit. You cannot purchase them at the entrance station…you must reserve the permit in advance.

You do not need a vehicle reservation if you are staying in lodging inside of the park (this includes campsites) or if you will be taking a commercial tour. For a full list of exemptions, visit the National Park Service website and select “Valid Service Reservations in the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor.” You do not need a permit to visit Many Glacier or Two Medicine.

Glacier Map

Map of the locations you will need a vehicle reservation | Glacier National Park Itinerary

Opening and Closing Dates

Going-to-the-Sun Road is only open in the summer months…the remainder of the year it is snow covered.

Usually, the road is open by mid to late-June but this varies from year to year. In 2020, the opening date was July 13, but the delay was due to COVID, not snow. In years prior, it was open by the end of June (2019: June 22, 2018: June 22; 2017: June 28; 2016: June 16; 2015: June 19).

Going-to-the-Sun Road closes by late September or early October. Here are the closing dates for the past few years: 2020: October 9; 2019: September 25; 2018: September 29; 2017: September 3 but this early closure was due to a wildfire.

If you want to drive the full length of Going-to-the-Sun Road, plan your visit between early to mid-July and the end of September.

Vehicle Regulations

Due to the narrow, winding nature of Going-to-the-Sun Road, there are regulations for vehicle length and width.

Vehicles (and vehicle combinations) longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet (mirrors included) are prohibited between Avalanche Creek and Rising Sun.

Vehicles over 10 feet high could have difficulty driving west from Logan Pass to the Loop because of rock overhangs.

Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park

Since Going-to-the-Sun Road is only open from the end of June through mid-October, this is the best time to visit the park. This is also when the weather is the warmest.

WINTER: During the months of December, January, and February, areas of the park average 30 inches of snowfall per month. Most businesses in and around the park are closed from early October through late May. But if you are self-sufficient, you can go skiing or snowshoeing in the park.

SPRING: Snowfall diminishes as the weather gets warmer, but snow chances still linger into early May. By May, daytime high temperatures get up into the 60’s, but many businesses are still closed during the spring months, so again, you need to be self-sufficient to visit the park.

SUMMER: This is the best time to visit Glacier National Park. Summer highs are in the low 80’s but on rare days it can get close to 100°F. Rainfall chances are also at their lowest in the summer. Expect big crowds in the park.

FALL: In the fall, the snow returns and many businesses close, as does Going-to-the-Sun Road. Early to mid-October is a nice time to visit the park if you want to have lower crowds. Just keep your fingers crossed that Going-to-the-Sun Road doesn’t close early.

The itineraries I list below are for the months of mid-July through mid-October, when everything is open in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park appears in our Best US National Parks Month-By-Month series as a great park to visit in July, August, and September, since all the park roads are open during this time.

Best Things to do in Glacier National Park

Here is a list of the top things to do in Glacier National Park. For more information, and many more photos, check out our post about the best things to do in Glacier National Park.

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

1. Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. This is a 50-mile road that cuts through the center of Glacier National Park. If it is your first visit to Glacier NP, this should be on the top of your to-do list. If you will be visiting the park in the late spring and summer months, you will need a timed entry ticket to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. Learn more here.

2. Visit Logan Pass. This is the highest point on Going-to-the-Sun Road. From here you can hike the Highline Trail and hike to Hidden Lake.

3. Go Hiking. This is the best way to experience Glacier National Park. With short, easy trails to all-day adventures, there is something here for everyone. Full the full list, check out our Glacier National Park Hiking Guide.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Highline Trail | Glacier National Park Itinerary

 

Hidden Lake Overlook

Hidden Lake Overlook | Glacier National Park Itinerary

4. Visit Many Glacier. This is a gorgeous area of the park. Numerous trails start here and this is one of the best places to see wildlife in Glacier National Park.

5. Visit Two Medicine. Two Medicine is less crowded than Many Glacier and Going-to-the-Sun Road. It’s also filled with wonderful day hikes.

6. Visit Lake McDonald Valley. Lake McDonald is the largest lake in the park. Visit the historic lodge, take a boat tour of the lake, or go hiking.

7. Take a Red Bus Tour. Ride a vintage 1930’s bus for a tour of the park. Take a scenic ride along Going-to-the-Sun Road, visit Many Glacier, or Two Medicine. Tours can last up to 9.5 hours, depending on which one you choose, and prices go up to roughly $50 per person.

8. See Wild Goose Island. Wild Goose Island is a tiny island located on Saint Mary Lake and it is one of Glacier’s most photographed spots (it was used in the opening scenes of the movie The Shining). Wild Goose Island is the cover photo for this post.

9. Take a Boat Tour on One of the Lakes. In Many Glacier, you can sit back and take a boat tour of Swiftcurrent or Josephine Lakes. You can also rent kayaks at the Many Glacier Hotel and kayak on Swiftcurrent Lake. Lake McDonald, Two Medicine Lake, and Saint Mary Lake are also popular places to go on a guided boat tour or to rent kayaks.

10. Visit Waterton Lakes National Park. Waterton Lakes is located in Canada and it feels like a quieter, mellower version of Glacier National Park. You can visit it on a day trip from Glacier National Park or spend a night or two here. For more information, visit our Guide to Waterton Lakes National Park.

Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park | Glacier National Park Itinerary

How to Get Around Glacier National Park

The best way to get around the park is by car. This allows you to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road at your own pace, stopping for photos along the way.

If you will be visiting the park between May 27 and September 11, 2022, you will need a timed entry ticket to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. Learn more here.

There are parking areas at many of the trailheads and in the visitor center and lodges.

During the summer months, these parking lots fill up early. To make sure you get a spot, it’s best to start your day early. During our visit to Glacier National Park in August, the Logan Pass parking lot was full by 8 am.

There is a free shuttle service that runs along Going-to-the-Sun Road, between Apgar (in West Glacier) and St. Mary (in East Glacier). This is a great way to get around during the busy summer months because you can avoid the hassle of parking. In 2021, you will need to reserve a time slot to use the shuttle.

Click here to learn more about the shuttle service. 

Logan Pass from Highline Trail Glacier National Park Itinerary

View of Logan Pass and Going-to-the-Sun Road from the Highline Trail

How Many Days Do You Need in Glacier National Park?

Ideally, plan on spending at least two to three days in Glacier National Park. This gives you enough time to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, hike one or two trails, and visit the Many Glacier or Two Medicine areas.

If you have just one day, and it is your first visit to Glacier National Park, drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, visit Logan Pass, and hike one or two short hikes (Hidden Lake and Avalanche Lake are great options).

With two days in Glacier National Park, either add on a big day hike (the Highline Trail is amazing and starts at Logan Pass) or day trip to Many Glacier. In Many Glacier, you can either hike one of the spectacular trails (most hikes in Many Glacier average 10 miles round-trip) or go for a boat ride on Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes, if hiking is not your thing.

Beyond this quick two-day itinerary, every day you add to Glacier National Park gives you more time for hiking, to explore more regions of the park, or day trip to Waterton Lakes National Park.

Trail of the Cedars

Trail of the Cedars | Glacier National Park Itinerary

Glacier National Park Itinerary

Here are sample Glacier National Park itineraries, starting with a one-day itinerary.

One Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

With one day in Glacier National Park, you will spend your time on Going-to-the-Sun Road. I recommend staying in West Glacier. West Glacier has several restaurants and hotels to choose from and it is just a short drive into the park. We stayed at Great Northern Resort and had a great experience.

You can also stay in St. Mary, which is on the east side of Glacier National Park. If you stay here, do this itinerary in the reverse order.

6:30 to 7 am: Drive to Logan Pass. I know this is very early, but if you only have one day in Glacier National Park, getting an early start gives you plenty of time to visit all of the sights along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Also, parking at Logan Pass can be a nightmare in July and August.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you want a parking space at Logan Pass Visitor Center, you need to get here no later than 8 am (but even earlier is better). In August, at 7:45 am, we got one of the last parking spaces at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
 
In 2021, I heard reports that the parking lots are filling as early as 6 am. Visitors without timed entry reservations are entering the park before 6 am, which is before the first timed entry time slot. Because of this, parking lots are filling much earlier than “typical” years. So, even if you have an early timed entry slot, you might want to enter the park early to make sure you get a parking spot.

It takes just over an hour to drive to Logan Pass from West Glacier. Enjoy the views along the drive, and it will be tempting to stop for photos, I know. But I recommend driving directly to Logan Pass to ensure that you get a parking space. You will repeat this drive later in the day and have plenty of time for photos.

8 am: Logan Pass. Enjoy the views and hike to Hidden Lake Overlook (2.8 miles, 1.5 hours). If you only have energy for one hike today, this is the one I recommend. It’s a beautiful walk and not only do you get to see a beautiful lake but there is also a very good chance that you will see mountain goats along the way.

10 am: Drive to St. Mary. Continue the scenic drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road until you get to St. Mary. Along the way, enjoy the view of Wild Goose Island and you have the option to hike to St. Mary falls.

St Mary Falls Glacier National Park Itinerary

St. Mary Falls | Glacier National Park Itinerary

11:30 am: Lunch. In St. Mary, have lunch at one of the restaurants or have a picnic lunch, if you packed one.

12:30 pm: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. Drive towards West Glacier on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Now you have plenty of time to stop at the overlooks, enjoy the spectacular views, and take hundreds of photos. It takes 2 hours to drive the entire length of Going-to-the Sun Road (St. Mary to West Glacier), longer with stops for photos.

4:00 pm: Hike to Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars. This hike is 4.6 miles round trip and takes 2 to 3 hours. It ends at a very pretty lake. If you are not up for a hike this long, you can simply walk the flat, easy, 0.7-mile Trail of the Cedars.

6:00 to 7:00 pm: At Lake McDonald, have dinner and enjoy sunset views over the lake.

Two Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

With two days, you can split your time between East and West Glacier, basically splitting the above itinerary into two days, so you travel at a more leisurely pace. On day 1, hike Avalanche Lake and go for a boat ride on Lake McDonald. On day 2, explore the east side of the park and visit Logan Pass, hike to Hidden Lake, see Wild Goose Island, and hike to St. Mary Falls.

Another option is to do our one day itinerary on day 1 and take your pick between these options for day 2:

Hike the Highline Trail. This is a spectacular hike that starts at Logan Pass. It is a point-to-point trail and you will hike high above Going-to-the-Sun Road for some of the best views in the park. Get the full details in our Highline Trail Hiking Guide.

Day Trip to Many Glacier. Spend the day in Many Glacier. Many Glacier sits to the north of Going-to-the-Sun Road and you can only enter Many Glacier from the east side of the park. If you do this, it is best to stay in St. Mary or Many Glacier. If you stay in West Glacier, you will spend about 4 hours driving back and forth along Going-to-the-Sun Road. While in Many Glacier, go hiking or take a boat tour of Swiftcurrent Lake and/or Josephine Lake.

Mountain Goat Glacier National Park Itinerary

Three Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Day 1: Follow our one day in Glacier National Park itinerary (above). Stay in West Glacier or St. Mary.

Day 2: Hike the Highline Trail. Stay in St. Mary or Many Glacier. If you do not want to hike the Highline Trail, split your time between East and West Glacier on the first two days of this itinerary.

Day 3: Day trip to Many Glacier. Hike one of the trails or take a boat tour of the lakes.

Glacier National Park Hike

Hiking to Avalanche Lake | Glacier National Park Itinerary

Four Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Day 1: Follow our one day in Glacier National Park itinerary (above). Stay in West Glacier or St. Mary.

Day 2: Hike the Highline Trail. Stay in St. Mary or Many Glacier. If you do not want to hike the Highline Trail, split your time between East and West Glacier on the first two days of this itinerary.

Day 3: Many Glacier. Hike one of the trails or take a boat tour of the lakes. Sleep in Many Glacier.

Day 4: Many Glacier. Hike one of the trails or take a boat tour of the lakes. This is a gorgeous area of the park and it’s well worth your time to spend several days here, especially if you like to go hiking. There are several spectacular full day hikes to choose from in this area of the park so if you are big into hiking, you could easily spend four to five days in Many Glacier. Sleep in Many Glacier.

Grinnell Glacier Glacier National Park Itinerary

Grinnell Glacier | Glacier National Park Itinerary

Five Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Follow days one through four of the four-day itinerary.

On day five, either day trip to Waterton Lakes National Park or to Two Medicine. In Two Medicine, I recommend hiking Pitamakan Pass and Dawson Pass, if you like the idea of another big day hike. In Waterton Lakes, I recommend cycling Red Rock Parkway, having tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel, and taking a boat cruise on Waterton Lake. Sleep in St. Mary, Many Glacier, or Waterton.

Where to Stay

Many Glacier

Many Glacier Hotel. This is a grand, historic hotel. It looks amazing on the outside and has an enormous, rustic lobby with stunning views of Swiftcurrent Lake. Kara and I stayed in a standard room. It was a very basic room with a double bed and private bathroom. There is no air conditioning, but it is cool at night so that was not an issue. However, it’s an old hotel. The floors creak and the walls are thin, so if you are a light sleeper, bring ear plugs.

Many Glacier National Park Itinerary

Many Glacier Hotel | Glacier National Park Itinerary

Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. I liked it here. Again, it’s very basic, with no Wi-Fi, cellular service or air conditioning. But we stayed in a building tucked away in the trees and it was very nice. Our room was enormous, the beds were comfy, and it felt more peaceful than staying at the Many Glacier Hotel.

West Glacier

Great Northern Resort. This place is wonderful. It is located in West Glacier, so it is a great place to stay to be near Lake McDonald and Avalanche Lake. We had an enormous room with two beds, air conditioning, and great Wi-Fi. I would stay here again.

St. Mary

Duck Lake Cabin. This two-bedroom cabin can accommodate up to six people. It comes with a kitchen, living room, and a washing machine.

St. Mary Village. This property gets mediocre reviews but it is slim pickings east of Glacier National Park. However, this mountain resort has a great location in St. Mary. Take your pick from standard hotel rooms and small cottages. This is a great pick for families.

Whitefish

Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge. Whitefish is located west of Glacier National Park. If you have a flight home the next day, this is a great place to stay, since you will be near the airport. Unless you are having a hard time finding accommodations inside the park, I wouldn’t recommend staying in Whitefish. It’s a 40-minute drive just to get to the west entrance and can take an hour and a half or longer to get to Logan Pass. However, after your visit, Whitefish is a great place to stay. There’s a lot to do here, with outdoor activities and family-friendly experiences.

How many days do you need in Glacier National Park

Hiking to Grinnell Glacier | Glacier National Park Itinerary

Practical Information

Park Entrance Fee: $35, valid for 7 days

Visit the National Park Service website for more information on hikes in Glacier, as well as to check trail status and get important updates. Some trails can close due to Grizzly Bear activity and this is most common in the Many Glacier area.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Glacier Travel Guide


If you have any questions about this Glacier National Park itinerary or how many days you should spend in Glacier, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Glacier National Park & the USA

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Glacier National Park Travel Guide for important travel information, sample itineraries, and how to plan your visit. Don’t miss our article Best Things to Do in Glacier National Park for more great things to do in the park.

HIKING IN GLACIER: Check out our article Best Hikes in Glacier National Park for great hikes to add to your to do list. We also have detailed hiking information about the Highline Trail and Grinnell Glacier.

ROAD TRIP ITINERARY: Learn how to put together Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks into one amazing 10 day road trip.

BEARTOOTH HIGHWAY: Beartooth Highway is one of the most scenic drives in the USA. It is located along the border of Montana and Wyoming and a great addition to your trip if you will be road tripping in this area during the summer months.

YELLOWSTONE: For an overview of Yellowstone National Park and links to all of our Yellowstone articles, take a look at our Yellowstone National Park Travel Guide. To help you plan your trip, we also have articles about the best things to do in Yellowstone, how to visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where to stay in Yellowstone, and how to plan the ultimate Yellowstone itinerary.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries. You can also learn more about the national parks and get a FREE printable checklist in our US National Parks Checklist.

If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.

More Great National Parks to Visit:

 

Glacier National Park Travel Guide

Glacier National Park Itinerary Travel Guide

 

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Comments 42

  1. Avatar for Judy Ubry
    Judy Ubry

    Anything you have hard copies of for Glacier National Park would be appreciated. Planning a trip in Sept 2023. 3 days in park with 2 days for travel.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
  2. Avatar for Brooke
    Brooke

    Hi thanks for the amazing information. I’m also a solo traveller, and will be there mid Sept. I was hoping to drive a sleep-in van and camp, do you have any recommendations or would you suggest the hotels?
    Thanks

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      I don’t have any experience camping in this park, however I don’t think safety is an issue as a solo traveler (I would do it in Glacier National Park). But as for where you are allowed to camp, this would be at designated campgrounds inside of the park and generally it is a good idea to make a reservation in advance. You can learn more on the official National Park Service website.Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Jo Esman
    Jo Esman

    Hi and thank you for the great information but I have a problem/question. I am traveling alone and do not have a GTSR pass. Right now I have 1 day on the west side with a 7 hour GTSR red bus tour booked which gives me several hours before the tour at 1:30 to explore that side. It gets back at 8:30pm so I should be able to enjoy sunset at Lake McDonald. Then I have 2 days on the east side. For the afternoon of the day I transfer from the west side to the east I booked the Two Medicine & hike boat tour for that afternoon 1 – 4 . That leaves me another full day and although I like to hike I have read and been told by locals NOT to hike alone so since most of the itinerary suggestions involve hikes is there anything else that I could do? Thank you so much!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      You could go to Many Glacier, since you do not have to have a permit to visit this part of the park. Hiking is also a popular thing to do here (and it is amazing). If you are an experienced hiker, I see no reason why you couldn’t hike on your own (I would do it). There are enough people on the trails that you are never truly hiking on your own, especially if you are visiting the park at a time when you need a pass. If you don’t want to hike, you could take a boat tour from the Many Glacier Lodge, but in my opinion, you will have a better experience from a hiking trail. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Kathy
    Kathy

    hi there and thank you for all the great advice!! We are traveling at the beginning of August and unfortunately were unable to get a vehicle entrance pass, it looks like if we enter the park before 6 am we are good – where would you recommend we head to at this hour to park and perhaps take the shuttle some. We will want to do some hiking at least hidden lake and avalanche. Would it make sense to drive to Logan Pass initially and then shuttle east then west and return to Logan at the end of the day to get back to the car? Or is there a better way to approach this? Thanks again!!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Yes, if you could not get a shuttle pass, Logan Pass would be a great place to park for the day, since the east and west shuttles go here. As far as which one to do first (east or west) I don’t think it matters much, unless there is a place is high on your list to visit (then go that direction first). You could hike to Hidden Lake first, depending on when the first shuttle of the day makes it to Logan Pass (I am not sure of this time…but it if is around 8 pm, it makes sense to hike to Hidden Lake while you wait). Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Karolina
    Karolina

    Julie,
    We will be in Glacier National Park Sep 14- 16. Flying out September 17th.
    First two nights we will be staying in St Mary. And then we’ll drive down to West Glacier.
    Here are some of the things on our itinerary. How would you recommend we split it over the three days?

    St. Mary Lake
    St. Mary Falls
    Wild Goose Look out
    Drive the Going to the Sun Road
    Hike the Highline Trail
    Lake McDonald (maybe a boat ride)
    Hike to Hidden Lake…
    What else would you recommend?
    Would we have enough time to drive to Many Glacier?
    Are there crowds in mid September or is it slower than in July- August?

    Do you know if any places that offer gold mining for tourists?

    Thank you for your time.
    Karolina

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Karolina. On one of the days where you start and end in St. Mary, here is how I recommend planning your time: Highline Trail first thing of the day (start by 7 am or earlier to get a parking space) and on the drive back to St. Mary, visit Wild Goose Lookout, St. Mary Falls and St. Mary Lake. On another day, I definitely recommend visiting Many Glacier (this is also best done from St. Mary, since it is so close). Spend a day in Many Glacier and if you are up for another hike, we loved Grinnell Glacier. On your 3rd day, hike to Hidden Lake in the morning, maybe hike to Avalanche Lake midday, and visit Lake McDonald in the afternoon. Mid-September is quieter than July and August, but there still will be crowds, just not as bad. If I had a choice, I’d go in September rather than July or August, since the crowds are lower, so you will be in the park at a very good time. Unfortunately, I do not know of any gold mining places. Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Madeline
    Madeline

    Hi there,
    I love your blog! We have found it so useful for planning our trip. We are visiting from Australia and will be in Glacier NP from October 8 for 3 nights as part of a bigger road trip in an RV. I’ve just learned that Going-To-The-Sun Road will be closed for construction during this time. We are coming from Banff and heading to Yellowstone afterwards. Do you have any suggestions on what area to stay in or where to access the park from? A shame that we will miss Going-To-The-Sun but from what I can see, there are plenty of other wonderful hikes to do. What would be your top picks?
    Thanks in advance,
    Maddy

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Madeline. I recommend spending your time in Many Glacier. In my opinion, this area of the park is prettier than Going to the Sun Road and the hiking is better. With 3 days here, you can do 3 great hikes (Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, and Ptarmigan Tunnel are hikes to consider doing). You’ll have to do some research about where to stay with an RV. Many Glacier is ideal but you can also look into staying just outside of the park to the east near Babb. And Yellowstone is wonderful in October. We were just in Yellowstone early October 2021 and crowds aren’t too bad. There is also the chance that it could snow (I believe it snowed in Yellowstone last year around October 14, just a few days after we were there). Have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Dawn
        Dawn

        Hey Julie my daughter and I are flying into Bozeman and going up to glacier in a couple of weeks May 7-14 , with sun road still closed do you have any suggestions for us to do and which hikes not to miss since its so early in may . We plan on going back down to yellowstone our last day. Feel free to email me your suggestions. Thank you so much
        Dawn

        1. Avatar for Julie Post
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          Julie

          Hello Dawn. You can still visit Many Glacier and the Two Medicine areas of the park. In my opinion, Many Glacier is more beautiful than Going to the Sun Road, so you will still get to see some of the best sights in Glacier. In Many Glacier, do the Grinnell Glacier hike. We haven’t done these, but people rave about Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Tunnel. For more hikes to do, including some in Two Medicine, check out our Glacier Hiking Guide. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Joe
    Joe

    Hi !!
    I am back and itching to try more NPs this year with help from your fabulous articles.
    I was thinking of spending 3 whole days (say a Tue, Wed, Thurs) with Mon and Fri being travel days.
    Going by what you have above, and based on my likes to be closer to hiking THs, I wanted your input on where I should stay if i were to do the below hikes
    1) Fly into Kalispell (say I land mid day) – I could enter from West and drive along Going to the Sun and make stops at scenic points and maybe do hidden lake overlook hike and sunset at wild goose island overlook
    Where do i stay ? Somewhere East? Any recommendations? Maybe St Mary area since next day i hike highline?

    2) Day 2, hike the highline trail early AM – spend evening just roaming around somewhere on Going to the Sun road – Spend night maybe at Many Glacier?

    3) Day 3 – Hike Grinnel Glacier (hence maybe day 2 night = Many glacier area hotel makes sense?)

    4) Day 4 – Hike Iceberg lake and go back to Many glacier?

    5) Day 5 – drive to Kalispell and take a noon-ish flight back.

    Looking at this itinerary, where do you think I should stay at the end of Day 1,2,3,4?

    Thanks in advance !!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Hello Joe. That looks like a great itinerary! As far as where to stay, here is what I recommend. For day 1, the best place to stay is the St. Mary area, since it is 30 minutes from Logan Pass (West Glacier works too but it will be an hour drive). For day 2 and 3 stay in Many Glacier, since the rest of your hikes will start here. Plus, we really like this area, it’s beautiful. Finally, for day 4, you can also stay in Many Glacier or you can stay in West Glacier, if you want to do less driving on day 5. I hope you have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Joe
        Joe

        Thanks !!

        Any recommendations for where i can find last minute stays in ST Mary’s or Many glacier? You think i have a chance with anything inside the park if folks cancel, etc?

        1. Avatar for Julie Post
          Author
          Julie

          In 2019, I was able to book our Many Glacier lodging in June for a visit in August (but I think I got extremely lucky). If lodging in Many Glacier is not available, keep calling or checking the websites for openings. As for lodging in St. Mary, you can check Booking.com, Trip Advisor, Air BnB, and VRBO to see if anything is available. But there are not many options on the east side of the park, particularly those that get good reviews. Good luck! Cheers, Julie

          1. Avatar for Joe
          2. Avatar for Joe
            Joe

            Hi Julie !!

            Just wrapped up a 4d trip to Glacier NP. I was kinda bummed that they didn’t have highline trail open (till the day i was actually flying out 🙁 ) but I did it from the loop and like you said it was hard but rewarding (I made it all the way to the Grinnell glacier viewpoint which was about 12 miles roundtrip). While the iceberg trail was closed because of bear activity, the alternate Ptarmigan tunnel trail was epic and well worth it !! The Grinnell Falls (since the actual Grinnell glacier trail was closed 1.5miles from its end because of ice/snow) and lower Grinnell lake were epic too. For good measure I even did St Mary’s, Virginia and Baring waterfalls and the snow hike to Hidden lake overloop was fun slipping and sliding all the way !! (saw so many mountain goats). Thanks again for all your suggestions !

          3. Avatar for Julie Post
            Author
            Julie

            Sounds like you had a great visit, despite all of the disruptions and closed trails. We haven’t done it yet but several people have raved about and highly recommended Ptarmigan tunnel so I’m glad you got to do that one. Happy travels to where ever you go next. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Emily Barker
    Emily Barker

    Do you have any ideas of where to stay in east glacier near many glacier? I don’t see any availability in the hotels you suggested. Thank you!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
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