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Glacier National Park Montana is a massive 1-million-acre wonderland characterized by soaring mountain peaks, teal blue lakes and tumbling waterfalls. We created the perfect Glacier National Park Itinerary to help fellow travelers to Montana experience the best of this incredible area.
Driving and hiking to scenic viewpoints are highlights of any Glacier National Park vacation. However, planning what to do in Glacier National Park Montana – and in what order – can be a real challenge. No worries; we are here to help! In our detailed Glacier National Park trip itinerary, we show you the best way to tour GNP.
Plan The Best Trip to Glacier National Park Montana
Planning a trip to Glacier National Park is no easy task. Nicknamed ‘The Crown of the Continent’ – the park is enormous – and beautiful scenery is literally around every corner. Deciding where to start your visit to Montana can be overwhelming and creating a complete Glacier National Park itinerary can be stressful.
How to plan a trip to Glacier National Park will depend on your interests, budget and overall time allotted for your Montana trip. In our Glacier Itinerary, we include top Glacier National Park things to do…and a few hidden gems as well!
We traveled to the park as a couple, but our Glacier National Park vacation planner can be used by anyone. Whether you are planning a Glacier National Park honeymoon itinerary, a family trip to Glacier National Park or a solo GNP adventure, you can use our itinerary to plan your trip to Glacier NP!
Pro Tip: Get (and stay) organized for your Montana vacation with our Trip Planning Printables!
3 Day Trip: Glacier National Park Itinerary
In our Glacier National Park trip planner, we outline how to spend 3 days in Glacier NP. We think creating an itinerary for 3 days in Glacier National Park is just enough time to experience the highlights. That said, 3 days in Glacier N.P. might not be the right amount of time for your trip.
How Many Days to Spend in Glacier National Park?
If you are asking the question, How many days do you need in Glacier National Park?, you are not alone. We, too, struggled with how long to spend at Glacier National Park. We ended up staying near West Glacier for an entire month…and never got bored of our almost daily GNP adventures.
How Many Days for Glacier National Park is Enough?
We understand that not everyone has a month to spend in Montana – and we contemplated how many days at Glacier National Park are needed to see just the incredible highlights. In our estimation, 3 days in Glacier National Park is an ideal amount of time. Therefore, we created our itinerary for how to see Glacier National Park for 3 days.
What if I Have More or Less than Three Days in Glacier National Park?
Visitors planning 3-day Glacier National Park vacations can use our Glacier National Park outline as it is written. That said, if you are still unsure how many days to spend at Glacier National Park, we outline the best way to spend more – or less – time as well.
At the end of the article, you will find our alternate Glacier NP itineraries for the top things to do at Glacier National Park in 1 to 7 days. With our tips, you can easily plan your best itinerary for GNP.
Planning a longer Montana trip? Use our guide to the Best Montana Road Trip!
Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days
Our itinerary for Glacier National Park includes everything you need to plan your trip to GNP. In addition to summarizing a plan for 3 days in Glacier NP, we also detail other pertinent Montana travel information; like how to get there and where to stay.
Furthermore, we provide information about what to pack for Glacier National Park, the best time of year to visit Glacier National Park and the essential 2023 ticketed entry for GNP.
Tips about Our Glacier National Park Itinerary
For this GNP itinerary, we recommend staying in West Glacier – either in the park or outside of the West Entrance in one of the nearby towns.
Hiking is one of the top activities in Glacier National Park – and we feature many of the best easy to moderate hikes in our trip plan. For complete details about each hike, be sure to also read our Hike Glacier National Park guide.
Our sample Glacier NP Itinerary includes 3 full days of sightseeing and outdoor adventures. However, heavy crowds and foul weather can wreak havoc on any Glacier National Park trip plan. With only 3 days in Glacier NP, we highly recommend having a backup plan to each day’s activities. To help, we offer alternatives throughout our Glacier National Park Montana Itinerary.
Save, Pin or Bookmark our Glacier NP Itinerary so that you can access it while planning your trip to Montana!
Day 1 of 3 Days in Glacier National Park: WEST GLACIER
On Day 1 of your Glacier National Park Trip Itinerary explore the hikes and lakes in West Glacier. Bring a packed lunch and plenty of water so that you can enjoy the entire day outdoors.
Hike to Avalanche Lake in the Morning
Kick off your Montana trip with one of the top activities in Glacier National Park: Hike up to picture-perfect Avalanche Lake. Although this Glacier hike is considered moderate, hikers who complete the trek are rewarded with an absolutely grand vista. Consider spending some time at Avalanche Lake to relax, swim or have a picnic.
Pro Tip: You will want to get to the park early to snag a parking space at the Avalanche Lake trailhead. If there are no spaces available, be patient and circle around a few times or find a spot further along the road and walk back.
Drive to Logan Pass in the Afternoon
In the early afternoon, continue driving east on Going To The Sun Road to Logan Pass. The pass marks the Continental Divide – and is the starting point for two fabulous Glacier hikes: Hidden Lake Overlook and the Highline Trail.
While avid hikers will want to set off on these iconic Glacier NP hikes, those not interested in hiking can still take in the fabulous views.
Stop into the Logan Pass Visitor Center for trail maps, interesting displays and souvenirs from the bookshop. Visitors can also obtain information about National Park Service Ranger-led Activities.
Pro Tip: The drive on Going To The Sun Road between Avalanche Lake and Logan Pass is the prettiest section – and there are several pull-offs to stop and take in some of the truly incredible Glacier National Park views. As you will be returning to West Glacier after visiting Logan Pass, you can stop at some on the way up and others on the way back.
Watch Sunset at Lake McDonald in the Evening
End your first day of your 3 Day Itinerary Glacier National Park along the water and watch the glow of the setting sun over Lake McDonald. There are numerous places to stop along the 10-mile long lake – our favorite spot is a small unnamed beach (MAP). To really enjoy the shifting light, we bring folding chairs (but we have seen others use a blanket or hammock) and a cooler with drinks and snacks. Just remember to pack out whatever you pack in – and leave no trace!
Alternate Glacier NP Itinerary Suggestions for Day 1
Whether you are looking for easier hikes, less driving, optional activities or alternate parking, consider these other options of top things to do in Glacier National Park.
Hike Johns Lake Loop and/or Upper McDonald Creek Trails
The hike at Johns Lake and Upper McDonald Creek are less strenuous than Avalanche Lake – and, as they are less crowded, there tends to be more parking, as well.
No-Hike Glacier NP Viewpoints
GNP visitors do not need to hike to find outstanding scenery – there are scenic viewpoints all along Going To The Sun Road. A few of our favorites in West Glacier are McDonald Falls, Sacred Dancing Cascade and Weeping Wall/Paradise Meadow. The Loop, Big Bend and Oberlin Bend are also good viewpoints on the way to Logan Pass and taking in the scenery is one of the top things to do Glacier National Park.
Kayak Lake McDonald
Kayaking at Glacier National Park is a top activity – and a phenomenal way to gain a different perspective of the park. Kayak rentals on Lake McDonald are available near the Apgar Visitor Center.
Day 2 of your Glacier National Park 3 Day Itinerary: EAST GLACIER
On the second day of your Glacier Park Itinerary, discover the beauty of East Glacier. As you will be traveling to the opposite side of the park, you will need to get an early start.
Drive Going To The Sun Road in the Morning to Glacier National Park East
Start your day early (and we mean really early!) and drive the entire length of Going To The Sun Road. Note how different the mountains look in the morning light – compared to the late afternoon from the previous day.
Consider making a stop at St. Mary Lake to hike to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. You will find all the details for these in our Glacier National Park Hiking article.
While there are an astounding number of roadside viewpoints along GTTS Road, don’t miss the viewpoint for Wild Goose Island. The Wild Goose Island Lookout offers an awe-inspiring panoramic view; in fact, the view is said to be the most photographed point in all of Glacier National Park.
Many Glacier by Mid-Day
At East Glacier, drive through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and the small town of Babb to Many Glacier – one of the most picturesque places in Glacier NP. Make your way to Swiftcurrent Lake – the site of the historic Many Glacier Lodge – and stretch your legs on the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail.
Pro Tip: If you didn’t bring lunch, consider a sit-down meal with a fabulous view at the Ptarmigan Dining Room (or, if the dining room is full booked, try the lounge or snack shop, which are also located within the Many Glacier Lodge).
Two Medicine in the late Afternoon
Arrive at Two Medicine Lake by late afternoon and hop on a boat to discover a lesser-visited part of Glacier Park. Sinopah, a historic wooden boat, takes guests to the upper west shoreline of the lake – where passengers can opt to depart for a hike (and take a boat back afterwards).
In addition to the enjoying the stellar East Glacier views, guests will learn about the Blackfeet Tribe and the region during the boat ride. On your way out of Two Medicine, make a quick stop at Running Eagle Falls for a short walk to a unique waterfall.
Pro Tip: Rather than returning on Going To The Sun Road, consider taking Highway 2, which rounds the southern end of Glacier NP. If there is still daylight left – and it is Spring or Summer – make a stop at Goat Lick Overlook and try to spot mountain goats!
Alternate Glacier National Park Trip Plan for Day 2
Day 2 of our itinerary for Glacier National Park includes epic scenery…and covers some miles. We have a few alternate itinerary suggestions and tips to cut down on drive times.
Choose between Many Glacier or Two Medicine
Rather than trying to visit both regions of East Glacier, choose to either spend time at Many Glacier or Two Medicine. Both areas offer ample opportunities for boating and hiking. In fact, if you limit your itinerary to just seeing Many Glacier and are an avid hiker, embark on the challenging and beautiful Grinnell Glacier Trail. Just be aware that completing the strenuous Grinnell Glacier Hike is a full day adventure.
Only Drive Going To The Sun Road to St. Mary Lake
St. Mary is the second-largest lake in Glacier National Park. Offering scenic overlooks (the aforementioned Wild Goose Island is on St. Mary Lake), incredible hikes, boat rides and amazing wildlife spotting opportunities, visitors could spend an entire day in East Glacier at Saint Mary Lake.
Stay in East Glacier National Park
Depending on your overall Montana trip plan, consider staying in East Glacier for the night. In order to fit this into our itinerary for Glacier NP, we recommend rearranging our 3-day trip plan by swapping days 2 and 3.
Limit Your Exploration to West Glacier
To completely avoid the drive to East Glacier, spend the day diving deeper into West Glacier with additional Glacier hikes or participating in one of the fun park activities (which you can learn about later in the post).
Day 3 of your 3-Day Itinerary Glacier National Park: NORTH GLACIER
On the last day of your Glacier National Park 3 Days Itinerary, travel north to a historic Montana town and remote lake. While you will want to bring sufficient water, you can pick up lunch (and treats) on the route.
Drive to Polebridge, Montana in the Morning
In the morning, make the drive over unpaved roads to Polebridge (use Camas Road and Outside North Fork Road) – and keep an eye out for Montana wildlife along the way. At the historic town of Polebridge is the popular Polebridge Mercantile (or simply the Merc), which has been in operation since 1914. The small shop is famous for Huckleberry Bear Claws – but everything they make is delicious! You can grab food to go for lunch from the Merc, too.
Spend the Afternoon at Lake Bowman
After your stop in Polebridge, re-enter the park and make the bumpy drive over gravel roads to Bowman Lake – one of our absolute favorite places in Glacier National Park. Spectacular, serene and secluded, Lake Bowman is the perfect place to sit back and appreciate the natural beauty of GNP. Besides staring at the awe-inspiring scene, visitors can take a swim, kayak or go for a peaceful Bowman Lake shoreline hike.
Watch Sunset from Rocky Point in the Evening
End your Glacier National Park trip in a quiet spot with an unforgettable view: Rocky Point. It is just a short hike up to the rocky outcrop – and a phenomenal place to savor the inspiring Montana scenery. As the shadows grow long and the sun starts to set, the light illuminates the Glacier mountain peaks – creating an unforgettable moment. We think it is one of the best sights in Glacier National Park!
Alternate Itinerary for Glacier National Park for Day 3
If you are not up for a trip north over unpaved roads, consider spending your last day in Glacier National Park doing one of the following activities.
All Day Hike at Logan Pass
Tackle one of the most incredible hikes in Glacier National Park on the Highline Trail. Trekkers can start at Logan Pass, hike up to Grinnell Glacier Overlook, continue on to Granite Park Chalet and complete the 16 mile hike at The Loop (then catch a ride back to Logan Pass on the GNP shuttlebus or by hitchhiking).
More Montana Hikes and Viewpoints
Another way to spend your final day in Glacier NP is to take any other hikes or visit any viewpoints that you missed on your first two days because of parking issues or inclement weather. We outline additional GNP activity options in the next section as well!
More Things To Do: Glacier National Park
We highlighted our favorite Glacier National Park activities, but there are many more things to do in Glacier NP! As we already mentioned, choosing what to do at Glacier National Park will depend on your personal interests, budget and energy level.
Guided Hiking Tours
The trails in GNP can be intimidating – and many hikers are more comfortable letting a guide lead the way. There are park-sponsored Ranger-led talks, walks and hikes that visitors can join; information is available at ranger stations and the visitor centers.
Additionally, visitors can hire guides for organized or private hikes and tours. Glacier Institute is one of many companies that offer guided expeditions.
Horseback Riding Glacier National Park
On vacations to Glacier National Park, a unique way to see the sights is on horseback. Visitors can join one of the horseback riding tours in Glacier NP that follow popular hiking trails – or get off the beaten path and take an overnight trip into the backcountry.
Glacier National Park Rafting and Floating
Rafting down the Flathead River is an exciting way to spend a day in astounding scenery! There are several companies that offer rafting trips that you could include on your Glacier National Park Itinerary. This rafting tour is led by a professional rafting guide and is suitable for beginners as well as seasoned rafters. Tours depart in the morning or afternoon. Get the details!
Travelers looking for a more relaxing ride down the river can join a scenic floating tour on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Rather than battling the rapids, enjoy the serenity and beauty. The tour can even be upgraded to include a riverside dinner. Find out more!
Fishing in Glacier National Park
Many people wonder if you can fish in Glacier National Park – and the answer is yes! In fact, Glacier National Park fly fishing is one of the top activities to do in Glacier NP. There are some exclusions and catch limits for fishing at Glacier, so you will want to check the regulations. If you don’t have your own fishing gear, there are plenty of places where you can rent it either in or near the park.
Glacier National Park Kayaking, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding and Swimming
Renting a Glacier National Park kayak or stand up paddle board and spending a couple of hours on (or in!) a crystal-clear lake are some of the highly rated park activities. In addition to kayaking in Glacier National Park, visitors can rent canoes, rowboats or just jump right in for an invigorating swim! Rentals are available at Lake McDonald, Two Medicine and Swiftcurrent Lake.
Glacier National Park Tips for Swimming
The crystal-clear lakes and streams of Montana are perfect for a refreshing swim after a long day in the park and on the trails. There are plenty of places to wade or jump in the water at Glacier. Just be aware of your surroundings and use caution, as the water is chilly, currents can be strong and rocks beneath the water can be slippery.
Biking Glacier National Park
Bicycling in Glacier National Park is permitted on roads (including Going To The Sun Road) and a few select trails. While avid cyclists may like the challenge of biking uphill to Logan Pass, there are electric bike rentals and downhill tours available as well.
Red Bus Glacier National Park Driving Tour
One of the best Glacier National Park tours, the Red Bus Tours in GNP are iconic. The historic red buses have been transporting passengers through the park for more than 100 years. With limited seating, it is essential to book in advance to ensure you get a spot.
Find more information about these Glacier NP activities and Glacier National Park tours at one of the Visitor’s Centers.
Glacier National Park: How Many Days?
Deciding how many days to visit Glacier National Park can be quite the conundrum. Ultimately, you will need to determine how long to spend in Glacier National Park based on your interests, budget and overall time limits for your trip.
Above we highlighted what to see in Glacier National Park in 3 Days, but what if you have more – or less – time? We have devised a few more Glacier National Park Itineraries that cover 1 to 7 days in Glacier NP that can help you decide how many days in Glacier National Park for your trip.
Day Trip to Glacier National Park
Trying to visit Glacier National Park in one day is a big feat and not one we recommend. The park is humungous and there is so much to see. However, if one day is all you have, then we recommend making the most of your time.
One Day Itinerary for Glacier National Park
The best way to see Glacier National Park in a day is to get an early start! With just one day it is possible to see the Glacier National Park highlights, but you will need to have a solid plan.
Begin with an easy to moderate hike in West Glacier that can be accessed easily from Going To The Sun Road (like Johns Lake Loop or Avalanche Lake). After your hike, continue to Logan Pass and make a quick stop to take in the views. Be in Many Glacier by the afternoon for an easy hike around Swiftcurrent Lake, then end the day in Two Medicine.
Glacier National Park Itinerary 2 Days
With 2 Days in Glacier National Park, visitors should choose two areas to explore: East and West or West and North. Either way, the two days will be filled with epic nature.
Glacier National Park 2-Day Itinerary
To plan a trip to Glacier National Park in 2 days, you can use our above outline – choosing Day 1 and Day 2 (West and East) or Day 1 and Day 3 (West and North).
Alternatively, really ambitious travelers could pack in a lot more sightseeing. With two days in Glacier National Park, start Day 1 at the crack of dawn and drive to Lake Bowman in the morning, then hike Avalanche Lake in the afternoon and spend the evening on Lake McDonald. On Day 2, drive Going To The Sun Road to East Glacier and visit both Many Glacier and Two Medicine.
Alternate Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days
We have offered a detailed outline of the best 3-day vacation to Glacier National Park. However, we have tips for travelers who would rather plan a vacation in Glacier National Park that requires less driving and more hiking.
Alternate 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary
Rather than driving to different areas of the park, base yourself in either East or West Glacier and fully explore it. For example, if you stay in West Glacier, spend one day hiking McDonald Lake and Avalanche. On the second day, drive to Logan Pass and hike the Highline and the Hidden Lake Trail. Then, on the last day, head north to Bowman Lake via Polebridge.
Glacier National Park Itinerary 4 Days
On a 4-day trip to Glacier National Park, visitors can spend more time in nature – either hiking or participating in one of the other park activities.
Glacier National Park 4-Day Itinerary
We think the best way to spend 4 days in Glacier National Park is to use our outlined 3 Days in Glacier National Park Itinerary, then on the last day, hike the complete Highline Trail. Another way to plan a Glacier National Park 4-day trip would be to select one of the activities – like rafting or horseback riding – for your last day.
Glacier National Park Itinerary 5 Days
Creating a 5-Day Itinerary Glacier National Park allows visitors the opportunity to truly enjoy the splendid nature on offer.
Glacier National Park 5-Day Itinerary
With 5 days in Glacier National Park, we recommend spending 2 nights in West Glacier and 3 nights in East Glacier. Spend the first day at McDonald and Avalanche (as outlined in Day 1). On Day 2, go to Bowman (which is Day 3 in our 3-Day Glacier NP Itinerary). For Day 3, check out of your accommodations early and spend the day hiking at Logan Pass or St. Mary Lake – then make your way to your East Glacier accommodations. Spend Day 4 at Many Glacier and Day 5 at Two Medicine.
Glacier National Park Itinerary 7 Days
Spending 7 days in Glacier National Park is ideal for visitors who really want to immerse themselves in nature.
Glacier National Park 7-Day Itinerary
To create an optimal 7 Day Itinerary Glacier National Park, we recommend splitting your time between East and West Glacier. Use our 5-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary above, then add one additional day to each side of the park.
For example, spend the first day at McDonald and Avalanche (as outlined in Day 1). On Day 2 go to Bowman, then on Day 3, go horseback riding or rafting. On Day 4, check out of your West Glacier accommodations early and spend the day hiking at Logan Pass or St. Mary Lake – then check in to your East Glacier accommodations.
Spend Day 5 at Many Glacier hiking the trails around the lake. On Day 6, learn more about the Blackfeet Tribe by visiting museums, hiring a Native American fishing guide or attending a pow wow. Spend your last day at Two Medicine, where you can take an early boat ride, go for a hike and catch an afternoon boat ride back.
More Itineraries for Glacier National Park
We have outlined the best 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary – and how to plan a trip to Glacier NP with more or less time. However, you can also create a Glacier Itinerary that originates in nearby…and one that includes both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
Glacier National Park and Yellowstone Itinerary
Using our Glacier National Park suggested itinerary, you can easily create a longer Montana trip by adding Yellowstone National Park to your plan. To create a One-Week Yellowstone and Glacier National Park Itinerary, use this helpful Yellowstone trip plan.
Waterton Lakes and Glacier National Parks Itinerary
The same beauty that is found in Glacier National Park extends north of the US-Canada border into Waterton Lakes National Park. In fact, the two parks combined are called Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors can plan a Waterton-Glacier Itinerary that explores the Canadian side of the Crown of the Continent using these tips on Waterton NP.
That said, we have a few tips of our own. First, don’t forget your passport – as you will need it to cross the Canadian border! Trekkers looking to hit the trails should aim for one of the best in the park, like Crypt Lake Trail, Carthew-Alderson or Akamina Ridge. Travelers who want to stay in Waterton Lakes NP should book a room at The Prince of Wales Hotel – and enjoy an afternoon of high tea, too!
Spokane to Glacier National Park Itinerary
Many travelers opt to take a road trip journey to GNP from Spokane, Washington – as there are often cheap flights to Spokane airport (more tips about flying to Glacier NP later). There are a few different routes you can take from Spokane to Glacier NP – and many sights to see along the way.
First, spend some Exploring Spokane like we did! For a scenic drive to Glacier from Spokane, we recommend driving east from Spokane to Coeur d’Alene, then north to Kootenai Falls. Next, hop on the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway to Whitefish and Kalispell – and complete the drive to Glacier National Park. You can find tips on this route in our Ultimate Montana Road Trip article.
Missoula to Glacier National Park Itinerary
Missoula, Montana is another great starting point for a trip to National Park Glacier.
After seeing the Sights in Missoula, embark on a road trip journey north. Sights to see along the way are the Bison Range, Buddha Garden and Flathead Lake (among others!). Use our Road Trip in Montana for more details of what to see from Missoula to Glacier NP.
Looking for more fabulous trips in the United States? Use our guide to the Best Weekend Getaways in USA!
Glacier National Park Tips for Your Itinerary
Now that we have outlined the top things to do in Glacier National Park and the best way to spend time there, we have a few more tips to help you plan your trip to Glacier.
Glacier National Park Fee
There are weekly (7-day) and Annual Glacier National Park passes – but no daily pass. As of 2023, the Weekly Glacier National Park Pass cost $35 USD and the Annual Glacier NP Pass cost $70. Passes can be purchased in person at any entrance gate when the booths are staffed or online.
America The Beautiful Pass
If you plan on visiting any other national or federal parks within a year, the America The Beautiful interagency pass is the best deal. Glacier NP and 2,000 other federal recreation sites can be visited with an America The Beautiful Pass. The annual pass costs $80 USD and can be purchased at GNP or online.
Top Tip: US Military members, Volunteers and 4th Grade Students are offered free annual America The Beautiful passes. Additionally, there are discounted Senior passes available.
Pro Tip: Remember to pick up a free and useful Glacier National Park visitors guide at the entrance!
New 2023 Additional Ticket for Daily Vehicle Use in the Park
In addition to a park pass, for summer 2023, visitors will need to purchase a Entry Reservation Ticket in order to enter specific areas – including Going To The Sun Road.
Not only is there Going To The Sun Road ticketed entry for 2023, but visitors also need a Vehicle Reservation Pass to enter North Fork, Many Glacier and Two Medicine. Each location has specific details – including the dates the passes are required and how long the passes are valid.
For example, passes for Going To The Sun Road from both the West Entrance and St. Mary Entrance are good for 3 consecutive days, while the other passes are only good for one day.
The Vehicle Reservation Passes are available online, but only a limited number of tickets are sold for each day. Visitors can purchase the tickets about 120 days in advance – and any cancelled reservations will become available again 24 hour prior.
Find current information about when the extra ticket will be required and how to purchase it on the official GNP website.
How To Visit Glacier National Park without a Vehicle Reservation Ticket
There is no doubt that driving Going To The Sun Road and visiting the other extra ticketed areas are highlights of our Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days. However, travelers who are unable to secure the Vehicle Reservation Pass for GNP have a few options.
First, the passes are only required for entry between the hours of 6am and 3pm – so visitors who are unable to get a pass can enter the park very early in the morning or in the late afternoon.
Second, visitors who stay inside the park at one of the GNP accommodations don’t need the extra pass (however, these reservations are booked out far in advance!).
Finally, visitors who make advance reservations for in-park activities – like a boat tour – are exempt from purchasing a pass for that day.
Driving Glacier National Park Going To The Sun Road
Taking a road trip through Glacier National Park is one of the best ways to experience it…and one of the best drives in Glacier National Park is Going To The Sun Road.
The route, which extends from Glacier National Park West Entrance to the Saint Mary Entrance in East Glacier, features sweeping panoramic mountain views, epic lake vistas and plenty of places to stop and admire the beauty.
That said, it’s a narrow, winding road on the side of a cliff and is prone to congestion (even with the ticketing systems). When too crowded, the Park Rangers will not hesitate shutting the road down for a couple of hours to let it clear out (always have a Plan B when visiting GNP).
Tips for Getting Around Glacier National Park in a Car
It is important to note that not all the roads are paved (the gravel road to Bowman Lake is notoriously rough!). Road construction projects can also cause havoc in and around the park. It’s essential to keep up to date with the current conditions and road projects.
Drivers (and passengers!) can enhance their drive through the park with GNP Commentary that highlights the history of the park and insider stories. Get it here!
To succeed at driving in Glacier National Park, we suggest slowing down, enjoying the scenery and being patient. Read all our tips and advice for a Road Trip to Glacier National Park!
Is a Car Necessary for Visiting Glacier National Park?
We think touring Glacier National Park by car (and then hiking) is the best way to experience the vast natural landscapes. That said, driving is one of the most frustrating parts of visiting the park – as roads are congested and parking lots are often full.
Travelers not interested in fighting the crowds can opt to go car-free…with some limitations. The best way to visit Glacier National Park without a car is to utilize the park’s free shuttle service. The Glacier summer shuttle bus stops at major points of interest and trailheads, but bear in mind that it’s a first-come, first-serve shuttle – so waiting may be required.
Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park
Deciding when to visit Glacier National Park is an important first step of planning your trip. Our above outlined itinerary is best suited for summer and autumn visitors, which we think is the best time to go to Glacier National Park. While the park is technically open year-round, activities are extremely limited during the long winter (which can last up to 6 months).
Glacier National Park: Montana Weather
The weather in Glacier National Park can be as wild as the animals. It can snow in July and be hot in October. Generally speaking, the summer months are warm, but with cool evenings. Winters are cold, snowy and sometimes windy, too. Spring and autumn are completely unpredictable.
Best Month To Visit Glacier National Park
Determining the best time to go to Glacier National Park will depend on your interests. Below, we offer a little insight regarding what to expect in each season so that you can plan your Glacier park trip.
Glacier National Park in Summer
Due to the pleasant weather, summer is the best time to travel to Glacier National Park to enjoy the outdoors. Temperatures top in the mid-80s and there is usually little precipitation. Although not guaranteed, it is likely that all of the roads and hiking trails will be open during July and August. The downside, however, is that the crowds will be full-on.
Glacier National Park in Fall
We, personally, think the best time to see Glacier National Park is in the autumn, when the crowds are lighter, the air is crisp and the leaves start changing color. That said, the weather can be erratic and some park services are already closed by mid-to-late-autumn.
During our month-long trip to Glacier National Park in the fall, we experienced warm sunshine, a few days of rain, an entire week of smoke (from nearby wildfires) and the first dusting of snow.
We also experienced the absolutely stunning autumn leaves and a bout of unusually warm weather (high temperatures were still in the 70s through the first week of October!). Regardless, most of the facilities were closing for winter (including restrooms and water sources).
Glacier National Park in Winter
Most of GNP is closed during the long and brutal winter – including visitor centers, restroom facilities and all but 10 miles of the Going To The Sun Road. Highlights of the park in wintertime are snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
Glacier National Park in Spring
Winter-like conditions last through most of the spring…and much of the lower areas are wet and sloppy. Because facilities and most roads remain closed until at least late May, it is a very unpopular time to visit. However, there are some perks to visiting in the spring! First, the crowds are extremely light and, second, wildlife is abundant as it awakens from a sleepy slumber.
Getting To Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park is located in northwest Montana, near the town of Kalispell. As we mentioned, the beautiful nature of GNP extends into the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Glacier NP can be reached by plane, train or car. One of the first things you need to do when planning a trip to Glacier National Park is figure out how to get there.
Glacier National Park Airport
The Glacier Park International Airport is the closest airport to Glacier NP. Located in north Kalispell, it’s just 25 miles from Glacier NP West Entrance.
For our trip, we flew from Portland (PDX) to Glacier Airport (FCA). Served by all major US airlines, it is the best way to fly to Glacier National Park.
However, FCA isn’t the only place to fly into when visiting Glacier National Park. Other nearby airports that are within a few hours drive are Missoula, Spokane or even Bozeman.
Glacier National Park Amtrak
Visitors can also get to Glacier National Park by train! The Empire Builder Amtrak line, which extends from Chicago to Seattle, makes stops at Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex and East Glacier Stations.
Travelers opting to stay in Whitefish, for example, can take the train to Glacier National Park via the East Glacier Station. Once in East Glacier, a shuttle or rental car can get you the rest of the way.
Car Rental for Glacier National Park
In most of our travels, we prefer to be car-free – instead opting to use public transport and Uber to get around the places we visit. In Montana, however, that is impossible. A key factor when planning your Glacier National Park 3 Day Itinerary is renting a car.
Glacier National Park Car Rental
One of our top tips for visiting Glacier National Park is to rent the right vehicle. We completely underestimated how much driving is required when visiting Glacier National Park.
For our trip, we foolishly booked a compact car. Thankfully, we hit a stroke of good luck and were upgraded to a Subaru Forester – a Mid-Size SUV – which was much better for navigating the roads in GNP! Strat your search here for the best rates and options for car rentals.
Where To Stay at Glacier National Park
When we first started searching for places to stay in Glacier National Park, we were a bit overwhelmed. Guests have a choice of accommodations inside the park, outside the west entrance, outside the east entrance and in nearby cities.
Staying Inside the Park
One of the fun things to do in Glacier National Park is to stay onsite. Accommodations range from historic lodges and rustic cabins to reserved campgrounds and primitive camping sites. While staying inside Glacier National Park would be epic, guests will need to plan their Glacier National Park trip itinerary far in advance.
Visitors who want to get reservations in a cabin or one of the lodges inside Glacier NP should look at Lake McDonald Lodge, Village Inn at Apgar, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins, Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins, Many Glacier Hotel and Cedar Creek Lodge.
Staying Outside the Park
Outside of the park, in nearby towns like West Glacier, Coram and Hungry Horse, there are additional options for places to stay. Glacier Outdoor Center Chalets, Sky Eco Cabins and Under Canvas Glamping are just a few of the top-rated spots, which can be reserved on Booking.com.
Travelers looking for unique hotels near Glacier National Park should consider the Isaak Walton Inn. Located about halfway between the East and West park entrances in the town of Essex, visitors can opt to stay in one of the luxury converted train cars!
Before booking, use our tips for Finding the Best Hotel Deals!
Airbnb Glacier National Park
For our trip to GNP, we went with our go-to accommodation resource: Airbnb. Luxury cabins, tiny homes, tipis and tent sites can all be found through Airbnb. While there are only a few accommodations listed on Airbnb inside the park, there are numerous options just beyond the entrances.
We stayed in a newly renovated house with a cozy cabin interior in Martin City – which is just a 15-minute drive to the West Glacier NP Entrance. The location was our main priority, but we absolutely loved having our own kitchen, BBQ, firepit, washer and dryer along with a very comfortable place to relax after long days exploring Montana.
Not already a member of Airbnb? Read our Top Tips for Airbnb Guests!
Glacier National Park Cabins
Renting a Glacier National Park cabin in Swiftcurrent or Rising Sun would be phenomenal…but there are only a few available. On the other hand, there are hundreds of cabins at Glacier National Park outside of the park where visitors can stay. Cabin accommodations range from basic to extravagant, with prices to match. To find your perfect cabin, we recommend searching both Booking.com and Airbnb.
Camping in Glacier National Park
Visitors who want to spend a night in a tent under the stars within GNP have 13 campgrounds to choose from – which offer a combined total of more than 1,000 tent sites. Find out more on the official park website.
Camping Near Glacier National Park
Although there are 1,000 sites inside the park, they do fill up in the summertime. However, visitors can find campsites near Glacier National Park with ease. The West Glacier KOA Resort, located just 2.5 miles from the West Glacier Entrance, has tent sites, cabins and RV sites.
Backpack Glacier National Park
Visitors who want to get off the beaten path can discover hidden gems by backcountry backpacking Glacier National Park. Backcountry permits are required and backcountry campers should be well prepared for their trip.
Glacier National Park RV Park
Traveling to Glacier National Park with an RV can be a bit complicated – as there are size limits within the park (21 feet long, 10 feet high and 8 feet wide) and maneuvering larger vehicles on Going To The Sun Road and crowded parking lots can be a challenge. That said, there are plenty of places outside the park where visitors with RVs can park. In addition to West Glacier KOA Resort, West Glacier RV Park is another good option.
Eating and Drinking at GNP
Vacations to Glacier NP are not just about hiking and scenery – you have to eat, too!
There are just a handful of Glacier National Park restaurants where visitors can eat a meal inside the park. While some of the establishments are iconic (like the Many Glacier Lodge restaurant), seating is extremely limited and waiting for a table can take up a big part of your day.
Instead of eating at restaurants in Glacier National Park, we recommend bringing a portable lunch and snacks that you can eat at scenic overlooks or on hikes. We shopped for picnic lunch items at Smith’s – a large grocery store in Columbia Falls. There are mega stores – like Walmart and Target – in Kalispell, too.
Where to Eat on your Glacier NP Itinerary
There are not an abundance of dining options close to the park, but there are a few places to get a tasty meal in the towns near the West Glacier entrance.
Josephine’s Bar and Kitchen
Located off Highway 2 in Coram, Josephine’s is a fantastic little spot to grab some grub and a drink. Everything we ate at Josephine’s was fantastic – but we highly recommend their legendary Bison Gyro and the Spicy Trout Cakes.
Columbia Falls Restaurants
Columbia Falls is about a 20-minute drive from the West Entrance of Glacier NP. There are several restaurants in Columbia Falls where you can get a filling meal after a day of exploring. Nite Owl is known for their barbeque and Backslope Brewing offers modern food in a lively setting.
However, our top pick for food in Columbia Falls are the glutinous and oh-so-delish burgers at Mudman. The original Mudman Burger is a 1/3-pound patty topped with lettuce, tomato, cheese, bacon, homemade chili and secret sauce. It is decadent, messy and worth every calorie.
Bars Near Glacier National Park
We liked to end most of our days relaxing quietly lakeside watching the sunset with a chilled can of locally crafted beer. However, there are a few establishments to pop into for a drink that you can include on your Glacier National Park Itinerary.
Glacier Distilling Company
Featuring small-batch whiskeys made from locally sourced products, the Glacier Distilling Company tasting room in Coram makes for a fabulous stop. The distillery tasting flights are an optimal way to try the local spirits – and they sell bottles to go as well. Our favorite was the award-winning Fireweed Bourbon Whiskey, which is made with cherries from nearby Flathead Lake.
Packer’s Roost, Coram
A local bar that welcomes visitors, Packer’s Roost is a fun drinking establishment with a full line up of typical bar fare (and a few specialties). Whether you go for the booze, food or atmosphere, it is nearly guaranteed to be an interesting time!
Planning A Trip to Glacier National Park: What You Will Need
When packing for Glacier National Park, you will want to make sure you have the right gear. We have a few final travel tips and packing hacks for your Glacier NP trip.
Proper Shoes for Montana
Depending on which activities you plan for Glacier National Park, you will want to make sure you pack the right footwear! On our autumn trip, when the trails were mostly dry, I wore my everyday trainers and Kris wore Merrell trail shoes for hikes in the park – and they both worked great for us! However, a good pair of weather-proof hiking boots would be a much better option in other seasons. Find more travel footwear tips in our blog post, The Best Travel Shoes.
The weather at Glacier is…unpredictable. We experienced foggy valleys and clear peaks, sunny weather that quickly turned stormy and cold mornings followed by hot afternoons. We recommend wearing layers so that you can change your outfit as quickly as the Montana weather. For hiking, it is best to wear comfortable clothing made of breathable, moisture-wicking material.
Travel Camera and Binoculars
It is best to capture the beauty of GNP with a good camera that has a zoom lens. We use a Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens, which we actually thought was a slightly lacking for this trip. Instead, we wished we would have brought along our zoom 55-250mm lens so that we could have taken better photos of wildlife.
Binoculars are another thing we regret not having! We would have been able to better see mountain goats, big horn sheep and bears if we would have brought binoculars along on our trip.
Final Glacier National Park Travel Tips
By now, you are well on your way to planning your best itinerary for Glacier National Park! Whether it’s your first time to Glacier National Park or your tenth, this advice is essential.
Plan Ahead…Way Ahead
When planning a trip to GNP – even just a quick 3 Days Glacier National Park trip – you need to plan ahead.
For Glacier Park vacations, it’s best to book lodging (especially inside the park) at least a year in advance. Start looking at flights and car rentals – and get them booked – about 8 months before your trip. When you are 6 months out from your trip, take a look at the park website for extra ticket requirements – and set a reminder for when those tickets will be available so that you don’t miss out!
Stay Up To Date on GNP Info
After you have planned your itinerary for Glacier National Park, it is important to stay up to date with the latest information. From the time that you plan your Glacier Itinerary to actually experiencing 3 days in Glacier National Park a lot can change!
It’s not enough to show up with a simple Glacier National Park Map when visiting – you need to have the current status of the roads, trails and weather.
The official website is a good place to start – as is the National Park Service App (NPS App). However, be prepared for sudden road or parking lot closures due to overcrowding or bears. Also, always inquire and share information with the park rangers!
Visitors can also sign up for Glacier National Park text notifications.
- Text GNPROADS to 333111 for road closures.
- Text GNPTRAILS to 333111 for trail status – including postings and closures.
- Text GNPCGS to 333111 for campground availability.
Organize your 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary Details
Needless to say, staying organized is imperative when planning a Glacier trip itinerary! In addition to your daily sightseeing and hiking plans – and back up plans, if those fall through due to crowds, weather or closures – you also need to keep track of hotel reservations, car rental and ticketed activities.
We recommend using a travel planner for all the details your trip. Our Printable Travel Planner has 26 pages of travel planning organization…and you can get started right away!
More Travel Guides for your Glacier Park Vacation and Montana Adventures
In addition to this Glacier National Park travel blog post, we have also created articles that can help you plan your 3 days at Glacier National Park and the whole region.
- Our Top Glacier National Park Hiking Tips for Easy to Moderate Hikes
- Things To Do in Whitefish, Montana
- What To Do in Kalispell, MT
- Day Trip to Missoula, MT
- Planning the Ultimate Montana Road Trip
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