15 Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park: Unforgettable, Must-Have Experiences

You absolutely won’t be short of things to do in Glacier National Park! This national park in northwest Montana, which is arguably one of the top ten most beautiful national parks in the United States, has an overabundance of activities and must-see places that even a two week itinerary isn’t enough to cover all of the highlights.

From bucket list worthy hiking trails, to epic scenic drives, once in a lifetime wildlife viewing opportunities, unbelievable turquoise-colored lakes, wildflower-filled alpine meadows, and glaciers galore, Glacier National Park is guaranteed to sweep you off your feet!

Glacier National Park contains over one million acres of forest, holds two mountain ranges, has seven hundred miles of trails, over one hundred named lakes, and countless opportunities to make wonderful memories. It’s a bucket list destination for many and it is not hard to see why.

IMPORTANT UPDATE FOR 2022: If you will be visiting the park between May 27 and September 11, you will need a timed entry ticket to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Must See Areas In Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park can be broken up into four popular areas to explore; West Glacier, Logan Pass & Going-To-The-Sun Road, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine. Each of these areas offer something different but all of them have unbelievable beauty, and plenty to see and do!

Here is a brief overview to each section of the park. If you are visiting for one or two days, it is best to stick to exploring one or two areas of the park. Trying to cover all of Glacier National Park in one trip can be overwhelming if you only have a few days. Trust me when I say, it won’t be an enjoyable vacation if you spend the entire time sitting in a vehicle driving from one side of the park to the other.

West Glacier: West Glacier is the most popular section of Glacier National Park and where you’ll find the most lodging and camping options. Lake McDonald is the centerpiece here and many of the top activities revolve around the lake. You can enjoy incredible views, take a boat ride on the lake, canoe or kayak, rent bicycles, and of course, hike.

Logan Pass: Logan Pass is best known for Going-To-The-Sun Road, a road that connects Apgar Visitor Center on the west side of the park to the St Mary Visitor Center on the east side. This road travels through stunning high alpine landscapes and offers turnouts along the way for visitors to stop and take in the breathtaking views.

Many Glacier: Many Glacier is not as visited as West Glacier and Logan Pass but is still fairly busy. Visitors often state that this section of the park is their favorite and also the most beautiful. There are plenty of amazing hiking trails in Many Glacier and if seeing wildlife is high on your bucket list, this is the best place inside the park to view animals like moose and bears. See this list of the best things to do in Many Glacier before you go so that you don’t miss any of the highlights.

Two Medicine: Two Medicine is the least visited part of Glacier National Park and has a more remote feeling. Located on the east side of the park, Two Medicine has a number of great hiking trails, a large lake which you can tour by boat, and a beautiful campground.

  • Inspiration: If you want to learn more about visiting Glacier, you can see our Glacier National Park Travel Guide which covers the best time to visit, hiking trails, campground recommendations, sample itineraries, and important travel information.
  • Hiking: If you plan to hike, see this guide to the 17 most breathtaking hikes in Glacier National Park to help you decide which trails to put on your travel itinerary.
  • Getting Around: If you’ll be flying in to visit the park, you’re going to need a rental car to get around. See rentalcars.com to search for the best deals across all car rental companies.
  • Campervan & RV Rentals: For an alternative way to see and experience Glacier National Park, consider renting an RV or campervan. This way you can stay overnight inside the park at a campground instead of a hotel which will save you lots of money! See Outdoorsy and RV Share for campervan and RV rental availability in the area.

In this guide, we’ll cover all of the best things to do in Glacier National Park from West Glacier to Logan Pass, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine. Essentially, it is a bucket list of must see places and must have experiences. Hopefully you get to see and do as many of the highlights on this list as possible! And if you don’t get around to all of them on your first trip, there’s always a next time. Alright, let’s get to it!

Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park

1. Get Your Photo Taken At The Park Entrance Sign

Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park

First things first, you’ll need to get your photo taken with the Glacier National Park entrance sign upon entering the park. If you’re anything like us, we make a point of having our picture taken with every national park’s entrance sign. For us, it’s a tradition we like to do as we attempt to tick off every national park in the United States off our bucket list.

2. See Lake McDonald From Apgar Village

View Of Lake McDonald From Apgar Village In Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald is Glacier National Park’s largest lake and the center of activity on the west side of the park. With the lake’s southern shoreline less than two miles from the West Glacier entrance, Lake McDonald is the first stop for visitors entering the park.

Head straight to Apgar Village for the best introduction to Lake McDonald. From the lake’s southern shoreline, you can look out and see how truly vast this lake really is. In the distance you’ll see the park’s iconic peaks waiting for you to explore.

If you’re interested in photography, this is the best location to take photos of Lake McDonald. Most of the photos you see of Lake McDonald and Glacier National Park are taken from this perspective. This is because it is the best place to capture the reflections of the distant mountains on the rippled surface of the lake.

The mood of the lake changes with the light so depending on the time of day you visit and the weather, you could see Lake McDonald under happy big blue skies, during a peaceful pink sunset, or in the midst of a violent thunderstorm. Funnily enough, this can all happen within the same hour!

Whether you get up early enough to catch a sunrise, stop by after a day hike, or come for an afternoon stroll, you are in for one hell of a terrific show from this southern end of Lake McDonald.

3. Drive Around Lake McDonald And Explore The Shoreline

A Beach On The Shores Of Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald is massive! In fact, Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park!! This vast glacial lake is approximately ten miles long (that’s 16km for you Canadians and Aussies) and over a mile wide.

With a shoreline that’s ten miles long, you better believe it takes what seems like forever just to drive from one end to the other.

To give you an idea of how big Lake McDonald really is, open up google maps and take note of where Apgar Village is and then take a look at where Lake McDonald Lodge is. Now if you put the directions from one destination to the other, you’ll see that it’s about a twenty minute drive between the two. And the lodge isn’t even located at the far end of the lake.

Anyway, one of the top things to do in Glacier National Park as I mentioned above is to see Lake McDonald. Although Lake McDonald is best viewed from Apgar Village, the lake’s entire eastern shoreline can be explored along the Going-To-The-Sun Road which runs parallel to the lake. Along the road are several turnouts with lookout points and short trails that lead to pebbled beaches. I highly recommend taking the time to explore some of the peaceful bays found along the shoreline.

There is even a hiking trail (McDonald Lake Trail) that runs along the length of Lake McDonald’s western shoreline that you can complete. We did not have time to hike this trail on our previous trips but it is on our bucket list for next time.

4. Go Stand Up Paddleboarding On Lake McDonald

Stand Up Paddleboarding On Lake McDonald Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park

It’s one thing to see Lake McDonald from Apgar Village or from other viewpoints around the lake’s shoreline, but it is a much different experience exploring the lake from on it!

Exploring Lake McDonald from on the water allows you to experience how truly huge and magnificent the lake really is, to feel how incredibly cold its waters can be, and see how amazingly crystal clear the water is.

Stand up paddleboarding, or even kayaking around the lake is a fun way to spend a few hours in the park and will allow you to get to some places around the lake you wouldn’t be able to by car or on foot.

For example, we rented paddleboards and paddled over to the west side of the lake where the water seemed to be much clearer and prettier. We were also able to find some good places to hop off our paddleboards and go for a swim. If you’re visiting Glacier National Park in summer, this is the perfect activity to add to your itinerary.

5. Take A Refreshing Dip In A Glacial Lake

15 Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park

If you’re visiting Glacier National Park in summer, you should take the opportunity to jump into one of the park’s stunning glacial lakes and experience the refreshing waters here. There is truly nothing quite like it!

It’s such an invigorating activity and something you’ll never forget doing! I won’t lie, the water can be COLD but totally worth it on a hot summer day, especially if you’ve been out hiking.

Lake McDonald is a great lake for swimming and is the easiest to access if you don’t want to hike to an alpine lake. Bowman Lake is another great lake for swimming if you plan to visit the Polebridge area of the park.

In the Many Glacier area, both Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine are lakes you can swim in. And if you plan to hike to Iceberg Lake or visit Upper Grinnell Lake, you can brave these lake’s icy waters for a quick dip that you can brag about for the rest of your life!

6. Drive The Going-To-The-Sun Road

15 Unforgettable Things To Do In Glacier National Park

Going-To-The-Sun Road is not only the most scenic drive in Glacier National Park, but also one of the most beautiful drives in the United States. For fifty miles, this road leads from one spectacular viewpoint to another, over and over again.

Along the way are panoramic mountain views, alpine meadows filled with colorful wildflowers, glacial lakes, and waterfalls that will take your breath away.

The road connects Apgar Visitor Center on the west side of the park to the St Mary Visitor Center on the east side. There are several turnouts along the way to stop and enjoy the views, but the main place to stop and see the sights is where the Going-To-The-Sun Road crests at Logan Pass.

At Logan Pass, you’ll find a large parking lot (although it still fills up very early in the morning) and a Visitor Center. Also at Logan Pass are several trailheads for some of the park’s most popular hiking trails like the Highline Trail and the Hidden Lake Trail.

If there is only time to do one thing on your Glacier National Park trip, driving this extraordinary stretch of road should be at the top of your list of things to do. Because the road is so narrow and windy, and due to its popularity, driving it is incredibly slow-going. You’ll need to allow at least two hours to complete the drive from Lake McDonald to St Mary without stops. If you are staying in the West Glacier area, you’ll of course need to drive back the way you came, or drive around the park’s southern border on Highway 2.

You should also note that due to the road’s popularity, there is now a reservation system in place and you will need a permit to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road. Alternatively, you can use the park’s shuttle bus system to see and experience the drive.

7. Hike To Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake In Glacier National Park

Avalanche Lake ranks high on the list for best hikes in Glacier National Park. This relatively short and easy (easy-ish) hiking trail leads to one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

The stunning, emerald-colored Avalanche Lake which sits at the base of towering mountains that rise almost five thousand feet above the lake, seems like a destination out of a fantasy film. In the spring and summer, multiple waterfalls plummet from the cliffs that surround Avalanche Lake providing some spectacular visuals.

One of the reasons this hike is so popular with visitors to Glacier National Park is because the trail is perfect for beginner hikers and very family friendly.

The hike to Avalanche Lake begins from the Trail Of The Cedars Trailhead located off Going-To-The-Sun Road in the Lake McDonald Valley. As you walk through the Trail Of The Cedars, you’ll pass ancient trees that are more than five hundred years old! This forest of ancient western hemlocks and red cedars grow to heights of one hundred feet and diameters of up to seven feet!

Be sure to stop and marvel at these natural wonders before arriving at the spur trail to Avalanche Lake.

Once you begin the official Avalanche Lake hiking trail, you’ll pass Avalanche Gorge which is another highlight on the trail. After passing the gorge, there is a gradual slightly steep climb, but it won’t be long until you’re on the shores of Avalanche Lake!

Be sure to bring a picnic rug or some towels and a packed lunch so you have an excuse to stay up there longer and enjoy the views.

>>Read: How To Hike To Avalanche Lake In Glacier National Park

8. Go Whitewater Rafting

Do you enjoy adventurous activities? If so, then perhaps you should consider booking a whitewater rafting trip during your visit to Glacier National Park.

On these whitewater rafting trips, you’ll get to experience an exciting half day float on the middle fork section of the Flathead River. You’ll wind eight miles through a canyon and maneuver the raft over nine different rapids.

Don’t worry, you don’t need any prior experience because the rapids are rated class two and class three which basically means the rapids are only moderate to moderately difficult.

The journey starts on a four mile mellow section of the river giving you plenty of time to learn to paddle and to adjust to being on the water. The rapids come on the second four mile leg of the trip and this is when things really start to get exciting and involve navigating a rapid named Bonecrusher. At the end of the trip you’ll float under Glacier National Park’s historic Belton Bridge.

Are you interested? Learn more about the scenic raft trip here and the whitewater rafting trip here.

9. Hike The Highline Trail

Hiking The Highline Trail Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park

The Highline Trail is Glacier National Park’s most iconic hiking trail. This bucket list worthy hike begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and stretches all the way to Granite Park Chalet and then down to The Loop.

This epic hike is 11.6 miles one way and the trail travels high above Going-To-The-Sun Road while hugging the Garden Wall along the Continental Divide. You’ll hike through gorgeous alpine meadows, see jaw-dropping views of Glacier National Park’s valleys, and encounter endless rocky peaks. The views are truly phenomenal!

Wildlife sightings on the Highline Trail are very common and you can expect to encounter either grizzly bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, or marmots. Quite possibly you could see all of these animals on the trail!

The most incredible and fascinating stretch of the Highline Trail is the first two or three miles starting from Logan Pass. Here, the trail begins along a narrow trail that has been carved into the side of a cliff wall. Ropes are tethered to this rock wall to help with your balance.

If you don’t have time to complete the entire hike, you can always hike just a portion of it and then turn back. It’s up to you how far you want to hike. A good spot to turn back if you have half a day to spare is Haystack Butte which is 3.5 from the Logan Pass Trailhead.

The first time we visited Glacier National Park we only had time to hike part of the Highline Trail but vowed to come back and complete the hike. We did come back and complete it and can attest that this hike is one of the most unforgettable hiking trails you will ever do!

If you do plan to hike this iconic trail, see this guide to hiking the Highline Trail to find out exactly what to expect on the trail, and how to use the shuttle bus system to complete the hike. If you haven’t yet decided whether you want to add this hike to your itinerary, check out some photos from the trail that will no doubt convince you that the Highline is a must do!

10. Hike To Grinnell Glacier

Hiking To Grinnell Glacier Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park

The hike to Grinnell Glacier has it all; stunning alpine scenery, wildflower-filled meadows, turquoise lakes, glaciers, and wildlife galore! This iconic hiking trail in Many Glacier is one of the most popular hiking trails in Glacier National Park.

So fantastic is this hike that it not only is one of the best things to do in Montana, but it also makes it onto this USA bucket list. Yep, this is a hike that you need to experience at least once in your lifetime if you get the opportunity.

On this ten mile return trip hike you’ll pass not one, not two, but three shimmering alpine lakes before reaching Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier. There is no doubt you’ll be awestruck by the two-hundred and twenty acre glacier which hikers are permitted to walk across.

11. Hike To Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake In Glacier National Park

The Iceberg Lake hiking trail is easily one of the best hikes you can do in Glacier National Park. Why is that you ask? Because this hiking trail is full of beauty almost the entire way up! This popular hiking trail ascends an incredibly scenic valley before reaching a stunning alpine lake with the most brilliant turquoise-colored water that will take your breath away.

The icy-cold, teal lake is famous for it floating icebergs which add to the dramatic scenery here. If that wasn’t enough to excite you, Iceberg Lake sits at the base of a steep-walled cirque which is just spectacular to see up close!

On the first stretch of the trail you’ll pass through open terrain that offers spectacular views of the surrounding peaks which include Mount Grinnell (8,851ft), Swiftcurrent Mountain (8,436ft), and Mount Wilbur (9,321ft) before reaching Ptarmigan Falls.

After reaching Ptarmigan Falls you’ll hike through a gorgeous alpine meadow before coming to the end of the trail where Iceberg Lake lies nestled under a lofty, steep-sided rock wall. The lake’s vividly-colored water together with the dramatic landscape here will make you feel as though you’re in a dream.

>>Read: How To Hike To Iceberg Lake In Many Glacier

12. Take A Guided Horseback Ride Through Glacier National Park’s Captivating Landscapes

One of the most special things to do in Glacier National Park is to take a guided horseback ride through the park’s mesmerizing scenery. It’s not only a unique way to experience the park, but a once in a lifetime opportunity that you’ll never forget.

Seeing the park on horseback is a relaxing experience that will allow you the opportunity to truly soak in those magical views. Enjoy the captivating landscape in Glacier without working up a sweat or having to carry any hiking gear.

Swan Mountain Outfitters operate three different corrals inside the park at Apgar Village, Lake McDonald, and Many Glacier. At Lake McDonald, riders can take trips to Upper McDonald Creek, Sperry Chalet, and Trout Lake. At Many Glacier, trail rides visit Lake Josephine, Sherburne Lake, Cracker Lake, Poia Lake, and the Piegan Valley.

Tour options range from one hour to full day excursions and operate in the morning, around midday, and late afternoon. Trail rides are suitable for all experience levels including beginner riders. For more information about bookings, rider height and weight restrictions, and pricing, click here.

13. Spot A Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear In Glacier National Park

Did you know that Glacier National Park is the only place in the lower forty-eight states where grizzly bears still roam in large numbers? It’s true!

Although Yellowstone National Park also has a somewhat healthy population of grizzlies too, that park’s numbers are not anywhere near the same as Glacier’s. You are much more likely to see a grizzly bear in Glacier than at Yellowstone or in the Tetons.

If seeing a grizzly bear in the wild has been on your bucket list, be prepared to tick it off because you are almost guaranteed to see one here! Being a huge wildlife enthusiast, I had wanted to see a grizzly in the wild for many years and during our several trips to Glacier National Park over the past few years, I have seen so many that I’ve lost count.

While grizzly bears can be found anywhere in Glacier, your best chance of seeing a bear will be in Many Glacier. One of the best and most reliable places to see grizzlies is along the main road into Many Glacier. On your drive into this section of the park, be sure to scan Lake Sherburne’s shoreline and the rocky cliffs on the opposite side of the lake where the bears like to forage for berries.

You may also stumble across a bear on a hiking trail while in Many Glacier. The Ptarmigan Tunnel, Iceberg Lake, and Grinnell Glacier, all tend to have frequent grizzly bear sightings. If you will be hiking while in Glacier, be sure to carry bear spray and know how to use it.

14. Find A Moose

Moose At Fishercap Lake In Glacier National Park

Speaking of wildlife in Glacier National Park, another must see animal in Glacier are the resident moose. Beyond bears, visitors love to see moose here!

Fortunately for wildlife lovers, moose are usually very easy to find in Glacier. For the past several years, Fishercap Lake has been the best place to see moose in Glacier National Park.

Fishercap Lake is a lake in Many Glacier which can be reached via the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail. It’s an easy hike from the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn to Fishercap Lake which absolutely anyone can do.

The best time of day to see moose at Fishercap Lake is early in the morning before the heat of the day and before there are too many people on the hiking trails. Late in the evening is also a good time to spot moose at the lake.

The key to seeing moose, like all other wildlife is to be patient and quiet. Bring a picnic rug or a camp chair, a warm cup of tea or some wine, and just wait. If you have binoculars, they will also be very helpful too.

15. Go Fly Fishing In Glacier National Park

Fly Fishing At Avalanche Lake In Glacier National Park

Do you enjoy fly-fishing? Well, in Glacier National Park, you do not need a fishing permit to fish inside the park’s borders. So pack your fly rod just incase you get the urge to cast a line.

Glacier National Park’s lakes are home to a variety of species of trout. Some catchable species include westslope cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, bull trout, lake trout, and mountain whitefish. Keep in mind though that fishing isn’t great in the lakes here due to them being nutrient poor. However, it’s still a lot of fun!

We spent a bit of time fishing at Avalanche Lake and caught a few cutthroat. On the east side of the park, we spent a few days fishing some streams and lakes in Two Medicine and Many Glacier. Although we didn’t have any luck there, it was nice to have an excuse to see some areas of the park that we probably wouldn’t have. You can learn more about fishing regulations inside Glacier National Park here.

Read More On Glacier National Park
Best Places To Visit Near Glacier National Park
  • Bison Range (100 miles away)
  • Kootenai Falls (132 miles away)
  • Kalispell (31 miles away)
  • Whitefish (25 miles away)

Pin For Later!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *