Montana is home to two beautiful National Parks: Yellowstone and Glacier. From the beauty of Yellowstone’s prairies full of bison to Glacier’s towering mountains there’s no questioning why Montana is a bucket list location. If you don’t have time or interest to take the six-hour drive between the two parks, however, and you’re in the mood for alpine forests and amazing lakes, Glacier National Park is the vacation for you.
Location of Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is located almost exactly four hours from Butte, Montana in the north-west corner of the state. It is 1,583 square miles, 38 square miles bigger than the state of Rhode Island. There are seven total entrances to the park.
It is estimated that humans have inhabited the Glacier National Park area for over 10,000 years ago. With several Native American tribes in the region long before European exploration, the culture and history in the area is great. In the late 1800s, the Great Northern Railway was completed, making it easy for Europeans to travel north and establish themselves in the area. On May 11, 1910, Glacier was established as America’s tenth national park.
When the National Park Service was created by Congress in 1916, National Parks across the country received more resources and federal protection, and Glacier was no exception. One of the most popular locations in the park, the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road, was completed in 1932 and continues to allow visitors to travel across the continental divide and the park itself through Logan Pass. This road makes it possible for tourists to enjoy the beauty and magnitude of Glacier National Park from the comfort of their vehicles.
Today, Glacier National Park sees over 3.3 million annual visitors. While winter can be a difficult time to visit northwestern Montana, there are many campsites and local hotels that welcome visitors year round.
Regardless of whether you sleep in the park or just take a day trip, here are the attractions you will want to be sure to see:
Going-to-the-Sun Road – As mentioned above, this road is one of the most popular attractions in the park. Enjoy the wilderness of Montana as you drive this 50-mile winding road.
Lake McDonald – As the biggest lake in the park, Lake McDonald is 10-miles long and 472-feet deep. Spend some time here and you will very likely see some amazing wildlife such as bighorn sheep and blackbear.
Highline Loop – This 11.8-mile hike gains almost two-thousand feet in elevation and is one of the most scenic hiking trails in America. Highline Loop is not for the faint-of-heart, however, as it is a strenuous hike through grizzly bear country.
As always, venturing into the wilderness has its risks. Glacier National Park is a beautiful and wonderful place to explore, but it is not an amusement park. Here are a few tips for staying safe while in the park:
- Obey posted signs and park rangers.
- View animals from a distance and never attempt to touch them.
- Stay on trails.
- Drive slowly and keep an eye on the road ahead of you.
- Bring appropriate clothing and protective gear such as bear spray.