Map of Glacier National Park in Montana
Basic information for visitors to the Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, near West Glacier.
Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, near West Glacier.
This ruggedly beautiful park, considered one of the most ecologically intact temperate areas in the world, offers spectacular mountain scenery, and the chance for a true wilderness experience. Within the boundaries of the 1-million-acre park are nearly 50 glaciers, endless 10,000-foot peaks, and numerous lakes and waterways set amid expansive meadows and steep ravines. Grizzly bears, cougars, gray wolves, moose, and bighorn sheep are but a few of the creatures that can be seen in the vast forests, while swift, shallow rivers shelter beaver, otters, muskrats, raccoons, and a variety of other small mammals. Look overhead to spot bald eagles, hawks, falcons, and other birds of prey; the marshy lakeshores and riverbanks are also home to numerous waterfowl. The area has many Native American ties as well, and the visitor centers host summer programs by Blackfeet, Salish, and Kooterai tribal members. The park was established in 1910, authorized as part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in 1932, designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1976, and a World Heritage Site in 1995.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Auto touring, backpacking (rentals in Columbia Falls and West Glacier), bicycling (rentals in East Glacier), boating and canoeing (rentals in Apgar, Lake McDonald, Many Glacier, Two Medicine), cross-country skiing (rentals in Essex), fishing, golfing (in East Glacier, Columbia Falls), hiking, horseback riding, kayaking (rentals in Apgar, Lake McDonald, Many Glacier, Two Medicine), picnicking, rafting (trips from West Glacier), snowshoeing, touring park in vintage buses (fee, see below), wildlife watching. Facilities: 3 visitor centers: Apgar (west side of park), Logan Pass (on Going-to-the-Sun Rd.), St. Mary (east side of park); Red Jammer tour buses, outdoor interpretive exhibits, movies, guided and self-guided tours, 700 mi of hiking trails. Book and map sales, book-and-gift shops, picnic tables. Programs & Events: Ranger talks (evenings), slide shows, boat tours, guided walks, and daylong hikes. Native America Speaks series by Blackfeet, Salish, and Kooterai tribal members (July and Aug.); Show Me Day (snow-removal day, May). Tips & Hints: Beware of water and snow hazards, altitude sickness, and hypothermia. Ticks are prevalent throughout the woods. Do not bother or feed wild animals, and know what to do when confronted by a bear or cougar. If camping, bring 25 feet of rope to hoist food up into trees; bear boxes also available. Go in Sept. to avoid crowds. Busiest July and Aug., least crowded Nov. and Dec.
FOOD, LODGING & SUPPLIES
Camping: 13 campgrounds in the park (1,000 sites; $12-$17; some flush toilets, some pit toilets, some showers). Backcountry camping available, permit required, see below). H Hotels: In the park: Apgar Village Lodge (tel. 406/888-5484; 48 rooms; $71-$ 110; closed early Oct.-early May), Granite Park Chalet (tel. 406/387-5555 or 800/521-7238; 12 rooms; $66; closed mid-Sept.-June), Sperry Chalet (tel. 406/ 387-5654 or 888/345-2649; 17 rooms; $255; closed mid-Sept.-mid-July), Lake McDonald Lodge (tel. 406/892-2525; 100 rooms; $96-$149; closed Oct.-May), Many Glacier Hotel (tel. 406/892-2525; 215 rooms, 8 suites; $135; closed mid-Sept.-mid-May), Rising Sun Motor Inn (tel. 406/892-2525; 72 rooms; $92; closed mid-Sept.-mid-June), Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (tel. 406/892-2525; 88 rooms; $92; closed mid-Sept.-mid-June), Village Inn (tel. 406/892-2525; 36 rooms; $109-$177; closed Oct.-May), Glacier Park Lodge (tel. 406/892-2525; 161 rooms; $155; closed Oct.-mid-May), Prince of Wales Hotel (Waterton, Canada, tel. 406/892-2525; 84 rooms; CAN$286; closed mid-Sept.-May). Restaurants: In the park: Great Northern Steak & Rib House (Glacier Park Lodge), Italian Gardens (Swiftcurrent Motor Inn), Jammer Joes Grill & Pizzeria (Lake McDonald Lodge), Ptarmigan Dining Room (Many Glacier Hotel), Royal Stewart Dining Room (Prince of Wales Hotel), Russell's Fireside Dining Room (Lake McDonald Lodge), Two Dogs Flat Grill (Rising Sun Motor Inn). 6? Groceries & Gear: In the park: Swiftcurrent camp store (Many Glacier Valley), Rising Sun camp store (east part of the park), Two Medicine camp store (southeast part of the park), Lake MacDonald Lodge camp store. In St. Mary: Trail & Creek Outfitters and Country Market (Resort at Glacier, tel. 406/732-4431; closed early Oct.-early May).
FEES, HOURS & REGULATIONS
Entrance fee: $10 per vehicle, $5 per pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist. Backpacking permits ($4 per person per night, $20 additional fee for advance reservation). Backcountry camping permits required. Red Jammer tours $25-$77. Hiker shuttle $8-$24 ($8 per segment). No vehicles wider than 8 feet or longer than 21 feet allowed on Logan Pass between Avalanche and Sun Point. No backcountry campfires in summer. No hunting. No pets or bikes on trails. No personal watercraft or snowmobiles. Park open daily. Logan Pass open mid-June-mid-Oct. Apgar Visitor Center open Nov.-Apr., weekends 9-4; May-Oct., daily 8 am-9 pm. Logan Pass Visitor Center open mid-June-mid.-Oct., daily 9-7. St. Mary Visitor Center open mid-May-mid-Oct., daily 8 am-9 pm.
HOW TO GET THERE
West entrance, near West Glacier, 19 mi east of Columbia Falls via U.S. 2; east entrance, in St. Mary, 22 mi northwest of Browning via U.S. 89. Closest airport: Kalispell (25 mi from west entrance)
Glacier National Park (West Glacier, MT 59936, tel. 406/888-7800; 800/365-2267 camping reservations, fax 406/888-7808,). Glacier Park, Inc., sightseeing buses (tel. 406/892-2525). Flathead Convention & Visitor Bureau (15 Depot Park, Kalispell, MT 59901, tel. 800/543-3105). Cut Bank Area Chamber of Commerce (725 E. Main St., Box 1243, Cut Bank, MT 59427, tel. 406/873-4041). Glacier Country (836 Holt Dr., Suite 320, Box 1035, Bigfork, MT 59911-1035, tel. 406/837-6211 or 800/338-5072). Columbia Falls Area Chamber of Commerce (Box 312, Columbia Falls, MT 59912, tel. 406/ 892-2072,).
Facing page: During the harsh winters, bighorn sheep cluster together near Many Glacier.
Below: The unspoiled wilderness of the mountain ranges and crystal clear blue lakes of Glacier National Park in Montana.
Established: 1910 Acreage: 1,013,595
Much of Glacier is a pristine wilderness with a myriad of wildflowers and wildlife, along with spectacular mountain ranges with sculptured glacial valleys, ice cold lakes, alpine meadows and prairie grasslands. Dense forests of larch, spruce, fir and lodgepole pine exist with western red cedar and western hemlock. Alpine areas display beargrass, heather and glacier lily, while the prairie boasts pasque flower, shooting star and Indian paintbrush.
Roaming through this exquisite environment are bighorn sheep, mountain goats, moose, elk and grizzly and black bears. Audubon Magazine reports Glacier Park as having the densest grizzly population in North America—one bear to every eight square miles compared to one bear per 40 square miles in Yellowstone and one bear per 57 square miles in Alaska's Brook Range. Species of birds include the osprey, water ouzel, ptarmigan, Clark's nutcracker, thrushes and the endangered bald eagle. Each fall kokanee salmon and bald eagles arrive at McDonald Creek—the salmon to spawn and the eagles to feed on the salmon.
These elements make up Glacier National Park in the United States and the adjoining Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Divided by the international boundary, the parks are united in the most natural ways. The Upper Waterton Valley, carved by glaciers, lies in both countries; the native plants and animals are similar; and the massive Rocky Mountains span both nations. In recognition of this, the US Congress and the Canadian Parliament established them as the first International Peace Park in the world in 1932. Though the parks are operated independently, there is a great deal of routine cooperation between the personnel on a day-to-day basis.
Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking and camping, swimming and boating, biking and horseback riding amidst the scenic beauty of Glacier National Park. In addition to 1000 miles of trails, a number of roads covering 300 miles ease the access through this breathtaking park. The famed Going-to-the-Sun Road (50 miles) was put under contract in 1925 and completed in 1932. A triumph in highway engineering, more than 60 percent of the excavation for this roadway was through solid rock and accomplished with hand tools. From west to east, the road skirts Lake McDonald, then climbs to the higher country along the Garden Wall, crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass (6646 feet), and descends to St Mary Lake.
Among Glacier's Continental Divide peaks there is one small peak with a unique characteristic. From its side, flow three creeks, named Atlantic, Pacific and Hudson Bay. Each of these streams, which head within yards of one another, flows into the body of water bearing the same name. Hudson Bay Creek flows into Red Eagle Creek and eventually the St Mary River, which in turn flows north into Canada. Atlantic Creek flows into the North Fork of Cut Bank Creek, then the Marias River and finally the Missouri, 11 miles downstream from Fort Benton, Montana. Pacific Creek flows into Nyack Creek, then the Middle Fork of the Flathead and eventually the Columbia River in the state of Washington.
Nestled between Norris Peak to the north and Razoredge to the south lies the appropriately named Triple Divide Peak. On its east side is Mount James, which is the beginning of the Hudson Bay Divide. Other peaks in this range are Amphitheater, Medicine Owl, Kakitos and Divide.
In addition to the park's many campgrounds, visitors can avail themselves of accomodations on the other end of the spectrum in the form of rustic, yet large and well appointed grand hotels. These lodges, located at the East Glacier (The Glacier Park Lodge), Lake McDonald and Many Glacier were constructed of huge native Cedar logs by the Great Northern Railroad and completed in 1912. A fourth lodge at Rising Sun on St Mary Lake was destroyed by fire 30 years later, and the others were sold in 1960 to an independent operator—the Glacier Park Company —who also operates other visitor facilities within Glacier as well as the Prince of Wales Hotel in adjacent Waterton Lakes National Park.