17 Interesting Facts About Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park sits high on the bucket list of every national park enthusiast. This majestic wilderness shares a border with Canada and spans over a million acres in northwest Montana. With its stunning glaciers, towering mountain peaks, and crystal-clear alpine lakes, Glacier’s natural beauty is unmatched. Let’s dive into some fascinating facts about Glacier National Park that will inspire you to visit, whether planning your adventure or daydreaming about a future trip.

1. Glacier National Park was the Eighth National Park in the U.S.

Established in 1910, Glacier holds the distinction of being one of the earliest national parks in the U.S. It was founded through the efforts of conservationists who were captivated by its stunning beauty and signed into law by President William Howard Taft. Today, it continues to be a sanctuary for both nature lovers and history buffs.

2. Glacier is the Crown of the Continent

Dubbed the “Crown of the Continent” by George Bird Grinnell in 1885, Glacier National Park dazzles with its rugged peaks and shimmering lakes, reminiscent of jewels set in a crown. Grinnell, a pioneering editor and annual visitor, has been immortalized with landmarks named in his honor, including a glacier, a mountain, and a lake. His legacy highlights the park’s majestic stature and its unparalleled vistas.

3. It’s the Size of Rhode Island

Covering more than one million acres, Glacier National Park is roughly the size of Rhode Island, making it one of the largest national parks in the U.S. Within this vast landscape, visitors can explore dense forests, rugged mountains, and glistening lakes.

4. The Mountain Goat is the Symbol of Glacier

As the park’s unofficial mascots, Rocky Mountain Goats are often seen scaling steep cliffs with impressive agility. Spotting these sure-footed majestic creatures is a highlight for many visitors, adding a touch of magic to any Glacier adventure.

5. Ride in Vintage Style with the Red “Jammers”

The park’s historic red buses, called “Jammers,” offer a unique way to explore Glacier. Dating back to the 1930s, these classic red vehicles hold 17 passengers and reduce traffic on park roads while providing panoramic views of Glacier’s stunning landscapes. With several touring routes available, visitors can select from various departure points and choose between half-day or full-day Red Bus Tours. These tours run from late May through September, allowing guests to explore the park while leaving the driving to an expert guide.

6. See 26 Glaciers from the Ice Age

Once home to 150 glaciers that sculpted its rugged terrain and gave the park its name, Glacier National Park has 26 you can see today. These glaciers, including the largest, Harrison Glacier, are mostly nestled in the rocky crevices along the Continental Divide. With the ongoing impacts of climate change, these majestic ice formations are rapidly shrinking. Visiting these natural wonders soon is crucial, as they offer a glimpse into the park’s icy past.

7. Going-to-the-Sun Road is a National Historic Landmark

Built between 1919 and 1933 using 490,000 pounds of explosives, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a marvel of engineering and a National Historic Landmark. This iconic 50-mile drive offers unparalleled views and links many of the park’s trailheads and visitor centers. Enhance your visit with a guided scenic driving tour, which includes transportation, lunch, and expert commentary on the park’s geology, wildlife, and storied past. Highlights include Lake McDonald, Trail of the Cedars, and Logan Pass, with stops at scenic vistas like Bird Woman Falls and the Weeping Wall.

8. There are 762 Lakes in Glacier National Park

Discover more than 700 shimmering glacial lakes. Lake McDonald is Glacier’s largest and deepest lake, stretching 9.4 miles long and 464 feet deep. Its tranquil waters mirror the surrounding mountains, creating a picturesque scene that attracts photographers and adventurers alike.

9. See Hundreds of Historic Structures in the Park

Glacier National Park is home to 375 historic structures, including chalets, hotels, barracks, and visitor centers. Many of these landmarks date back to the park’s early days, offering curious visitors a glimpse into the past. The park has six registered National Historic Landmarks: Going-to-the-Sun Road, Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, Granite Park Chalet, Sperry Chalet, and the Two Medicine Store.

10. It’s Home to 300+ Mammals and Bird Species

The park’s rich ecosystem supports abundant wildlife, from bears and bighorn sheep to elk and mountain goats. With 71 species of mammals and 276 bird species, Glacier is a wildlife spotter’s dream destination, especially in the spring and summer months.

11. See 175 Mountains in Glacier

Glacier National Park is a paradise for mountain lovers. Mt. Cleveland, the tallest peak at 10,448 feet, towers above the park, while Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road provides a breathtaking overlook from 6,646 feet.

12. The Continental Divide Cuts Through the Park

The Continental Divide, or “backbone of the country, ” is a geological feature along the Rocky Mountains stretching from Canada to Mexico through Glacier National Park. You can follow the Continental Divide Trail, see where the divide crosses the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Logan Pass, and enjoy stunning views of pristine alpine wilderness.

13. The Great Northern Railway Helped Establish the Park

For decades, rail was the only major transportation to Glacier National Park. And the Great Northern Railway played a significant role in the park’s creation, bringing tourists across the country and advocating for its national park status. This railway promoted Glacier as the “American Alps,” spotlighting its grandeur rivaling that of the Swiss Alps in Europe.

14. The World’s First International Peace Park

In 1932, Glacier National Park and Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park merged to become the world’s first International Peace Park, a symbol of longstanding peace between the two bordering countries. This unique partnership was later recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it even more special.

15. Half the Magic Happens After Dark

Glacier’s night skies, free from light pollution, offer a magical stargazing experience. In 2021, Glacier National Park was awarded International Dark Sky Park status for its commitment to protecting its pristine night skies. Visitors can marvel at the cosmos and countless stars framed by majestic mountain peaks.

16. 750 Miles of Hiking Trails Await

Glacier National Park boasts 158 trails, covering 750 miles of breathtaking scenery. Whether you’re up for a leisurely hike or a challenging trek along the Continental Divide Trail, there’s a trail for every adventurer’s ability and ambition. You can opt for a guided scenic hike, exploring stunning areas like Two Medicine, Hidden Lake, the Highline Trail, and Avalanche Lake, alongside an expert with transportation and lunch provided, ensuring a memorable and stress-free hiking adventure.

17. Glacier’s Visitors Outnumber Montana’s Residents

Each year, Glacier National Park attracts about three million visitors, nearly tripling the entire population of Montana. This remarkable statistic underscores the park’s popularity and the importance of planning ahead to fully experience its spectacular beauty, which will leave you feeling awe-inspired.

Where to Stay Near Glacier National Park

Just seven miles from Glacier National Park’s west entrance, Under Canvas Glacier offers a luxurious glamping experience in Montana’s stunning “Big Sky Country.” This prime location gives guests easy access to the park’s vast network of trails leading to breathtaking alpine lakes, majestic snow-capped peaks, and meadows blanketed in wildflowers. After a day of exploration, unwind by roasting marshmallows over a campfire and sleep under a canopy of stars in comfort and style. Open from June to mid-September, Under Canvas Glacier is the ideal basecamp for your Glacier adventures.

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