How to Build Your 2024 Glacier National Park Trip

Glacier National Park, nestled in northern Montana along the Canada-U.S. border, is a realm where nature’s grandeur unfolds across over one million acres of skyscraping mountains, lush waterfalls, abundant wildlife, and ancient glaciers. Whether you’re planning to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, hike rugged trails, or fly fish in pristine waters, here’s your guide to planning the perfect visit to Glacier National Park.

Planning Your Glacier Getaway

Glacier is one of the most popular national parks in the U.S. and has a limited season when all attractions and facilities are open. It’s important to plan your trip in advance to ensure you get the necessary reservations, tours, and accommodations for your ideal getaway.

When to Visit Glacier National Park

From July to mid-September, summer is the best season for exploring Glacier National Park. The warm weather means all park facilities and attractions are open. For those looking to avoid the crowds, early to mid-September is a golden time window.

Getting To and Around Glacier National Park

Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell, Montana, is your gateway to the park. Renting a car is recommended for flexibility and ease of exploration. A free park shuttle within Glacier National Park runs along Going-to-the-Sun Road on a first come, first serve basis. Secure an “America the Beautiful National Park Pass” for entry to Glacier and the other national parks and forests, valid for 12 months from the Visitor Center or online in advance.

New in 2024: Glacier National Park Timed Entry Reservations

Starting in 2024, Glacier National Park introduced timed entry vehicle reservations for Going-to-the-Sun Road, the North Fork, and Many Glacier. These reservations are essential for accessing the park’s most popular areas and are designed to manage visitor numbers, ease traffic, and conserve natural resources. Ensure to book separate vehicle reservations for each area you want to visit in advance to fully explore the park’s highlights.

How to Make a Glacier National Park Timed Entry Reservation

There are two ways to secure your Glacier National Park reservation:

Book 120 days in advance. Most reservations will be released in advance, beginning on January 25, 2024, at 8 a.m. MT, on Recreation.Gov. After that, reservations will be released on a rolling basis:

February 2, 2024, for reservations on June 1, 2024
March 3, 2024, for reservations on July 1, 2024
April 3, 2024, for reservations on August 1, 2024
May 4, 2024, for reservations on September 1, 2024

Book the night before. The remaining reservations will be released the evening before at 7 p.m. MT, starting May 23. You can also make these reservations via Recreation.Gov.

We recommend arriving before 10 a.m. to avoid crowds and find parking or by 7:30 a.m. for busy trailheads like Logan Pass since a reservation does not ensure a parking spot.

If You Don’t Have a Reservation

Don’t have a Glacier National Park reservation? Don’t worry. Consider entering the park before 6 a.m., driving Going-to-the-Sun Road from east to west (St. Mary Entrance), or booking a tour with park access. Use the Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle or explore lesser-visited areas like Two Medicine, where reservations are no longer needed, for less traffic and fewer crowds.

Best Hikes In and Around Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park has an expansive trail system, with over 700 miles of paths and more than 50 day hikes. Choosing which route to take can be challenging, especially with limited time. Here’s our guide to the park’s our guide to Glacier’s must-see hikes in each area of the park:

West Glacier & Lake McDonald

Avalanche Lake Trail

Distance: 4.6 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: Avalanche Picnic Area

Embark on a journey through lush forests to the pristine Avalanche Lake, nestled amidst spectacular avalanche chutes and waterfalls. This 3-hour hike leads to serene lake views and a secluded picnic spot, perfect for a peaceful retreat.

Trail of the Cedars

Distance: 1.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Avalanche Picnic Area

This accessible, 30-minute loop guides you through an ancient forest on an elevated boardwalk. It’s a gentle stroll rich in natural history, making it ideal for all visitors, including those with strollers or wheelchairs.

Logan Pass & St. Mary

Highline Trail

Distance: 11.8 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trailhead: Logan Pass Visitor Center

This full-day hike offers the quintessence of Glacier’s landscapes, from alpine meadows to rugged ridgelines, with plentiful wildlife spotting. Start early to secure parking and consider turning at Haystack Pass for a shorter trek.

St. Mary & Virginia Falls Trail

Distance: 3.6 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: St. Mary Falls Trailhead

This trail promises a refreshing journey to two of the park’s iconic waterfalls. It’s a moderate hike, perfect for a half-day adventure, offering chances to swim in the cool, glacial waters.

Many Glacier

Grinnell Glacier Trail

Distance: 10.6 miles (7.2 miles with a boat tour)

Difficulty: Strenuous

Trailhead: Many Glacier Hotel near the Many Glacier Ranger Station

Challenge yourself on this hike past glacial lakes to the stunning Grinnell Glacier. The trail culminates at Upper Grinnell Lake, providing unforgettable glacier vistas. Opt for a boat tour to learn about the area and to shorten the hike.

Grinnell Lake Trail

Distance: 6.8 miles (2.2 miles with a boat tour)

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Many Glacier Hotel near the Many Glacier Ranger Station

An easier, family-friendly option that offers the same majestic views with minimal elevation gain, leading to the turquoise Grinnell Lake. A boat tour can reduce the distance, making it an easier 2-3 hour hike.

Each trail in Glacier National Park presents a unique perspective on the park’s diverse landscape, from serene lakes and ancient forests to alpine vistas and glacier views. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual walker, these trails will offer you an unforgettable hiking experience.

Hikes Outside of Glacier National Park

Explore beyond the borders of Glacier with local favorite hikes.

The Jewel Basin 

Offering expansive views from Mount Aeneas, the Jewel Basin encompasses 15,349 acres of pristine wilderness, featuring 27 lakes and 35 miles of trails. Dog-friendly and accessible, this area is a local favorite for its diverse hikes, including the scenic Mt. Aeneas, Picnic Lakes Loop, Tongue Mountain Trail, Birch Lake Trail, and Blackfoot Lake. Visit the Forest Service website for trail details.

Flathead National Forest

Flathead National Forest presents an idyllic setting for those seeking solitude without the need for permits or entry fees. This dog-friendly forest is known for its tranquil trails, glaciated features, high alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. Highlights include the Bond Lake hike, Graves Creek Falls, Flathead Lookout, and Spotted Bear Beach—perfect for a refreshing dip in the wild.

Beyond The Hiking Trails: Fly Fishing and More

Experience the best of “Big Sky Country” with guided adventures or a self-guided driving tour outside Glacier National Park. You can easily add an adventure to your stay at Under Canvas. Check out some of our favorite things to do outside of Glacier:

Montana Fly Fishing

Cast your line into the pristine waters of Glacier Country, where the serene landscapes meet the thrill of fly fishing. With every cast, enjoy the breathtaking backdrop of Montana’s rugged beauty.

Gourmet Rafting Adventure

Navigate the gentle flows of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. This unique journey combines the excitement of rafting with the pleasure of a gourmet meal served on the riverbank, offering an unforgettable dining experience amidst nature.

Whitewater Rafting Thrills

Experience the rush of whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, known for its wild and scenic routes. Prepare for an adrenaline-packed adventure that skirts the edges of Glacier National Park.

Scenic Drives Outside of Glacier National Park

Go on a self-guided scenic drive through the heart of Montana’s stunning landscapes. Travel southeast on Highway 83 to Swan Lake, where a forested valley filled with lakes awaits. Or explore the circumference of Flathead Lake on Highway 93, enjoying the captivating views, local brews, and the vibrant culture of quaint towns along the way. Don’t miss the Hungry Horse Reservoir, with the imposing Hungry Horse Dam and hiking, paddling, boating, or wild swimming opportunities.

Where to Stay Near Glacier National Park

Located just seven miles from Glacier National Park’s West Entrance, Under Canvas Glacier offers a unique, upscale camping experience in Montana’s “Big Sky Country.” Sleep under the stars in your own upscale, safari-inspired tent, featuring a king-size bed, plush linens, ensuite bathroom, and wood-burning stove. Our camp is open from June to mid-September and features complimentary activities like live music, morning yoga, kids’ activities, nightly fires, complimentary s’mores, and more. Escape to the wilderness in comfort and style, with Kalispell Airport just 40 minutes away.


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