16 Epic Adventures in Glacier National Park that Almost Anyone Can Do

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Planning on spending some time in Glacier National Park?  Looking for suggestions of amazing activities in Glacier?  I’ve got you covered.  While some of these suggestions take some advance planning and a good level of fitness, most people can do all 16 of these things.  In fact, with good planning, most of these can be done with kids (trust me, we’ve done it!)

 

16 Epic Adventures in Glacier National Park

Bike the Going To The Sun Road

road in the mist

While the entire Going To The Sun Road is 33 miles from Apgar visitor center and climbs over 3200 feet, there are plenty of options that are shorter than this.  In fact, you don’t need to be an expert road biker to bike this road.  Every spring, as the snowplows work their way up Logan Pass to open the entire road, the road is open to hikers and bikers (at least as far as you can get until you hit a wall of snow).  This is a great time to ride this epic trail without having to worry about traffic.  In fact, the bottom section of it is fantastic for families who just want a nice ride and perhaps a picnic, and then everyone can turn around in several miles before it starts getting super steep.

 

Hike the Highline Loop Trail

This trail has some pretty insane exposure, and if you’re like me, the thought of hiking on a 5 foot wide ledge with a 100+ foot drop off is terrifying.  However, I’m married to a man who absolutely lives for adventure like this and our kids have all followed in his footsteps, so I got roped into it.  From the Highline trail, you’ll have some of the most amazing views of the Going To The Sun Road area, complete with mountain peaks and waterfalls.  The entire trail is over 11 miles, but is easily done as a loop thanks to the Glacier National Park shuttle system.

 

Touch a glacier at Grinnell Glacier

glacier view, glacial lake

Thanks to global warming, glaciers are quickly becoming a rare sight.  And the chance to get up close to one is even rarer.  Well, in Glacier, you can hike right up to Grinnell Glacier and even walk around on it a bit.  Rangers used to lead guided hikes across the glacier, but as the glacier has receded, they discontinued them.  However, you can still go on the glacier on your own, however it is recommended to never go alone and to exercise extreme caution.  The hike is about 11 miles round trip, and will give you some spectacular views of Grinnell Lake, and Lake Josephine.

Note: This hike is right through bear country, so make sure to take bear spray with you.

See bears along St Mary’s Lake

bear in meadow

While no one really wants to see a bear while they’re hiking, a bear sighting from the car is a truly amazing experience.  We’ve been to Glacier many times and have always seen bears in the meadows between St Mary’s campground and Rising Sun campground around dusk.  While it’s not guaranteed, this is a great spot for bear sightings, so even if you have to drive back and forth a few times, it’s totally worth the chance that you might see one.

Float McDonald Creek

glacial creek

The outlet of McDonald lake is a perfect spot to get in some mostly flatwater paddling.  While the trip will only take 1-2 hours, it’s a great way to unwind at the end of the day.  And while the trip is mostly flat, make sure to stay alert because there are quite a few little riffles that can easily dump and unsuspecting boater out into the cold water.  The float goes from Apgar Campground to Quarter Circle Bridge.

 

Check out Iceberg’s in Iceberg Lake

iceburg lake

Iceburg lake is one of the absolute best hikes in Glacier National Park.  It’s a pretty intense day hike at almost 10 miles and over 1200 ft of elevation gain.  However, you’ll be treated to some of the best views in the Many Glacier area and the wildflowers are absolutely out of this world.  When you arrive, you’ll see the turquoise glacial water with floating “iceburgs” on even during parts of the summer, that will literally BLOW YOUR MIND!

Take a swim in Lake McDonald

lake mcdonald

Most of the rivers and lakes are WAY too cold for swimming in since a majority of the water was probably frozen just a few days before.  The one big exception to this is behind the Apgar Visitors Center on Lake McDonald.  This part of the lake is pretty shallow so the sun actually has time to warm the water up a bit, making it pretty pleasant for splashing around it.  Of course, you can always jump in another lake, but it will feel a whole lot more like a polar bear plunge!

Skip the country and head up to Canada

Did you know that Glacier National Park in the United States is connected to Waterton National Park in Canada.  Last year, just for fun we took the whole family up to Waterton for the day and suddenly turned our camping trip into an international holiday!  The easiest way to do this is to drive on the Chief Mountain Highway.  However, if you’re up for an adventure, take the Waterton Lake boat ride over to Goat Haunt Montana.  From there you will have backcountry access into Glacier (or do it in reverse as well starting in Glacier and hiking to Goat Haunt.  Like all international border crossings, you will need a passport.

Follow a herd of mountain goats to Hidden Lake Overlook

mountain goat mom and baby

The trail between Logan Pass Visitors Center and the Hidden Lake Overlook may not look like much at first, but as you get closer to the top, you’ll likely have some special visitors waiting for you.  A herd of mountain goats makes their home at the top of this pass and is often fairly close to the trail.  While it’s important to always give wildlife plenty of space and never directly approach them, you’ll quickly notice that this herd is very comfortable around people.  What that means is that you can realistically follow them around (a good distance away) for quite a while.  Where else would you have a chance to do this?  It’s AWESOME!

 

Take a rowboat ride on Two Medicine Lake

two medicine lake
Two Medicine area is much less crowded that the other areas of the park, so it’s a perfect place to rent a boat and go out for a paddle for a couple of hours.  At most of the major lake areas (Two Medicine, Apgar, Many Glacier, and Lake McDonald), you can rent boats, but Two Medicine might be one of the most serene.  For only $18.50, you can rent a rowboat for an hour and paddle around on your own to explore the lake.  Kayaks, canoes, double kayaks, and small motor boats are also available to rent.

 

Eat Huckleberry EVERYTHING!

huckleberries

Montana is very proud of its huckleberries, and you’ll find huckleberry flavor desserts all over the state.  In Glacier, our favorite is the soft serve huckleberry ice cream that you can get at the Two Medicine and Many Glacier general stores.  It’s only a couple of dollars, and the promise of it does wonders for bribing kids to hike harder and whine less.

Spend a day chasing waterfalls

waterfall, glacier national park hikes, st mary falls
St Mary Falls

 

As you drive through Glacier, especially in the early summer (which is really more like spring for this area), you’ll see waterfalls all over the place.  Along rivers and creeks, into lakes, and my favorite are alongside The Going To The Sun Road where they are literally soaking the road as they come off the mountain.  There are several waterfall hikes in Glacier and most of them are relatively short and easy.  Head over here to find the best options near where you’re staying.

 

Camp in the Glacier National Park backcountry

hidden lake overlook views

To really experience the beauty of Glacier, you should spend some time in the backcountry.  There are so many backcountry campsites and they allow you to access and enjoy parts of Glacier that wouldn’t be possible with just a day hike.  Permits are required for backcountry camping and half of all permits can be reserved in advance, while the other half are walk-in permits.  To find out more information and regulations, go here.  

 

Paddleboard on Lake McDonald

paddleboard on lake

Lake McDonald and its surrounding landscape is one of the most beautiful locations in West Glacier.  With giant peaks towering above the east end, and super clear water looking down on a colorful river rock lakebed make this a great place to spend some time.  From the Lake McDonald Lodge, you can rent paddleboards for only $10.50/hour.  More info on rentals here.

Take a hike

hike with kids, many glacier hiking

We wrote all about the best hikes with kids in Glacier over here.  And while these hikes are great with kids, they’re also great for anyone looking for a hike that has a big WOW FACTOR, without a strenuous hike to accompany it.  We’ve got 5 easy hikes you can incorporate into your itinerary for days when you might want to take it a bit easier.  Jump over here to see our suggestions.  

Spot as much wildlife as you possibly can!

 

Glacier is a very remote park and most of it is only accessible a few months out of the year.  Because of that, the natural wildlife has been preserved incredibly well.  Outside of Yellowstone, I think that Glacier has the best opportunities for wildlife viewing of any National Park.

 

When you’re looking for wildlife in Glacier, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.  Wildlife are typically the most active up to two hours after the sun comes up and the last two hours before the sun goes down.  If you want to spot wildlife, this is the time to do it.

 

The best way to see wildlife is from a distance.  DO NOT try and sneak up on them!  Trust me, sneaking up on a bear or a moose is an absolutely horrible idea!

 

Best places to see wildlife in Glacier National Park:

Best places to see bears in Glacier National Park

bear in meadow

One of the best places to spot bears in Glacier is along the road between Rising Sun and St Mary.  There are several meadows along this stretch that bears must love.  Every time we have visited Glacier, we’ve seen at least one bear in that area.  While it’s no guarantee that you’ll see one, it’s definitely worth driving that stretch a couple different times to check!  Remember, you never want to startle a bear so when you’re out hiking, make plenty of noise (a bear bell helps with this) and always carry bear spray. 

Best places to see moose in Glacier National Park

moose in marsh

Moose tend to be closer to lakes and ponds.  They love to eat willows because they are readily available and provide a great source of protein for the moose.  If there’s a marshy area, that’s a good sign that a moose would love it there.  Moose can be very aggressive, especially when protecting their calves to just look from a distance.  While people often think of a moose as similar to a deer in size , it’s probably better to think of it as being about as big as a horse – and it can kick you just as hard as a horse would.

 

Best places to see beaver in Glacier National Park

beaver

Beaver habitats are often the easiest to spot because of their tell-tale tree chewing, lodges, and dams.  One of the best places to see beavers and their activity is along the south shore trail in Two Medicine.  Head west on the trail for about 0.6 miles and you’ll start seeing lots of beaver activity and small dammed ponds.  This area is also a great place to spot moose.  Make sure to take insect repellent since the mosquitoes can be VERY BAD here – check out our favorite bug spray here.  

Best places to see mountain goats in Glacier National Park

mountain goat mom and baby

Like I mentioned earlier, heading up the Hidden Peak trail is a great place to see mountain goats.  When we were there, I would estimate that the herd had at least 30 goats in it.  From what we’ve seen, the mountain goats are most commonly seen around the Clements mountain area both on the Hidden Peak side as well as on the north side where they can be spotted from the Going To The Sun Road.

 

Best places to see bighorn sheep in Glacier National Park

big horn sheep

Logan Pass area attracts a lot of wildlife and included in that are bighorn sheep.  There is a herd that lives up in the rocky hillside just to the north of the visitors center on the north side of the Going To The Sun Road.  While most of the sheep typically stay a little bit higher, you’ll often see one or two stragglers down below munching on grass.  Since these aren’t close, binoculars are very helpful (here’s a great kids sized pair that worked well for all our kids, and is really affordable)

Still looking for more things to do in Glacier National Park?  Check out this post I wrote for fullsuitcase.com with the perfect 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 day itinerary in Glacier National Park.

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