"The Most Beautiful Place on Earth..." Top 5 Page for this destination Glacier National Park by Hopkid

Glacier National Park Travel Guide: 374 reviews and 891 photos

...well, at least that we've been to.

I used to always tell people that the most beautiful place that I'd been to was Yosemite National Park in California. And I was really proud of that being a native Californian myself. Well, after a long awaited trip to Glacier National Park in Montana, I've changed my tune. I will still tell people that they must go to Yosemite before they die but I'll also add Glacier to that list. Without actually seeing it with one's own eyes, it's hard to simply read a description of the majestic peaks and valleys carved out by glaciers during two ice ages and understand the magnitude of the natural beauty there. So instead of trying to write such descriptions, I'm going to suggest...recommend...no insist that everyone plan a trip to see it for themselves. And upon arriving I'm also going to insist that you get off the Going to the Sun Road that cuts through the park for at least one day hike. This is because that while the visitor can see many amazing views from the many outlooks along the road, there are so many more scenes of incredible natural beauty that are only accessible by walking to get there.

If flying to Glacier, most visitors will fly into Kalispell (FCA) and then drive to the park. West Glacier is the closest (32 miles) entrance to the park and is the southwestern end of the Going to the Sun Road which runs 50 miles through the McDonald and St Mary valleys with Logan Pass at its summit and also marking where it crosses the Continental Divide. Traveling along the southern boundary of the park on U.S. 2, visitors can reach Essex (29 miles from West Glacier) and East Glacier (55 miles from West Glacier), neither of which are inside the park, nor are there vehicle entrances at these locations. From East Glacier outside the eastern side of the park visitors can travel 4 miles up State 49 to the Two Medicine park entrance junction (9 miles more to the actual entrance) or continue up to U.S. 89 north which will take you to St Mary (20 miles from the State 49 junction), which is the eastern end of the Going to the Sun Road. Further along is the town of Babb (9 miles from St. Mary) and the junction to the Many Glacier entrance (12 miles from Babb). The roads to both Two Medicine and Many Glacier are eventual dead ends.

Visitors can also arrive via Amtrak and disembark at either West Glacier, Essex, or East Glacier. Rental car outlets are available in each of these towns and if disembarking at East Glacier, the visitor should make a point of staying at least one night at the historic Glacier Park Lodge which is a short walk from the train depot. The itinerary for our trip went as follows:

Fly into Kalispell and rent a car
4 nights at Many Glacier Lodge
3 nights at East Glacier Lodge
1 night in Kalispell before flying out early the next morning.

If we had to do it over again, we'd probably still stay at the Many Glacier Hotel but also try to fit in a night or two at the Lake McDonald Lodge. All three lodges mentioned were built by the Great Northern Railway to house the many visitors that arrived on their trains. They are all on the National Register of Historic Places and were built in 1913-1915. And although we liked it alright, we'd probably not stay at East Glacier again because it's not near anything really. A stay in Waterton at the historic Prince of Wales Lodge will certainly be on the itinerary next trip! We would also stay a night or two in Bigfork which has a quaint downtown and a thriving arts and food scene.

On our trip we went on at least one hike every day during our 7 days in the park. I wouldn't classify any as being seriously taxing as the required elevation gain on most were spread out over the length of the hike. The one exception to this was Apikuni Falls which, while only 1.2 miles to get from the car to the falls, the elevation gain was a significant 700 feet. All the hikes we did were easily doable in a day and all were of the out-and-back variety. The hikes we did and their approximate round trip lengths are:

Iceberg Lake (9.8 miles)
Grinnell Glacier (7.2)
Red Rock Falls (3.8)
Fishercap Lake (1.6)
Appikuni Falls (2.4)
Running Eagle Falls (0.6)
Appistoki Falls (1.2)
Piegan Pass (8.4)
Upper Two Medicine Lake (4.4)
Avalanche Lake (4.5)

Some of these hikes are fairly popular so we would recommend getting on the trail early (by 9:00am) so you can have a bit of solitude on the outbound and when you get to your destination. That way you can have a quiet lunch or snack while contemplating the forces that created such a magnificent view. There are certainly other hikes that are recommended by park rangers and the various hiking guides. With only 7 days we had to narrow it down to the list above. We definitely plan to return to do other hikes (e.g., Hidden Lake, the Highline Trail, Dawson-Pitamakan Passes, Cutbank Creek, Gunsight Pass,and Swiftcurrent Pass) and to also visit and hike Waterton National Park in Alberta, just to the north of Glacier.

Our tips for Glacier will include a description of each hike with stats on length, elevation gain, and our estimate of difficulty and the time it took us to complete each hike. Other tips will focus on the park and also include places to eat/shop in Babb, St. Mary, and East Glacier which are small towns that the visitor will likely pass through if wandering along the eastern side of the park.

We will include many photos through which we hope that you can grasp how beautiful it is at Glacier and to entice you to plan a trip of your own. As I said, we definitely plan to go back and we have friends who will and have done the same. It is definitely worth any effort to get to Glacier (such as arriving in Kalispell at 11:15pm and then driving 2.5 hours to get to Many Glacier that same night all while on Eastern Daylight Time - a pox on Northwest Airlines!).

But don't just believe me...go out there and see for yourself!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Some of the most gorgeous scenery that can be seen in the U.S.
  • Cons:Bugs, crowds along the Going to the Sun Road
  • In a nutshell:Everyone should go at least once in their lifetime!
  • Last visit to Glacier National Park: Jul 2005
  • Intro Updated Jul 3, 2006
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Reviews (29)

Comments (10)

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Oct 24, 2014 at 10:19 PM

    Thanks for sharing your experience, planning on going there next year. Cheers, Ian

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Mar 7, 2010 at 12:03 PM

    It reads as if you really enjoyed the scenery and took it all in. YOur descriptions of the sites are helpful and good detail to know what to see, when and how. Your hiking surpasses mine on recent trip at 150 miles in parks. Great job

  • MissyWQ's Profile Photo
    Jan 26, 2008 at 8:11 PM

    Wow, isn't nature beautiful? We had snow only in the mountains in Santa Barbara.

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    May 4, 2007 at 3:39 PM

    Should I ever get there, I'll be sure to check your comprehensive tips first. Well done.

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo
    Jan 18, 2007 at 4:59 AM

    This outstanding page had me reliving our visit to Glacier NP last summer. Excellent helpful tips - especially the detailed descriptions of your hikes and the lodges.

  • travelfrosch's Profile Photo
    Dec 2, 2006 at 12:26 PM

    Wonderful pictures and nice detailed information, especially on the hiking tips. Glacier remains high on our wish list. Cheers, Mark

  • tini58de's Profile Photo
    Aug 6, 2006 at 9:27 AM

    Fantastic!!! The landscape looks awesome and your tips are excellent! Thanks for sharing this fabulous page with us!

  • madamx's Profile Photo
    Dec 6, 2005 at 6:03 PM

    Beautiful pictures and great detailed tips; we made a brief journey into Glacier from Waterton National Park here,and it was all too brief! Greetings from Calgary ~ Helen

  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo
    Aug 17, 2005 at 7:36 AM

    Very informative and comprehensive page on one of America's best national parks. Good array of hikes as well.

  • b1bob's Profile Photo
    Aug 8, 2005 at 5:47 PM

    Nice job on the detailed tips and photography. You don't need a score of tips to get the point across with both those components coming together.


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