Your Quick Guide to Enjoying a Day in Glacier National Park
Are you looking for what to do during your visit to Glacier National Park in Montana? Looking to get the most out of one day? Here is a quick day guide for what to do while driving between the west entrance to east entrance of Glacier National Park.
I usually drive by starting on the west side and heading east, which is closer to the east entrance. However, if I were you, I would spend a night on the east side of the park, and then drive east to west if you have only one day. Either way you go, you will encounter crowds at certain times, and of course some stores are only open during certain times.
Also, keep in mind that there is SO much more to do in Glacier Park than what I have listed here! (Please add anything you think of in the comments section!)
So, driving from East Glacier to West Glacier:
1. START EARLY.
The driving crowds are prevalent during the mid-morning through the afternoon hours, so this would be the ideal time to be enjoying a hike or lunch somewhere. Bring some snacks for the road.
2. ENJOY BREAKFAST AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFE IN EAST GLACIER.
There are not a lot of options for breakfast in this small town. If you are staying at a bed and breakfast, enjoy the included breakfast. If you are looking for a place to eat, stop for the huckleberry french toast at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Yes, the french toast is thick and similar to a dessert, but I love it. If you are looking for lighter fare, try an omelet.
3. STOP AND TAKE A PHOTO OF THE EAST GLACIER HOTEL.
Better yet, stay the night here and enjoy the golf course, swimming pool and restaurant. If you stay at another local place, you will want to take a moment to stop in, read about the hotel’s history, and snap a photo of this beautiful, historic building.
4. DRIVE TO TWO MEDICINE.
The drive from East Glacier to Two Medicine is a quick drive, and you will want to stop by this lake for the breathtaking views. You can view the current webcam here. There are also boat tours available here, but you have a long day ahead of you, so I would keep driving.
5. STOP BY RUNNING EAGLE FALLS FOR A SHORT HIKE AND A PHOTO.
Running Eagle Falls is right off the road on your way back out to head to Saint Mary. This is a short (0.6 mile hike round-trip), flat hike on an easy trail to a beautiful waterfall.
6. DRIVE TO SAINT MARY.
You will drive back out to the Two Medicine Junction, and technically you can go either way, but taking a left is the fastest way. If you turn right, you have to drive back out to East Glacier and around through the town of Browning. Turning left will take you up a windy, tight road that will make your drive considerably shorter.
Once you reach Saint Mary, take some time to buy food, and browse the stores.
Important: You can’t buy food again for quite some time, so be sure to get any snacks or refreshments you need now!
7. DRIVE TOWARD LOGAN PASS.
The drive from Saint Mary to Logan Pass will not actually take you that long, depending on how often you stop for a photo. The drive takes you along Saint Mary Lake, with the infamous view that you can thankfully enjoy right off the road!
8. STOP AT LOGAN PASS.
The Logan Pass area will allow you to enjoy a variety of activities. The Logan Pass Visitor Center offers information about the wildlife (that you will see all over this area!), and you can take a short hike up to Hidden Lake Overlook (1.5 miles one way). I highly recommend the hike all of the way down to Hidden Lake (past the overlook), but this will take longer than a day with all of the activities I have listed here. There are plenty of other hikes leaving from here as well.
Logan Pass gets crowded after about 9:30 a.m., the parking lot will most likely be full. Plan on taking laps around the parking lot, waiting for someone to leave, in order to get a parking spot. Unfortunately the parking lot is so small, there isn’t much space!
9. ENJOY THE SCENIC DRIVE DOWN THE GOING-TO-THE-SUN HIGHWAY TO AVALANCHE LAKE.
This is probably the most famous part of Glacier National Park. The drive down this side offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and there are plenty of places to stop to get the photo you want!
The drive will take you down to the Avalanche Lake Campground and parking area. This spot also tends to get crowded with people, so parking can be difficult.
There is a spot here along the creek you can stop and eat. It is a nice, tranquil spot that I enjoy.
The hike to Avalanche Lake is easy, and very popular — for good reason. The hike is gorgeous, taking you through a beautiful green forest until you reach the crystal clear lake with avalanches pouring into it from the mountains above. If it is not too late in the day, this hike is 2 miles each way, and you should put it on your list.
10. STOP AT THE LAKE MCDONALD LODGE.
Continue driving, and you will see the turn to Lake McDonald Lodge. Here you will find food, and there are boat tours available of the lake. Tour the beautiful lodge located on the shore of Lake McDonald.
I particularly love this spot on a sunny afternoon day, when people gather on the beach and enjoy swimming in the frigid water. (Yes, it is cold most of the summer!)
11. CONTINUE DRIVING TO APGAR FOR THE CLASSIC PHOTO.
The drive from Lake McDonald Lodge to Apgar will take you along the shore of the stunning Lake McDonald. There are plenty of places to stop for photos or jump in the lake. Once you reach Apgar, you will enjoy the beautiful view of the lake that captures visitors from around the world. (This is the view in the first photo on this post.)
Apgar offers some shopping and the opportunity to grab food (or some huckleberry ice cream), and enjoy the evening!
12. LEAVE GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Head out of Glacier National Park into the town of West Glacier. Here you can get dinner and a huckleberry shake as you head back to the Flathead Valley.
NOTE: There are many more day hikes to enjoy along this drive, but I am trying to give you one day’s itinerary without being too rushed!
Enjoy your time spent in Glacier National Park!
Warm Wishes from Big Sky Country,
Alex M. Neill
Montana Vacation Blog