Scoured, scarred, and sculpted by gigantic glaciers for millennia, Glacier National Park boasts some of the most breathtaking landscapes in America. Located in the northwest of Montana, its remote, rugged, and wild reaches lie on the border with Canada, with majestic mountain ranges and vast valleys carving through its confines.
Founded in 1910, it protects spectacular scenery and nature, with everything from moose and mule deer to coyotes, cougars, and grizzly bears residing within. A popular place to visit due to its unspoiled nature and wealth of phenomenal views, there are plenty of outdoor activities and other things to do in Glacier National Park. Here’s a look at the ‘Crown of the Continent’ and one of the States’ standout sights.
12. Swiftcurrent Falls
While more than 200 waterfalls dot Glacier National Park, the stunning Swiftcurrent Falls is certainly one of its most scenic. Backed by the mighty Mount Grinnell, it lies between the lovely lake of the same name and Lake Sherburne.
Coursing down a rugged cliffside, the multi-tiered cascade’s jet-white waters stand out delightfully against the rough rocks and lush undergrowth surrounding them. Looming above it in the background is the massive mount that helps to make the falls so photogenic.
Very easy to get to, Swiftcurrent Falls is just a short stroll away from the Many Glacier Hotel, with the cosy campsite of the same name and countless other trails and paths lying not far away.
11. St. Mary Lake
The second largest lake in the park, St. Mary Lake is located not far from the East Entrance, ringed by peaks. Stretching over 15 kilometers in length, it boasts spectacular shoreline, with the gorgeous Going-to-the-Sun Road running along its north shore.
As it lies at an altitude of 1,367 meters and is presided over by lots of prominent peaks, the lake’s beautiful blue waters are frigid, and often freeze over in the winter months. At their heart is the small, secluded Wild Goose Island, which makes for some fantastic photos with the majestic mountains towering in the background.
Besides basking in its beauty, visitors can hike or drive along its lakeshore, take a boat trip on its reflective waters, or go wildlife watching: elk, grizzly bears, and black bears are sometimes spotted in its surroundings.
10. Iceberg Lake Trail
One of the most popular and picturesque paths in the park, the idyllic Iceberg Lake Trail takes you past sublime scenery, with arresting views wherever you go. Starting near Swiftcurrent Motor Inn with the goal being the ice-filled lake of the same name, the roundtrip from start to finish is around 15 kilometers.
Quite steep at the start, the trail soon levels off as you pass flower-filled alpine meadows with lush forests and mighty mountains stretching away before you. As it is mostly uphill, however, hikers need to be moderately fit and carry bear spray with them as giant grizzlies inhabit this remote region of the park.
At the end of the trail, you’ll reach the incredible Iceberg Lake, which lies at an elevation of 1,857 meters, towered over by cliff faces and sheer mountains. A stunning sight, it makes the tiring trail all worthwhile for the phenomenal nature, views and scenery you’ll enjoy.
9. Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
Straddling the border between the US and Canada is the wondrous Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first such park to be founded in the world. Created in 1932, it not only promotes peace, but also highlights that nations must work together to protect our planet’s wild areas.
Made up of Waterton Lakes National Park on the Canada side and Glacier National Park in the US, it encompasses an astounding array of landscapes and ecosystems. Home to everything from craggy canyons and magnificent mountains to endless forests, prairies, and glaciers, the two beautiful biosphere reserves are a treat to explore.
As it lies within two different countries, visitors need to bring their passport if they want to access each side. At the Chief Mountain Border Crossing, you can see the two nations’ flags waving next to each other in the wind, with a monument below welcoming you to the international peace park.
8. Virginia Falls
Hidden away amid the verdant forest, Virginia Falls lies along the creek of the same name and can be accessed by hiking the charming Continental Divide Trail.
Reaching around 15 meters in height, this waterfall plunges down a dramatic cliff, with towering trees and dense undergrowth lying all around it. While its white waters and scenic setting make for some fantastic photos, there are also some great views to be had from the base of its lovely pool over the vast valley dropping away below it.
As the superb St Mary Falls and some other cascades lie along the route to the falls, the Continental Divide Trail is one of the most rewarding to hike, with Virginia Falls its undoubted highlight.
7. Trail of the Cedars
Although it is only a kilometer long, the Trail of the Cedars is one of Glacier National Park’s most popular and picturesque paths. While its raised boardwalk and paved path make it accessible and easy to hike, it also passes lots of breathtaking scenery.
Starting and ending at the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the short loop meanders through a thick forest of cedar trees, some of which reach 25 metres in height. At its halfway point, visitors can enjoy a lovely view over the attractive Avalanche Gorge; the fabulous falls at its heart are lined by moss-coated rocks and trees.
While it can get crowded, Trail of the Cedars is well worth visiting if you have the chance. It is one of only two paths in the park that is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
6. Highline Trail
In contrast to Trail of the Cedars, Highline Trail takes you past death-defying drops, with its arduous terrain more suited to adventurous and experienced hikers. Starting at Logan Pass, the 19-kilometre-long trail culminates at Granite Park’s cosy chalet, with sublime scenery and views all along the route.
Much of the terrific trail hugs the steep slopes of the Garden Wall, with phenomenal views to be had over the sweeping valleys below and sensational, snow-topped mountains stretching into the distance. On the way, you’ll pass through pretty flower-filled meadows, with the famous narrow ledge and steep drops the most exhilarating and awe-inspiring part of the hike.
At the end, you’ll come to the gorgeous Granite Park, which boasts breathtaking panoramas from its charming chalet. One of the most popular routes in the park, Highline Trail offers hikers the chance to see some wildlife: grizzly bears are often spied in the area.
5. Grinnell Glacier
Glistening in the sun is the beautiful Grinnell Glacier, which lies nestled amidst the mounts of the Lewis Range. Located in the magnificent Many Glacier region, it is one of the most famous and photographed of the park’s many amazing tourist attraction.
Named after the early American conservationist and explorer George Bird Grinnell, the giant glacier rests on the north side of Mount Gould, over 2,000 metres above sea level. Standing out against its craggy confines, the shining sheet of ice looks out over a sparkling turquoise lake ringed by woods.
The site is only accessible by hiking along a 12-kilometre trail. As the once gigantic glacier has retreated drastically in recent decades, it is well worth visiting the incredible natural wonder while you still can.
4. Avalanche Lake
Surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains with verdant forests tumbling down their slopes, the arresting Avalanche Lake makes for a spellbinding sight. Hidden away in the heart of the park, its secluded shores are a popular yet peaceful place to visit.
Lying just three kilometers further on from the Trail of the Cedars, the large lake is not too tough to hike to as you pass through lush woods and alongside the attractive Avalanche Creek. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted with its captivating crystal clear waters that beautifully reflect the mountains above.
Coursing down their steep slopes, you can spy several waterfalls and streams, which only add to the outstanding beauty on show. All this makes Avalanche Lake the perfect place to stop for a picnic or a photo, or simply immerse yourself in nature.
3. Lake McDonald
Reaching around 16 kilometers in length, Lake McDonald fills the vast valley in which it lies with its mesmerizing mirror-like waters. Located on the west side of the Continental Divide, it is the largest of Glacier National Park’s more than 130 lakes.
With mountains rising above its reflective waters, Lake McDonald makes for a breathtaking sight, with multi-colored rocks lining its shoreline. Plunging to a dizzying depth of 130 meters, its cold waters lend themselves perfectly to all kinds out outdoor activities, with fishing, swimming, and boating particularly popular.
In addition, many people go hiking or horseback riding in its surroundings, and the gorgeous Going-to-the-Sun Road runs along its southern shoreline. To make the most of their visit to the lake and the park, many people camp alongside its waters or stay at the historic Lake McDonald Lodge, which offers fantastic views of the striking scene.
2. Logan Pass
Perched atop of the Continental Divide, Logan Pass lies at the height of 2,026 meters. The highest part of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, it is a popular start point for many hikes and boasts phenomenal views over the surrounding valleys and mountains.
Named after Major William R. Logan, the park’s first superintendent, the pretty pass is blocked for most of the year by snow, only being navigable in the summer months. During these warmer times of year, its car park is often packed with people come to hike the Highline Trail or bask in the beautiful views before them.
Not far away is the excellent Logan Pass Visitor Center which has interesting and interactive exhibits on the history, geology, and nature of the park.
1. Going-to-the-Sun Road
Winding its way through the wild reaches of Glacier National Park is the glorious Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the most scenic and spectacular drives in America. Stretching around 80 kilometers, it takes you past everything from vast valleys and towering mountains to verdant forests, flower-filled meadows, and sparkling lakes.
Completed in 1932, the road is an engineering marvel as it meanders through rugged and remote regions of the Rocky Mountains. The only road that traverses the whole of the park, it connects the west entrance to the east entrance, with its highest point being the lofty Logan Pass.
Named after the massive mountain of the same name that dominates the east side of the park, it has lots of lovely viewpoints for drivers to stop off at and snap photo after photo of the superb scenery. While the narrow, winding road and its hair-raising bends is a challenge to drive along, the stunning views and nature lining Going-to-the-Sun Road make it one of the park’s standout sights.