Glacier National Park is one of the best and biggest attractions not only in Montana but also across the United States. The park itself extends over 1 million acres, entails over 762 lakes, 700 miles worth of hiking trails, more than 560 streams, a total of 175 mountains, and 25 glaciers. Established in May 1910, this park has got a little bit of everything for everyone. It attracts over 2 million visitors each year. If you’re planning to explore this expansive wonder in Northern America, this guide explores some essential Glacier National Park facts.
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How to get there
Glacier Park Airport is the closest air transportation hub to the port. It is situated between Columbia Falls and Kalispell in Montana, about 24 miles to the southwest of the park’s West Glacier Village entrance. Other proximate airports include Missoula (132 miles out), Great Falls (140 miles out), and Calgary (174 miles out). If you want to take it slow, you can take a train ride to the park, just like people used to do many years ago when the park was opened. Amtrak trains will take you to a stop at West and East Glacier entrance points to the park.
Where to stay
Some of the oldest park lodges in the country you’ll find here. For instance, the Glacier Park Lodge itself was built way back in 1912. Both the Many Glacier Hotel and the McDonald Lodge were constructed in 1914. There’s also the Prince of Wales stay lodge, built in 1927. If you are looking to stay at a less stately and rather affordable place, there’s Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, as well as the Rising Sun Motor Inn, both constructed between 1930 and 1940. The Village Inn located at Apgar was built back in 1956. With the exception of Glacier Park Lodge, all these hotels, lodges and inns are located within the boundaries of the park. You can make reservations via Glacier Park, Inc There are also many other places where you can book a stay within the vicinity of the park, so the variety is really there. Most of these hotels aren’t so far away from each other, thus you might want to try different places if you’re going to stay for a while.
If you’re a bit more adventurous or consider yourself to be a discerning nature buff, you may opt to stay at a campsite close to the park.
- Watch the glaciers – you won’t want to conclude your Glacier National Park trip without witnessing those namesake ice blocks. There are 25 glaciers still available at the park today. Back in 1850, there are 150 of them, but the number has declined over time, mostly due to global warming. You can travel closer by foot, boat, car or even horseback to examine the impact of the glaciers on the landscape of the area. And here’s the catch – you don’t have long to see them (climate change wizards say that by 2030, all the glaciers in the park will have melted).
- Listen to some Native American – there’s a Native America Speaks program where members of the Summertime, Salish, Blackfeet, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes share some history. You only need to go to the St. Mary Visitor Center for this program, or in one of the park’s lodges.
- Take a wooden boat ride – there’s no shortage of fine ways to journey through Glacier National Park. If you want to experience something quite memorable, you can take a classic wooden board. These boats are well-maintained, so you don’t have to worry about them capsizing. There are tours throughout the park, including at St. Mary Lake, Lake McDonald, Rising Sun, Two Medicine and many other Glaciers.
- Saddle Up – get on a horseback. This is another really cool way to experience the best of what the park has to offer. When the park was opened more than a century ago, visitors used to access it via the Great Northern Railroad, and then spend days exploring the park on horseback. The duration of the trip varies based on your preferences, and you can even make it more fun with river rafting. If you have little experience riding a horse, Swan Mountain can help you get going.
- Go for a hike – this is perhaps one of the most obvious Glacier National Park facts. No genuine outdoor enthusiast wants to visit this park and leave without taking a hike along one of the trails. Whether you’re visiting for a day, a week or a month, there are so many places to wonder at Glacier National Park. The best way to plan for a hike is to talk to a park ranger who’s familiar with the area and can help you choose the best trail based on the experience you seek. You may also get on a guided day or overnight hike.
- Cycle along the Going-to-the-Sun road – if you love cycling, you can follow the Going-to-the-Sun road most times of the year. This is a 50+ miles stretch that runs from the park’s East all the way to its West borders. You’ll enjoy the breathtaking views along your way.
- Eat some huckleberry – act a little bit like a hungry bear and pick a fresh, healthy huckleberry snack in the bushes. The park allows you to pick and eat huckleberry any time you’re there. However, the quantity is limited to just a quart per person per day.
- Take a picture – as goes the popular truism, a picture is worth a thousand words. Capture all the fun and excitement of the park in a nice photo. The good news is that there are so many professional photographers in the park who can suggest the best opportunities for a memorable photo.
- See a waterfall – there’s no shortage of waterfalls at the Glacier National Park. You can start at Virginia, Running Eagle, Grinnell, Running Woman, Twin, Haystack, Rainbow, Ptarmigan waterfall or wherever else you want. The experience is calming and memorable. Bring your camera with you and capture the best of natural beauty.
There’s a lot more that you can do at the park, and these Glacier National Park facts are just meant to be a beginner guide. Simply make sure that you plan in advance so that you don’t get confused or stranded when you get here.
If you’re still not satisfied with the awe of this continental attraction, you can watch the Glacier National Park travel documentary below.