Archaeological studies indicates that Glacier National Park has been a place long visited by humans, specifically Native Tribes many of whom consider the region sacred. It’s not hard to understand why.
As one of the biggest National parks in the US, Glacier spans over 1,000,000 acres of Montana land, with six beautiful mountain peeks each of which raises to 10,000 feet in the air. For the wilderness lover, the park is predominantly back woods with 700 trail miles to traverse.
Visitors have George Grinnell, a mid-1800’s journalist, to thank for bringing this region to the public eye with an article in Forest and Stream. It was Grinnell’s article along with the political efforts of Congressman Pray that lead to Glacier National becoming an official park in 1910.
In the 1930s the park teamed up with Waterton Nation Park in Canada as a cooperative to better manage wildlife and research. Both parks have been named as World Heritage sites thanks to their work in Biosphere preservation.
Glacier National Park
Hikers and climbers will love the steep mountains of this area. The Blackfoot called them the world’s backbone, and its easy to see why. The Glaciers, while retreated, have left behind heavily carved stone in their wake. Meanwhile, those wanting an amazing road trip have the Sun Road at their beacon calling. The Sun Road is a two-hour stretch that goes from the east to west entrances.
The road earned its designation from Blackfoot mythology that tells of a spirit who came from the sun to teach them how to hunt. As he returned to the sun, the spirit placed his image in the mountaintop as an eternal reminder to the Tribe. Just be aware that the higher portions of the road close in October if bad weather erupts. Also larger vehicles cannot go into specific areas due to rock overhangs.
Bikers? Well hop on! Your bicycle is welcome but for some restrictions June 15 – Labor Day due to crowding. No matter what, this is not a drive to miss! If you’re planning to camp, there are numerous grounds located throughout the park and on the Sun Road. There is not, however, any gas stations here or anywhere in the park, so come with a full tank of gas.
Location, Location, Location: Glacier National Park is nestled into the North-western corner of Montana near the Rocky Mountains. If you’re driving you can get there via US Highway 2, or if coming from the North by Highway 89. The closest airport is Kalispell, about 25 miles from the park proper. Great Falls, Montana is another option but it’s 200 miles away.
Both airports offer car rental, and the Kalispell airport offers a shuttle to the park. A third alternative is traveling by Amtrak, which goes to both the East and West portion of the park.
For timing, the park remains open year round. If you want more privacy, go in winter as Summer brings the majority of visitors and campers. Those who travel in fall and winter should come prepared with suitable clothing. Snowfall provides great skiing, but the temperatures fall dramatically at night.
Glacier National Park Mountain Goat
Cost to visit the park in summer for a week with one vehicle is $25.00. A person on foot, bike, or motorcycle costs half that amount. If you’re planning to visit more than once in a year, an annual pass is only $35.00 for a single vehicle and all parties inside.
Tour groups in busses or vans are charged according to the number of people as follows: – up to six people $37.00 including the vehicle:
– six to fifteen – $75.00
– sixteen to twenty five – $100.00
– twenty five and up – $200
Anyone seeking special accommodations or planning a unique event should call the park office at 406-888-7825, or 406-888- 7832. Educational groups can receive free entrance or reduced rates.
Note that some park services do require reservations, in particular lodges. These can fill up six months in advance (sometimes more). Two of the over 1000 campgrounds, Fish Creek and St. Mary, also require reservations.
Glacier National Park St Mary Lake
Individuals planning to backpack/camp also need a permit, which is available at Apgar and the ST. Mary visitor center or at Glacier Ranger Stations. Other activities offered by the park include boat tours, fishing, hiking guides, horseback riding, and bike riding. Beyond this there are numerous other site seeing opportunities within a reasonable distance.
These include Waterton Lakes National Park, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Plains Indian Museum, Big Hole National Battlefield, Fort Union Trading Post, Little Bighorn National Monument, and Yellowstone.
In terms of wheel chair access, many of the visitor centers are fully accessible, and the Trail of Cedars also allows wheelchair access. Pet owners: pets are not allowed on trails and must be leashed.