The sound of birds softly chirping overhead gently wakes you, as sun streams through the windows signalling the start of the day. Pushing away your soft blanket and rolling out of bed, you pour a steaming cup of coffee, cradling the warm mug in your hands as you slowly take your first steps outside.
Fresh mountain air fills your lungs as you breathe deeply, inhaling the piney scent wafting over from the thick groves of trees nearby, framed by alpine ridges looming in the distance practically begging to be explored.
Beams of sunshine warm your face, and you rub your eyes to push away the last remnants of slumber, convinced that the sight in front of you might still be a dream.
This is what it’s like to wake up in Glacier National Park, one of the top outdoor destinations in America.
With sparkling, turquoise and emerald lakes nestled below soaring mountain peaks, trails sculpted by ancient glaciers revealing epic viewpoints and hidden waterfalls, and meadows bursting with wildflowers, this pristine landscape in northern Montana has welcomed visitors for over a century.
Hugging the border between Alberta and B.C. in Canada, the so-called “Crown of the Continent” has more than a million acres’ worth of serene forests, hikes and lakes, serving up endless adventures year-round in its rugged Rocky Mountains.
Longing to discover it for yourself? Here are just a few of the reasons why camping in Glacier National Park is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in this natural treasure.
Table of Contents
1) Easy access to spectacular scenery and the best Glacier National Park photography spots
Welcoming more than two million visitors per year, parts of the park can get busy once the day-trippers roll in. Camping near Glacier National Park overnight means you’ll have a head start on the crowds, and will be deep into trails like Hidden Lake or the Trail of Cedars before those selfie stick-wielding folks even get off the tour bus.
The park is particularly enchanting at dawn and dusk when rose and golden hues dance across the sky and cast an alpenglow over the mountains, and you’ll be able to experience it all from the comfort of your campsite, or venture off with camera in hand to capture some epic glacier photography. Some of the best sunrise and sunset spots include:
- Two Medicine Lake
- The Wild Goose Island viewpoint
- Lake McDonald
- Many Glacier
- Logan Pass
- Hidden Lake
- Grinnell Glacier
Staying in one of the Glacier National Park campgrounds means another perk for wildlife watchers: animals are typically more active in the early morning or evening hours, so spending full days in the park means a better chance of seeing majestic elk, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, lynx, mountain lions and wolverines.
This area is also home to one of the largest remaining grizzly bear populations in the USA, so chances are you’ll see at least one griz or black bear during your stay in Glacier National Park.
2) A great base for adventure
There are plenty of things to do in Glacier National Park year round, yet it truly comes alive in the warmer months when visitors can take advantage of activities like hiking, cycling, white water rafting and water sports. Hiking is one of the best ways to explore, with plenty of trails suitable for different skill levels–all guaranteeing epic views.
Try the Garden Wall (Highline) Trail starting from Logan’s Pass, St. Mary and Virginia Falls, the Ptarmigan Tunnel trail, the tough Dawson Pitamakan Loop, or always-popular Grinnell Glacier.
For some family fun with a bit of an adrenaline rush, head to the Alpine Slide at Whitefish Mountain Resort which is like a mix between a luge and Mario Kart, or the Aerial Adventure Park where visitors navigate a treetop obstacle course made up of suspended bridges, ladders and even a trapeze.
With 762 emerald and turquoise-hued lakes to choose from, spending a day on the water is one of the top activities in Glacier National Park. Rent a boat or paddle board in Apgar Village, head out for some whitewater rafting, or spend a relaxing day fishing–if you end up catching a big one, you’ll be all sorted for dinner back at the campsite!
Book one of these tours in Glacier National Park:
3) To enjoy an epic drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road
One of the best highlights of visiting Glacier National Park is driving along the legendary Going-to-the-Sun Road–preferably with the top down and wind blowing through your hair.
Winding through the heart of the park, the 50-mile roadway hugs steep cliff sides, serving up sweeping views of the valley below that are so stunning they almost distract from its infamous tight, hairpin turns.
The drive connecting the park’s east and west entrances takes about two hours, and leads to the Logan Pass Visitor Center which sits at a 6,700 elevation straddling the Continental Divide.
Inside you’ll find exhibits about Glacier National Park animals and plants, as well as helpful rangers to assist with trip planning. From here it’s worth exploring surrounding hiking trails like the Hidden Lake Overlook which serves up gorgeous, panoramic views of the alpine ecosystem, towering Clements Mountain, Mt. Oberlin and the lake…just be warned, the pathways can be packed with people.
Back on the highway, keep an eye out for wildlife like mountain goats, finishing at St. Mary Lake in time to enjoy a sunset cruise. Camping in Glacier National Park means you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the drive, so be sure to make the most of it!
Tips for driving Going-to-the-Sun Road
- The highway is only open to vehicles seasonally and reservations may be required, so be sure to double-check road closures before heading out. Cyclists have a bit more flexibility since the road opens earlier in the year for bike traffic, making for an epic ride without worrying about cars. Click here to book
- If the idea of a cliff-hugging journey puts you on edge, start from the east in St. Mary and head west. That way, you’ll be driving beside rock walls most of the time instead of the side that drops into the valley.
Where to stay in Glacier National Park
From quaint campsites and tiny houses to grand hotels and backcountry lodges, there’s something to suit every group type and budget when it comes to booking Glacier National Park accommodations.
Visitors can either stay in the heart of the park or in one of the gateway communities, with popular picks being the historic Glacier Park Lodge which dates back to 1913 and was the first hotel built by the Great Northern Railway, and the Apgar Village Lodge and Cabins right on the shores of Lake McDonald.
To make the most of the stunning surroundings, book into the West Glacier RV Park & Cabins, the newest offering from Pursuit Glacier Park Collection. Located in a prime Glacier National Park RV camping spot at the park gates just steps from West Glacier Village, it’s the perfect place to embrace the outdoors while still enjoying amenities like shopping, dining, laundry facilities, free Wi-Fi and modern bathrooms.
Pulling a trailer big enough to hold an entire soccer team? No problem–this RV park has spacious pull-through sites that accommodates tow behinds and slide-outs up to 80’ in length. Each spot includes full hookups, a green space and fire pit, perfect for those late night s’mores sessions.
Tips for planning your Glacier National Park vacation
Best time to visit Glacier National Park: This is one of the best national parks to visit year round, but those arriving between June and September typically means the best weather and more activities. Keep in mind accommodation can be harder to come by and more expensive during high season, so staying in one of the RV parks near Glacier National Park is a great option to consider.
How to get there: The closest airport is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell, which is a 20 minute drive from the town of Whitefish or 45 minutes to the park’s West Entrance. Those making a road trip of it can get to the park gates in about 10 hours from Seattle, six hours from Calgary, and just four from Spokane.
Gear: It’s important to be prepared in the backcountry, though it’s not always easy to haul gear around especially if you’re flying to Montana. RightOnTrek offers camping and backpacking gear rentals and even meals, and is conveniently located right next to the Glacier National Park airport in Kalispell.
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