Planning a Glacier National Park Drive
Planning a Glacier National Park Scenic Drive
As the weather warms up in northwestern Montana, it’s time to hit the road and see the gorgeous sites on a Glacier National Park scenic drive. We may be biased, but we think Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the United States and we want you to experience it to the fullest by driving through it!!! So fill up your tank and buckle up for this breathtaking adventure!! Utilizing this Glacier National Park road trip guide will help you get the most out of your travels through and near the park. We have included our favorite places to eat, drink, stay, and play. Enjoy!
1. West Glacier
We are gonna start in West Glacier, man is this the hot spot to be in the summer…well except Glacier Highline of course!! There are lots of options for coffee, food, snacks, gifts both inside and outside West Glacier Village. If you ask me I think my favorite place to grab a bite to eat is La Casita, located in the Discovery Center. Trust me, if you like Mexican food you won’t be disappointed. You can also get some hand-scooped ice cream at Eddie’s Cafe and enjoy it on the shore of Lake McDonald or hit the road!
Head into Apgar and check out the visitor’s center. There are rangers there to answer all your questions, share Glacier’s fun facts and history with you, and give you current updates of what you may run into on your adventures.
Glacier National Park also has a few historic lodges that are a MUST SEE and Lake McDonald Lodge will be the first one you come across leaving Apgar so make sure you swing in and walk around.
Going-To-The-Sun highway is world famous and takes months of plowing and preparation to host plenty of different activities in the summer months. Make sure your cameras are charged and you give yourself enough time to enjoy it.
Stop and take a quick hike along the way even! Avalanche Lake is a very popular place to take a quick hike with wonderful views along the way. It’s a great beginner hike for all age groups too. Trail of the cedars is right next to the Avalanche trailhead so make sure you walk the boardwalk through there and see some of the biggest cedars Glacier has to offer. There are plenty of hiking trails and walks you can take when in Glacier. They should already be on your bucket list and there are hikes for everyone on your summer vacation. Make sure you plan accordingly and catch the current trail updates before hitting the trail from a local park ranger..another reason to stop in at the ranger stations.
You will see lots of features along the Going-To-The-Sun road such as Weeping Wall and Bird Woman Falls. Features are sometimes better than others depending on when you make the trip in the short season Mother Nature allows Going-To-The-Sun road to run. Along the road there is great signage along the way to point out different landmarks and other things you may want to stop and snap a picture or just take it all in. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife along the trip- bears, deer, mountain goats, moose…anything is possible!
4. Logan Pass
When you reach the top of Going-To-The-Sun Road you will be at Logan Pass which is the highest elevation you can reach in the park via car at a whopping 6646 ft above sea level!! This is also the peak of the continental divide, there is a nice parking lot at the visitors center and plenty of trailheads leaving from this area. Take a small hike up the boardwalk behind the visitors center and see if you can still find some snow..maybe have a quick snowball fight!
5. To East Glacier*
From here it’s all downhill..quite literally as you head down the other side of the continental divide. The scenery changes a bit, but the beauty stays the same as you head onto the East side of Glacier. There are more trails on the East side ready to be hiked. Make your way to St.Mary and don’t forget to stop at St. Mary’s Visitor’s Center!
6. Many Glacier*
Next, take the road VERY much-traveled over to Many Glacier because why not and also the views will blow your mind! Many Glacier Hotel is another historic lodge that is a must-see!!! Lots of trailheads leave from Many Glacier and you could find yourself at Redrock Falls, Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake…Glacier really gives you endless opportunities. Please make sure you adventure responsibly and plan accordingly.
7. Two Medicine Area*
I am a local gal with the West side of Glacier being in my backyard but man seeing those mountains on my way headed back from the East side makes them look like Everest and makes me fall in love with them all over again. When I was younger I used to think the East side was “boring” (like any kid or teenager would say) but it has grown on me and now holds a piece of my love for Glacier.
If you’re still looking for more exploring on the East Side take a quick 7-mile scenic detour (14 miles round trip), head on Two Medicine Road to Two Medicine Campground. All roads in MT lead to some wonderful fun and scenery so don’t be afraid to take that random road or ask a local or another family visiting their favorite place. You will get lots more travel ideas and things to squeeze into your days here. Just another reason we love our long summer days. Ya don’t run out of daylight until about 9-10 pm so make it count!
8. Looping Back to West Glacier*
Wrapping up your complete Glacier National Park drive is the 56 mile, 1-hour jaunt from East Glacier Park Village to West Glacier on US Highway 2 East. Highway 2 marks the south boundary of the park. You will be passing the Izaak Walton Inn. Maybe have a bite to eat here while you explore their famous inn. Can you spot the toy train in the dining room? Take a walk around their property and see or even stay in some of the old train cars, maybe do some train watching right from their back porch! Maybe you could even book a couple of nights lodging in one of the old train cars. You heard that right!! Good potential to check off seeing that Mountain goat would be to head down to Goat Lick Overlook just 3 miles down the road from the Izaak Walton Inn.
We will keep you plenty busy during your days here exploring Glacier and the Flathead Valley. If I were you I would make sure this road trip is on your bucket list and I would also add Polebridge. Check out the Polebridge Mercantile and I think it’s illegal (well definitely frowned upon) to leave Polebridge without a Huckleberry bear claw or at least some sort of baked good.
Enjoy a nice meal at the Northern Lights Saloon or throw a quick game of horseshoes behind the merch before you hike into Kintla Lake. Coming over the 4th of July? Celebrate America’s birthday with the cutest parade up in Polebridge- GET THERE EARLY!
There’s no reason to be bored while you visit here, which I’m sure you already know. Whitefish is a fun little town with shops, good eats, and a ski hill that is open for summer activities as well. I suggest taking a hike up the Mtn or hitch a ride on the chair lift and enjoy some pretty stellar views of the Flathead Valley and Glacier from the summit. You will feel on top of the world and this trip will be one for the books!
*Summer 2020 Special Considerations:
According to the Blackfeet Nation:
The Blackfeet Nation will close off road access to Glacier National Park’s east entrances for the remainder of the tourism season, according to a resolution written Thursday. The tribal leaders’ decision was based on the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council issued a resolution saying it will close roads leading from state and federal highways to park entrances. That includes Two Medicine, Chief Mountain, Going to the Sun, Cut Bank Creek and Many Glacier roads.
We will show you the ropes at Glacier Highline and then send you on your next great adventure to enjoy the valley we love!
Our Adventure Passes include access to our zipline near Glacier National Park and other family-friendly activities like our inflatable ground and water obstacle courses! Does your travel plan include a full driveable getaway and staycation in Montana? Check out our blog post to get ideas about our favorite sights in the state!