Glacier National Park is a stunning preserve in the northern United States and has had more than 100 million people visit since its doors opened. If you’re wondering when the best time to visit Glacier National Park is, read on!
This national park resides in Montana and is a perfect location to see wildlife, take pictures of the Rocky Mountains, and explore 40 miles of the most spectacular, untamed natural beauty that North America has to offer.
This national park includes a landscape of stunning mountains, glaciers, and meadows that stretch over miles. Visitors can use this land to enjoy many recreational activities like kayaking, canoeing, bird watching, and hiking.
Yet Glacier National Park is also subject to extreme weather conditions, and many access roads can be closed during harsh storms and winter snow.
Given that, when is the best time to visit Glacier National Park? For many, the winter and fall months may pose too many risks to make a visit worth the time, but there are still many exciting adventures to have. No matter what part of the year you visit, there is much to enjoy and benefits to explore.
Overall Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park: Spring
The National Park Service maintains Glacier National Park and keeps the land perfect for visitors without disturbing the natural world. Glacier National Park rests in Montana and can be subject to harsh, cold, and extreme weather conditions.
The best time of the year to experience this national park is spring rather than summer. During spring, much of the wildflowers and foliage will resurrect from the winter slumber. Much of the meadows will begin to thrive, and animals will be coming out of hibernation. Birds will be flying back from the southern migration and preparing their old nests.
Although lake water may still be cold, there will be plenty of kayak and canoe rentals to enjoy a brisk water adventure. All in all, you’ll get relatively lovely weather without having to vie for in-demand accommodation or deal with large crowds.
Extreme summer storms and winter snows can close Going-to-the-Sun Road. Springtime typically makes this road more accessible and sees fewer crowds. It is a must-visit for many at Glacier National Park, and provides access to remote portions of the park that are otherwise unreachable.
Going-to-the-Sun Road heads up several mountains, but there are no gasoline stations in the area. However, there is a charging station for electric vehicles.
Year-Round Visiting Guides
Spring is the best time to visit Glacier National Park, but that doesn’t mean that the other seasons are without their appeal. Each offers stunning views, photographic opportunities, and lots of activities. Keep reading to see which is right for you.
The spring months can offer brisk temperatures, but the snow will also start to thaw. That opens up several hiking trails while the lakes will also regain life as the ice recedes. Although there are still plenty of dreary and cloudy days, conditions are more agreeable and snowfalls are less common.
In addition, Going-to-the-Sun Road opens more often during the spring, but avalanches are a significant risk for many skiers and ice climbers. Spring is also an ideal time for photographers, particularly when it comes to waterfalls.
Spring visits may require raincoats and extra socks but can be an ideal way to achieve peace.
The summer months tend to get storms but have stunning warm weather and even the chance to sight some rainbows. Always check your local forecast to ensure you aren’t subject to extreme storms and weather conditions.
Although temperatures can still be as low as the high 40s, summer can offer visitors stunning, crisp views without the need to bundle up with puffy winter gear.
Of course, as mentioned, summer is the most popular season at Glacier National Park. Fishing is excellent during this period, while rafting, hiking, and driving all benefit from typically outstanding weather. Moreover, the complimentary shuttle service runs on a full schedule.
Given that, expect to see lots of foot traffic and plenty of competition for campground spots or lodging.
During fall, temperatures begin to drop, and many animals start to migrate or hibernate. Still, you may have the chance to observe some of the park’s most extraordinary residents as they store food or prepare for flight. Indeed, these winter preparations offer up some of the best opportunities to sight creatures like elk, mountain lions, and bears. It goes without saying that you should take precautions and keep a safe distance.
Storms will likely be less frequent in the fall, and the scenery will start to change to more orange and red tones. Plenty of kayaking and canoeing rentals will likely be available compared to summer.
In addition, the park closes several of its facilities as the season sets in, including campgrounds. Combined with fewer lodging and dining options, fall might not be an ideal to visit if you’re looking for an activity-filled vacation.
During the winter, temperatures in Montana can drop to 15 degrees on a good day, which can make for extreme conditions. When these conditions are present, many parts of Glacier National Park are inaccessible to the general public.
Visitors can still enjoy snowshoeing and skiing. While most of the park will be closed, you can still take advantage of cross-country skiing and ice-climbing. However, it might be safest to temper your expectations to simple and stunning snow-topped views during the winter months. In that vein, always check your weather forecast before heading for a hike in Glacier National Park.
Although winter might be lacking in activities, it tends to be the most inexpensive time to visit the national park.
Tips For Visiting Glacier National Park
Now you know what you need for each season, but more tips can help you during any visit during the year. Follow our handy tips to ensure your visit to the stunning Glacier National Park.
Avoid Crowds by Visiting Early
Crowds flock to Glacier National Park in summer. That can make navigation difficult and your overall experience less relaxing. However, going early in the morning can help you circumvent traffic and enjoy a quiet (but exciting) stay.
Additionally, avoid coming to Glacier National Park on weekends during the season. Summer break means many families may have the same idea for afternoon hikes, walks, and birding trails.
Search for Lodging Nearby
If you and your family are vacationing nearby, picking out lodging beforehand can make your adventure painless. There are no hotels or cabins within Glacier National Park, but there is accommodation not too far from the park.
In addition, there are campgrounds available within Glacier National Park. There are 13 campgrounds for use in the park, with select campgrounds being ideal for pop-up tents, RVs, or vehicle camping. Keep in mind that these campgrounds tend to fill up quickly, so it is encouraged for visitors to make reservations.
Bring All the Equipment You Need
You’ll need suitable equipment for anything you intend to do at Glacier National Park. With that in mind, consider bringing what you need with you on your trip.
While there are plenty of places to kayak and canoe in Glacier National Park, there are only a limited number of rentals. Bringing your own can ensure you avoid any disappointment during your vacation. You can find a huge range of rugged, inflatable travel kayaks online.
If you want to view wildlife and birds, consider bringing travel binoculars and a notebook to write down the animals, foliage, and birds you’ve seen. If you have any artistic ability, you may want to carry a sketchbook and draw the unique creatures you’ve witnessed on your adventure.
Other pieces of equipment you may want to bring include:
- Compact camera
- Hiking socks with bug repellent
- Water bottle
- Lightweight raincoat or waterproof poncho
- Insect repellent
Prepare Meals or a Meal Plan
Glacier National Park is massive, and it can be easy to run out of energy. Have your meals packed in small, easy-to-carry containers. Also, consider planning your meals so that you know exactly how much you have and how to ration out your food for your trip.
Stay for a Week
While a weekend trip might sound ideal, Glacier National Park has much to offer (including kayaking, hiking, and photography) in a sprawling area.
Indeed, if you visit during spring and summer, you’ll find that the amount of activities may exceed the time you have available. So, instead of choosing between horseback riding or whitewater rafting, plan a longer stay to maximize your experience.
Final Thoughts – Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park
When is the best time to visit Glacier National Park? Spring is the best part of the year to spend some time at Glacier National Park. There are not too many crowds, and wildlife is beginning to flourish after a harsh winter. You will likely get some of the most stunning views, see freshly awakened animals, and breathe in the crisp air of spring.
Although spring in this extraordinary location is magical, there is plenty to do in Glacier National Park during the other seasons. What’s more, this location is perfect for learning about local Native American tribes, habitats, and animals. So, whatever time you go, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience discovering all that Glacier National Park has to offer vacationers.