GLACIER NATIONAL PARK TRIP PLANNER Copyright 2023 Smoky Bear Ranch
ABOUT THE PARK Glacier National Park is a magnificent place to visit. It is referred to by many names: Crown of the Continent, or the Land of Shining Mountains, or Ahkwaiswilko (a Kootenai word for glacier-carved mountains) to name a few. Glacier Park was established as a national park in 1910 when President Taft signed a bill making it the 10th national park. It is over a million acres of unspoiled wilderness. Did you know? Glacier Park got its name because of how the rugged peaks and ranges were formed by the giant glaciers from the last great ice age millions of years ago. These glaciers have retreated and disappeared. There is a misnomer that Glacier Park was named for the many glaciers still lingering in the park today but these glaciers were formed during the mini ice age of the early 1800s.
There are hundreds of lakes in Glacier Park which are connected by hundreds of streams. These lakes range in size from small high alpine lakes like Iceberg Lake to large glacial lakes like Lake McDonald and Saint Mary Lake. All of the lakes have a beautiful glacial aquamarine color with crystal clear water - you can see 30 feet (9 m) or more down into the lake. The Continental Divide runs through Glacier Park. It is part of the Continental Divide Trail which goes from New Mexico to the Canadian Border. There is a mountain along the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park called Divide Peak. From Divide Peak the water drainages flow three different directions. The drainages on the west side of the Continental Divide and Divide Peak flow into the Pacific Ocean. On the east side of the Continental Divide but north of Divide Peak all the water drainages flow into the Hudson Bay. And on the east side of the Continental Divide but south of Divide Peak all the water drains into the Gulf of Mexico. Did you know? Lake McDonald is the largest glacial lake in Glacier Park. It is about 10 miles (16 km) long, over a mile (1.6 km) wide, and 472 feet (130 m) deep. It was formed by a combination of erosion and glacial activity millions of years ago.
The Going-To-The-Sun-Road is the only road that passes over the Continental Divide and through Glacier Park - one of the most magnificent and scenic drives in the world. It is 50 miles (80 km) long and was completed in 1932. The alpine portion of the road is quite narrow and winding so there are vehicle size restrictions on this section of the Road. Vehicles over 21 feet (6½ m) long, including bumpers and trailers, or wider than 8 feet (2½ m), including mirrors, are prohibited. The alpine section is from Avalanche Campground to Rising Sun picnic area. Did you know? Plows encounter snow about 40 feet (12 m) deep at Logan Pass when clearing that section of the Going-ToThe-Sun Road each June. An area just east of Logan Pass, referred to as The Big Drift, will have snow even deeper, 80 feet (24 m) deep or more. It is one of the most difficult roads in North America to snowplow. 2023 Vehicle Registration In 2023, a vehicle reservation is required for four areas of the park: Going-to-the-Sun Road, the North Fork, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier. Each location has unique details and requires a separate reservation. More information
Glacier National Park is a hiker’s paradise. Day hike trails range from a mile or less, relatively level, handicap accessible trails like Trail of the Cedars or Running Eagle Falls to very strenuous trails like Mount Brown Lookout which has over 4,300’ (1,323 m) elevation gain in 5.8 miles (8.5 km). Hiking trails are interwoven throughout the back country of Glacier Park for backpacking trips of 2 or more days. You can leave the hectic life of civilization behind and seek peace and solitude with nature at its best. The weather in the mountainous region of Glacier National Park can change frequently and quickly. Even during the summer it is not unusually for nighttime temperatures to fall below 50 F (10 C). Cloudless skies during the day can quickly turn into a raging thunderstorm. Snow in the high country is a distinct possibility at any time, especially in June, late August, and September. Did you know? There are more than 730 miles (1,168 km) of hiking trails in Glacier National Park that will give you access to soaring peaks, lush forests, mountain meadows, and fish filled lakes.
HOW TO GET HERE? By Airplane: The closest airport is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). It’s not always the least expensive place to fly into but it’s only a 30 minute drive to the Glacier Park area. Flying into Missoula International Airport (MSO) might be a little less expensive but there would be a 2½ to 3 hour drive to the Glacier Park area. You may be able to save a little more by flying into Spokane International Airport (GEG) but your drive would be about 5 hours to the Glacier Park area. Click here for Glacier Park International Airport flight status information
By Train: There are four train stations you can arrive at for your visit to Glacier National Park. You can arrive at East Glacier Park (GPK), Essex (ESM), West Glacier (WGL), or Whitefish (WFH). Whitefish is the only station you can check luggage. The East Glacier Park station is on the east side of Glacier Park with a 15 minute drive to the Two Medicine entrance or just over an hour drive to the Saint Mary entrance on a narrow winding road. The Essex station is along the southern edge of Glacier National Park about 30 minutes to either East Glacier Park or West Glacier. The West Glacier station is at the West Glacier entrance. The Whitefish station is on the west side of Glacier Park and is about a 45 minute drive to West Glacier. Visit GPK Website Visit ESM Website Visit WGL Website Visit WFH Website
By Car: To get an idea of how long it will take you to drive to the Glacier Park area, below are some distances from common areas: LOCATION DISTANCE Missoula, MT 150 miles (240 km) Minneapolis, MN 1,165 miles (1,864 km) Spokane, WA 269 miles (430 km) Phoenix, AZ 1,307 miles (2,091 km) Calgary, AB (Canada) 279 miles (446 km) Los Angeles, CA 1,336 miles (2,138 km) Yellowstone, NP 389 miles (622 km) Dallas, TX 1,768 miles (2,829 km) Seattle, WA 547 miles (875 km) New York, NY 2,367 miles (3,787 km) Denver, CO 977 miles (1,563km) Miami, FL 2,906 miles (4,649 km) Get Directions From Anywhere
Car Rental: There is no public transportation in the Glacier Park area so you will need to rent a car. Avis, Budget, Hertz, and National/Alamo all have in terminal car rental counters at Glacier Park International Airport. Kalispell Toyota, Dollar, Enterprise, and Thrifty will deliver a rental car to the airport for you. You can reserve a rental car with Hertz and have it delivered to the Amtrak station in West Glacier. Budget, Hertz, and Dollar will deliver a reserved rental car to the Whitefish Amtrak station. Rental vehicles are in high demand during our busy summer season. We highly recommend you secure your rental vehicle as early as possible. In the event you are unable to secure a rental vehicle from one of these companies, UHaul many times has vans or pickup trucks available for rent. Visit Avis Website Visit Budget Website Visit Hertz Website Visit National/Alamo Website Visit Kalispell Toyota Visit Enterprise Visit Thrifty Visit Dollar
WHAT TO BRING? Clothing: It is important to pack the right clothing when traveling to a mountainous region. Glacier National Park can have very diverse weather conditions and weather conditions can change very quickly. In the summer months, it is not unusual for it to cool down to 45 F (7 C) at night and the days can warm up to 90 F (32 C). To accommodate these great changes in temperatures throughout the day, you will want to dress in layers.
Cool Weather Clothing: For the cooler mornings and evenings you will want long pants, sweatpants, or our favorite the hiker’s pants where you can zip off the lower portion of the legs and turn them into shorts. Hiker’s pants can be purchases at most sporting goods stores. You will want a long sleeve fleece/sweatshirt/flannel shirt large enough to fit over a short-sleeve shirt. Because it is windy most of the time on Glacier Park’s Logan Pass and the east side of Glacier Park, a wind breaker is very helpful to keep warm. A pair of gloves is advisable to keep your hands warm when you start your hike. Once you’re into your hike, your hands will probably warm up and you’ll no longer need the gloves. A hat/cap helps in two ways – it will keep your body heat in during cooler temperatures but also keeps the sun off your head when it’s sunny thus keeping you cooler when it’s warm. If you’re from warmer climates, you may even want to bring a winter jacket. Being unprepared and getting cold can ruin a much anticipated trip to Glacier Park’s mountains.
Warm Weather Clothing: For the warm temperatures during the day, you’ll want comfortable warm weather clothing. Shorts, capris, or light weight pants work well with sleeveless or short-sleeved shirts. Wearing something comfortable is the most important when it comes to clothing. Being practical when selecting clothing is more important than being stylish. Wet Weather Clothing: As we say in Montana, if you don’t like the weather just wait 10 minutes and it’ll change. Well this can be especially true with a quick brewing thunderstorm. So you’ll want to bring rain gear. Usually a rain jacket or poncho is sufficient – they will keep your upper body dry so you won’t get chilled by the cool Montana rains. If you’re backpacking you’ll want full rain gear as you won’t have a nice warm building to go into at night to dry out and warm up. Or snow! It can and has snowed in every month of the year in Glacier Park so you’ll want to be prepared for a variety of conditions. Any sporting goods store or online outdoor gear shop will have a good selection of rain gear.
Day Pack: But what do you do with the extra clothes when you no longer want to wear them during the heat of the day? Bring a day pack or large bag. You will want to take plenty of water with you anyway, especially if you’re hiking, so this will give you a place to store your “cool weather” clothes as the cool mornings turn into warm afternoons. Any sporting goods store would have a good selection or you can purchase one from any online outdoor gear shop. Some things you want to look for in a day pack are padded shoulder straps, a 3”-4” wide padded waist strap, and a strap to keep your shoulder straps from sliding outwards. I was always too cheap to buy a good day pack, I thought any pack would do. But now that I have a good day pack it’s amazing how much less stress is on my shoulders and back with the padded waist strap plus the strap keeping the shoulder straps from sliding outwards. You may want to choose a day pack that is capable of accommodating a water bladder. Some people prefer water bladders over water bottles. They say one should drink water regularly as once you feel thirsty you are already slightly dehydrated. Carrying a water bladder makes it easier to keep yourself properly hydrated. Where you find your good quality day pack will also carry water bladders.
First Aid and Medical: Always make sure to pack any medications you are currently taking. If you live at lower elevations and are prone to elevation sickness you may want to visit with your doctor concerning medications to help with this. There is less oxygen at higher elevations so be aware of getting winded easily when hiking in Glacier National Park if you’re from a lower elevation. One can never be too prepared when visiting and hiking in a mountainous region. Even though Glacier Park does not have poison ivy, poison oak, or any poisonous snakes or spiders, carrying first aid supplies is always prudent. Bandages, antibiotic ointment, blister prevention & treatment, ace wrap in the event of a sprain or twist, aspirin and/or non-aspirin tablets, disposable thermometer, safety pins if somethings gets torn, cold tablets or syrups, etc. Most of these items are included in a small travel first aid kit available for purchase at your local pharmacy or online. If you require special items in your diet you will want to bring those items with you. You may be able to acquire those specialty items in the local grocery stores or health food stores but don’t count on it. If you’re planning on purchasing those items once you arrive, it would be savvy to call and make sure a local store has what you need. Sun Screen and Glasses: And with those warm afternoons, you will want to protect yourself from getting sun burnt. Remember, sometimes you will burn more readily at higher elevations so bring your sun screen. Nothing can ruin a vacation quicker than a bad sun burn. On those bright sunny days you’ll want a pair of sunglasses. Looking into the glare from the sun can put strain on your eyes plus could cause a nasty headache.
Hiking Equipment: If you’re going to be day hiking, bring appropriate footwear. I’ve seen all kinds of footwear while hiking the trails in Glacier Park to include high heels and flip flops. These type of footwear don’t provide any support for your feet or ankles and also make you more susceptible to twisting ankles or knees on the uneven trails. So bring your hiking boots or good tennis shoe with support or some kind of good walking footwear that decreases the likelihood of sustaining an injury. It is best to try on footwear before you purchase it. Any outdoor sporting goods store should have several brands with a variety of styles and sizes to choose from so you will be able to find something that works for you. It is recommended to break in any new hiking boots or shoes before going on a longer hike. Blisters make you miserable while on a hike plus they make it very painful to hike additional days. Smart wool socks are good for hiking. They will wick the moisture away from your skin to keep your feet dry even as your feet sweat in your boots. Keeping your feet dry will help prevent blistering. A pair of sock liners is also helpful with keeping your feet dry and preventing blisters. For extra balance, hiking poles are great. Some people like to use one pole and some like two – it’s a personal preference. It is amazing how much more energy you will have for hiking when you’re not expending energy on balance. These can be purchased at any sporting goods store or at online outdoor gear shops. A Swiss Army Knife of any size is very helpful. You could encounter something along the trail or have an issue with your equipment where having a knife, scissors, screwdriver, etc. would be most helpful. Due to the amount of wildlife that makes Glacier Park their home, it is advisable to make sure you complete your hike before dusk or dark. In the event you find yourself still on the trail after dark, you’ll want to carry a flashlight or something to illuminate your path.
M ost of the trails in Glacier Park have wild flowers. I’ve always loved wild flowers so I carry a Northern Rocky Mountain Wildflower book to identify them. That information is now available in electronic format and can be downloaded onto your smart phone or tablet which is much lighter weight to carry. The smart phones and tablets can double as a way to capture your adventure with pictures. Be aware there is no cell phone coverage in most areas of Glacier Park. There are some edible berries along the trails but also some that are poisonous. If you want to know which ones are edible, you may want to acquire a book or eBook for identification purposes. Huckleberries are very popular in Glacier Park. Navigational Equipment: When hiking in Glacier Park, you may want to leave the trail to explore a mountain peak or high mountain lake or encounter a trail that is overgrown with brush and difficult to follow. It is always wise to take a compass and map or GPS unit in the event you should lose your way. Quadrangle maps of the areas you plan on hiking in work well with a compass. Some GPS units are capable of loading quadrangle maps into them. Most sporting goods stores, backpacking specialty stores, or online outdoor gear shops will have many different types of navigational supplies. At Smoky Bear Ranch, we have maps and books in our library for guest use.
Backpacking Equipment: Most important, make sure you have a good quality backpack that is the right size and fitted to you. Find a store that specializes in backpacking gear as they will know what pack is right for you and will fit it to you. It is not recommended you purchase your backpack online unless you’re a very seasoned backpacker and know exactly what you’re looking for. Waterproof footwear is recommended for backpacking trips. Wet and cold feet will make for a miserable hiking experience and once your footwear is wet it is very difficult to get them dry while on the trail. Wet footwear and socks also make you more susceptible to blistering. Because everything you need to survive in the backcountry will be carried in your backpack you will want to acquire lightweight camping equipment. You’ll want a lightweight tent with rainfly, sleeping bag rated to subzero temperatures, and self-inflating sleeping mat. For food preparation, you’ll want a single burner butane stove, at least one pot for cooking in, some utensils which could be part of you Swiss Army Knife, freeze-dried or dried food, and a water treatment system. Even though there is water along nearly every trail in Glacier Park, the water in the streams and lakes may contain a microorganism called Giardia lamblia which makes it unsafe to drink. It could cause severe diarrhea and dehydration. Boiling the stream or lake water for 5 minutes will also kill the microorganism and make the water safe for using or drinking.
I f you are a seasoned backpacker, you will be very knowledgeable on what to bring and what items work best for you. If you are a novice backpacker, it is recommended you either hike with someone with experience or book a trip with a guide – Glacier Guides operate the guided trips in Glacier National Park. It would also be good to get advice from someone knowledgeable about backpacking when purchasing your equipment. Remember wherever you hike in Glacier National Park or the surrounding areas, you’re hiking in bear country – both black bear and grizzly bear – so bring bear spray. If you are not able to acquire it where you live, there are plenty of local shops where you can purchase it. You are not able bring it with you if you arrive by airplane so it would be wise to purchase some upon your arrival. Bear spray will cost anywhere from 30- 50 and most guests will not purchase one. So at Smoky Bear Ranch, we have a Counter Assault bear spray loaner program.
Camera & Binoculars: Don’t forget your camera to capture those scenic views or a wildlife encounters either along the Going-To-The-Sun Road or your hiking trail. A pair of binoculars is always helpful when trying to locate a Grizzly Bear in a meadow or have a better look at Bighorn Sheep or Mountain Goats on the mountain side or Moose in a lake. Even though you won’t have cell phone coverage in most areas of Glacier National Park, bring your cell phone. And don’t forget your charger. Your cell phone battery will drain much faster when you’re in an area with no coverage as it keeps searching for service. Time spent planning for your vacation to Glacier National Park will make for a more enjoyable experience once you arrive. We hope you enjoyed the guide, and thank you again for choosing to stay at Smoky Bear Ranch, we look forward to seeing you.
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The Malaspina Glacier in Alaska is a classic example of this kind of glacier. A cirque glacier is a small valley glacier that is confined to the high basin (cirque) at the upper end of a mountain valley. A snowfield is a perennial mass of ice and snow too small to move like a glacier. A visitor to Glacier National Park can see many cirque glaciers
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2012 Smokies Trip Planner National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tips on Auto Touring in the National Park Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over one-half million acres, making it one of the largest natural areas in the East. An auto tour of the park offers
Park, AB, part of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The main coverage available, however, is for Glacier Park and adjacent Montana. A brief climatic description of Glacier National Park. aimed toward the general public, was prepared by Dightman (1967a). The climate of Waterton Lakes National Park has been described by Poliquin (1973 .
OF THE GOING-TO-THE-SUN ROAD, GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, USA Blase A. Reardon* USGS Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, West Glacier, MT Chris Lundy2 Glacier National Park, West Glacier, MT ABSTRACT: The annual spring opening of the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park presents a unique avalanche forecasting challenge.
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