This site uses affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

If you starting to plan your first visit to Glacier National Park, then you are at the right place. I compiled this handy list of everything you need to know about visiting Glacier to make your stay fun and memorable.

Hands down, you will love Glacier! It is an awesome place to visit and you will find something to do for everyone in your group.

Whether you like hiking, photography, leisurely easy hikes, scenic drives, or challenging trails that will test your endurance Glacier National Park is a place to do it all!

Here are some posts about Glacier to add to your reading list:

18 Best Stops on Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park (You Can’t Miss)

8 Fun and Easy Hikes in Glacier National Park (with Stunning Views)

9 Most Scenic Hikes in Glacier National Park You Need to Explore

9 Best Photography Locations in Glacier National Park (+Useful Photo Tips) 

10 Best Places to Stay in Glacier National Park (West vs East Glacier)

8 Things You Need to Know Before Your First Visit to Glacier

NUMBER 1

Where is Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is located in the northern Rocky Mountains in northwestern Montana on the border with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. These two parks form Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, dedicated in 1932.

Glacier and Waterton Lakes are called the “Crown of the Continent”. They sit on the Continental Divide, the great ridge of the Rocky Mountains, which marks the boundary between the westward headwaters of streams that flow into the Pacific Ocean and the eastward that flow into Hudson Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

NUMBER 2

Best Way to Get to Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is located in northwestern Montana and the closest airport to Glacier National Park is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). It is located in Kalispell which is 12 miles from the town of Whitefish and 30 miles from the West Entrance to Glacier National Park.

Another airport that you might want to check out is Missoula Montana Airport (MSO) located in Missoula about 138 miles from the West Entrance to the park.

I use Skyscanner to browse flights and find the best prices.

NUMBER 3

Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park

Hands down, July and August are the best (and most popular) months for visiting Glacier National Park. The weather is warm and all park facilities are open.

Late June might be a good month to plan a visit, however, be prepared for snow at higher elevations.

My favorite time to visit is early to mid-September. The weather can be awesome in the fall and it is a great time to avoid the crowds and find some solitude on the trails.

First Visit to Glacier

Avalanche Creek in McDonald Valley Region / First Visit to Glacier National Park

First Visit to Glacier 

NUMBER 4

Best Way to Get Around in Glacier National Park

  • Driving your car or renting a car is the best option to get around Glacier National Park whether this is your first visit to Glacier or you are returning visitor. This option is the most convenient, gives you the most flexibility, and since, some areas of Glacier are so remote, it is sometimes the only way to get around.

Unfortunately, if you are visiting during the summer months, finding a parking spot can be very challenging. My recommendation is to start your day early and have a lot of patience while waiting for a spot to open.

I use dicovercars.com to browse deals on rental cars.

West and East Shuttle Service are free (cost included in your entrance pass). You can hop on/hop off at any of the shuttle stops. The shuttle operates on a first-come, first-serve basis. Shuttles are wheelchair accessible and some have bike racks.

Going-to-the-Sun Shuttle Service usually operates from July 1st through Labor Day (weather permitting).

West Shuttle runs from Apgar Visitor Center to Logan Pass and has 5 stops along the way. It operates 7 days a week from 7 am till 7 pm.

East Shuttle runs from St. Mary Visitor Center to Logan Pass and makes 8 stops along the way. It operates 7 days a week from 8 am till 7 pm.

To traverse the entire Going-to-the-Sun Road using the shuttle system, you will need to make four transfers along the way at Avalanche Creek, Logan Pass, and Sun Point.

Shuttles that run from Apgar Visitor Center and Avalanche Creek and Sun Point and St. Mary Visitor Center have a 28-passenger capacity and run approximately every 30-40 minutes.

Shuttles operating between Avalanche Creek and Logan Pass and, then from Logan Pass and Sun Point are small and can only take 12-15 passengers. They run approximately every 15-20 minutes.

From my personal experience, the shuttle system is not very reliable. If you have to use it, then be prepared to wait in line for a long time (1-2 hours) until there is an open seat.

  • There are tour companies that operate in Glacier National Park.

Going on a tour might be a great option if this is your first visit to the park.

Sun Tours offers interpretive tours, on air-conditioned 25-passenger window coaches, highlighting Blackfeet culture. Daily service is offered from West Glacier, East Glacier, St. Mary, and Browning during the peak season.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts offers tours in their signature Red Jammers – classic open-air shuttles. They have routes that run through the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the Many Glacier Valley Region, and Two Medicine Valley Region.

There are some pluses and minuses with going on a tour. Personally, it is not my favorite way of exploring any place. Needless to say, you are stuck with a group of people for several hours (half-day or full-day tours) and limited to pre-designated stops and limited time at each stop. However, going on a tour is convenient, since you do not have to drive yourself and you can just sit and relax and enjoy the scenery.

Upper Grinnell Lake

Upper Grinnell Lake in Many Glacier Region / First Visit to Glacier National Park

First Visit to Glacier 

NUMBER 5

Best Places to Stay In or Around Glacier National Park

Finding where to stay in or around Glacier Nationa Park can be confusing, especially if this is your first visit to Glacier

Glacier National Park is a great place to visit and I definitely do not want you to be stressed out figuring out what are the best places to stay while visiting Glacier!

I compiled a short and handy list of the 10 best places to stay in or around Glacier National Park whether you are visiting the west or east side (or both) of this amazing national park.

NUMBER 6

Glacier National Park Has Several Regions

Glacier National Park is divided into 5 main regions:

  • Lake McDonald Valley Region

Lake McDonald Valley Region is situated on the western side of Glacier National Park. It is, no doubt, the most popular as well as the most crowded region of the park.

The closest airport to Glacier National Park is located on the west side of the park in the town of Kalispell, which is 30 miles from the West Entrance making it very convenient to stay on the west side.

West side has more places to stay to choose from ranging from budget to luxury. Plus, staying on the west side is less expensive!

There are plenty of dining options to choose from on the west side of the park. Also, as far as convenience stores, grocery stores, and gas stations, you will have lots of options.

Beautiful Lake McDonald is situated right by the Western Entrance. If you like water activities, then this is the place for you! You can rent kayaks and paddle boards, also, fishing is pretty good here (my daughter swears by it!). Also, there are lots of picnic areas to take a break or hang out in for a day.

Some of the best easy family-friendly hikes are located on the west side: Johns Lake Loop Trail and Trail of the Cedars.

Finally, the historic Lake McDonald Lodge is situated right by Lake McDonald and it is worth checking out.

  • Logan Pass and St. Mary Valley Region

Logan Pass and St. Mary Region are situated east of Lake McDonald Valley Region.

Logan Pass is the highest elevation (6,646 feet) reachable by car in the park located on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

St. Mary Valley Region is located on the eastern side of Glacier National Park. Some of the best trails in Glacier National Park start in St. Mary Valley Region.

There are not many dining places, accommodations options, grocery stores, gas stations, etc on the east side of the park. Also, accommodations tend to be more expensive in this section of the park.

All in all, if you are looking to escape the crowds and find some solitude then the east section of the park might be a better option for you than staying on the west side.

  • Two Medicine Valley Region

Two Medicine Valley Region is also situated on the eastern side of the park. Specifically, it is located in the southeast section of Glacier National Park.

To reach the Two Medicine Valley Region, you will have to exit the park, then drive south on Highway 89 for about an hour, and re-enter the park.

Some of the most challenging trails are located in the Two Medicine Valley Region. Two Medicine Lake is one of the most spectacular sunset locations in Glacier!

East Glacier Village, located no more than 15 minutes from Two Medicine Entrance, offers several excellent accommodations that are perfect if you are exploring this section of the park.

  • Many Glacier Valley Region

This is my favorite region of the park to stay and explore. Many Glacier Valley Region is located in the northeastern section of the park. To reach it, you will have to exit the park, then drive north on Highway 89 for about 15 minutes, and re-enter the park.

My favorite place to stay in Glacier National Park, the historic Many Glacier Hotel, is located in this section of the park.

However, what I like about the Many Glacier Valley Region of the park are the hiking trails. Hands down, you will find the most scenic hikes right in this area.

First Visit to Glacier

Swiftcurrent Lake in Many Glacier Valley Region of Glacier National Park / First Visit to Glacier National Park

First Visit to Glacier 

  • North Fork and Goat Haunt Region

North Fork and Goat Haunt Region is located in the northwestern section of the park.

North Fork is only accessible by unpaved road and Goat Haunt requires backcountry hiking access.

These two areas are still on my list of places to explore!

NUMBER 7

Cool Facts About Glacier National Park You Need to Know

  • Glacier National Park became the United States’ 8th National Park in 1910. It preserves 1 million acres of land with 792 lakes and 2,800 streams.
  • Glacier National Park is famous for its breathtaking mountain views (10,448-foot Mt. Cleveland near Goat Haunt is the highest peak), numerous waterfalls, and, of course, glaciers.
  • Currently, there are 26 glaciers (Blackfoot Glacier is the largest at 370 acres).
  • There are 175 named mountains in the park.
  • Glacier is home to over 70 species of mammals – grizzly and black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, wolverines, grey wolves, and mountain lions.
  • More than 275 species of birds visit or reside in the park.
  • Glacier National Park is the 10th most visited National Park in the US with 3 million visitors annually.
  • Hands down, Glacier National Park is a hiker’s paradise! There are over 740 miles of hiking trails and over 50 day-hikes that lead to the most spectacular places.
First Visit to Glacier National Park

Hidden Lake in St. Mary Valley Region of Glacier National Park / First Visit to Glacier National Park

First Visit to Glacier 

NUMBER 8

Things You Can't Miss on First Visit to Glacier

If you like hiking, fishing, water activities, camping, scenic drives, or watching stunning sunsets, then Glacier National Park has it all!

Here are a few things that you can’t miss on your first visit to Glacier National Park:

  • Drive the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road

The 51-Mile scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the park.

There are numerous viewpoints, scenic short hikes, and overlooks along the Going-to-the-Sun Road that offer unsurpassed views of the park.

The road crosses the Continental Divide through Logan Pass at an elevation of 6,646 feet, which is the highest point on the road.

Honestly, it is one of the most spectacular drives in the United States!

Ok! What you need to know is that starting in 2022, you are required to have a reservation ticket to access the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

You can drive on the Going-to-the-Sun Road after 4 pm without a reservation ticket. So, all in all, if you are not able to get a reservation ticket, then make the drive after 4 pm. You will still be able to enjoy the views, do a couple of short hikes and catch a breathtaking sunset.

You will not be able to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road before 6 am. There is a nightly closure (10 pm to 6 am) on Going-to-the-Sun Road 1.5 miles north of the West Entrance to Sprague Creek Campground for construction work.

You can reserve the pass to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Recreation.gov. The pass is valid for 3 consecutive days and costs $2.00. The reservation pass and the park pass are required to enter the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Visitors with service reservations along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor do not need a vehicle reservation. If you have camping or lodging reservations, commercial tour, and horseback riding reservations along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you do need a reservation pass to drive the road. For a complete list of service reservations, check here.

Reservations become available 120 days before the day you want to get a reservation and the day before at 8 am MDT.

Virginia Falls in Glacier

Virginia Falls on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in St.Mary Valley Region / First Visit to Glacier National Park

First Visit to Glacier 

  • Hike in Glacier National Park 

Glacier National Park is truly a hiker’s paradise! There are over 50 day hikes in the park.

And if you like short and easy strolls or challenging hikes, you will have a lot of trails to choose from in Glacier National Park.

First of all, to simplify the process, I compiled a list of 8 fun and easy hikes that are perfect for every fitness level. So make sure to check them all out!

Next, if you like longer and more challenging hikes, then I came up with a list of the 9 most scenic hikes that will take you to the most stunning places and test your endurance along the way.

Here is a reminder to make sure to have the basic hiking gear for hiking in Glacier National Park:

  • Appropriate footwear

Trail shoes are great; hiking boots are even better since they offer more support. You’ll want sturdy, comfortable hiking boots with solid traction. Don’t forget to break in your shoes before bringing them to Glacier National Park. Also, do not forget merino wool socks. They will keep your feet dry, and protect you from blisters.

  • Plenty of water

Without enough water, your body’s muscles and organs simply cannot perform as well. Consuming too little water will not only make you thirsty but susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness. I have been using Yeti Rumbler 26 oz insulated, stainless steel bottle, and I am highly recommending it!

  • Food

Food will help keep up energy and morale. I like RXBAR. It is a high-protein bar, gluten-free, and it is super yummy! Make sure to get a variety pack to keep it interesting.

  • Rain gear and extra clothing

The weatherman is not always right. Be prepared for unannounced rain or a cold spell. Dress in layers. It will allow you to adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Two rules: avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin) and always carry a hat. I have had my North Face Women’s Osito Triclimate Jacket for years, and I love it. Also, I am highly recommending these Patagonia moisture-wicking hiking shirts and Patagonia warm fleece pullovers.

  • First aid kit

Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at any outfitter.

  • Knife

A knife or even better, a multi-purpose tool is always good to have. These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, etc.

  • Protect Yourself from the Sun

If you are hiking in the summer, keep in mind that many trails are unshaded, so it’s important to protect yourself from the sun. Sunscreen is essential, however, a lightweight long sleeve shirt is a must! My favorite are sun shirts by Columbia. Also, it is a good idea to wear lightweight long pants to protect yourself from the sun and bugs!

Wear sunglasses with UV protection. Sunglasses are an important part of your sun-protective wardrobe. When purchasing sunglasses, always look for lenses that offer UV protection.

A wide-brimmed hat is a simple and effective way to cover up your face and neck. When selecting a hat, choose one that has a wide brim, which will protect your ears, as well as your head and neck. Avoid baseball hats or straw hats with holes, as these are not as effective in protecting you outdoors.

  • Apply an effective insect repellent

Insect repellent is an important step against mosquitoes and ticks that can spread diseases like West Nile and Lyme.  When selecting an effective insect repellent, do not look at the brand names, but rather, look at the concentration of the active ingredients. Concentrations of DEET at 25 to 30% are the best to keep you protected.

  • Daypack/backpack

You need something you can carry comfortably and has features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Don’t forget the rain cover; some packs come with one built-in. I have Osprey Daylite Daypack and it is perfect for day hiking.

  • Camera!!!

Glacier National Park is a photographer’s dream! If you are like me, you will be taking hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. The scenery is just breathtaking and constantly changing. I have a Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Super Telephoto Camera that I bought a couple of years ago and I really like it.

  • A spare battery for the camera

Make sure to have a spare battery for your camera. I think there is nothing more frustrating than knowing that you still have half a day ahead of you, yet your camera’s battery is gone.

  • Tripod

If you are taking photos during the golden hour (shortly after sunrise or before sunset) when the light is softer, a tripod is essential for long exposure shots. Also, I like a tripod since it gives me more stability when taking close-ups of wildlife. I have Manfrotto Befree Live Carbon Fiber Tripod with Fluid Head. It is only 3.0 pounds and it fits nicely in my backpack.

  • Binoculars!

If your camera does not have a good zoom, then binoculars are a must. I know that luck will be on your side and you will see a moose, and hopefully a black bear, and what to treat to see them up close.

  • Trash Bag

This will make sure that the trail will stay beautiful for generations to come. A zip-lock bag is a great option as well for keeping the trash you pick up along the trail separate from the rest of your gear.

  • Bear spray

Bear Spray is an essential safety item for hiking in Glacier National Park. If you are flying into Glacier National Park, then keep in mind that you will not able to take it on the plane with you. However, there are plenty of places to buy it once you get to Grand Teton. If you are driving, then buy bear spray ahead of time to save money.

Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake in Many Glacier Valley Region of Glacier National Park / First Visit to Glacier National Park

First Visit to Glacier 

NUMBER 9

Best Photography Locations in Glacier

Glacier National Park is a spectacular place to photograph! The scenery is so dramatic at every turn.

If you love taking photos, you will not be able to stop!

Some of my favorite photo spots in Glacier are Avalanche Lake, Iceberg, and Cracker Lakes, St. Mary, and Virginia Falls, and the list just goes on and on.

Make sure to check my 9 Best Photography Locations in Glacier (Plus, Useful Photo Tips).

Wild Goose Island Lookout

Wild Goose Island Lookout on the Going-to-the-Sun Road / First Visit to Glacier National Park

First Visit to Glacier 

Intrepid Scout's Tips for First Visit to Glacier National Park

  • Check for Road Conditions and Closures

Before heading out to Glacier National Park always check for road conditions and road closures. Check for updates here.

  • Start Your Day Early

If you are using your own vehicle in Glacier National Park, then make sure to get started as early as possible. There are limited parking spots and by 9-10 am you will either have to patiently wait for a spot or give up and drive away.

  • Pack Food and Water 

There are no grocery or convenience stores, and there are no places to eat, so pack your own food and bring plenty of water.

  • Fill up on Gas

There is only one gas station located at West Glacier, so fill up your gas tank before you venture out.

  • There Is No Cellular Service

Do not count on having cell service while inside the park. Make sure to download Google Maps, and make screenshots of your reservation tickets.

  • Carry Bear Spray and Be Bear Aware

If you plan on hiking, then make sure to rent or buy and carry bear spray. While hiking, make noise, talk loud, and clap your hands to let the bears know you are in the vicinity. If possible, do not hike alone and stick with a group of hikers.

  • Above all, be safe!  

Always use the designated turnouts to pull over and take photos. Do not stop in the middle of the road. If you finish your drive late in the evening and end up driving in the darkness, be very cautious driving. Drive slow and be on the lookout for animals crossing the road or jumping on the road.

  • Intrepid’s Final Tip

It costs $35 to enter the park. The entrance pass is good for 7 consecutive days. If you are visiting several national parks then make sure to get America the Beautiful National Park Pass. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and gets you into all 400+ national park sites!

So, after you come back from your trip, you will be posting all these fabulous pictures on either FB or Instagram. Here are some cool mountain quotes and captions to spice up your posts! 371 Ultimate Mountain Captions and Quotes for Instagram (+Mountain Hashtags) 

Now, It Is Your Turn, I Would Like to Hear Back from You!

Are you planning your trip to Glacier National Park?

Please let me know! Drop me a quick comment right below!

Click on any of the images below to get inspired and to help you with the planning process for your trip to Glacier National Park!

Did You Find This Useful?

Why Not Save First Visit to Glacier National Park to Your Pinterest Board!

First Visit to Glacier National Park
First Visit to Glacier National Park

Leave an answer

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The company processes your data to facilitate the publication and management of comments. You can exercise your rights of access, rectification, deletion and objection, among others, according to our Privacy policy.