Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

If You Only Have a Day

Glacier and Waterton's mountains and valleys can be daunting at first glimpse: How can you ever get a feel for such an immense place with only a day at your disposal? In fact, there are many park wonders that will fit any visitor's schedule and stamina. Below are some favorite highlights of the parks. Stop in at one of the visitor centers or ranger stations at Many Glacier, Apgar, Logan Pass, Polebridge, St. Mary, Two Medicine or Waterton. Park staff stationed there are well-versed in ways to get the most out of your visit, no matter how short. Interpretive displays and maps also help you visualize your options.

Going-to-the-Sun Road is the perfect way to compress the wide variety of park features into a single experience. This paved, two-lane National Historic Landmark extends 50 miles and spans the width of Glacier, crossing the Continental Divide at 6,646-foot-high Logan Pass. The road passes through almost every type of terrain in the park, from large glacial lakes and ancient cedar forests in the lower western McDonald Valley to windswept alpine tundra atop the pass. Numerous viewpoints and pullouts line the road so motorists can stop for extended views and photos. Travel the road during early morning and early evening to enjoy the least amount of traffic and the best light for photographing the road's spectacular sights (and wildlife) especially during the busy months of July and August.

The road is well worth traveling in both directions, as the view from one side is much different than that of the other. The western upper-half presents an unending sea of choppy peaks. The opposite outlook is equally dramatic, with the abrupt switch from mountains to Montana plains and prairie stretching to the far horizon.

Horseback trail rides (one-hour, two-hour, three-hour, half-day and full-day) are available at Lake McDonald (406-888-5121) and Many Glacier (406-732-4203) from Mule Shoe Outfitters.

Bring a picnic to enjoy at Avalanche or Sun Point. Stock up in advance, as there are no groceries available between Lake McDonald to the west, and Rising Sun to the east.

Several trailheads and two boat tours can be accessed from Going-to-the-Sun Road. Hour-long cruises on Lake McDonald and St. Mary Lake feature expert commentary and unexpected views of park scenery. Trails along the way range from the 50-foot walk to Sunrift Gorge to the 32-mile Highline route from Logan Pass to Waterton Lake/Goat Haunt Ranger Station.

Cruise Waterton Lake, an excellent way to experience the International Peace Park. Comfortable tour boats take you between the two parks and two countries as you explore the magnificent Glacier and Waterton ecosystem. The boats dock below the great north face of Mount Cleveland, the highest cliff wall in the continental United States. Some tour boats make stops at the Crypt Lake trailhead, which leads to a fascinating 5.4-mile hike past waterfalls to a natural tunnel through a glacial cirque that conceals the lake. Others explore the Goat Haunt area, with its trailheads leading into wildlife-rich forests below the mountains. Exhibits at Goat Haunt and near Waterton Marina tell the International Peace Park story.

Travel up the Chief Mountain International Highway from Many Glacier to Waterton to get an unequaled perspective of what geologists call the Lewis Overthrust, a gigantic slab of the earth's crust that slid over the top of another to thrust the mountains onto the surrounding prairie. Waterton's compact size makes it a perfect place for the auto tourist. After reaching Waterton, you can follow the Akamina Parkway to Cameron Lake or explore the Red Rock Parkway, or do both. The roads around Waterton are lined with interpretive exhibits and scenic pullouts.