8 Unbeatable Reasons to Visit Glacier National Park
US National Parks
8 Unbeatable Reasons to Visit Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of the top 10 most visited parks in the United States. Every year, more than a million people trek to the peaks and valleys of the world’s first Peace Park. The views here are spectacular, the history is rich, and the glaciers are monstrously large while visibly fragile. Glacier National Park is arguably one of the best places to refresh your perspectives and build your appreciation for the natural splendor of this vast country. While there are endless reasons to visit this gorgeous landscape, here are the top eight that are sure to tempt you towards the waiting mountains.

The History

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While the commonly known history of the U.S. is still relatively recent, certain locations serves as tangible backdrops for memories and stories that allow us to be more intimately connected to the land and the people who created the first paths. Glacier National Park is one such place. For more than 10,000 years, humans used and operated in the areas in and around what is now Glacier. But this isn’t just the generational homeland of numerous Native American tribes, the park is a living creature and visitors can feel the historical and spiritual significance of this land. Visit the gorgeous lodges built early in the 20th century beside shimmering blue lakes, or even book (far in advance) one of the rooms that still keep to the era of the hotel's rustic roots.

The Glaciers

Visit Glacier National Park for its namesake: the icy views of some of the last remaining glaciers in the United States. While thousands of years ago most of America was buried under miles of sculpting, flowing glaciers (to which we owe the landscapes known today), only a few national parks still offer a glimpse of these endangered frosted giants.

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Today there are 25 glaciers in the park. Steadily declining both in size and numbers, Glacier was once completely covered by over 150 glaciers. By 2030, there may not be any left. Many hikes will take you near to the layers of ice, snow, and rock so you can see the enormity up close. In the region of the park called Many Glacier, take the steep Grinnell Glacier trail, or stop at the overlook along the Going-To-The-Sun Road to see Jackson Glacier.

The Trails

No matter what kind of hiker and explorer you are, Glacier National Park has a trail perfect for you, with flowers, unique rock formations, and sloping landscapes. Many hikes take you through alpine meadows and over streams on long, flat boardwalks, like the popular Logan Pass trail beside the Visitor Center. Others will take you on steeper, thin paths cut into the sides of rocky mountains like the Highline Trail.

Through cedar forests and lush underbrush, around sparkling lakes, and up to the very peaks, the trails in Glacier are ideal for entire day journeys (including picnics) and for brief jaunts after horseback riding. After some time climbing, you’ll come to another essential reason to visit this national park: the views.

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The Mountain Views

Regardless if you’re the kind of hiker who is drawn to the the colorful displays of wildflowers alongside the trail, or if you want to climb as high as possible for that next, incredible view, Glacier has the panoramas you’re looking for. There are over 700 miles of trails in the one million acres of natural landscape. Some are guided, with detailed explanations of the flora and fauna you may pass. On others you may not see another soul, arriving at the summit with only your own breath and sprawling landscapes of waterfalls, lakes, and cliffs that will attempt to take it away.

The Roads

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Glacier Park isn’t just for hikers, it’s also for drivers. On the 50 mile Going-To-The-Sun Road, cars wind around snaking curves and through dark tunnels that open onto blinding sun-lit rows of peaks. There quite simply isn’t a bad view no matter which way you turn on the roads in Glacier National Park, especially on the ones that take you up into the mountains and over lakes cupped in the crooks of valleys.

In your own car, or in a shuttle or tour-bus (like the popular Red Bus tours), cutting through Glacier along St Mary Lake and Lake McDonald is an entire day of adventure. Stop at Logan Pass Visitor Center, begin one of the many hikes that cut off the main roads, or spend an entire day hopping from pull-off to pull-off, staring at the views until the sun goes down.

The Wildlife

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Hikers and awe-seekers are never far from animals in Glacier National Park. Whether they’re being careful not to lure one of the 300 grizzly bears into their campsite with loose food waste, or stopping to watch bighorn sheep lumber across their path, visitors are in for a treat. While you’re not promised a view of the black bears, mountain lions, wolves, and lynx that live in the upper mountains, you might see deer, elk, and maybe even a moose or two traipsing through the woods or wading into one of the many bodies of water. Keep an eye on the ground and marmot, pika, and badgers that may accompany you to your picnic spot atop your new favorite climb.

The Waterfalls

With so many glacial formations leaving pools and runnoff in their wake, Glacier National Park is a paradise of waterfalls. You’ll pass the interestingly curved drop of St. Mary Falls on your way to the 50-foot Virginia Falls, as well as several other unnamed water slides. Easier trails lead to Redrock Falls, a series of cascades with several sub-alpine lakes, to Running Eagle Falls in the Two Medicine area, or to Johns Lake Loop just off the Going-To-The-Sun Road. No matter where you hike, the water pulled by gravity cascades down into the valleys you move through, providing the perfect cool down on a hot summer day.

The Lakes

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When glacial lakes form, the melting ice fills the space the glacier has carved out, leaving behind a unique turquoise that looks, well, too perfect to be real. This is due to “rock flour,” the fine minerals made from pulverized rocks crushed by the moving ice that settle at the bottom of lakes. Glacier National Park’s bodies of water are quite simply stunning, the perfect accompaniment to the gigantic ridges made of multicolor strata of rock. Take a boat tour with Glacier Park Boat Company across Lake McDonald or Two Medicine Lake, and hike to chilly Iceberg Lake to swim to an actual ice formation. Among the hundreds of reasons to visit this picturesque park, trips to Glacier just wouldn’t be the same without a stop at one of the mountain lakes — just brace yourself for the cold should you choose to jump in.

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