1. Visit during the shoulder season (if you can).
The thing that should be noted about Glacier National Park is that much of it is inaccessible for the majority of the year. That means outside of the summer months, some visitor centers are closed, shuttles do not run and Going-to-the-Sun, the main access road through the park, is impassable. Unless you’re a real dyed-in-the-wool adventurer, we’d advise planning your visit on the perimeter of tourist season (think July and August), when some 2 million visitors are said to flock to the park.
2. Don’t drive anything larger than 21 feet.
Driving the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road, the main access road through the heart of Glacier National Park, is a definite must-do while visiting. While portions of it remain open year-round, the higher elevation sections like Logan Pass are only open when plowed. When we visited in June, vehicles longer than 21 feet (including bumpers) and wider than 8 feet (including mirrors) were prohibited from driving on the road. There are low-hanging rocks, narrow switchbacks and few guardrails. If you’re towing a trailer, we’d recommend leaving it at a camp site before hitting the road.
3. Prepare for all weather, good and bad.
Imagine this: it’s the first day of summer and you’re trudging through hurricane-force winds, hail is lashing your cheeks and an icy bite is hitting you in the chest. That’s what happened to us. Anyone who’s been around their fair share of mountains can attest – they’re mercurial things. Bring rain and snow gear. Even in the dead of summer.
4. Plan where you’re going to stay beforehand.
Most camp sites at Glacier National Park are first-come, first-served, so getting a spot inside the park early (particularly during the busy tourist season) is recommended. Sites available for reservation include: Fish Creek, St. Mary, five sites in Apgar and 41 sites in Many Glacier. Few sites can accommodate an RV/ vehicle and trailer more than 25 feet long. It should also be noted that there are no utility hook-ups inside the park.
5. Bring good hiking shoes.
If you want to see a glacier, you’re hiking 12 miles roundtrip. There’s just no way around it. As with any of the National Parks, there’s a good amount of the park that you just can’t see or experience from the road, so bringing comfortable hiking shoes is essential. While there are a few hikes under 3 miles, many of the best and most popular hikes are 10+ miles, likely a full day’s worth of time. Depending on the length of your stay, we’d recommend trying out one or multiple long day hikes to truly experience the beauty of Glacier National Park.
Oh, and don’t forget your bear spray.