Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park: The Ultimate Guide
Despite being one of the most visited national parks in the country, Glacier National Park has managed to retain its sense of seclusion because of its expansive 1,583 square miles of wildness, home to more than 762 lakes & 700 miles of hiking trails. The preserved area of land is home to 71 animal species, 276 bird species that have been identified, and the three million people that visit it annually.
There is a lot to do and see (even digitally), whether you stay for a week or just a day, choose to walk or drive about. And whether you go in July or January, it remains the case. Even though the park is available all year round, there are some advantages to going at specific times of the year. Here is detailed information on the best (and worst) times to visit Glacier National Park to aid you in making travel arrangements.
The Best Months to Visit Glacier National Park
Ah, autumn. The weather is perfect, the scenery is breathtaking, and the paths are peaceful. One of the best times to visit Glacier is probably the first week of September.
The weather is moderate from September through October, with bright sunny days and cold nights. But as October approaches, snow is likely to fall, which could lead to some park closures.
Additionally, this time of year sees a rise in wildlife activity. Everyone will undoubtedly appreciate the autumn foliage displays, and trekking is at its best. The larch conifer trees, mostly found on the west side, undergo their final color change in mid-October, turning a magnificent gold color.
Nov – Apr
The winter season starts from November to April in Glacier. The weather is quite changeable; lows below freezing frequently cause trails and roads to close. Most of the park’s amenities, such as lodges, restaurants, shuttle service, and visitor centers, are typically unavailable in winter.
On the plus side, this is the time of year when gateway villages nearby charge the lowest admission fees and hotel rates. This season’s low prices make it appealing for those who enjoy winter sports, including skiing and ice climbing but don’t mind the cold.
The best part is that all over the winter, camping is free. But be aware that the region frequently experiences hazardous avalanches and blizzards.
May – June
Throughout the winter, numerous roads, locations, lodgings, and trails are still off-limits to the general public in May and June.
It would be bad to skip the renowned Going-to-the-Sun Road, which offers breathtaking scenery, as shuttle services are only available when suitable weather. However, you may still be in awe at the extensive snow removal operation that began in early June along Going-to-the-Sun Road.
These months are ideal since lodging costs are still reasonable and the weather is more receptive, letting many hikers take advantage of the lower daytime temperatures and falling nighttime temps.
July – Aug
Because of the summer season, July and August are the busiest travel months. During this time, anticipate skyrocketing hotel prices. If you want to go during this time because it tends to get engaged, you should make a booking for up to a year.
Due to the bright, sunny days perfect for practically all outdoor activities, July and August are the most busy months in the park. The evening temperature drops sharply. Since the park slopes, higher elevations should experience cooler and stronger winds.
Park visitors should also make early reservations for shuttles and boat tours as their schedules fill up throughout the summer. The park’s ranger-led events, which are in full flow, are just one of the many kid-friendly activities available during this season.
The Best Time to Visit to Avoid the Crowds
Over three million people explored Glacier National Park in 2021, although the majority went there in the summer because it was warm and the Going-to-the-Sun Road was open. Plan to visit the park during one of its off-seasons to escape the crowds (and save money on admission).
Weather permitting, you can see the autumn foliage in October, but be aware that parts of the Going-to-the-Sun Road start to close about mid-October.
The Most Affordable Season to Visit Glacier National Park
Passes to Glacier National Park are less expensive from November through April. A seven-day private vehicle pass usually costs $35. However, in the winter, it only costs $25. Additionally, the entrance charge per person drops from $20 to $15.
The NPS states that between May 27 and September 11, 2022, “Vehicles entering Going-to-the-Sun Road and the North Fork region must have a vehicle reservation. You will require a parking pass in addition to reserving a car.
Planning your housing and food alternatives is also a good idea. There are several different places to stay, including two backcountry cabins and an old lodge, but reserve in advance.
The Worst Time to Visit Glacier National Park
Although the summer is notably busier, some activities—like traveling the full Going-to-the-Sun Road—cannot be done in the winter or spring. In general, you should avoid going during the winter because there are fewer wildlife sightings and less accessibility (unless you’re willing to go skiing).
How many days do I need in Glacier National Park?
Many tourists return year after year because there is always something new to discover at the park since there is so much to discover and do there. Consider a four-night trip, spending two nights in West Glacier & two nights in East Glacier, to make the most of your time.
What is the least crowded time to visit Glacier National Park?
Visit in the days following Labour Day, from early to mid-September, to avoid crowds.
When not to visit Glacier National Park?
Unless you’re willing to go exploring on skis, you should generally avoid going during the winter when there are fewer wildlife encounters and less accessibility.
What months can you see northern lights in Glacier National Park?
The northern hemisphere’s winter/spring season, which lasts from September to April, coincides with the period when the sky is clearest and most suited for viewing the northern lights.
Which part of Glacier National Park is best?
Glacier National Park’s Going-To-The-Sun Road is its biggest draw. West Glacier on the west side and Saint Mary on the east side are separated by Sun Road, which is 50 kilometers long.