Glacier National Park is bonkers. Nestled in the heartland of God’s County, USA, entering the park is like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. At the bottom you’ll roll into a world of stirring wildlife amidst snow-capped mountains, with the crystal clear waters as the cherry on top of this stunning sundae.
And you know what? Spring, yes Spring, is the very best time to visit Glacier National Park in Northwestern Montana and see for yourself.
I know what you may be thinking, isn’t Summer the time to go? Summer is when the weather is hot and the sun is high in the sky. After all, isn’t that why so many people make the trip in Summer? That many people can’t be wrong!
Well my friend, Summer is beautiful, but let us tell you why it will always be playing second fiddle to Spring. The following are the 10 reasons why Spring is the best time to visit Glacier National Park
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1. The crowds have yet to come
One of our favorite parts about Montana was the chance to escape the noise and rush of the city for Big Sky Country. When you go in Spring, you will get just that.
The rush starts in June, and peaks in July and August. Last year, they broke the visitor record in July, with over 1,000,000 visitors, yikes! For our money, heading out in May and having the trails to yourself is better than July when the trails will be full.
We did a lot of hiking on our trip to Glacier, and there is something to say about the difference between hiking on an empty trail versus a trail full of people. Hiking an empty trail makes you feel more in touch with nature, and gives a more authentic experience.
On top of that, sometimes a packed tourist destination brings negatives along with it. For instance, trash. Some people do litter the trail unfortunately. Don’t be those people. Hike it in, hike it out.
Take only photos, leave only footprints
There are lots more reasons why visiting Glacier National Park in March, April or May is better than June, July or August. Let’s move on to number 2.
2. Glacier is the very FIRST International Peace Park
Go USA and Canada! These two beautiful countries teamed up to create the very first ever International Peace Park! Glacier National Park, meet Waterton Lakes National Park. Way to preserve the ‘Crown of the Continent’.
We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!
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In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada) was combined with the Glacier National Park (Montana, United States) to form the world’s first International Peace Park. Situated on the border between the two countries and offering outstanding scenery, the park is exceptionally rich in plant and mammal species as well as prairie, forest, and alpine and glacial features.
I think I speak for all Americans saying that we have to beat Canada at everything. We at least have to try to. It is a pride thing.
We’re going to go ahead and say, then, that Glacier National Park beats out Waterton Lakes National Park. Both are beautiful, but Glacier is just at another level, especially in the Spring months.
3. The Lakes are Made of Glass
In the Summer, the lakes are full of kayaks and paddle boards. Now, we kayak and paddle board with the best of them, those are some damn fine activities.
However, even a slight ripple disrupts this view, and we just can’t have that. You can literally do a handstand and not know if you’re looking right-side up or upside-down. Well, until you crash back to the ground at least.
One of our favorite places on earth is alongside one of these beautiful still lakes in Glacier National Park. This is a great place to sit and stare in awe, drinking in the incredible surroundings that Mother Nature provides.
Story Time: After spending some time ‘reflecting’ in front of Lake McDonald, Julie was running back to the van and her Nikes caught a lip on the pavement. Suddenly she was flying through the air, beautiful snow-capped mountains all around her, fully at peace, only to come crashing down on the Montana pavement. She barrel-rolled to a stop in a cloud of dust. Luckily, the only casualties were her phone case and the skin on her thumb and ankle, not to mention her ego. I was like a hyena after a bit of laughing gas of course, rolling on the ground right next to her. I will forever regret not capturing that on camera.
Written Lovingly by Zach Ruhl
Do yourself a favor and visit a few reflective lakes in Glacier. Our favorite reflective lakes in the park were:
- Lake McDonald
- Avalanche Lake
- Saint Mary’s Lake
4. Spring is the Ideal Time for Biking in the Park
The Going-To-The-Sun-Road is the b-e-a-utiful path that takes you right through the heart of Glacier. In Spring, parts of the road are closed to vehicles.
At first, that may give you a frowny-face, until you realize that the road is open to bikes! There is NOTHING as amazing as biking the Going-To-The-Sun-Road without being worried about tourists driving by. You don’t even have to worry about the famous red buses that take tourists through the park!
If you enter the park on the west side in Apgar Village, coming from Kalispell or Columbia Falls, you will pass Glacier Outfitters. This is the perfect place to rent your bike at a steal of a price ($30 buckaroos for 24 hours!). Once you have your bike you have 3 options:
- Start biking from Apgar Village
- Put your bike in your car/truck and drive until the road closure and bike from there
- Take a shuttle up to the road closure and begin biking from there.
This bike ride is pretty flat and easy for the first ~10 miles where you can take in the beautiful scenery without huffing and puffing. In the middle of the park, you begin your ascent into the mountains and Logan Pass.
Hiking is our number 1 favorite activity. You get outside, get exercise, see amazing things, and don’t spend a lot of money. It is literally the perfect activity! You do need to have the right gear to go though. Here is all the best gear we use for our hikes.
The ride gets tough, but as long as you take breaks (and who wouldn’t with all that scenery!) it is totally doable. Take your time and take frequent breaks, stop for a quick orange or a snack at Logan Pass.
You can even have a snowball fight in 70 degree weather! Seriously, there is sometimes snow on the ground in the peaks even when the temperature outside is 70 degrees.
This was the most without a doubt beautiful bike ride we have EVER done! Not to mention on the way back down you go flying down the mountain side like Wile-E-Coyote chasing the Road Runner. Meep Meep!
5. Hiking in Spring is Wild and Wide Open
While many hikes are said to be closed in the spring, most aren’t REALLY closed. Just be prepared for a few obstacles and snow-covered trails if you are hiking into higher altitudes.
On some of the less-popular trails the rangers and park workers don’t clear the trail of trees and branches until later in the season. Now, you can either treat that as a negative or a positive. In our opinion, trails with a few down trees (really only 2 or 3 on most trails) makes it feel like more of an outdoorsy experience!
Hiking Glacier National Park in the Spring months will give you this unique opportunity. You won’t be able to do hikes like these at other National Parks, or even at Glacier in the Summer months.
There are over 700 miles of trails throughout the park, so there are plenty of trails to choose from. Our tip: research every trail before-hand to understand the current conditions. Talk to a ranger and usually they’ll be extremely helpful.
If you are gaining lots of altitude then lace up your hiking boots and find a walking stick in the forest. Our favorite high-altitude trail was Avalanche Lake, mainly because of the drop-dead-gorgeous scenery at the top.
The Avalanche Lake hike was just over 4 miles round-trip, so it wasn’t too difficult but not extremely easy. If Zach can make it then, come on, so can you.
If flat trails are right up your alley, then our favorite was the Johns Lake Loop and trail. This was easy to get to, and a nice calm hike through the forest. We even spotted a few deer and even a black bear on our hike!
Who doesn’t love camping?? Getting out into the great outdoors, enjoying Mother Nature’s beauty, it is the best! We love waking up with a cup of coffee after camping by the lake under the stars. Here is all the camping gear we use and love!
6. Wildlife is Out and About in Spring!
Glacier National Park is known for its wildlife. We saw a ton of animals: deer, goats, bald eagles, elk, and our favorite: a black bear!
The best time to see wildlife is early morning or late evening right before sunset or right after sunrise. If you want to see animals, then make sure you know the safety precautions beforehand. Bring along bear spray.
Although bears are usually afraid of humans, it is better to be safe than sorry! You do not want to run into an angry grizzly without some protection. Kind of like you do not want to run into an angry Julie who doesn’t have coffee in the morning.
In both situations, make sure you are prepared. Better safe than sorry!
7. The East Side of Glacier in Spring
Since the Going-To-The-Sun Road will be closed to cars in Spring, the only way to get to the east side is to drive around the park. The East Entrance of Glacier is located in St Mary, abouts a 2 hour drive around the park.
Okay you whiners, it’s just 2 hours, get up early and get your butt over there! The drive makes this part of the park positively tourist-free!
St Mary and Two Medicine (a set of lakes on the East side of Glacier), has a very different feel than the West side. Like Tupac vs Biggie, some people like one over the other, but both are awesome.
The East side is higher in elevation, so it takes longer for this side to be completely open and accessible due to snow. In Spring you’ll be able to see the snow capped peaks painted gorgeous colors that you won’t find in Summer.
St Mary and Two Medicine are much less busy and there aren’t many options for lodging or restaurants, so pack a lunch or be prepared to have your wife nagging you right around high noon. Better to pack some food along and have a picnic in one of the most beautiful locations on earth!
Our favorite views were Two Medicine and St. Mary’s Lake. These lakes are enormous, almost as big as Lake McDonald, and were so unique and wonderful. Also, we spotted a herd of elk in the distance when driving through St Mary!
We love to read, especially on a trip! We get our books on a Kindle so we can bring multiple books anywhere. Reading is a great way to relax and unwind while also getting caught up in a great story. We love everything from novels to self-help, business books to memoirs. Here are our favorites!
8. Spring Lodging Options are Better
We stayed in the most amazing cabin in Columbia Falls when we visited Glacier National Park in Spring. The fact that it isn’t rush season meant that all of the stunning places to stay were open and ready for us!
Our amazing hosts even gave us a deal when we asked really nicely! We recommend checking out Airbnb or VRBO. Or you can use our favorite strategy, asking a local where they would stay if they were visiting.
Glacier National Park and the surrounding Montana cities have a ton of amazing lodging options. From beautiful lakeside hotels to back-country log cabins, and everything in between! If you go to Glacier in Spring, you’ll have your pick of where to stay.
9. Sunsets in Spring Are Incredible
One local shared a secret with us: at sunset the mountains turn pink in Columbia Falls. You bet your butt we raced to the nearest farm field (which wasn’t far or hard to find) to watch the sun go down that night.
The sunset behind the mountains is truly special. We parked the van on the side of the road, climbed on top, threw on some Kygo and let the view wash over us.
If you take anything away from this blog post, please make it this: see at least one sunset during your time in Glacier National Park. You will not regret one second of it, guaranteed.
10. Springtime Activities in Glacier National Park
Glacier has an almost endless number of places to explore and things to do. During the busy months, these activities can be expensive or booked, or both!
However, if you go to Glacier National Park in March, April, or May, you will have your pick of activities to do! Do you like to kayak or stand up paddleboard? Maybe you just want to take a boat ride on one of these incredible lakes? Do all of that in more during the Spring season!
Also, one thing we MUST mention is the Many Glacier area. This part of the park is further North from St Mary, and is perhaps the best part of the park.
Many Glacier is incredible because of its remote location and the fantastic scenery. If you want to truly explore the wild, you should head to Many Glacier. And if you want to do some Springtime activities in Many Glacier, here are some great ideas.
What is Harvest Hosts?
Harvest Hosts is a network of free camping locations all over the USA! Wineries, breweries, farms, museums, and even golf courses. You can camp free at all of them! And even better, if you click this link you’ll get 15% off!
Many Glacier Activity Ideas
- Hike to Cracker Lake, Iceberg Lake, or Grinnell Lake
- Explore the Many Glacier Hotel Area
- Take a Boat Ride on Lake Sherburne
- Explore Swiftcurrent Lake
Glacier is an UNBELIEVABLE Springtime escape. We will absolutely be back in the future, and this time we’ll bring a few friends. We HIGHLY recommend you making the trip to Glacier National Park in March, April, or May!
Check out the below gallery for more pictures of our trip, and if there is anything you want to know about what we did please let us know!
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