Glacier National Park has more than 700 miles of hiking trails that run through its extensive backcountry. It is one of the most popular hiking destinations in the National Parks system. Popular routes include sections of the Continental Divide and Pacific Northwest scenic trails that run through the park. Various downloadable trail maps are available on the park’s website.
Naturally, one would expect to find year-round snow at any place that includes “glacier” in its name. Due to climate change, only 25 of the estimated 150 glaciers once active in the park remain (a number that is expected to dwindle even further in the coming decades), but epic snowfalls are still the norm. In one famous incident, eight inches of snow fell in Glacier’s high country one night in August 2005, forcing a partial evacuation of the backcountry.
While such incidents are rare, packed snow commonly remains on many higher-elevation trails into June or even July. It’s important for prospective backpackers to check conditions before hitting the trailhead. Plan on stopping by a visitor center for recent updates as well.
If you are planning on camping in the backcountry, you will need to apply for a permit. Glacier National Park publishes a backcountry guide to help visitors plan their journeys in the wilderness, complete with permit information, maps, and important details about bears and other hazards.
For visitors who aren’t looking to rough it too hard, the National Park Service maintains 13 campgrounds with more than 1,000 campsites. Campground status can be checked online. Reservations can be made for the St. Mary, Fish Creek and Apgar campsites.
Historic Boat Tours
Historic boat cruises on Glacier National Park’s large lakes — Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Rising Sun, and Lake McDonald – offer visitors an alternative way to venture deep into the park. The cruises take place on wooden boats, some of which have been in continuous operation since the 1920s. The park offers guided hikes as an accompanying activity to the boat tours at certain locations.
If Montana is a fly fisherman’s paradise, then Glacier National Park’s waters are a little slice of heaven. Although the Park Service has closed some lakes and waterways to anglers for conservation reasons, catch limits where fishing is permitted can be quite generous. For example, anglers can take home up to 20 brook trout from all park waters, and there is no possession limit on lake trout in waters west of the Continental Divide.
In addition to being a time-honored outdoor sport, regulated fishing is actually healthy for the park’s ecosystems. Check the park’s website for park-wide and site-specific rules for fishermen. Local tour companies book single- and multi-day fishing trips in the park.
Unlike some National Parks, Glacier does not allow snowmobiling. But there are plenty of winter activities for visitors to partake in. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiingare great ways to explore the park’s interior during winter months, even if road access is somewhat limited due to snowfall. The park service maintains a fantastic interactive guide to cross-country skiing trails in Glacier National Park.
Downhill skiing in the backcountry is also fairly popular among the region’s adventure-seekers. Be sure to check the avalanche report for current conditions, bring the right gear and strongly consider booking a guide.