things to do in the spring
Spring is the park's quiet, undiscovered season. It's a time of wildflowers, wildlife and rushing waterfalls. As the snow melts, the rivers get flowing. Baby animals are emerging, birds are singing and things are greening up. The spring awakening is an incredible time to visit Glacier National Park.
Note: The west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed to all activities due to construction until May 15, 2023, from the four-way intersection at Apgar to Logan Pass. There is NO hiker, biker, skier or snowshoer access on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road this winter. Please recreate responsibly by adhering to road closure signage. Activities permitted in the park during winter will be allowed in Apgar and on the east side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road only.
Three rivers and seven wilderness areas meet in Missoula, Montana, a small town with enormous personality. Visit Missoula and experience it for yourself.
Bicyclists are drawn to the park's famously scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road in the springtime as they've got early access before it opens to vehicular traffic. If you're going to put a bike ride on your bucket list, this is it. Rent an eBike from Glacier Guides for a little extra boost. Also check out Camas Road, and if you've got small children in tow, pedal the Apgar Bike Path.
You can also hike the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and many other places in the park. Trails at lower elevations and around the edges of the park are usually clear of snowpack by the end of April. Check out the National Park Service's Trail and Area Closings and Postings or check with a visitor center, ranger station or park headquarters for the most current information. Popular spring hikes include the Apgar Lookout, Lake McDonald's West Shore, Fish Creek Trail, Trail of the Cedars, Johns Lake Loop, McDonald Creek, Beaver Pond Loop from the historic ranger station, St. Mary-Virginia Falls and the Red Eagle trail. Hikers eager to get into the backcountry for a longer trek should also stick to lower elevations this time of year, like the Belly River Valley. Backcountry camping permits are required. Spring Hiking Tip: Trails can still be snow covered and muddy this time of year! Plan accordingly.
Runoff is raging in the springtime, and outfitters are readying for whitewater adventures! The Middle Fork of the Flathead River is a popular "Wild & Scenic" springtime destination. Book a trip with one of our expert rafting guides.
You can camp in the park year-round at Apgar and St. Mary Campgrounds. Apgar Campground is on the west side of the park and St. Mary Campground is just inside the park's east boundary in St. Mary. Know before you go: Some campgrounds require reservations and some are first-come, first-served. Plan ahead. Did you know? Glacier National Park is a Dark Skies Park, and you're more likely to see the northern lights this time of year. Add stargazing to your itinerary.
Spring means wildlife is out and about after the quietude of winter, waterfalls are rushing and wildflowers are beginning to emerge at lower elevations. Hiking and biking the park allows you to take advantage of all three of these springtime wonders.
There's much to explore beyond the park in the charming small towns that make up the Glacier National Park Surrounding Area. For comfortable lodging, fun to fine eateries, and western events, consider making one of these towns your home base for springtime exploration in Glacier National Park.
You'll find Glacier National Park's adventure central in the tiny town of West Glacier. Nearby Apgar Village provides stunning views and access to early-season hiking around Lake McDonald. Just 15 minutes outside the west entrance to the park, Columbia Falls makes a great home base for park exploration. Hit up this charming Montana town for shopping, dining, and some local Montana flavor at Backslope Brewing. The local golf course opens when the snow melts. Cedar Creek Lodge is open year-round and so are their pool and hot tub! Coram's Glacier Distilling Company offers small-batch alpine whiskeys and spirits crafted from glacial waters and pure passion, plus you'll find plenty of lodging options—including canvas tents, cabins and lodges—in the area. Some lodging is seasonal so please call ahead. Nearby Hungry Horse is also home to quaint mom-and-pop shops with plenty of huckleberry treats.
On the park's east side, the towns that make up the Blackfeet Indian Reservation offer a chance to immerse yourself in the heritage of the Blackfeet Nation. Explore American Indian history and culture in Browning at the Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery or the Museum of the Plains Indian. If you're feeling lucky after a day of park play, head to Glacier Peaks Casino for good food, good cocktails and good fun. East Glacier Park offers access to the early-season amenities you need for the perfect spring adventure in Glacier National Park and idyllic lodging at Summit Mountain Lodge and Glacier Park Lodge. At the east entrance to the park and the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the community of St. Mary is a prime starting point for exploring the east side of the park. One of the largest lakes in the park, St. Mary offers incredible views of stunning mountain peaks.
The tiny community of Polebridge is a 27-mile drive from West Glacier on a primarily dirt road, and it's less than a mile from the northwest entrance to Glacier National Park—from which you can access Bowman and Kintla Lakes. This little spot on the map makes for a uniquely awesome springtime getaway. Don't miss the world-famous Polebridge Mercantile, serving up fresh baked goods seasonally beginning in April. Know before you go: Check road conditions before heading out in the early springtime. Also note that there is no access to the Going-to-the-Sun Road from this area.
Self-sufficiency is key when you're visiting the park in the springtime, especially in early spring. Though the park is open all year long, very few services are open in the park before mid to late May. When visiting the park this time of year, it's best to make one of the charming communities just outside the park your basecamp for park exploration. Bonus: Shoulder season lodging prices are in effect this time of year! Remember to plan ahead, travel and recreate responsibly and leave no trace.
Check the National Park Service for more information about visiting Glacier National Park in the spring.
SPRING: ONE DAY IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Knock this beauty off your bucket list and bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the spring before it's open to vehicular traffic. Take in some of America's most breathtaking scenery and experience the park in its quiet and most serene season.
You can rent bikes or e-bikes in West Glacier from Sky Eco Rentals in Coram or Glacier Guides in West Glacier, or bring your own. Please wear a helmet.
Post-ride, celebrate your feat with a burger and beer at Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls, where tasty food meets finely crafted local brew.
Please note: Between May 26 and September 10, 2023, a vehicle reservation is required for each vehicle accessing the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor, which includes all points inside the West Entrance Station, Camas Entrance Station, and the Rising Sun checkpoint (6 miles west of the St. Mary Entrance). The reservation period is 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
SPRING: TWO DAYS IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Day One: Experience the wild wonder of whitewater rafting with an outfitter in West Glacier. No park entry is needed for this experience, and the Middle Fork of the Flathead's class II-III rapids are family friendly.
Camp at Apgar Campground, but note that, depending on your timing, there may not be running water or flush toilets available. Don't miss the dazzling sunset over Lake McDonald from Apgar Village. If you'd rather not rough it, stay at Wonderstone at Glacier, a newly renovated, modern boutique hotel.
Day Two: Hike to Apgar Lookout for grand mountain views of the whole of Lake McDonald or hike along the lake on West Shore Lake McDonald Trail. For a more mellow hike, head to the Trail of the Cedars (one of two wheelchair-accessible trails in the park), a loop trail with beautiful views of Avalanche Gorge.
SPRING: THREE DAYS IN GLACIER NATIONAL PARK
Day One: Take in some of America's most breathtaking scenery and experience the park in its quiet and most serene season—bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road in the spring before it opens to vehicular traffic. Begin in St. Mary and stay at St. Mary Village (typically open in early June), where cozy accommodations meet epic park views.
Day Two: Head for the hills on a hike. Explore the Beaver Pond Loop, the St. Mary and Virginia Falls Trail or the Red Eagle Lake Trail. Or explore the town of Browning—Agency Headquarters for the Blackfeet Nation—or book a unique and informative, guided Tribal Cultural Workshop Hike with Iron Shield Creative—half and full day options available.
Day Three: Drive to Two Medicine and enjoy a picnic at scenic Running Eagle Falls. Then visit the architecturally stunning Glacier Park Lodge and take in the grandeur of its magnificent lobby. Explore the quaint and historic community of East Glacier Park, complete with a 9-hole golf course and historic train depot. If there's time, see how far you can hike on the Scenic Point Trail before you reach snow (probably two thirds of the way in).
If you're visiting in June, drive to Many Glacier and hike to Red Rock Falls (a unique set of cascading falls). Keep your eyes peeled for moose at Fishercap Lake, and take in the epic views of Mt. Grinnell, Swiftcurrent Glacier and Swiftcurrent Mountain from Redrock Lake. Or, view the Glacier National Park scenery from the back of a horse or from the water with a horseback ride or boat tour.
Please note: Between May 26 and September 10, 2023, a vehicle reservation is required for four areas of the park: the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the North Fork, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier. Each location has unique details and requires a separate reservation. The reservation period is 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
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