things to do in the winter
Did you know Glacier National Park is open all year long? That’s right! What’s more, it’s an incredible place to visit in the wintertime. It’s a peaceful, gorgeous wonderland of snow, perfect for adventures like Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and wildlife watching. And when your daytime fun comes to a close, you can cozy up fireside at a lodge, resort, cabin or hotel in one of the charming gateway communities just outside the park.
Three rivers and seven wilderness areas meet in Missoula, Montana, a small town with enormous personality. Visit Missoula and experience it for yourself.
This is the time of year to take in the tranquility and solitude of the park’s cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Breathtaking winter views of snow-covered landscapes abound. You’ll find trails for all ability levels. On weekends during the winter you can take a ranger-guided snowshoe walk in the Apgar area, but please check ahead for offerings.
Several trails in the Apgar Village area are open for skiing and snowshoeing, and the unplowed section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, beyond Lake McDonald Lodge, is also a popular winter ski and snowshoe route. Winter recreation brochures and maps are available at Park Headquarters and the Apgar Visitor Center.
Here's a list of the park's Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing trails. You can also download the National Park Service's Skiing and Snowshoeing brochure for more information on trails, maps and avalanche safety.
While you're out on the trails, you're likely to spot some of the park's majestic wildlife, probably white-tailed deer, but moose and elk sightings are not unheard of. Several species of birds winter in the park as well, and keep an eye out for beavers in Lake McDonald. As always, keep a safe distance from all wildlife.
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. 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. The store in Apgar Village may be open for snacks and drinks, but plan ahead.
As lodging in the park is closed during the winter months, you'll want to look beyond the park to Glacier Country's charming small towns that make up the Glacier National Park Surrounding Area. For comfortable lodging, fun to fine eateries, and winter + holiday events, make one of these communities your home base for Glacier National Park exploration.
West Glacier’s Apgar Village provides stunning views and access to snowshoeing and skiing 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. Cedar Creek Lodge is open year-round and their hot tub feels amazing after a day in the snow. 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, like cabins and lodges. Nearby Hungry Horse is also home to quaint mom-and-pop shops with plenty of huckleberry treats, and you’ll find a good night’s rest at the Historic Tamarack Lodge + Cabins. It’s affordable, open year-round and close to the park.
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 amenities you need for the perfect winter adventure in Glacier National Park, and idyllic lodging can be found in Essex at the Izaak Walton Inn. 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 area. One of the largest lakes in the park, St. Mary, offers incredible views of stunning mountain peaks.
Most of the park's roads are closed during the winter, but the Going-to-the-Sun Road from West Glacier to Lake McDonald Lodge is open year-round, weather permitting. Drinking water and restrooms are available in at the Apgar Visitor Center. Remember to plan ahead, travel and recreate responsibly and leave no trace.
It's cold out there! Avoid hypothermia by drinking liquids, staying dry, carrying survival gear, wearing layers of clothing, and snacking frequently.
Be aware that cell service is limited or nonexistent in the park.
Check the National Park Service for more information about visiting Glacier National Park in the winter.
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