The Crown of the North American Continent, Glacier National Park is one of America's wildest and most wondrous parks. With endless lakes, waterfalls, mountain peaks (and of course glaciers), the park's 700+ miles of trails would take an entire lifetime to explore.
Simply getting to Glacier National Park is an adventure itself. The closest "city" with an airport is Kalispell, Montana, population 22,000, over 45 minutes to the southwest. The next closest major city, Seattle, is 550 miles to the west. But Glacier's remote location should not discourage you from exploring it. Glacier is one of the United States' most spectacular parks, and a can't-miss destination for nature lovers.
Spanning the Rocky Mountains, Glacier is quite literally the backbone of the continent. Standing at one point on a trail, all snowmelt and precipitation will runoff west through the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. Walk a few yards to the east, crossing the ridgeline in the process, and all precipitation will flow southeast, across the plains into the Mississippi River and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
This continental divide results in the park having dramatically different landscapes. Glacier's east side is much more lush, while the west side is rugged and mountainous. The park's landscape changes dramatically with elevation as well, covering both high mountain peaks and low river valleys. The seasons, too, are dramatically different. Winter lasts seemingly forever, with the world famous Going to the Sun Road not opening until July most years. By October, the snow has returned and the park once again hunkers down for the winter. This explosion of life in the summer is what makes Glacier such a dynamic and enticing ecosystem.
Due to its remote location and short summer season, Glacier National Park has very few towns around it. West Glacier and East Glacier border the park on either side, and provide some food and lodging options. But our suggestion is to stay in the trendy town of Whitefish, about 30 minutes away from West Glacier. This bougie ski town can be a little pricey in the summertime, but offers great restaurant choices and boutique shops in a vibrant downtown core.
Like Grand Teton National Park, Glacier is absolutely teeming with wildlife. With moose, elk, bears and more, Glacier makes for excellent wildlife photography. Try getting away from the main roads and hiking down through the valleys for the best wildlife spotting opportunities.
With some of the most imposing peaks, tranquil lakes and abundant wildlife in the United States, Glacier National Park is a nature-lover's dream.
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