When Is the Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park?

By Alice Ross | NORTH AMERICA

Sep 04

It says that if you don’t like the weather somewhere, then just wait for it to change. Amazingly, that’s not the case if you’re visiting Glacier National Park. No matter what time of the year you visit, it can be the best time to visit Glacier National Park, depending on what activities you are planning to engage in.

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Ok, but why Glacier National Park?

If you’re into nature and outdoor activities, one of the best places in the world to experience those is in Glacier National Park. This park is situated in stunning Northwest Montana, which extends into Canada, is considered one of the best of its kinds in the United States. This place is a must-visit if you are into hiking, fishing, cycling, and like photographing wildlife or nature.

It's the largest ecosystem in North America, duh!

Not only the most intact, but Glacier National Park is also the largest ecosystem in North America. There are more than 50 glaciers inside the park. You will find more than 200 streams and lakes in Glacier National Park. Lake Macdonald is the biggest lake in the park and most of the body of water you will find in the park hold different types of fish.

Glacier National Park

There are also many good trails to enjoy if you are visiting Glacier National Park to hike – after all, this is the most popular activity in the park. You must keep in mind, however, that Glacier National Park is home to wild grizzly bears, so make sure to have bear spray with you during your trip.

Always changing!

The glaciers within the Glacier National Park these days are all new, being formed within the last few years. At present, the glaciers inside the park are starting to shrink. This means more snow melts every year than the amount of snow being accumulated every winter. Because of climate change, glaciers have built up and melted away over and over. So, all in all, the process is just normal.

Glacier National Park goat

Live your best SnowWhite dream

The park is a heaven for wildlife. Even though there are a lot of species for you to be excited about, ones that are truly famous among visitors are mule deer, mountain goats, moose, elk, grizzly bear, black bear, mountain lions, and different types of birds and rodents. If you are interested in seeing wildlife, Glacier National Park won't disappoint. On the other hand, if you are a fishing aficionado, then you might catch bull trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, and rainbow trout.

So, when is the best time to visit Glacier National Park?

For many, the best time to visit Glacier National Park is in early May through mid-September – these months are perfect for rafting, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, and backpacking. This is the time when the snow starts to melt, you get a lot of sunshine, and the rain stops from pouring.
Spring in Glacier National Park is the best season to visit, which falls in the months of May through the latter part of June.

Visiting the park in spring season comes with pros and cons. Spring flowers are starting to bloom, waterfalls are at its full blast, animals wake up from hibernating, and it’s not yet very crowded.

​Weather in Glacier National Park

snow in glacier park

From the late part of October until the month of May to June, you must prepare yourself to face cold weather. The month of June is the rainy season and most trails are still covered by snow. The sunniest months are the months of July and August.

In the case that you are visiting in the month of September, you can still expect to have a pleasant experience. Normally, this month is less crowded, and the weather is still pleasant as the snow still doesn’t fall. If you want to see it on its winter wonderland form, then you’re your trip at least as later as mid-October. The park receives heavy snowfall in the month of November.

The climate in the park in this season is typically wet and windy. Make sure to prepare yourself for the change of weather. Make sure to pack the right clothes according to the season. Keep in mind that nights are much colder all year round, so, it is smart to pack layered clothes. This is especially important if you are planning to do some hiking, or you are going to stay on higher elevated lodging.

How to Avoid Tourist Crowds

It’s not surprising that the number of people visiting the park gets higher and higher every year. As of the year 2017, the number of visitors coming to the park to enjoy the activities it has to offer is increasing especially during the summer months. This results in congested parking lots a busy hiking trails.

Aside from going to the less interesting attractions during peak season, you have three main options if you want to avoid the flow of crowds:

Go During the Fall

Glacier National Park in fall

The month of September after the very busy Labor Day weekend would be a great time to avoid the crowds. You don’t have to compromise on the weather as well as this season offers pleasant temperature and no snow. Most of the roads are still open and you can enjoy most attractions and services until the mid-part of September, or even in the latter part in some areas.

The first two weeks of the month of September is already slow busy in comparison to the months of July and August, but this time of the year could be the best time to visit for some. As much as possible, go mid-week. It is even less crowded, and the temperature is still pleasant from the mid-part of September until the latter part of October. This makes for a perfect time for hiking.

But you must keep in mind that most of the accommodations inside the park are non-operating by the end of the month of September. So, instead of wasting your time searching for accommodations located within Glacier National Park, look for ones located outside. 

Note: If you’re visiting the park during the spring season, you may want to cancel your hiking plans. While temperatures are usually pleasant, trails are usually covered with snow until the month of June.

Go as Early as Possible

Grinnell Glacier

If you cannot or do not want to visit in spring, don’t worry as there is surely a surefire way to avoid the heavy flow of tourists – this is to get to your points of interest as early as possible. No matter how popular the spot or the trail is, if you get there early – let’s say at least 8:00 AM, then you will be able to enjoy the place without too many people.

In my experience, I hiked Grinnell Glacier at 7 o’clock in the morning and I had the whole place to myself! Although I stumbled upon quite a lot of people going back. The park usually starts being busy at around 9:00 AM – this is something you should keep in mind.

​Go Quite Late

Can’t go too early? Then do the other way around – go late! If you are in for some afternoon hike without dealing with the heavy crowd, then start your hike between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM. Even though just shorter hikes are the ideal hikes at that time, you can expect for the trail to be less crowded

Redrock Falls

Some of the best trails for shorter hikes include Redrock Falls, Virginia Falls, and Hidden Lake Overlook. You can also consider starting your scenic drive at the latter part of the day. After all, wouldn’t it be great to watch the sunset as you drive?

The activities you can do in Glacier National Park constantly change according to the season. That’s why it’s smart to consider the activities you are planning to do before you get on your trip. There could be a sudden change of weather, change in river levels, and unexpected closures of trails.

So always keep an eye for the weather and the time you are planning to visit the park. Always keep yourself prepared for what may happen. Again, make sure to pack the right type of clothing according to the weather. If possible, however, always bring extra layer of clothing.

Glacier National Park

Hopefully, the information in this article is enough for you to know the best time to visit Glacier National Park. Once again, the best time always depends on the activities you are planning to do when you get there.

If you have other questions about the park that this article fails to answer, don’t hesitate to ask us through the comment box below. If you find this article helpful, make sure to share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or any of your social media handles!

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Alice Ross, a long-term traveler who left the corporate world to travel the world. I chose to live life on my own phase and live day by day while immersing myself in new experiences, new knowledge, and new people in a different walk of life I met along the way.

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