Getting to Know Glacier National Park from Past to Present
Sprawling across more than a million acres in the rugged mountains of Montana, Glacier National Park is one of America's most extraordinary landscapes. The park harbors a stunning diversity of plant and animal life, and its glacial peaks form the headwaters of streams that flow into the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Hudson Bay. Often called the "Crown of the Continent," visiting Glacier National Park is an experience unlike any other.
Millions of Years in the Making
The landscape of Glacier National Park has been shaped by millions of years of glacial and geological activity, and it continues to change even today. The mountains began forming around 170 million years ago as ancient sedimentary rocks were thrust powerfully upward over much younger rock layers. Massive glacial action also shaped the valleys, mountains, and lakes into their current formations.
Human history in the park dates back at least 10,000 years, when the region was inhabited by the ancestors of the Shoshone, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, and other tribes. The Lewis and Clark expedition narrowly missed the area included in today’s park boundaries, and the Great Northern Railroad later brought widespread attention to the region at the end of the 19th century. On May 11, 1910, President William Howard Taft signed the bill that created Glacier National Park.
Visiting Glacier National Park Today
Glacier National Park is incredibly vast; you could spend years exploring it and still find places you've never seen. No matter how much time you have to visit, these places and activities belong at the top of your list:
- Visitor Centers: Three park visitor centers provide all the information you need to plan your visit upon arrival, including details about ranger-guided tours and events.
- Going-to-the-Sun Road: One of America's great scenic drives, this road traverses the park from east to west, providing access to some of its best scenery and attractions.
- Lakes and Streams: From remote alpine lakes to crystal-clear streams fed by glacial runoff, the park's waterways are perfect for rafting, kayaking, swimming, and fishing.
- Hiking Trails: You can choose from more than 700 miles of hiking trails in Glacier National Park, ranging from short afternoon strolls to extended backpacking trips that take you deep into the backcountry. Many trails are also open to mountain bikes and equestrian use.
- Camping: The park offers 13 campgrounds with more than 1,000 campsites. Some are open to RVs while others are more remote and undeveloped, making them ideal for tent camping.
Know Before You Go
Glacier National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The east and west entrances are easily accessible by vehicle and are connected by the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which makes this route one of the easiest and most popular ways to explore the park. Be prepared to travel on winding mountain roads with extremely limited cell and Wi-Fi service.
To prevent the spread of invasive mussels, powered watercraft will not be permitted in Glacier National Park in 2017. Non-powered boats, such as canoes and kayaks, will be permitted on Lake McDonald and the North Fork from May 15, 2017 and on the park’s other waterways from June 1.
This one-of-a-kind national park is best explored at a slow pace, giving you the time to hike its trails, stay at its campgrounds, and ramble through its pristine mountains and valleys. Nevertheless, even if you only have a day to spend at Glacier National Park, it's an experience that will stick with you for a lifetime.