If you’re visiting Bigfork, it’s likely you have plans to spend at least one day trekking through Glacier National Park, the jewel in the Crown of the Continent. Although the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the main thoroughfare through Glacier, is only open in its entirety for a few brief months each year, there is plenty to see and do every month of the year and solitude to be found, even in the busy summer months.
You’ve probably heard it said that if you’re visiting the park in the summer months, you need to go early in the day, and that is excellent advice. Many of the parking lots, including Logan Pass, are full before 10 a.m. If you have hiking plans, get on the road early! I suggest packing a picnic breakfast so when you arrive at your destination, you can enjoy a tailgate coffee and a snack before hitting the trail.
However, if hiking is not on the agenda and you’d like to see as many sights as you can, I prefer to experience the park later in the day. Leave Bigfork around 3 p.m. and you’ll be to Logan Pass before 6 p.m., including photo stops along the way.
The Visitor Center will still be open and you’ll have plenty of time to hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook or stroll along the Highline Trail before dark (don’t forget your bear spray!). Watch the sun begin to set as you make your way back down the Going-to-the-Sun Road before grabbing dinner or lakeside drinks at Lake McDonald Lodge.
Arguably some of the most beautiful months of the year in Glacier (and in Northwest Montana in general), snow begins to fall on the mountain tops and the needles on the Tamarack trees turn a brilliant gold before dropping to the forest floor.
On a beautiful fall day, there’s nothing better than experiencing Glacier in a vintage 1930’s tour bus. Book a red bus tour departing from Apgar Village and gawk at the views while the expert drivers negotiate and narrate your trip on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Tours run through October 14 this year.
In the winter months, most of the roads in the park are closed to vehicle traffic, but there is still much to explore on skis or snowshoes. The west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to Lake McDonald Lodge. Park your car, strap on your gear, and explore the road on foot. It’s easy skiing to the Avalanche Picnic Area, approximately 12 miles round-trip.
On weekends from January through March, you can join a two-hour long ranger-led snowshoe walk at 10:30 a.m. or 2 p.m. Meet at the Apgar Visitor Center half an hour in advance. Snowshoe rentals are available, but limited. You can also rent snowshoes at Base Camp in Bigfork to be sure you’ll have them for your visit.
As the winter snow melts away, Glacier National Park slowly comes to life through the spring months as wildflowers begin to bloom and bears emerge from hibernation. One of the most unique (and popular) spring activities is to hike or bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road when it is still closed to vehicle traffic. As park snow plows begin clearing the road in April, you can travel the road as far as your legs will take you.
Need a bike, a bike rack, or a guided tour? Glacier Guides in West Glacier can help get you safely outfitted for a day on the road.
PRO TIP: Glacier National Park’s Twitter feed is the best place for up-to-date traffic, weather, and parking updates.