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7 Special Places At Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park spans over a million acres in northwest Montana along the Canadian border.   It encompasses snow-capped mountains, glacier-carved valleys, surrounding forest, and strikingly blue alpine lakes.  These are seven of the many highlights in the park that you won’t want to miss.

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road

Photo: Wikipedia
Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Photo: Wikipedia

Going-to-the-Sun Road runs through the heart of Glacier National Park in Montana. Lots of elevation changes and beautiful scenery make this a must-drive route. Because of the narrowness of the alpine section of the road, the National Park Service has several driving restrictions, including for vehicle and vehicle combinations longer than 21 feet, wider than 8 feet, or taller than 10 feet.

Read more about the Going-to-the-Sun Road at this FAQ web page.

2. Lake McDonald

glacier national park
Lake McDonald. Photo via NPS, Flickr

Located on the west side of Glacier National Park (in western Montana) Lake McDonald is the former home of several enormous glaciers that carved out a great valley between the mountains.

At 10 miles long and 500 feet deep, Lake McDonald is the largest lake at Glacier National Park.

The same glacial carving that formed the lake also created neighboring valleys, with beautiful waterfalls you can access via hiking trails.  Two popular day hikes start in the Lake McDonald Valley at Avalanche Lake and the Trail of the Cedars.

If you want to take in Lake McDonald but still live in luxury, you might consider staying at the Lake McDonald Lodge. Built between 1913-1914, the hotel looks like a Swiss chateau and sits at the shore of the gorgeous waters.

3. Grinnell Lake

glacier national park
Mount Gould from Grinnel Glacier Trail. Photo: Wikipedia

Grinnell Lake doesn’t look like your typical Glacier National Park lake. Its waters are a characteristic turquoise color, created by the silt (rock flour) that is transported to the lake by Grinnell Glacier.

Grinnell Lake is a popular hiking destination, and you can shorten the hike to get there by taking a ferry across Swiftcurrent Lake which operates in the summertime from the boat dock at the Many Glacier Hotel.

4. Virginia Falls

Glacier National Park
Virginia Falls. Photo by RetiredTravelerTN, TripAdvisor

If you’re up for another hike, visit Virginia Falls, a majestic 80-foot-high waterfall.

To get here, you’ll need to start from the St. Mary Falls Trailhead. It’s a 3.6 mile roundtrip hike, so get your hiking boots ready (and bring some lunch)!

5. Avalanche Gorge

Avalanche Gorge. Photo via Wikipedia
Avalanche Gorge. Photo via Wikipedia

From Avalanche Lake flows Avalanche Creek through the…you guessed it…Avalanche Gorge!

For the best views of this sunning water flow, you’ll need to take a short hike (Glacier National Park is a hiker’s paradise!) along the Avalanche Creek trail.

A handicap-accessible trail, the Trail of the Cedars, allows everyone to get a great view of a portion of the gorge, however.

Natural Born Hikers writes,

The force of the water pounding on the stone walls creates a constant misty spray, which in turn creates a perfect environment for mosses, and indeed a green carpet of moss drapes the black rocks that surround the whitewater gorge, making for a perfect natural scene.

6. Wild Goose Island on St. Mary’s Lake

Glacier National Park
St Mary Lake. Photo: Wikipedia

Saint Mary’s Lake is the second largest lake at Glacier National Park. In the middle of the lake is a small island, Wild Goose Island.

Go to American Folklore to read the story behind the name, it’s pretty darn cute!  Another cool trivia fact about this spot? The opening shot of the Stanley Kubrick film, The Shining, was made at Saint Mary’s Lake.

7. St. Mary Falls

glacier national park
St. Mary Falls. Photo via TripAdvisor

Located on the same trail as Virginia Trails (but a little closer to the trailhead) is St. Mary Falls.

Hiking Glacier has this to say about your visit,

With limited parking, and all three waterfalls in this area being popular destinations, parking can be an issue during the summer season. I would recommend arriving early to find a space, or taking the shuttle from Sun Point or Rising Sun to reach the St. Mary Falls Trailhead.

Many travelers report the hike as “easy and short” and the waterfall as “beautiful”. Go here for more information on Glacier’s shuttle system.


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