What Is The Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park? Do You Want Snow, Bears Or Flowers?

Set in the mountains of northern Montana on the Canadian border, Glacier National Park is one of the nation’s most beautiful wilderness destinations and is an absolute must for any outdoor enthusiast to visit at least once in their life.

I am often asked about the best time to visit Glacier National Park and all seasons have something different to offer. Here is my guide to the advantages of visiting in spring, summer and fall to help you decide which season is most suited to activities you hope to enjoy.

What Is The Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park?

#Spring

Beautiful Nature At Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana In Summer

Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, Montana

Spring comes late to Glacier and is usually from mid-May to the end of June. Early springtime can be a wonderful time to visit as the summer crowds have still not arrived, and it is a time of renewal and rebirth after the bitter winter.

You will see far fewer human visitors but it is possible to see baby deer, moose and even bear cubs if you are lucky. You will also be able to see spring flowers in bloom making it a particularly pretty time of year to visit.

By spring, some of the snow has started to melt but not all the trails will be open. If you plan to hike some of the higher ones, you will have to wait until the summer months as the passes will still be blocked.

Stunning Turquoise Colored Water At The Base Of Grinnell Glacier In Glacier National Park, Montana

Grinnell Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana

This is the time of year when the rivers are at their highest although it varies day by day depending on the weather. Warmer days cause snow to melt faster which means the rivers are at their fullest. This can make for exhilarating rafting but makes fishing unpredictable since rivers are often muddy.

This period can also be wet and the weather changes quickly. It is also worth noting that depending on snow conditions, the Going-To-The-Sun Road may be closed for most or all of this period.

Overall, spring is a good time to come if you want to beat the crowds and see the re-emergence of life after winter but the weather can be erratic.


#Summer

Hidden Lake Overlook In Glacier National Park, Montana

Summer is usually from July to August and is by far the busiest time of year. The best thing about visiting during the summer months is that almost all the trails are open. During this season, you can expect good weather and plenty of flora in bloom.

With so many trails available, this is a great time for hiking and backpacking. Some might say that the park is more beautiful while some snow remains, but the end of July is peak season for flowers and the sunny weather means the park is particularly photogenic during this season.

Mountain Goats Resting Among Wildflowers, Glacier National Park, Montana

Mountain Goats Resting Among Wildflowers

During the summer months, there is also plenty of wildlife to see. The animals are most active in the morning so it pays to start walking early.

By the end of July, there is less melting snow which means the rivers have calmed somewhat making it a perfect time for fishing. Rafting can be less exciting than in the Spring but the warmer weather is some compensation making it a pleasant time to take to the rivers.

By the summer months, most of the roads will be open and if you want to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road, this is the time to do it – although bear in mind you are unlikely to have the road all to yourself.

The summer is a great time to visit but it is also by far the busiest. If you can time your visit for the end of the summer, you may be able to have the best of both worlds as most kids are back at school and there are fewer families but the weather is still good.


#Fall

View From Going-To-The-Sun Road On A Sunny Autumn Morning, Glacier National Park

View From Going-To-The-Sun Road On A Sunny Fall Morning

Fall is usually from September to November and by the time you reach this season, the crowds have left and you have the park much more to yourself. At the start of fall, the colors begin to change and you can see the park at its most dramatic.

September is when many of the animals are at their most active. This is the start of the rutting season for moose, goats and sheep and it is also when bears are busy finding as much food as they can to last them through their winter hibernation.

It’s a good time for hiking – although with the bears so active, you will need to take the usual precautions – and you will be able to take some spectacular photos of the stunning landscapes.

Saint Mary Lake And Wild Goose Island, Glacier National Park, Montana

Saint Mary Lake And Wild Goose Island

By fall, the water levels drop right down so this is not the best season for white-water rafting, but the calm waterways are perfect for tranquil exploration by kayak or canoe. The clear, calm rivers mean this is also still a good time for fishing.

As the months wear on, the days grow shorter and the weather turns colder. When you reach October and move into November, you need to be prepared for cold weather and potential snowstorms.

Overall, this is a delightful time to visit, especially in the early fall, when the crowds have gone, the animals are active and the weather is still good.

Conclusion

All seasons have their advantages and different activities are possible at different times of the year so you should plan your visit according to what you hope to do. It is also possible to visit in the winter if you enjoy snowshoe walking or cross country skiing but most of the facilities are closed.

I enjoy every visit to Glacier no matter the season – but having said that, with a combination of fewer crowds, active wildlife and the beautiful colors, my favorite time of year to visit is early fall before the weather becomes too cold and the days too short.

Have you been to Glacier National Park? Which season is your favorite? Which activities do you like to do when you’re there? As usual, I’d love to hear from you – and if you enjoyed my article, please don’t forget to share!

Julie McClain
 

Chief editor here at Outdoorzer. I'm an outdoor lover and ever since I was a little girl, I've worked hard to learn all I could from my Dad about Camping, Hiking, RVs and surviving in the woods.

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