Glacier Overview

Glacier National Park, located in the rugged Rocky Mountains of northwestern Montana, USA, near the Canadian border, is a vast wilderness area that encompasses over 1,000,000 acres (4,047 square kilometers). Established in 1910, the park is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, featuring pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular glacial-carved valleys. The park is part of the larger Crown of the Continent ecosystem, a critical conservation area that maintains a diverse range of plant and animal species in one of the most intact ecosystems in the temperate zone of the planet.

The park’s name derives from the numerous glaciers that have shaped its landscape over thousands of years. Although the number of glaciers within the park has decreased due to climate change, the remaining glaciers continue to sculpt the park’s terrain, creating a dramatic and dynamic environment. Glacier National Park boasts over 130 named lakes, hundreds of waterfalls, two mountain ranges, and more than 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) of hiking trails, making it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

Visitors to Glacier National Park can explore the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road, a scenic mountain highway that traverses the park and provides breathtaking views of the valleys, mountains, and glaciers. The park’s diverse habitats support a wide array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep, offering exceptional opportunities for wildlife viewing.

Glacier National Park’s rich cultural history is also evident in its numerous historic sites, including the grand lodges built by the Great Northern Railway in the early 20th century. These historic structures complement the natural beauty of the park and reflect the early days of tourism in the American West.

With its awe-inspiring natural wonders, Glacier National Park serves as a powerful reminder of the raw beauty and majesty of the natural world, inviting visitors to connect with the wilderness and explore its vast, untamed landscapes.

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Park Map
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Glacier National Park Highlights


Glacier National Park, located in the rugged expanse of Montana’s Rocky Mountains, is a pristine wilderness renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and the diverse wildlife that inhabits this dramatic terrain, offering visitors a chance to witness the beauty and majesty of species adapted to life in the Northern Rockies.

Grizzly Bear – A symbol of the wild, Grizzly Bears are revered and respected, seen foraging in meadows or roaming the park’s vast forests.

Mountain Goat – Official symbol of Glacier National Park, Mountain Goats are often spotted on high cliff ledges, their white coats a stark contrast against the rocky backdrop.

Bighorn Sheep – Known for their impressive curved horns, Bighorn Sheep gracefully navigate the park’s rugged terrain, often seen in herds on mountain slopes.

Moose – The largest member of the deer family, Moose are a majestic sight, typically found near the park’s lakes and marshy areas, browsing on aquatic plants.

Black Bear – More common than their grizzly counterparts, Black Bears roam throughout the park, with their varied diet and adaptability allowing them to inhabit both forest and alpine meadows.

Bald Eagle – Soaring above the park’s rivers and lakes, the Bald Eagle, America’s national bird, is a powerful symbol of freedom and strength.

American Pika – These small, mountain-dwelling mammals, known for their distinctive “eep” call, are often seen among rocky areas, gathering vegetation for the winter.

Harlequin Duck – Unique among ducks for their fast-water breeding habitats, Harlequin Ducks are colorful and elusive, often found in the park’s swift-moving streams.

Osprey – Also known as fish hawks, Ospreys are frequently observed diving into the park’s waters to catch fish with their sharp talons.

Western Tanager – With their striking yellow and black plumage and red heads, Western Tanagers add a flash of color to the park’s forests during the summer months.

Glacier National Park’s diverse wildlife, from the iconic Grizzly Bear to the vivid Western Tanager, enriches the visitor experience, showcasing the resilience and beauty of nature in one of America’s most spectacular natural landscapes.

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald is the park’s largest lake, stretching over 10 miles (16 km) long and 472 feet (144 meters) deep. Nestled at the western entrance of the park, this lake is renowned for its crystal-clear waters fringed by ancient cedar forests and towering mountains. The colorful pebbles lining its shores and the reflections of the surrounding peaks make Lake McDonald a mesmerizing sight, especially at sunrise or sunset.

Saint Mary Lake

Saint Mary Lake is the second largest lake in the park, known for its strikingly clear, cold waters. It measures about 9.9 miles (15.9 km) long and 300 feet (91 meters) deep. The lake is flanked by steep, forested mountainsides, with the iconic Wild Goose Island sitting just off its center, providing one of the most photographed views in Glacier National Park. The vibrant hues at dawn and dusk, along with the tranquil waters, make Saint Mary Lake a place of serene beauty.

Grinnell Lake

Grinnell Lake is a hidden gem, accessible via a scenic hike that offers stunning views of the park’s rugged terrain. This turquoise lake, fed by Grinnell Glacier’s meltwaters, sits at a lower elevation, making it a more intimate experience for visitors. Surrounded by steep cliffs and lush greenery, its vibrant waters are a stark contrast to the rugged landscape, offering a tranquil spot for reflection and admiration of nature’s artistry.

Engaging Glacier National Park

Driving along the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road is a must-do activity in Glacier National Park. This engineering marvel offers breathtaking vistas of glaciers, waterfalls, and towering peaks. Visitors can also explore the park’s other scenic drives, such as the Many Glacier Road and the Chief Mountain International Highway.

Glacier National Park offers over 700 miles of trails, catering to hikers of all skill levels. From easy walks to challenging treks, there’s something for everyone. Trails like the Highline Trail and Grinnell Glacier provide stunning views of the park’s rugged landscapes, alpine meadows, and pristine lakes.

Exploring Glacier’s pristine lakes by boat or kayak is a serene way to experience the park’s beauty. Lake McDonald, Saint Mary Lake, and Two Medicine Lake offer crystal-clear waters surrounded by towering mountains, providing a tranquil setting for paddling adventures.

Glacier National Park Trails

Highline Trail

Rating: Moderate to Strenuous

Distance and Elevation Gain: 11.8 miles one way with an elevation gain of about 800 feet (244 meters)

Description: Starting from Logan Pass, the Highline Trail offers breathtaking views along the Continental Divide. This trail features wildflower-filled meadows, rugged mountain vistas, and possible wildlife sightings, including mountain goats and bighorn sheep. The path is narrow in places, with steep drop-offs, but offers an unforgettable experience of Glacier’s high alpine environment.

Grinnell Glacier Trail

Rating: Strenuous

Distance and Elevation Gain: 10.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,600 feet (488 meters)

Description: This iconic trail takes hikers past stunning lakes, alpine meadows, and waterfalls, ending at Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnell Lake. The vibrant turquoise waters and the close-up views of the glacier make this hike a must-do, showcasing the effects of climate change on Glacier National Park’s glaciers.

Hidden Lake Overlook Trail

Rating: Easy to Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 2.7 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 460 feet (140 meters)

Description: Starting from Logan Pass, this accessible trail offers spectacular views of Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain. The boardwalk and trail meander through alpine meadows that are often filled with wildflowers and frequented by mountain goats, providing a scenic and relatively easy hiking option.

Iceberg Lake Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 9.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,275 feet (389 meters)

Description: Leading to the stunning Iceberg Lake, this trail is known for its impressive views of steep cliffs, vast flower-filled meadows, and the chance to see icebergs floating in the lake well into summer. The trail offers a moderate hike with rewarding views, making it a popular choice for many visitors.

Avalanche Lake Trail

Rating: Moderate

Distance and Elevation Gain: 4.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 730 feet (223 meters)

Description: This trail starts with the Trail of the Cedars, then ascends through a forest to Avalanche Lake, surrounded by high peaks and waterfalls. The clear waters and the serene setting of the lake offer a perfect spot for relaxation and photography. This family-friendly hike is one of the most popular in the park due to its stunning scenery and accessibility.


1. What is Glacier National Park known for?

Glacier National Park is renowned for its breathtaking scenery, rugged mountains, and pristine wilderness. Situated in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, this park is famous for its iconic glaciers, deep valleys, and stunning alpine lakes.

Visitors flock to Glacier National Park to experience its unparalleled beauty and outdoor adventures, including hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

With over 700 miles of hiking trails, visitors can explore diverse ecosystems, from lush forests to alpine meadows. The park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers, making it one of the most scenic drives in the world.

Glacier National Park is also home to a diverse array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep, providing endless opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

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  • National Park Service, Glacier,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Visit Montana, Glacier National Park,, retrieved April 2024.
  • Visit Montana, Lake McDonald,, retrieved April 2024.