A truly awe-inspiring experience is a Glacier National Park vacation. Located in the Rocky Mountains of Northwestern Montana, this area is home to 1.2 million acres of rugged mountain ranges, pristine forests, lakes, rivers, and meadows, and countless natural waterfalls.
In addition to the beauty of the landscape, this area hosts an incredible amount of wildlife, including bear, elk, moose, deer, cougars, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. Many species of birds, fish, and other woodland creatures also call this area home.
History of Glacier Park
Glacier National Park was created out of ancient sedimentary rock that was buried beneath newer layers of rock for over a billion years. Through time, geological overthrusts eventually exposed this ancient rock, which was later carved into the magnificent peaks and valleys we see today by a series of glaciers during several ice ages.
Native American tribes were the first stewards of the mountains, and kept the area protected from outsiders until the 1880s. It was around this time that a writer named George Bird Grinnell came to the area to write about the declining welfare of the Montana Indians living in the area. Grinnell began exploring the mountains and writing essays about his adventures for a national magazine, which drew national attention to the area.
The development of the Great Northern Railway helped pave the way for visitors, and Grinnell and other forward thinkers began promoting the idea of preservation of this magnificent area. In 1907, Glacier National Park was established as the country's 10th national park.
The development of Glacier National Park and the people who contributed to it are covered in detail in several Montana Books.
Seeing Glacier Park
In order to protect this magnificent area and the wildlife that lives there, most of the area remains a roadless wilderness, with only a fraction of the area accessible by vehicle. However, the famed Going to the Sun Road bisects the center of the Park and traverses the Continental Divide, allowing visitors an amazing experience of the rugged peaks and vast landscape carved by ancient glaciers.
Driving through this area is a great experience, whether you take an afternoon, a day, or several days to explore. The Going-to-the-Sun Road can be driven in a full day, but shorter, more targeted trips allow you to spend time exploring the many sites and attractions along the way.
Guided tours are also available via the famous red buses or traditional shuttle buses. Helicopter and boat tours are also available.
Another popular option for exploring the area is hiking. There are more than 700 miles of trails that range from short hikes to popular destinations, to primitive trails in the backcountry.
Bicycling through the Park is also popular, though cyclists need to be aware that the many narrow roads and high volume of traffic during peak season create increased chance of injury or fatality for cyclists.
Glacier Park Lodging
Lodging is available throughout the area, and includes campgrounds, cabins, chalets, and lodges. Primitive campgrounds are also available for those exploring the backcountry on foot, but a permit is required.
The Park is open year-around, but campgrounds, lodges, and the high alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are closed from the end of September until the middle of May.
Winter travel in the lower elevation areas reveals marvelous, but less often seen views of snowcapped peaks, frozen waters, and winter wildlife. Although Park lodging is not available, several surrounding Montana communities offer year-round accommodations.