3 Reasons to Visit Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park couldn’t be more different than South Florida with long winding roads, vast mountainous views and an abundance of wildlife. There’s no better way to spend a national holiday like Memorial Day driving through Montana and appreciating the beauty that is our country.

Visit Glacier National Park

Our trip to Glacier National Park was a bit convoluted, as we flew from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Calgary, Canada (with a stop in Toronto) and then drove 5+ hours back across the border into Montana. It was approximately $350pp for flights – not too shabby since it was a holiday weekend! Even though it took us a full day of travel, one cracked windshield and a sprained hip, Glacier National Park is amazing and here are 3 reasons why:


1. Unbelievable Wildlife

If you asked me just a few years ago how I felt about animals…you would have received a swift meh as an answer. Now, with all the travel we’ve done in the past few years including Yellowstone National Park, I can confidently say that I scope out the wildlife situation long before I book any trip.

Glacier National Park is known for its dwindling glaciers, but there’s no shortage of animals. Over the course of a few days we spotted everything from moose to bald eagles and each one left us in search for the next. Since we went off season, end of May, the middle portion of the Going-to-the-Sun road, connecting the park from east to west, was closed, so unfortunately we weren’t able to explore the center of the park including Logan Pass. However, we were on a mission. We spoke to people at every stop, lodge and gift shop for tips and tricks to spotting wildlife and it’s only fitting to share the wealth:

Mountain Goats:

  • Many Glacier – on the cliffs hugging the road

Deer:

  • Avalanche Gorge Trail

Bison:

  • US side of the US/Canada border (Chief Mountain Port of Entry)

Bald Eagles:

  • US side of the US/Canada border (Chief Mountain Port of Entry)

Moose/Bear:

  • Many Glacier – around the lake by the Many Glacier Hotel
  • Many Glacier – open meadows
  • Many Glacier – boat dock on the opposite side of the hotel

Beaver:

  • Many Glacier – alongside the streams

Bears:

  • Many Glacier – grassy fields or by the lakeside
  • Avalanche Lake - lakeside

Wild Horses:

  • On Hwy 89 between Browning and St. Mary
    • Drive slow, they are often on the road at night

visit glacier National park

Wildlife Spotting Tips:

  • Drive slow
  • Ask other stopped cars
  • Bring binoculars
  • Enjoy from a distance
  • Rent bear spray
  • Make noise around large animals
  • Ask a ranger for recent sightings
  • Be very careful driving at night, there are wild horses and mountain goats galore

2. Views for Days

There is no bad view in Glacier National Park. The mountainous landscape can challenge any city skyline, and has fresh air to boot. As you drive through Montana, take it all in. It is an indescribable feeling and can only be understood in person, pictures do not do it justice, though we took our fair share at trying.

One of our favorite views was after a 4-mile hike up to Avalanche Lake. The trail has a total elevation gain of 730 feet and can be considered moderate to some hikers. However, I am not a hiker and slid on a slippery rock and sprained my hip for the remainder of the week. Luckily, the weather was beautiful and we could still drive to some breathtaking views including Two Medicine Lake, Many Glacier Hotel, Avalanche Lake, Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Whitefish City Beach and Lake McDonald. *Tip: At the back of Lake McDonald lodge you can hop on a one-hour lake boat tour for approximately $18 per person. It is totally worth it!


3. Witnessing the Northern Lights

It is no easy feat to witness the Northern Lights in your life, let alone two miraculous moments. We were lucky to see the sparkle in the sky on our trip to Iceland and in Montana.

During the Spring the sun doesn’t set until approximately 10PM. Although we weren’t specifically seeking out the Northern Lights but rather the Milky way, we were fortunate enough to be out in the night with a strong KP forecast and clear skies.

We drove deep into the darkness, as one ranger told us to stay far away from city lights and to go near a lake so we can see the stars reflecting off its surface. We were gazing at the amazing sky full of stars but there was no Milkyway in sight. We turned our car around and headed back to our Airbnb.

On our way back we saw three guys on the side of the road pointing to the sky. We stopped alongside them and asked what they were photographing with their fancy SLR cameras on tripods at 1AM. Luckily, they were keen on sharing that the Northern Lights were peaking from the mountaintops.

We did not have a fancy SLR setup, however with a little bit of research and playing around with the settings, we were able to setup our GoPro to capture the night sky, bright and playful. If you are going to visit Glacier National Park and you want to capture the Northern Lights here are some tips:

northern lights glacier national park

Planning

  • Drink plenty of coffee
  • Check out the KP forecast, this gives you an indication of how strong the Northern Lights are for the night
  • The weather conditions, cloudy skies don’t generally yield great results
  • Selecting a backdrop, mountains in the background are a great way to get contrast or find a lake to get a good reflection

Shooting

  • Find a dark area away from headlights, street lights and city lights
  • Minimize any light pollution from personal electronics that may ruin the exposure from the camera
  • Sturdy tripod that can withstand wind and uneven ground
  • Give your eyes 30 min to adjust by avoiding light from electronic devices

Go Pro Settings

  • Mode: Night Lapse
  • Shutter: 30 seconds
  • Interval: Continuous
  • Megapixels: 12MP/ Wide
  • Spot Meter: Off
  • ProTune: On
  • White Balance: 3000k
  • Color: GoPro Color
  • ISO Limit: 800
  • Sharpness: High
  • EV Compensation: N/A

Sharing

  • Compile a video with all the time lapse photos
  • Share when/where to help others locate it as well

Have you been to Glacier National Park? Share your thoughts!

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