It is easy to see why the dubbed this place “The Crown of the Continent”, with the alpine views, wildflowers, turquoise waters, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife this place has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Why did you choose this destination?
I have always wanted to visit Glacier National Park. The scenery looked incredible in pictures and I just knew I had to see it and photograph it for myself. That year we had purchased a camper which sealed the deal! Road trip!
How long were you there?
From Minnesota, it is a 17+ hour drive. We allocated two days (four total) to travel there and back. We spent a full week exploring Glacier.
What’s the estimated cost of the trip?
Camping for seven nights in the park is $160. Fuel costs were probably close to $500. We try to prepare our own food as much as possible so I’d estimate $100 in food. We did horseback riding and ate out a couple of times. I would estimate the total trip to be close to $1000 for two adults.
Must do attractions?
Glacier is a hikers paradise! While there is so much you can see from the road, some of the most breathtaking views require a hike. Our favorite hike was to Grinnell Glacier followed by the hike to Virginia Falls.
You must drive the famous Going-to-the-Sun-Road!
I also highly recommend the horseback riding, we took the ride to the Cracker Flats and loved it! They do offer a ride to Grinnell Glacier too but they hadn’t opened up the trails yet when we were there.
Get out on the water! They have canoe and kayak rentals along with boat rides.
Things to know before you go
- Going-to-the-Sun-Road opens at different times every year, make sure you check the website before going. It usually opens around late June – early July.
- The park is ginormous and is broken into different sections. There is the Many Glacier area, Two Medicine, Waterton (which is in Canada) and the west side with Apgar and Bowman Lake. It would be nearly impossible to see it all in one trip (unless you were there for months). I reccomend researching the park and planning what you want to see ahead of time.
- THERE IS NO CELL SERVICE. Like at all. There is one area near St. Mary’s that gets service but we camped in Many Glacier and had nada. So instagramming your adventure is next to impossible.
- THERE ARE BEARS….everywhere. We saw a few from the car and had a couple of occasions on the trails where we would run into people that had just seen them on the trail. In Many Glacier where we were camping, they were limiting camping to hard-sided campers/cars only because of a recent bear visit to a campsite. Carry bear spray and bear bells. Bears do not like to be surprised so keep talking while walking. We had a Bluetooth speaker blasting some tunes while we were hiking.
- The park is super popular, and finding parking at some of the stops can prove to be challenging. If there is a hike you want to do I recommend getting to the parking lot by 7 am. There are shuttles that run within the park, but then you have to make sure you time everything just right.
- Campgrounds fill super fast. If you know you are going I recommend trying to book a year out to ensure a site. Only some of the campgrounds take reservations. The rest are walk-up. If you are going this route try to get there by 6-7 am to get in line. Hotels also book up fast, book a year out if you can.
- The park clears out in the evening. This was our favorite time to drive around.
- It takes a couple of hours to get from one end of Going-to-the-Sun-Road to the next.
- You can’t buy hard liquor anywhere near the park due to it being on a reservation, so plan accordingly.
- Plan your hikes in advance and download the maps to your phone, remember there is no cell service.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
My guy proposed to me at Glacier National Park in a field of lupines at sunset. Moments later we had a fox cross our path, it was so magical.
My second favorite moment would have been on our second hike to Grinnell Glacier. We got up super early one morning in an attempt to catch sunrise there. We missed it by about 30 minutes but when we got there we had 2 close moose encounters, and we had the place all to ourselves.
What was your least favorite part of the trip?
I loved every moment, but the bears do make me slightly paranoid. I am pretty sure that death-by-bear would be one of the worst ways to die….so there’s that. I also didn’t like how long it takes to get everywhere. There are so few roads, and the ones they have are not in great shape.
Make sure you try
All things huckleberry. They have soft-serve huckleberry ice cream in some of the stores. It is amazing, especially after a long hike. We found it in the Many Glacier store. We also had huckleberry vodka, coffee, margaritas, and pie while there. I love huckleberry!
About the Author
Beth Mancuso is a portrait and landscape photographer based out of Minnesota. She has been in business as a portrait photographer for over ten years. She has spent the last six years working as an instructor and mentor. Her work has been featured by National Geographic, Huff Post, My Modern Met, Peta Pixel, and Lensbaby. Her work has been published in Click, Midwest Living, and Black and White Magazine. You can read more about her here. You can find a portfolio of her landscape work here. You can find here portrait work here.