When Is the Best Time
Glacier National Park can be visited year-round. However, the 'real' season is very short: June/July until August/September.
June can only be recommended at lower elevations, as many areas are still snow-covered. July and August are pleasant peak months. September is still great in terms of weather and the crowds start to dissipate as well.
From late October until May/June you have to deal with snowfall or snow-covered ground. June is the 'rainy season' and most hiking trails are still snow-covered well into June, on high elevations even until mid-July. July and August are the sunniest months.
September is still great: Usually zero snowfall pleasant temperatures and less crowds (see below). New snow can be expected from mid-October. However, heavier snowfall won't start before November.
The climate is often wet, windy, and variable. Always be prepared for weather changes, even in the summer. Bring rain gear and dress in layers. Nights are much cooler. Also, be prepared for cooler temperatures at higher elevations. Popular areas like Logan Pass at higher elevations are usually 10-15°F (6-8°C) cooler.
Bottom line: For a snow-free hiking adventure visit between early July and mid-October. Please keep in mind that most services and lodges close between mid-September and the end of September.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
The park recently set new records for visitation. In recent years the number of visitors increased significantly in the peak summer months. Resulting in overcrowded parking lots, a congested Going to the Sun Road and very busy popular areas.
Besides visiting the less interesting spots in peak season, there are three main options to avoid the crowds:
Visit in Fall:
September after the extremely busy Labor Day weekend is an excellent time: Fewer crowds, still snow-free areas, and pleasant temperatures. The GTTS (Going-to-the-Sun) Road is still open and most services are available until mid-September, some until the end of the month. The first half of September is already significantly less busy compared to July and August.
However, it's not super quiet. Try to start your activities early (see below) and go mid-week if possible. It’s even quieter and still pleasant temperature-wise from mid-September until mid-October. An excellent time for hiking. However, hotels, lodges, and cabins in the park are closed by the end of September.
The solution in October: Lodging outside the park in West Glacier Lodging (Glacier Highland) If you consider visiting in spring to avoid the crowds: It's not recommended for hiking adventures. The temperatures are often pleasant but the trails are snow-covered well into June.
If you want to visit in the summer, getting out early is the best way to avoid crowds. Even on popular hiking trails like Highline or Grinnel Glacier Trail you won’t see many others during peak season if you start your hike at or before 8 a.m.
One visitor reported that he started the hike to Grinnel Glacier in August 2017 at 7 a.m. and had the whole trail for himself. On the way back about 200 people passed. Your scenic drive on the GTTS should begin even earlier if possible. Usually, it starts to get busy around 9 a.m on GTTS Road in the summer months.
Alternatively, begin your activities late. Start hiking between 4 and 5 p.m. Although only shorter hikes are possible at that time, the trails are much quieter. The best short hikes include Hidden Lake Overlook at Logan Pass, Redrock Falls, and Virginia Falls.
Starting your scenic drive later is a great option as well: On the GTTS Road it’s beginning to thin out around 4 p.m. Tip: Have a late lunch or an early diner between 3 and 4 p.m., as it’s much easier to get a seat at that time Then start your scenic drive on GTTSR.
Highlight (Going-to-the-Sun Road)
Some parts of the GTTS Road are open all year. However, the fascinating portions on higher elevations are only open in the summer and early fall.
There is no set date, but the road is usually fully open from early July until mid-October. All depending on the weather and road conditions. More details: Going to the Sun Road - NPS
Must-Know Hotels / Lodging Tips
The most important tip for Glacier National Park: Book your hotel well in advance. It saves you money! Prices increase when peak season is approaching. Also, the best hotels are in high demand. Don't wait until no more rooms are left! Browse for the best deals here: West Glacier National Park Hotels (Tip: Bookmark the link and check prices regularly in case you're not booking right now!).
West vs. East Hotel Location: Lodging on the west side is more convenient for most visitors. However, if you're considering staying at the east side, we'd alway choose this alternative: St. Mary Village (Google Maps Location St. Mary) Check out this discussion on TripAdvisor and read why Glacier NPS experts vote for staying in St. Mary Village instead of lodging on the east side: St. Mary or East Glacier
The Best Tours (Hand-Picked)
Where and Tips
You can spend days hiking through Glacier National Park. It has to be some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Going to the Sun Road, the most scenic drive to the heart of the park, is a must do at least once in your life.
Great off-season details for Fall, Winter and Spring
- Glacier Natinal Park Fall - NPS
- Glacier National Park Winter - NPS
- Glacier National Park Spring - NPS
... Tips for the popular locations at GNP and more useful insights coming soon!