Glacier National Park
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Glacier National Park

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Update 2021: After reading this article, scroll back up here and browse the 60 Most Spectacular Destinations for 2021 (opens in a new tab)

When Is the Best Time

When Is the Best Time

Glacier National Park can be visited year-round. However, the 'real' season is much shorter. We visited the park many times, reviewed thousands of visitor reports, and talked to local experts to provide you with the best timing tips for your visit. Don't forget to read our 5 Going-to-the-Sun Road Must-Know Tips at the end of this article.

The best time to visit Glacier National Park is from July to September. During this period the Going-to-the-Sun Road is fully accessible and the weather is mild and mostly pleasant.

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.
 

  1. Weather Overview
  2. Winter Guide | January - February
  3. Spring Guide | March - April - May
  4. Summer Guide | June - July - August
  5. Fall Guide | September - October
  6. Winter Guide | November - December
  7. Avoiding the Crowds
  8. Going-to-the-Sun Road Facts
  9. Hotel Tips
  10. 5 Going-to-the-Sun Road Tips

 

 

Important: Book your stay well in advance. Otherwise, you run the risk of much higher rates or sold out accommodations: West Glacier Hotels and Lodges via booking.com | with price guarantee

 
Weather Overview

In Montana's picturesque Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park straddles North America’s Continental Divide, where two great air masses meet. As a result, the monthly park's weather usually has a distinct east-west divide, with the eastern valleys being dry and windy and the western valleys being warmer and wetter. As most Glacier NP experts recommend, we also use the weather details for the west side throughout this article. Read our detailed weather and visiting guide below with tips for each month in the park. 

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 fewer 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. 
 

Monthly Weather and Visiting Guide

You can visit Glacier N.P. throughout the year. However, every month is different in terms of weather and possible activities. Don't forget that it's cooler at higher elevations.

Tip: A closed Going-to-the-Sun Road means that the major alpine portions are closed. The part up to Lake McDonald Lodge is usually accessible year-round.
 

 
January

Glacier National Park
View from Old Belton Bridge in January

  • Temperatures: Cold and icy
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Closed (major parts)
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East Side): Closed
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West Side): Open weekends

January in Glacier National Park usually receives the most snowfall, with an average of over 100mm. The average temperature high is 31°F (-1°C), and the average low is 16°F (-9°C). Snow and ice can make for extreme conditions on some days. It's also the cloudiest time of year.

Glacier National Park
Entrance sign in January

Visiting Tips: Due to the weather, most of the park’s services will be shut during this month, with the visitor centers remaining closed and the shuttle service being inactive. Despite this, the winter conditions are often ideal for cross-country skiing and ice climbing.
 

February

Glacier National Park
Flathead River in February

  • Temperatures: Still wintery
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Closed (major parts)
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Closed
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Open weekends

In February, Glacier N.P. is very cold, with temperatures rarely getting above freezing. Snowfall is common, with an average temperature high of 35°F (2°C) and a low of 14°F (-10°C). Blizzards often occur, making for potentially dangerous conditions.

Glacier National Park
Ice on Lake McDonald in February

Visiting Tips: Due to the snow, activities in the park can be very challenging during February. If you’re out and about this month, it’s recommended that you come equipped with waterproof clothing, thermal layers, and suitable footwear.
 

 
March

Glacier National Park
Belton Bridge in March

  • Temperatures: Chilly, sometimes moderate
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Closed (major parts)
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Closed
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Open weekends

During March, the spring season in the park approaches and the temperatures rise slightly, with average highs of 43°F (6°C) and average lows of 19°F (-7°C). Sunny days are rare during this month, and it can also be windy, which can make conditions difficult when combined with snowfall.

Glacier National Park
Saint Mary Lake in early March

Visiting Tips: As the temperatures start to increase in March, the snow on the park’s mountain slopes can become unstable, meaning avalanches are a real danger. Keep this in mind when planning your trip, but also come prepared for fabulous views of the park’s snowy peaks.
 

April

Glacier National Park
Plowing Going-to-the-Sun Road in April

  • Temperatures: Moderate
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Closed (major parts)
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Closed
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Open weekends

April in Glacier N.P. brings unpredictable weather, with rain during the day and sometimes snowfall overnight. The temperatures remain cool, with an average high of 55°F (13°C) and an average low of 27°F (-3°C). Cloud cover is still high, although this begins to reduce later in the month.

Glacier National Park
Bikers near LakeMcDonald

Visiting Tips: The snow begins to melt in some areas of the park during April, and this can make the rivers swell to impressive sizes, adding to the drama of the landscape. The wet conditions can make some mountain trails unstable, however, and avalanches are still a threat.
 

May

Glacier National Park
Many Glacier Hotel

  • Temperatures: Mild
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Closed (major parts)
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Opens late May
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Open daily from mid-May

In May, many areas of Glacier at higher elevations are still covered in snow, although precipitation will fall as rain on most days. The temperature is mild during the day, with an average high of 65°F (18°C). However, it drops sharply overnight to an average low of 36°F (2°C).

Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald in May

Visiting Tips: With spring well underway, May is a great time to see wildlife and wildflowers in the park as they become active after the winter months. Although the popular parts of the “Going-to-the-Sun” road will still be closed due to lying snow, the scenic Camas Road will usually be open and is a good alternative for getting views of the park.
 

 
June

Glacier National Park
Going-to-the-Sun Road view in June

  • Temperatures: Pleasant
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Might open late June
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Open daily
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Open daily

During June, Glacier National Park begins to grow warmer with the arrival of summer, with average highs of 72°F (22°C) and average lows of 41°F (5°C). This is the first month of the year when snowfall is unlikely to occur, although the chance of rain remains high.

Glacier National Park
Rainbow from Logan Pass in June

Visiting Tips: With most of the snow having melted by this month, it’s an excellent time for being out in the park, with the good weather making for some spectacular scenery. The Going-to-the-Sun Road usually fully opens later in the month. It spans the length of Glacier National Park and provides excellent chances to see all the sights the region has to offer.
 

July

Glacier National Park
Haystack Creek Falls in early July

  • Temperatures: Warm
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Open
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Open daily
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Open daily

July in Glacier N.P is usually the hottest month, with an average high of 80°F (27°C) and an average low of 48°F (9°C). Together with the pleasant temperatures, there is a good chance of sunshine during this month. July has around 14 sunny days on average.

Glacier National Park
Hikers at Oldman Lake in July

Visiting Tips: July marks the beginning of peak season in the park, with the great weather meaning the shuttle service will be running on a full schedule, and ranger-led activities will be plentiful. As temperatures can often be hot, it’s a good idea to bring plenty of water, as well as hats and sunscreen.
 

August

Glacier National Park
Going-to-the-Sun Road. Fireweed in August

  • Temperatures: Warm and sunny
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Open
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Open daily
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Open daily

During August, the park remains sunny and warm, although the temperatures overnight can still be chilly. The average high is 79°F (26°C), and the average low is 46°F (8°C). Precipitation is usually at its lowest, with an average of just seven rainy days.

Glacier National Park
St. Mary Valley in early August

Visiting Tips: August is another busy month in the park, with pleasing weather making it great for activities such as hiking, camping, and kayaking. The Going-to-the-Sun Road can become crowded at times, with many people flocking to get views of the lush, green meadows and the mountains in the sunshine. Especially the parking lot at Logan Pass fills quickly between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.
 

 
September

Glacier National Park
Grinnel Glacier in early September

  • Temperatures: Pleasant
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Open; might close late September
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Open daily
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Open daily

In September, Glacier National Park's temperature starts to drop, although it will still be warm around midday. The average high is 67°F (19°C), and the average low is 39°F (4°C), with the weather starting to become cloudier and wetter than in previous months.

Glacier National Park
Northern Lights over Apgar Mountain in September

Visiting Tips: With the changing seasons, in September the broadleaf forests in the park start to cycle through a range of fall colors, from oranges to reds. The scenery is gorgeous during this time, with still many opportunities to pursue outdoor activities.
 

October

Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald in late October

  • Temperatures: Moderate
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Closes in October (weather dependant)
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Closed
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Closes mid-October

October in Glacier National Park means unpredictable weather, with rainfall increasing and a chance of snow on colder days. The temperature will often fall below freezing overnight, with average highs of 53°F (12°C) and average lows of 28°F (-2°C).

Glacier National Park
View from Belton Bridge in October

Visiting Tips: October is often the last month of the year when the Going-to-the-Sun Road remains fully open, as the increasing snowfall usually results in its closure in late October. It’s sensible to come dressed in warm clothing during this time, as the mornings, in particular, will be cold.
 

 
November

Glacier National Park
Northern Lights in November

  • Temperatures: Wintry
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Closed
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Closed
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Closed

During November, the park becomes wintry once again, with freezing temperatures and increased chances of snowfall. The average temperature high is 37°F (3°C), and the average low falls to 25°F (-4°C). Precipitation levels are higher, with around 19 rainy days on average.

Glacier National Park
Rangers at McDonald Lake in November

Visiting Tips: With the increasingly harsh weather conditions, many of the park’s services will start to close, with roads and trails often becoming impassable. It can be a good time for winter pursuits such as skiing, with ranger-led activities such as snowshoeing tours being available. Wildlife viewing is also great during wintertime.
 

December

Glacier National Park
McDonald Creek in December

  • Temperatures: Freezing
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Closed
  • St. Mary Visitor Center (East): Closed
  • Apgar Visitor Center (West): Closed

In December, Glacier National Park is at its coldest, with average highs of 29°F (-2°C) and average lows of 12°F (-11°C). The weather during this month can often be extreme, with large amounts of snow and occasional blizzards. Sunny days are rare, with an average of just two.

Glacier National Park
Snowshoeing at McDonald Creek in December

Visiting Tips: The challenging weather conditions can make this a risky time to be out in the park, and it’s always a good idea to pay attention to weather warnings and dress accordingly. If you’re lucky to visit on a good day, the views of the park’s icy lakes, snow-capped peaks, and wintry forests can be incredible sights to see.

 

 

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.

Go Early: 
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.

Go Late: 
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)

Simply stunning and breathtaking! Some parts of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open all year. However, the fascinating portions on higher elevations are only open in the summer and early fall. Some facts you should you about the GTSR:

  • The portion up to Lake McDonald Lodge is open year-round, even in winter
  • The road is usually fully open between early July and the third Monday of October
  • Without stopping it would take you slightly over 2 hours to drive the whole road (50 miles)
  • The speed limit in the lower elevations is 45 mph and in the alpine part it's 25 mph
  • The highest point on the road is Logan Pass at over 6,600 feet
  • There is no additional fee for the Going-to-the-Sun Road. You just pay the standard park fee. 

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

Whitefish/Montana
United States
 


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.

 

5 Going-to-the-Sun Road Tips

Glacier National Park

  1. Early: Head out first thing in the morning, as early as possible. Especially the parking lot at Logan Pass visitor center can fill up very soon! 
  2. Direction: If you can't start early and are coming from West Glacier you may drive straight through to Many Glacier, park there, hike to the lake, and then drive back. The viewpoints are less crowded when driving to Logan Pass from there. 
  3. Visitor Center: The visitor center at Logan is a must-visit. Great information, many hiking trails for everyone, and plenty of restrooms.
  4. More: Many just drive to Logan Pass. However,  don't miss St. Mary and Many Glacier. They are absolutely worth it!
  5. Radio: For helpful and informative park news while driving, just tune into AM 1610.

 

Official NPS Off-Season Tips


 

 

Comments

MaggieAndB

Must be amazing! Thanks!

@Kim: Is it already less busy in September?

Kim the Hiker

We went mid October and the harder trails were reasonably empty. The colours were fantastic.

LucyB

Must be spectacular in fall!

Hiker1

Stunning year-round destination. But I agree that autumn is very special. Great colors and definitely more wildlife than at other times. Attached a photo from a young mountain goat and Mt. Gould.

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