Glacier National Park in the Summer

Glacier National Park can be visited year-round, but it is truly at its best in the summer months from June to August.

This park is a must-see this summer because of its beautiful scenery, a wide range of animals, and many ways to have an unforgettable experience.

In this guide, we’ll share our firsthand experience to help you plan your perfect summer trip, including information on weather conditions, road and facility accessibility, crowd management, and the best activities to do while you’re there.

We cover everything you need to know:

  • Weather Overview
  • Crowds
  • Where to Stay
  • Packing and Outfit Tips
  • Open Roads and Facilities
  • Monthly Weather Details
  • Things to Do | Overview
  • 5 Easy Summer Hikes
  • 2023 Going-to-the-Sun Road Reservations

Weather Conditions | Overview

In Montana’s stunning Rocky Mountains, Glacier National Park straddles North America’s Continental Divide, where two great air masses meet. Because of this, the weather in the park is usually very different from east to west. The weather in the eastern valleys is usually dry and windy, while the weather in the western valleys is usually warmer and rainier.

As most Glacier National Park experts recommend, we mostly use the weather details for the west side throughout this article.

The summer months at Glacier National Park have daytime temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the low 80s °F (18-27°C). Be prepared for all weather conditions, including rain, as mountain temperatures can be unpredictable. Temperatures drop significantly during the night and at higher elevations.

The higher elevations can still have snow in early summer, so it’s essential to check trail conditions before setting off on a hike.

Unpredictable Weather
Glacier National Park
Clouds and rainbow over Logan Pass in the summer.

You can experience all types of weather during the course of a day. Additionally, it is typically cold in the morning, warm at the base of a mountain, and cooler as you go up, or vice versa. It’s getting cooler again in the evenings. Expect a rain shower at some point in your day.

Packing Quick Tip

As it gets significantly cooler during the night, you need to bring layers for early morning, late evening, and nighttime activities. This is especially important for higher elevations. Wearing layers is essential, so you can take them off as it warms up and put them back on as it cools down. It can also be very windy.

Due to the temperature differences, there is one must-bring clothing item for GCNP in the summer: Convertible pants:

💡 More comprehensive packing and clothing tips will follow later.

Where to Stay

West vs. East Hotel Location: Lodging on the west side is more convenient for most visitors as you can reach some of the most breathtaking and easy hiking trails from there.

Stayin in one of the West Glacier Hoteles means you are literally right outside the park entrance! That’s very convenient and saves you a lot of time!

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!).

However, if you’re considering staying on the east side, we’d always 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

What to Wear | Outfits | What to Pack

At Glacier National Park, the base elevation is around 3,110 feet on the west side and 4,540 feet on the east side. During the summer, you can expect average daily high temperatures to range between 70°F and 80°F, while the average daily low hovers around 45°F.

Keep in mind that the temperatures will be lower at higher elevations. If you plan on camping in the backcountry, it’s essential to bring insulated clothing.

The park’s east side experiences a rain shadow effect due to the Continental Divide, but it’s important to be prepared for unpredictable weather patterns throughout the park.

It’s also crucial to pack rain, as the weather can change quickly and unexpectedly in the summer.

Basic clothing tips

In the summer months in Glacier National Park, we always wear long sleeve moisture-wicking tops, fleece vests, leggings/pants (convertible pants), smart wool socks, and hiking boots. In the morning we start out with a fleece and knit hat. We carry gloves, a puffer jacket, a rain jacket, and a sun hat in the backpack

We use all the above every day when hiking while adding and shedding layers throughout the day.

Last time we were there was in mid-August, and still needed all mentioned clothing items, as the weather is very unpredictable.

Pants/leggings or shorts?

Bring both! Shorts during the day, but it’s much colder in the mornings and temps drop rapidly after the sun goes down. So, pants and leggings are essential.

Convertible pants are the better choice

I highly recommend these convertible pants on Amazon:

We strongly suggest bringing these (or other) convertible hiking pants. The ability to zip on or off the lower portion of the pants legs gives you great flexibility in response to changing temperatures and exertion levels.

Which tops?

T-shirts are the most versatile of tops in all weather situations. For hiking, get at least two with moisture-wicking properties, to keep sweat away from your skin.

For mornings and evenings, a long-sleeved tee is recommended:

It adds a layer of protection for the colder temps.

Layers

Layers! We always pack layers, including raincoats in a backpack. We were there once in June and the days were mostly pleasant, but it also changed quickly. Expect all four seasons in 60 minutes during the summer months! Layers are definitely your friend. Also, bring comfortable clothes that you can move in.

One heavier coat or more layers?

We prefer layers! Three lighter layers would be better than one heavy jacket. If you overheat up at Logan pass and take off that heavy jacket, you could cool down too fast.

I used to get cold easily and once in July when it was in the low 40 °F, layers were a lifesaver in Glacier National Park for me! In the morning it was very cold with a lot of wind:

I had three layers:

  1. leggings
  2. sweat pants
  3. convertible hiking pants that you can zip off the bottom part and they are shorts.

Then, as the day goes on I have the option to take off which layers I no longer need.

Some say, that for visiting higher elevations such as Logan Pass, it wouldn’t hurt to bring one warmer jacket, just in case, even in August. A friend of ours went last August and he said he definitely wished he would have packed a warmer jacket/coat. It depends on what you are used to and if you get cold easily.

Rain Jacket
THE NORTH FACE Women's Resolve 2 Rain Jacket (Standard and Plus Size),...
Columbia Men's Glennaker Lake Rain Jacket, Black, Small
-
-
-
-
FOR WOMEN: The best rain jacket for summer hiking!
FOR MEN: This is our top choice for men!
THE NORTH FACE Women's Resolve 2 Rain Jacket (Standard and Plus Size),...
-
-
FOR WOMEN: The best rain jacket for summer hiking!
Columbia Men's Glennaker Lake Rain Jacket, Black, Small
-
-
FOR MEN: This is our top choice for men!

Bring one waterproof or water-resistant rain jacket, that protects you from unexpected rain showers and windy conditions, ensuring you stay dry and comfortable. Rain can happen at any elevation during the summer months.

Shoes

Whatever shoes you decide on don’t wait to break them in. We recommend hiking boots, because you don’t want to turn an ankle and risk injury, especially in grizzly territory.

Essential Packing List / Summary:

  • Lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing: Helps keep you cool and dry during hikes, as it quickly evaporates sweat.
  • Insulating layers (fleece, down jacket, or synthetic insulation): Provide warmth during cooler mornings, evenings, or at higher elevations.
  • Waterproof, breathable rain jacket and pants: Protect you from sudden rain showers or windy conditions, ensuring you stay dry and comfortable.
  • Hiking boots or sturdy footwear: Offer ankle support and good traction on various terrain, minimizing the risk of injury.
  • Extra socks: Keep your feet dry and comfortable; packing extra pairs allows you to switch them out when needed.
  • Hat or cap: Shields your face from the sun, reducing the risk of sunburn or overheating.
  • Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays and glare, especially near water or snow.
  • Sunscreen: Prevents sunburn and long-term skin damage by blocking harmful UV radiation.
  • Insect repellent: Keeps mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects at bay, reducing the risk of bites and related illnesses.
  • Daypack: Allows you to carry essentials like water, snacks, and extra clothing while keeping your hands free for balance and support.
  • Reusable water bottle or hydration system: Ensures you stay hydrated during your hike, as proper hydration is crucial for maintaining energy and preventing heat-related issues.
  • Non-perishable snacks: Provide energy and sustenance during your hike; opt for high-energy, lightweight options like trail mix, energy bars, or dried fruit.
  • First-aid kit: Helps you handle minor injuries or medical issues that may arise while hiking.
  • Map and compass or GPS device: Aids in navigation, preventing you from getting lost and ensuring you stay on the correct trail.
  • Multi-tool or pocket knife: Offers various functions, like cutting, screwing, or opening, which can come in handy during unexpected situations.
  • Headlamp or flashlight: Provides light if you find yourself hiking in low-light conditions or if you need to locate items in your pack.
  • Whistle: Useful for signaling for help in case of an emergency or for alerting others to your presence.
  • Bear spray: Offers protection against potential encounters with bears or other wildlife, ensuring your safety during your hike.

By packing these essential items, you’ll be well-prepared for a memorable and safe hiking adventure in Glacier National Park during the summer months.

Crowds

It’s not always busy everywhere at any time in the summer. You can still venture away from the crowds.

As you might expect, summer is the busiest time at Glacier National Park. To avoid crowds, I recommend arriving early in the morning or later in the afternoon. This will not only help you secure parking at popular trailheads and viewpoints but also increase your chances of spotting wildlife, as many animals are more active during these times.

Here is an overview of the monthly visitors in late spring, summer, and early fall:

  • May: over 180,000
  • June: over 550,000
  • July: over 850,000
  • August: over 700,000
  • September: over 500,000

Until mid-June, it’s significantly less busy, but you won’t be able to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which opens in late June/early July.

If you’re looking to escape the crowds altogether, consider exploring some of the park’s lesser-known areas. The North Fork and Many Glacier regions offer fantastic hiking opportunities and breathtaking scenery with fewer visitors.

Additionally, midweek visits tend to be less crowded than weekends, so plan your trip accordingly.

Open Roads and Facilities

During the summer months, most of the park’s roads and facilities are open and accessible. The iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road, which spans 50 miles across the park, typically opens in its entirety by late June or early July, depending on the weather conditions. This breathtaking drive takes you through the middle of the park and gives you amazing views of glacial valleys, clear lakes, and tall peaks.

2023 Reservations

To access the Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Reservation Area between May 26 and September 10, 2023, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., each vehicle must have a Going-to-the-Sun Road Corridor Vehicle Reservation. This reservation will be valid for three consecutive days.

From St. Mary Entrance: However, if you plan to access the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor west of the Rising Sun checkpoint from the St. Mary Entrance, you will not need a vehicle reservation until July 1, 2023.

Visitors who have made valid service reservations (like for lodging, camping, or commercial tours) along the Going-to-the-Sun Road corridor inside the West Entrance, Camas Entrance, and St. Mary Entrance do not need a separate vehicle reservation. Their service reservation will serve as a vehicle reservation for the day of their service reservation.

Other Exceptions: Visitors who enter on foot or by bicycle do not need vehicle reservations.

Please keep in mind that reserving a vehicle or service does not guarantee a parking spot in a busy area. Expect congestion and busy conditions throughout the park during July and August.

We will give you more details about opening and reservations for the Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2023 at the end of this article.

Visitor Centers

Be sure to stop at the Logan Pass Visitor Center, which typically opens around the same time as the Going-to-the-Sun Road, for interpretive exhibits, ranger-led programs, and trail access.

Visitor centers, campgrounds, and picnic areas are generally open during the summer months, but it’s always a good idea to check the National Park Service website GLAC Conditions for the most up-to-date information on facility availability.

Camping

Be aware that most campgrounds require reservations (which can be made six months in advance), so plan ahead to secure your spot. A few, smaller campgrounds are first-come, first-served and do not require reservations.

Monthly Weather Details and Tips

June is the rainiest month and many hiking trails are still snow-covered well into June, on high elevations even until mid-July. July and August are the sunniest months with the high temperatures, reaching 80°F.

June
Glacier National Park
A breathtaking Going-to-the-Sun Road view in June
  • Daytime Temperatures: Pleasant
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road (+ Logan Pass): Might open in 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 it is unlikely to snow, but there is still a high chance of rain.

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

June is already getting busier, but we always enjoy visiting Glacier National Park during this month. Hiking is great on most trails, and the crowds are still not as massive as in July and August.

July
Glacier National Park
Haystack Creek Falls in early July

Haystack Creek Falls in early July

  • Daytime 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 National Park 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.

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
Fireweed in August in Glacier National Park
  • Daytime 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.

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.

Things to Do in the Summer | Overview

Glacier National Park

Summer at Glacier National Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Here are some of my favorite activities to help you make the most of your visit:

Hiking

Glacier National Park has more than 700 miles of trails, from short walks in the park to long, hard hikes in the backcountry. Some of my favorite hikes include the Highline Trail, Grinnell Glacier, and Iceberg Lake. Be sure to check trail conditions before you head out, as some trails may still be snow-covered or closed due to bear activity.

Wildlife Watching

The park is home to an incredible array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and moose. Early mornings and late afternoons are prime times for wildlife spotting, so keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready. Remember to practice safe wildlife viewing and maintain a safe distance from all animals.

Scenic Drives

If you prefer to take in the park’s beauty from the comfort of your car, there are several scenic drives worth exploring.

In addition to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the Many Glacier Road and Two Medicine Road offer stunning views and access to lesser-known areas of the park. Take your time, pull over at lookouts, and enjoy the beautiful views that open up before you.

Boating and Fishing

With over 130 named lakes, Glacier National Park is an ideal destination for boating and fishing enthusiasts. Rent a kayak, canoe, or motorboat to explore the park’s pristine waters, or cast a line in search of native trout species. Be sure to follow all boating and fishing regulations, and obtain necessary permits before heading out on the water.

Ranger-led Programs

To enhance your understanding of the park’s natural and cultural history, attend a ranger-led program or guided hike. These informative and engaging programs are usually offered daily during the summer months and are suitable for visitors of all ages. Check the National Park Service website or visitor centers for schedules and locations.

Stargazing

Glacier National Park’s clear skies and minimal light pollution provide a fantastic opportunity for stargazing. Join a ranger-led astronomy program or simply find a quiet spot away from the crowds to marvel at the Milky Way and countless constellations that adorn the night sky.

Final Thoughts

Glacier National Park is a treasure trove of natural wonders, and there’s no better time to explore it than during the summer months. From wildlife encounters to exhilarating hikes and tranquil moments by the water, a visit to this majestic park is sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. With a bit of planning and a spirit of adventure, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing the magic of Glacier National Park in the summer.

5 Easy Summer Hikes

Glacier National Park

These are our five easy hikes you can do in the summer. A highly recommended family-friendly beginner hike is McDonald Creek:

McDonald Creek
  • Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 213 ft.

Trailhead Location: On the North side of  McDonald Creek Road, after the bridge over the creek at the north end of Lake McDonald.

Description: McDonald Creek is the perfect hike for families and beginners. The flat, out-and-back trail is easily accessible from the West Glacier lodging area and provides stunning views of the creek. While it’s not the most challenging hike, the scenery is beautiful, and it’s a great way to experience Glacier National Park.

Avalanche Lake
  • Distance: 4.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 730 ft.

Trailhead Location: The hike starts at Trail of the Cedars Trailhead, accessible via Going-to-the-Sun Road. Park at Lake McDonald Lodge and take the shuttle to Avalanche, or find parking at the trailhead.

Description: Avalanche Lake may attract crowds, but it’s still a must-do hike in Glacier National Park. The trail passes through a gorgeous gorge, an open valley that was once hit by an avalanche, and finally reaches the stunning Avalanche Lake. Although it’s a moderate hike, it’s doable for hikers of all skill levels.

Apgar Lookout
  • Distance: 7.1 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,845 ft.

Trailhead Location: From the West Glacier entrance station, follow the road and turn left at the sign for ‘Apgar Lookout.’ Turn right at the next junction, followed by a quick left. Continue on a dirt road for almost two miles until you reach the parking lot for Apgar Lookout.

Description: Apgar Lookout offers an easy uphill hike that rewards hikers with stunning views of West Glacier and Lake McDonald. The first two miles are flat, with a gradual climb up switchbacks afterward. Despite its elevation gain, the hike isn’t too steep and is suitable for beginners.

Bowman Lake
  • Distance: 7 miles roundtrip to the end of the lake
  • Elevation Gain: minimal

Trailhead Location: The trail begins at the Bowman Lake day use parking area, located near the lake. From there, follow the east shore of Bowman Lake until you reach the trail that runs near the ranger cabin and along the north lake shore.

Description: The trail around Bowman Lake is a level path that’s ideal for a relaxing stroll with beautiful views of the lake. You can make it a longer hike of about 14 miles roundtrip or turn around after hiking a few miles. The hike is suitable for hikers of all levels and is perfect for a picnic with family and friends.

Twin Falls
  • Distance: 4.8 miles roundtrip from the North Shore Trailhead
  • Elevation Gain: 115 ft.

Trailhead Location: You can start at the North or South Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine Lake, or take a shuttle across the lake to significantly reduce the mileage. Two Medicine Lake is accessed from East Glacier, traveling north on MT-49 and turning at the signs for Two Medicine.

Description: Twin Falls is a hidden gem in the Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park, often overlooked and less crowded than other popular hikes. The hike is a gentle uphill climb, with views of the beautiful Two Medicine area. It’s a great option for beginners and those looking for a peaceful hike. Afterward, enjoy a picnic at Two Medicine Lake.

Going-to-the-Sun-Road: 2023 Reservations

2023 Required Permits & Going-to-the-Sun-Road Opening/Closing Times

If you are planning to visit Glacier National Park in 2023 and want to drive on the scenic Going-to-the-Sun-Road, you need to know some important information about the opening and closing times, permits, and weather conditions of this spectacular route. Here is a guide to help you plan your trip and enjoy the beauty of this national park.

Opening and Closing Times | Reservations

The opening and closing times of Going-to-the-Sun-Road depend on several factors, such as snow removal, road maintenance, and weather conditions. The road is usually open from late June or early July until mid-October, but this can vary from year to year.

In 2023 there is a vehicle reservation system to access Going-to-the-Sun-Road via the West Entrance and the North Fork area of the park from May 26 through September 10, 2023, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Vehicle reservations will also be required for Two Medicine and Many Glacier valleys and the St. Mary Entrance to Going-to-the-Sun Road on the east side of the park from July 1 through September 10, 2023, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The vehicle reservation system is designed to manage high traffic volumes within the park and protect natural and cultural resources while delivering quality visitor experiences. Each of the specified areas of the park will require a separate reservation.

Reservations | Permits

To drive on Going-to-the-Sun-Road or access other areas of Glacier National Park in 2023, you will need two things: a vehicle reservation (as mentioned above) and a park pass.

A vehicle reservation is not a park pass; it only grants you entry into a specific area of the park at a specific time slot. You still need to pay for a park pass separately, either online or at an entrance station. A vehicle reservation costs $2 per booking (a processing fee charged by Recreation.gov) while a park pass costs $35 per vehicle for seven days or $70 for an annual pass.

You can book your vehicle reservations through Recreation.gov. New for the 2023 season, vehicle reservations will be available through two types of booking windows:

  • A portion of reservations will be available approximately four months or 120-days in advance, using a block-release system. The first block of advanced reservations will be available through Recreation.gov at 8 a.m. Mountain Time on February 1, 2023.
  • Another portion of reservations will be available two days prior at noon Mountain Time using an online queue system that randomly assigns users access into Recreation.gov based on their position in line.

Each booking window has its own availability calendar that shows which dates and times are open or sold out. You can book up to three days per transaction with one reservation per day per area.

Some do NOT need a vehicle reservation:

  • Tribal members pursuant to American Indian Religious Freedom Act
  • Visitors who have booked lodging (hotel or campground) inside any area that requires a reservation
  • Visitors who have booked guided services (such as boat tours or horseback rides) inside any area that requires a reservation
  • Visitors who have booked shuttle tickets (such as Sun Tours or Xanterra) inside any area that requires a reservation
  • Visitors who enter by foot or bike do not need vehicle reservations

If you fall into any of these categories, you will need proof of your booking confirmation along with your park pass when entering an area that requires a reservation.

Some hotels that offer lodging inside Glacier National Park are:

  • Lake McDonald Lodge
  • Village Inn at Apgar
  • Rising Sun Motor Inn & Cabins
  • Swiftcurrent Motor Inn & Cabins Many Glacier Hotel
Weather Conditions

Going-to-the-Sun-Road is subject to unpredictable weather conditions that can affect its accessibility and safety. Even during summer months, snowstorms, landslides, rockfalls or wildfires can cause temporary closures or delays on parts of the road.

Summary Going-to-the-Sun Road 2023 Reservations
  • A vehicle reservation is required for each vehicle entering through the West entrance or the St. Mary entrance from 6 am to 3 pm during peak season (May 26 – September 10). The reservation is valid for three days and costs $2 per vehicle. You can book your reservation on Recreation.gov up to 60 days in advance or two days before your visit.
  • A vehicle reservation is also required for each vehicle accessing the North Fork area, the Many Glacier Valley, or the Two Medicine Valley from 6 am to 3 pm during peak season (May 26 – September 10 for North Fork; July 1 – September 10 for Many Glacier and Two Medicine). The reservation is valid for one day and costs $2 per vehicle. You can book your reservation on Recreation.gov up to 60 days in advance or two days before your visit.
  • A vehicle reservation is not required if you have a lodging, camping, boat tour, shuttle bus, horseback ride, guided hike, or bicycle rental reservation inside the park. You will need to show proof of your reservation at the entrance station.
  • A vehicle reservation is not required if you enter the park before 6 am or after 3 pm. However, you may encounter congestion and limited parking availability during busy times.
  • A vehicle reservation does not guarantee access to any specific location or parking area within the park. You may need to adjust your plans based on road conditions, weather, wildlife activity, construction projects, or other factors.
  • A vehicle reservation does not include park entrance fees. You will still need to pay $35 per vehicle for a seven-day pass or $80 for an annual pass. You can buy your pass online at Recreation.gov or at any park entrance station.

Save the 3 Best Activities