In this East Glacier National Park road trip itinerary and guide, we share the best places to see, where to stay, packing tips and more!
Embarking on a road trip itinerary to East Glacier National Park can be an experience of a lifetime. This captivating destination, part of the renowned Glacier National Park, offers stunning landscapes and thrilling outdoor adventures that are second to none.
In this guide, we’ll delve into the specifics of your journey — from planning your visit to Glacier National Park, selecting ideal stops along your route, deciding where to stay in the vicinity of East Glacier area and even packing tips for your ultimate road trip getaway.
Let’s jump in!
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East Glacier National Park Road Trip Itinerary
If you’re a nature lover, East Glacier National Park should be on your bucket list. This magnificent park in Montana’s Rocky Mountains offers a stunning landscape filled with glacier-carved peaks and valleys running to the Canadian border.
For those who love to hike, East Glacier National Park is an ideal destination with its 700 miles of trails that wind through alpine meadows, dense forests, and gorgeous lakes. Journey through lush meadows and verdant woodlands filled with wild animals like grizzlies and mountain goats.
One of the most famous landmarks in the park? The Going-to-the-Sun Road — one of America’s most scenic drives. Spanning 50 miles, it takes you past iconic landmarks like Logan Pass and St. Mary Lake.
East Glacier National Park also has historical significance. The Great Northern Railway built historic lodges within the park in the early twentieth century, offering a unique lodging experience amidst nature’s grandeur.
Fun fact: In winter, when many parks close due to harsh weather, East Glacier remains open. So if you’re looking for a winter escape, keep this on your radar.
Recommended Sights in East Glacier NP
If you’re flying into Montana for your road trip, chances are you’ll be landing at Glacier International Airport (FCA). It’s the closest airport to East Glacier National Park. From here, you’re ready to start your adventure! Here are some of my must-see stops that I highly recommend for your itinerary:
This scenic mountain road is the highlight of any Glacier National Park visit. Glimpse the remarkable sights of snow-capped peaks, waterfalls, and a variety of wildlife as you journey along Going-to-the-Sun Road. You can learn more about Going-to-the-Sun Road here.
Two Medicine Lake
A beautiful Two Medicine Lake is surrounded by towering peaks. It’s the perfect spot for picnicking or taking a leisurely boat ride across crystal-clear waters.
Many Glacier Valley
Many Glacier Valley is the heart of the big game country in Glacier National Park. Here, you can spot moose, bears, and bighorn sheep in their natural habitat.
Rising Sun Boat Tours at St. Mary Lake
An unforgettable experience offering panoramic views of glacier-carved peaks surrounding the lake. Check out Rising Sun Boat Tours for more information. I loved seeing the surrounding nature from a different perspective. Simply magical!
Wild Goose Island Overlook
The Wild Goose Island Overlook provides iconic photo opportunities with its small island set against vast blue waters under a dramatic sky.
Sunrift Gorge boasts spectacular geological formations carved by glacial meltwaters over thousands of years. The forest view and rushing waterfall are absolutely breathtaking!
Crossing Borders: Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada)
If you have time and a passport, why not venture into Canada? Explore the dramatic beauty of Waterton Lakes National Park. The crystal clear lakes and wildlife are beautiful. Plus, how fun to say you took a road trip all the way to another country!
Note: Don’t forget to check border crossing requirements before planning this part of your trip.
Where to Stay in East Glacier NP
If you’re road-tripping to East Glacier National Park, you’ll probably want to spend a few days in the area. Fortunately, there are several great options to choose from. Here are some of my favorites in the area.
Glacier Park Lodge
The Glacier Park Lodge, just outside the park in East Glacier Village, is perfect for those who want comfort and convenience. It’s got that rustic charm with all the modern goodies, so you can relax after a day of exploring.
Belton Chalet, near the West Glacier entrance, is a history buff’s dream. Built in 1910 as the first Great Northern Railway hotel, it’s been beautifully restored and offers killer mountain views.
Prince of Wales Hotel
If you’re crossing into Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, I recommend checking out the Prince Of Wales Hotel. Perched on a bluff overlooking Upper Waterton Lake, it’s got views that will make your jaw drop.
Planning Your Road Trip to East Glacier National Park
If you’re road-tripping to East Glacier National Park, here are a few tips that will help you make the most of your trip.
Budgeting for Your Adventure
First, set a realistic budget. Consider gas prices, accommodation costs, food expenses, park entrance fees, and any extra activities or tours you want to splurge on. Knowing the numbers will help you feel more confident in your choices while you’re on the trip.
Plan your route wisely. Include stops at iconic spots like Going-to-the-Sun Road and Many Glacier Valley. I also like to use a reliable GPS systems for real-time traffic updates.
Fuel Up & Check Your Vehicle
Before hitting the road, it’s important to check your vehicle thoroughly – tire pressure, oil levels, and don’t forget to fuel up. The last thing you want is to get stuck with car trouble along the way.
Create an Itinerary but Stay Flexible
An itinerary helps manage time, but remember to stay flexible. Embrace unexpected detours and exciting discoveries.
What to Pack for East Glacier NP
Packing smart can make a huge difference in your overall experience and comfort level. This is why I try to put some thought into this step and not gather things at the last minute.
The weather in Montana can be unpredictable, so I recommend packing layers that will keep you cozy or cool. Think lightweight tees, long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, a waterproof jacket, hiking pants, shorts, and comfy shoes.
If camping is on your agenda, don’t forget essentials like a tent, a season-appropriate sleeping bag, a camp stove, and matches for cooking outdoors. Here’s an excellent comprehensive packing list for camping.
In addition to clothing and camping gear, there are other must-haves for a successful road trip:
- A map or GPS device: While smartphones have built-in navigation, it’s good to have a backup in case you run out of battery.
- Sun Protection: Sunscreen (I love this one) at high altitudes, even when the sun isn’t burning hot, is necessary.
- Bug spray: Mosquitoes love the park as much as humans do. This is a must in my book!
- A first-aid kit: Always be prepared, especially in remote areas.
- Cash & credit cards: Not all places accept cards, especially small businesses near national parks so it’s always good to have some cash on hand.
Last but not least – don’t forget about entertainment. Road trips involve a lot of driving time, so bring books, audiobooks, music playlists, and podcasts.
I always try to download them before leaving home since cell service may be spotty in the park.
And if you’re into photography, don’t forget your camera gear to capture the stunning views.
FAQs: East Glacier National Park
The lower elevation sections of the Going-to-the-Sun Road are open year-round, but due to the high elevation and challenging weather conditions, parts of the road are closed during the winter months.
The road usually opens for vehicle travel around late June or early July and remains open until mid to late October, depending on weather conditions and snowfall. These dates can vary from year to year, so it’s advisable to check the current status of the road with Glacier National Park authorities before planning a trip.
Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is the gateway to Northwest Montana and the closest airport to Glacier National Park. This airport is located in Kalispell, MT.
Both the east and west sides of Glacier National Park offer unique experiences and scenic beauty, so it ultimately depends on your preferences and what you’re looking to explore.
The west side of the park is known for its dense forests, lush vegetation, and cascading waterfalls. It is home to the popular Apgar Visitor Center and Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road, which offers stunning views and access to high alpine areas, begins on the west side. Many popular hiking trails, such as the Avalanche Lake Trail and Trail of the Cedars, are also located on this side.
The east side of the park features the stunningly beautiful Many Glacier region, which is known for its majestic mountains, glacial lakes, and abundant wildlife. The iconic Grinnell Glacier Trail and Swiftcurrent Lake are located on the east side, providing excellent hiking and photography opportunities. The east side offers a quieter and more remote experience compared to the west side, with fewer amenities and accommodations.