Glacier National Park in Montana preserves America’s last frontier. With such spectacular vistas and wildlife-rich forests, it’s no surprise that the weather may be erratic.
However, there is year-round access to Glacier National Park, so visitors have the chance to climb mountains or ski, so picking the right season makes a difference to any vacation plans.
Glacier National Park is packed with the craggy Rocky Mountains, glittering alpine lakes, and vast landscapes that are unmatched and give the name of “Crown of the Continent” to a suitable place.
Typically speaking, the best times to visit Glacier National Park are mid-June to late-September or the summer season, with July and August being the more popular.
At this time, you have no snow covering the Going-to-the-Sun Road as the Glacier National Park begins to warm with an average temperature of 72°F (22°C) highs and 41°F (5°C) lows. The Glacier National Park’s summer season brings the crowds who wish to grace the scenic views.
Glacier is also as appealing during the shoulder seasons where you can find the Going-to-the-Sun Road open until the third Monday in October, and traffic is lighter. From then, they may not open the road until late June or early July, yet the park’s east and west sides are accessible.
In our guide, you can learn more about when is the best time to visit Glacier National Park. While you may face cooler temperatures, you will also face fewer crowds and possibly less of the park’s facilities. (Read 5 Best Hiking Trails in Sedona)
However, you could find the best time to go to Glacier National Park is outside the peak summer months as you get to gain a vastly distinct experience.
What Months Can You Visit Glacier National Park?
Summer is an exciting time to visit Glacier National Park. During the season months, expect people on the park’s 700 miles of trails, but you can still find peace and tranquility in the great outdoors in no time.
During the summer, parking lots at popular spots and visitor centers like Logan Pass, Mary Visitor Center, and Avalanche fill up by 6:00 a.m. Around 9:00 a.m., other park areas become crowded.
Entrance fees and lodging are higher in the peak season, yet most facilities are open, as is the shuttle service from the West entrance.
Until late June, businesses and park services progressively return to normal. However, hikers won’t be accessible to use the passes until the middle of the month.
Even if the park isn’t fully open by mid-June, you can beat the July throngs. This month’s weather is ideal, with highs around 72 and lows around 44.
Glacier National Park’s prime visitor season begins in July. All restaurants, motels, and retailers will be open for business despite the expected crowds!
For more experienced hikers, now is the time to ascend mountain passes for stunning panoramic vistas unavailable the rest of the year. July brings highs of 84 and lows of 49 degrees Fahrenheit. During the summer, crowds and congestion force the closure of entire park areas.
August in Glacier National Park is just as alive as July, with most trails open and activities ranging from guided tours to whitewater rafting available. You can spend weeks exploring the park or taking pictures around Logan Pass or Lake Josephine. The weather will be like July, with highs about 82 and lows around 47.
Hundreds of hikers per day on Glacier National Park’s top ten popular trails, yet you can avoid the throng by hiking the less popular trails in Glacier National Park.
Fall in Glacier National Park
As the temperature cools, the tourists in Glacier National Park thin. With many park services and businesses operating until Labor Day, visitors have a limited time to enjoy the park’s advantages as many areas of the park start to close.
The Glacier National Park weather is cooler but bring rain gear since there’s still plenty to do in the fall. Check out the fall colors on the park’s west side, where the trees begin changing color in mid-September and gold in early October.
When visiting Glacier National Park, you’ll need to arrive in early September to take advantage of the park’s services, such as ranger-led tours and restaurants.
For example, the Mary Visitor Center, like others, closes around Labor Day. At the same time, the shuttle service may be limited if you come late, although there is still plenty to do in the park in September. (Read 5 Best San Diego Hiking Trails)
There’s no better time to hit the trails or go fishing as highs are 72°F, and the lows are approximately 40°F.
One of the most crucial Glacier National Park suggestions is to schedule services in advance, as reserve boat tours and lodging at the Granite Park Chalet or other places as most popular destinations are reserved months in advance.
Visit the park in mid-October to witness the trees change colors! While the leaves begin to change in mid-September, the veritable feast of reds and yellows occurs in October.
By October, many businesses, hotels, and restaurants will be shut, and travelers need to be self-sufficient without so many rangers. In addition, come mid-October, the park’s East Side will be cooler than the West Side.
Glacier National Park is already feeling the cold temperatures of winter in November. Pack a warm jacket since the temperature won’t rise over 37°F.
Glacier National Park offers various hikes and drives to explore with Swiftcurrent Lake near Many Glacier, a popular November destination despite the harsher temperatures and fading autumn colors.
Winter in Glacier National park
Many trails and roads will close for the season as the snow falls at Glacier National Park. Roads like the Going to the Sun Road from West Glacier to McDonald Lodge are plowed regularly for a more comfortable visit.
Winter weather forces most Glacier National Park roads to close in late fall and winter. However, a plowed road from West Glacier to Lake McDonald Lodge is open year-round, weather permitting.
The Many Glacier Hotel closes in mid-September; although McDonald Lodge remains open on weekends, Apgar Visitor Center operates for Glacier National Park skiers. In addition, there are some routes where you can cross country ski and see the park from a new angle.
The white powdery mountains and fields can transport you to a winter wonderland in December.
Many trails and roads will be closed in December, but you may still ski or drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road!
Pack warm if you visit Glacier National Park in December; the highs are only around 30 degrees, and the lows are as low as 18!
Winter in Glacier National Park is not for the faint of heart. In January, the coldest month of the year, you’ll need clothes to enjoy the slopes and views. Despite the harsh weather of the winter months, visitors can still enjoy the winter beauty on skis, snowshoes, or from their cars. The Apgar Visitor Center is only open on weekends if the weather permits.
It is also possible to see the Northern Lights from Glacier National Park during the winter.
In February, the weather warms up, but not enough to remove the coat and wear shorts.
With temperatures ranging from 35 to 19, you’ll need to wrap up, and don’t forget your merino wool socks. You can still enjoy slopes and mountain roads if the weather cooperates, yet you will have to check for road and park office hours updates.
Cross-country skiing or snowshoeing can take you down winter and snowshoeing pathways in Apgar Village or the unplowed Going-to-the-Sun Road beyond Lake McDonald Lodge.
How Do You Avoid Crowds in Glacier National Park?
If you don’t want to deal with the summer crowds, spring is a great time to visit Glacier National Park. However, because many park amenities are not available soon after winter, this is only ideal for experienced hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The best time to ride the Going to the Sun Road is between March and June. Spring is also a wonderful time to hit the rapids. Travelers can experience the beauty of the retreating winter without the weather.
Many passes and trails are inaccessible in March because of the snow from the hard Montana winter. With highs of 42°F and lows of 23, you can almost feel the chill. Apgar campground and the St. Mary Campgrounds are still open for camping despite the lingering winter park.
Apgar and St. Mary Campgrounds are open year-round. Apgar Camping. These campgrounds have no running water or flush toilets in the late fall, winter, and early spring. It starts in late May.
The snow will finally melt during the last week of April, revealing hundreds of miles of untrodden routes. While many high passes are still closed until the summer, this month marks the start of peak season.
If you visit Glacier National Park in April, expect highs of approximately 53 and lows of around 30. However, the complete Going to the Sun road is not open until particular dates, which could vary year-to-year and the date of the road’s full opening depends on how much road has been plowed. (Read 5 Best Camping Sites In Colorado)
The time of May is ideal for trail-hiking without the throngs of the peak season. Trails are now accessible even if some higher elevations are still snow-covered. Hikers should dress for 65°F highs and 38°F lows in May.
The fringes of Glacier National Park are snow-free quicker than the continental divide or the park’s center. In the spring, paths in the mid-to-high elevations are often snow-covered, whereas some Glacier National Park pathways aren’t fully melted until late July.
The Lake McDonald Lodge is a historic landmark, and there are boat cruises and kayaking available from the Swiss-style lodge on Lake McDonald. Like Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake, great hikes make Lake McDonald ideal for families.
Logan Pass has the park’s most famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. That’s because the Logan Pass Visitor Center is at the top of the road. In addition, the Highline Trail, St. Mary Falls, and Hidden Lake Overlook are all in St. Mary and Logan Pass area.
Hikers and visitors to the Many Glacier Hotel call Many Glacier home. Glacier National Park hiking highlights include Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, and Ptarmigan Tunnel. In addition, magnificent animals like mountain goats and moose can be seen along the many popular hiking trails in this area.