Glacier Guides and Montana Raft

Does Glacier Park Close?

“Does Glacier Park Close?”

We’ve been getting this question a lot lately because the alpine section of the Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTTSR) just closed, which it typically does sometime before or on the third Monday in October. The closed section is from Avalanche to St. Mary in most, but not all, years. You can check Glacier Park Road Status here.

But anyways, here’s a secret: Glacier is open all year.  Not all facilities are maintained, but you can hike, bike, ski, sit, and enjoy Glacier all year long.  Many locals refer to this time as the “off season.” I like to refer to it as the “quiet season.”  It’s true that most businesses in and adjacent to the park shut down during the off season, but there are a few gems that are still open.

5 Things To Do In and Around Glacier National Park During the Off Season

#1 Explore

There are many places in the park to access, but as the season moves into winter most people stick to the lower elevations.

  • Hike. Fall is a great time to hike in Two Medicine, the North Fork, Many Glacier, or Lake McDonald.
  • Bike.  Cycling on the any of the roads once most of the traffic is gone is wonderful.  If it doesn’t snow early, the GTTSR has great off season access with no vehicles to bother you.
  • Kayak/Canoe.  Glacier is known for all it’s lakes and locals love to spend time on the water on a nice fall day. Keep in mind that Glacier’s waters do close each year on November 1 for the winter.
  • Fish.  The Middle and North Fork of the Flathead are great spots to fish, as well as one of our many lakes.  Fall is for fishing.
  • Ski or Snowshoe.  Once the snow flies, people love skiing on the roads that are not plowed (which are most of them).  Favorites are the lower sections of the GTTSR, the Inner North Fork, and the Camas.  Roads on the east side of the park can be good too, but it can often be very windy (causing wind-drifts/bare ground).
Marias Pass on an October dayMarias Pass, Glacier National Park, on an October day.

#2 Stay Over

  • The Isaak Walton Inn:   Access to great hikes in the fall months and wonderful cross country ski trails once the snow flies. Fantastic restaurant.  Located in Essex, MT along the southern border of Glacier.  They have a couple of fall closures.   Check out their current lodging specials.
  • Glacier Guides Guest House: Located about a mile and a half from the park, you can walk or bike on the bike path that our cozy home sits on. We’re open all year.
  • Historic Tamarack Lodge:  Most lodges are closed for part of the season or week, but not the Tamarack.  Open all year long in Hungry Horse, it has a great little bar and tasty dining with a friendly atmosphere.  See current lodging specials.
Glacier National Park vacation rental
Glacier Guides Guest House, West Glacier, Montana

#3 Take a Class or a Tour

    • Guided hikes are available through October 15th from Glacier Guides and Montana Raft.
    • Fishing:  People can fish almost all year long here.  Glacier Guides and Montana Raft also has guided fishing trips  through the fall.  Try the full day fly fishing school if you’re a beginner.
    • Ski Classes.  If you are looking to learn how to cross country ski, definitely check out the Glacier Nordic Center in Whitefish!  The Whitefish Mountain Resort offers downhill ski and snowboard classes just 40 minutes away from the West entrance of Glacier.  Both places offer rentals.
    • Educational Classes.  Try one of the great winter ecology classes that the Glacier Institute offers!
    • Free Glacier Park Snowshoe Tours.  These are ranger-led tours through the Park Service.  See “Visiting Glacier in the Winter.” 
    •  Ski and snowshoe guided tours and rentals are available through Glacier Adventure Guides.   Rentals available through these tours.
    • Snowmobile.  Although there is no snowmobiling inside the park, you can join a snowmobile tour just outside of Glacier.  Try Swan Mountain Snowmobiling.
      Fall is for fly fishing.

#4 Sleep under the stars.

Several of Glacier’s front country campgrounds enter primitive status (no flush toilets or water).  There are very few people around and it’s the perfect time for those that like solitude, wildlife, and fall foliage.

What about when winter arrives, does Glacier Park close for camping? No. Once the snow flies, be prepared for winter camping as most campgrounds are in winter status (you will still need a permit for winter backcountry use).  See front country campground status.  Glacier Adventure Guides also guides overnight winter trips.

  • Montana in November
  • Photo by Glacier Guide Caiti Woods.

#5 Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.

Treat yourself after a day in the park and toast to uniformed souls who wondered, does Glacier Park close, but didn’t do their research to find out!

  • Glacier Distillery: Coram, MT. Their cocktails are phenomenal. Bottle sales, too! Check their website for winter hours or, if they’re closed, pick up a bottle to try at O’Brien’s Liquor + Wine in nearby Columbia Falls.
  • The Stonefly Lounge: Great bands throughout the year (try the Halloween Party).  Super fun spot to hear some music or grab a cold beverage.  Coram, MT.
  • Tamarack Lodge: Quiet, casual spot to get a beverage and something to eat.  Menus change from season to season, but they’re always good.
  • Izaak Walton Inn: Although the atmosphere is casual, the fare is on the upscale side.  Great spot after a day of cross-country skiing.
  • So gear up and head out to enjoy the wonders of this quiet season because the answer to the question “Does Glacier Park close?” is definitely no. Glacier is always open. See you out there!

Questions? Hit us up, we’re always happy to help.

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