FAQ: When To Visit Glacier National Park?
This question leads the Glacier Guides and Montana Raft All Time Hall of Fame FAQ. Depending on what you’d like to do in Glacier, the answer could be any month of the year. But around here, we think the best time to visit Glacier National Park for rafting, hiking, fishing, biking and generally exploring the park is from late May through late August.
Weather In Glacier National Park
The joke around here is that if you don’t like the weather, just wait 10 minutes and it will change. As guides, it is in our nature to see the positive side of the nature. Thus, there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices. So be prepared for any type of weather, and you’re bound to have a great time!
For a 7 day weather forecast in West Glacier click here.
|Avg Precip (in)||3.37||2.34||1.84||1.81||2.60||3.26||1.74||1.67||2.06||2.34||3.12||3.28|
|Avg Snowfall (in)||39.6||22.7||14.7||3.4||0.5||0.2||0.0||0.0||0.1||2.1||18.0||38.0|
Springtime In Glacier National Park
Spring here in the Flathead Valley is considered to be the middle of April until the end of June. In Glacier however, it tends to be the middle of May to the end of June — and into July in the high country. Think passes. Like Logan Pass!
There are some real pros about being in Glacier in the spring. Spring flowers are blooming (glacier lilies, trillium, balsam root), waterfalls are running at their fullest, animals are emerging after hunkering down from a long winter, and the crowds have not yet arrived.
Check pricing, there are usually “shoulder season” discounts offered by Glacier National Park area businesses — including our cozy Glacier Guides Lodge.
Rafting in Glacier National Park
The river levels are at their highest during spring, making for a thrilling river adventure! The snow is melting in the high country at this time and levels can vary day to day depending on weather. Warm, sunny days and rain will both cause the river to rise.
Hiking and Backpacking In Glacier National Park
Hiking during spring can vary depending on what park of the park you explore. Trails in the low country can be clear of snow — or really close! They may very well be muddy as a result. The west side of the park usually melts out faster than the east side, due to its lower elevation. Backpacking can be tricky due to snow on the passes. The Belly River is a great area for early and late season backpacking. For trail status reports click here.
Fishing In Glacier National Park
In the spring, fishing varies from day to day. It all depends on whether or not the river is clear enough to fish. If it rains or gets hot enough that the river spikes, the water gets muddy and is not good fishing. Consistent fishing usually starts at the beginning of July, but can be as early as mid-June.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTTSR) is the most popular drive in the park, but is not the only scenic road to drive. Especially if its not yet open, try the Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and Inner North Fork roads or U.S. Highway 2, which forms the southwestern border of Glacier.=. GTTSR is usually closed in early spring. The earliest opening was May 16th and the latest was July 13th.
Early season road closures can be fun for bikers, as these roads are often great places to bike!
Summer In Glacier National Park
The pros about coming in summer are that most of the trails are open, the flowers are blooming and the weather is nice (usually).July and August is our summer. These months (especially end of July / early August) are definitely the busiest because most families have that time off.
Early to mid July is the Middle Fork (whitewater) at it’s best. The levels are great for a fun, splashy ride. Later in the summer the levels are lower, but the weather is hotter so the river is still a great place to be.
In July the trails in the lower elevations are clear. The higher elevations can still have snow or snow fields/bridges. Check the status of trails before you go.
The flowers are usually at their peak around the 2nd week in July. Huckleberries often start to pop out right about then, too.
August weather tends to be the driest and the warmest. If there are wildfires, this is the season for it. Wildfires are an important component of forest ecology, but they don’t happen every year.
The beginning of July is when the fishing usually starts getting really good! The rivers tend to clear up and the fish are hungry.
Going-to-the-Sun Road typically opens in late June – early June. However, most all other roads in the park are open during that time frame. When the Sun Road does open, take into account traffic when driving. The road is typically busiest from 11 am to 4 pm. Check the road status before you drive it.
September to November. Early fall (September) tends to be the time that the locals come out. The crowds are gone, the animals are out, and the days are still warm. The weather can change on a dime, so be prepared for anything.
Late fall (mid-October thru November) most things in and around the park have started to closed down. The weather tends to be colder and rainier. If you want solitude, this is it!
There are a few places still open, check for discounted pricing.
The water levels are usually down at this point. Inflatable kayaks can be great fun this time of year! A nice fall day on the river can be some of the best of the season. The scenery is beautiful, colors are vibrant, the ride is relaxing, and you have a good chance of seeing wildlife.
Hiking / Backpacking
September is one of my favorite times for hiking in the park. The animals are out and about, the elk are bugling, and the trails are quiet. I have encountered snowstorms though, so be prepared. Late fall is for those who don’t mind adverse weather conditions and like solitude.
It’s still good. The water is down, so there are more fish per cubic foot of water and the rivers are clear. We fish through October 15!
Most roads in the park are still open until October. Going-to-the-Sun road usually — but not always — ends up closing in late September due to snow.
Compared to the summer, very few people visit the park in the winter. It is mainly just locals or daytrippers from Whitefish Mountain Resort. The park is still open, but most businesses are closed. If you like to snowshoe or ski, this is the time to visit!
Brrr…it’s winter. No commercial rafting is done and only the die hard locals are out – and even then, rarely!
Hiking / Backpacking
Trails and campgrounds are considered winter status. You can still go into the backcountry – permits are required. Be prepared for cold temperatures and be well versed in avalanche safety. Day trips on skis or snowshoes tend to be the most popular.
Ice fishing anyone?
Most all roads in the park and a couple on the outskirts (Highway 49 and the Chief Mtn road) are closed. These roads make great places to ski or snowshoe though. Most roads/highways on the outskirts of the park and in the nearby towns are open and plowed year round.
Whatever your pleasure, there is a time for you in Glacier ….but you won’t know if you don’t go! Let us know if we can assist you in planning when to visit Glacier National Park. We love to help! 406-387-5555 or email@example.com