Nature Walk and Whitewater in Glacier National Park Experience

Morning Nature Walk in Glacier

This easy half day trip in Glacier is the perfect introduction to the park. You’ll learn about Leave No Trace outdoor ethics, forest fire science, history of early settlers, and river ecology, while enjoying the views along two different, short trails.  

Difficulty: 2 short, easy walks in Glacier National Park 

Each walk is about 1.1 to 1.2 miles, minimal to 180 feet elevation gain and loss

Time: 9:30 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, Memorial Day through mid September.

Trip Duration: Approximately 4 hours

What is provided?

Interpretive Guide with first aid kit and bear spray, van transport, snacks, hiking poles.

What should I bring?

Comfortable walking shoes, water bottle, camera/phone, binoculars, rain coat, fleece, and your Glacier National Park Pass. Check out our extensive packing list for day trips here.

Nature Walk in Glacier Itinerary

Times are approximate!

9:30 a.m.  Meet your guide at our West Glacier office at 9:30 am. Your guide will do a quick orientation, check your gear, and go over last minute details. We drive into Glacier National Park via the West Glacier entrance, 1 mile from our office. Don’t forget your park pass!

Lake McDonald Valley

Once in Glacier, you will walk about 1 mile round trip through the Lake McDonald Valley. This is a glaciated valley, and you will walk on the terminal glacial moraine that dams Lake McDonald. This area is characterized by lodgepole pine forest left from a 1927 fire. You’ll delight in seeing the aquamarine waters that flow from Lake McDonald. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for this valley’s resident beaver and moose!

The North Fork

Next, load up in the van and continue the adventure by driving the short distance to Glacier’s North Fork Valley. Along the way, stop at several scenic viewpoints, such as McGee Meadows and McDonald Creek. Don’t forget your camera! Finally, arrive at the Wild and Scenic North Fork of the Flathead River. Here, you’ll take another short, easy walk, also about 1 mile round trip. This loop weaves in and out of new growth lodgepole pine and aspen forest.

This area burned in 1967 and again in the 2001 Moose Creek Fire. There are beautiful views and fantastic opportunities for interpretation along this loop. You will learn about a variety of tree and plant species, fire impacts, and wildlife inhabitants along the river corridor. Views include Glacier National Park, the North Fork of the Flathead River, and the Flathead National Forest.

This nature walk in Glacier is easy but not completely flat. Typically, you return to the meeting point no later than 1:30 PM.

Early Afternoon

After we’re done walking, we’ll return along the same route by van to the Glacier Guides and Montana Raft office. As we drive, be sure to ask your guide any remaining questions that you might have.  Our guides are passionate and have encyclopedic knowledge about Glacier National Park — no matter your level of hiking experience, we promise they’ll teach you something new.  You’ll end the day knowing more about Glacier National Park than you ever expected!

1:30 p.m. Typically, we return to the Glacier Guides and Montana Raft office no later than 1:30 PM. A delicious, homemade sack lunch will be waiting for you. We like to eat, and eat well. Our kitchen sources locally and organically whenever possible. Enjoy our shaded pavilion while you eat, and volleyball, gift shop, and free Wi-Fi between trips!  You’ll have time to relax until about 2:45 when it’s time to head to the life jacket pavilion to get geared up for the whitewater raft trip which leaves at 3:15.   If you are coming in mid September the afternoon raft trip departs at 2:15, which still gives a bit of time to enjoy lunch at our pavilion.

Afternoon Whitewater Experience

After a relaxing morning walking short, easy trails in Glacier National Park, get ready for an exciting afternoon! Enjoy a half day whitewater rafting trip on the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Difficulty: Moderate

Time: 2:45 meeting time, 3:15 p.m. launch, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Memorial Day through Labor Day.  In mid September the raft meeting time is 1:45 for the 2:15 p.m. launch.

Trip Duration: Approximately 3 hours, but on this undammed Wild and Scenic River, the trip’s length does depend on the river flow. In June – early July, the trip lasts approximately 2.5 hours. Mid July – early August, approximately 3 hours. Mid August – end of season, approximately 3.5 hours.

Glacier National Park Rafting Trips

Enjoy our Glacier National Park whitewater rafting trip on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.  Paddle and become part of the crew that maneuvers the raft through the 9 named rapids by following the simple commands of the guide. Or, if you’d rather sit back and relax on this federally protected Wild and Scenic River, that’s great, too! The trip winds about 8 miles through the John F. Stevens Canyon. The rapids are typically rated class II and III, making for a fun and splashy whitewater rafting adventure!

What Is Provided?

Interpretive Guide with first aid kit, helmets, life jackets, and all river gear. If necessary, wetsuits and booties are also included at no charge.

What Should I Bring?

Be sure to wear clothes you won’t mind getting wet.  See our Packing List – Day Trips page for more information about what you will need for the trip.

More Details

Arrive at 30 minutes prior to departure to meet your guide and get fitted for lifejackets, helmets, and any other necessary equipment. If you have an epi-pen or other medication, your guide can stow it safely for you in a dry bag. Next, take a short bus ride — approximately 20 minutes — to the river put in. Your guide will launch the boat there and you’ll be floating down the stunning Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Flathead River!

The trip starts off on a mellow section of the river, giving you plenty of time to learn to paddle and to adjust to being on the water. The rapids come towards the end of the trip, and photographs of each boat are taken in the rapid called Bonecrusher. Float under Glacier National Park’s historic Belton Bridge towards the end of the trip. Your guide will take the raft out of the water in West Glacier. From there, it’s a 5 minute bus ride back to where you started.

The length of the trip depends on the river flow. In June through early July, trips last about 2.5 hours. Mid-July through early August, about 3 hours. Mid-August through the end of season, approximately 3.5 hours.

No experience necessary.

No maximum weight, but must be able to buckle a 58″ chest life jacket.

Trips depart rain or shine.

Safety First

Safety is always the #1 priority. Guides undergo training in river rescue techniques, first aid, and more. Many guides return year after year. If conditions call for wetsuits and river shoes, or if you would prefer to wear splash gear, it is always available at no extra cost. Helmets are mandatory.

Age Limits

Minimum ages for children will depend on the flow of the river, but generally speaking, there is a rafting trip for every age and ability between 3 and 103! Ages 3 and up for our scenic trips. Minimum age of 5 and a minimum weight of 50 pounds for our whitewater trips.  These minimums may be higher if the river levels are higher, as they often are in the early summer. Be sure to call the office to inquire: 406-387-5555 or info@glacierguides.com

Meeting Notes

Guests should call our office the day prior to departure to check in: 406-387-5555. The day of the trip please arrive at our office by 9:00 AM. We are located 1.5 miles west of West Glacier on U.S. Highway 2. Look for our Glacier Guides and Montana Raft sign on the north side of the highway between mile marker 151 and 152. Our property is just off the highway, tucked in the trees. When you see our sign turn to the north and you will see us shortly thereafter. Detailed directions and maps are available here.

Dates and Pricing

Dates: Tuesdays and Thursdays, Memorial Day through Labor Day

Price Adult: $120 – Lunch is included and Whitewater Trip is offered at 10% off in this combination Experience
Price Child (11 – 5*): $101
Additional Fees: $20 park entrance fee ($35 for family — see entrance fee details here), 7% River User Fee and gratuity for guide not included.

Reservations required in advance.

*Please read more about age minimums on the river, above. Safety is always our #1 priority.

Rather just go on a Nature Walk in Glacier? Check this out.