9 Things You Didn’t Know About Glacier National Park

Office of the Secretary

On May 11, 1910, President William Taft signed a bill into law establishing Glacier National Park. The country’s 10th national park, Montana’s Glacier preserves 1 million acres of glacier-carved peaks and valleys, pristine turquoise lakes and streams, and dense ancient forests for all to enjoy. Learn more about the Crown of the Continent as we celebrate this iconic national park.

1. Glacier National Park is a part of the world’s first international peace park. The vision for a park was to celebrate peace and friendship between the United States and Canada. In 1932 Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberton, Canada, were designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Today, the parks collaborate seamlessly in their preservation, fire management, and research efforts. Learn more about Glacier’s international designations.

Purple flowers line the roadside with rugged mountains and a green valley in the background
Fireweed lines the road at Glacier National Park. Photo by Shan Lin (www.sharetheexperience.org).

 

2. Glacier straddles the Continental Divide, allowing for extreme weather. That’s because the opposing Pacific and Arctic airs meet at the Divide, creating a dramatic clash of weather. In one instance just outside the park’s eastern boundary in Browning, Montana, the temperature was noted as dropping 100 degrees in just 24 hours. When heading out for a day in the park, be sure to bring rain gear and extra clothes.

With cloudy skies overhead, a rainbow emerges over green covered mountains and forests.
A rainbow emerges over Logan Pass, the highest elevation reachable by car in the park. Photo by Tim Rains, National Park Service

 

3. Going-to-the-Sun Road is a spectacular marvel and a must see on your trip to Glacier. Going-to-the-Sun Road connects the east and west sides through the middle of the park, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. Covering 50 miles of awe-inspiring landscapes, glaciers, and cascading waterfalls, this drive is certainly a quintessential part of your visit. 

A view from the road shows blue skies, a cascading waterfall. and peaks of mountain tops.
With breathtaking scenery and easy viewing access right from the seat of your car, Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most popular viewpoints for visitors looking to take in all that Glacier has to offer. Photo by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service. 

 

4. Evidence of human use in the area dates back over 12,000 years. Archeological evidence shows human occupation of this landscape dating back to the retreat of the Ice Age glaciers 12,000 years ago. These mountains still hold spiritual significance for the local Blackfeet, Salish, and Kootenai Tribes. 

A wooden hut occupies the foreground of the picture while a mountain structure sits in the background.
For centuries, Chief Mountain has helped define Blackfeet territory. Regarded by the Blackfeet People as a mountain of ancient knowledge and great power, it rests half in Glacier and half in the Blackfeet Reservation to the East. Photo by National Park Service. 

 

5. Glacier has welcomed over 100 million visitors to the park. The park’s annual visitation has been rising over the past five years, hitting a record high of 2,946,681 in 2016. Glacier has certainly come a long way since 1911 with an annual visitation of only 4,000.  

Red mountains and green shrubs and trees reflect off the water of a lake.
Considered to be the heart of the park, Many Glacier offers enormous mountains, active glaciers, and hiking trails, making it a favorite destination of both visitors and locals. Photo by Tim Rains, National Park Service. 

 

6. The largest glacier in the park is 0.7 square miles. Of the 26 glaciers present, Blackfoot Glacier is the largest glacier in the park. Learn how glaciers helped sculpted the park’s landscape

An overhead shot of snowy glacial peaks and blue water.
A view of Grinnel and Salamander Glaciers from Grinnell Glacier Overlook off the Highline Trail. Photo by Tim Rains, National Park Service. 

 

7. Glacier holds over 700 miles of hiking trails. Over half of the visitors to Glacier National Park hit the trail to see some of the outstanding scenic views the park has to offer. With opportunities for both long backpacking trips and shorter hikes, there is something for everyone. Hiking not your thing? From biking and fishing to cross-country skiing and red bus tours, there’s plenty to do at Glacier.

Tcky, green mountain peak surrounded by many other mountainshree hikers walk on the top of a ro
Visitors trek the exhilarating rocky hiking trails of Tinkham Mountain. Photo by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service. 

 

8. Glacier’s wildlife has hardly changed since it was first discovered. Home to 71 species of mammals, Glacier’s ecosystem has essentially remained intact and undisturbed. This is mostly because of its large acreage and early protection efforts, but nonetheless the park’s preservation of species since early European explorations is quite impressive. 

A bear peaks its head over green shrubs and plants
Glacier contributes immensely to one of the largest remaining Grizzly Bear populations in the lower 48 states. Photo by Tim Rains, National Park Service. 

 

9. Lake McDonald is a favorite of visitors. Ten miles long and nearly 500 feet deep, Lake McDonald is the largest lake in the park. The clear blue lake is surrounded by high peaks, making it a picturesque spot. It’s most striking feature: the lake’s colored rocks in shades of red, green, and blue. Check out other places in Glacier to explore.

Shot from the ground, this photo showcases the beautifully colored rocks and a sunset over mountain tops and the lake.
A sunset over Lake McDonald only adds to its typically colorful, scenic views. Photo by Jacob W. Frank, National Park Service. 

What other interesting facts and places will you uncover when you visit Glacier National Park? Plan your trip today at https://www.nps.gov/glac.