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Visiting Glacier National Park in Winter

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Escape the summertime crowds and experience the magical winter wonderland of Glacier National Park! Travelers craving solitude and serenity will find their paradise in Glacier’s awe-inspiring winter landscape. While the weather reduces the services available, there are still endless opportunities for adventure in and around the park during these months. Due to the lack of open facilities during this time, visitors will need to do some extra planning.

Is Glacier National Park open in winter?

young couple taking picture on bridge with snowy river behind

The West Glacier Entrance is open 24/7, every day of the year. An entrance fee will be required, even if the station is unstaffed. Most of the facilities in Glacier National Park are closed in wintertime (typically early October through late May), so visitors will need to be entirely self-sufficient. The Apgar Visitor Center (about 2 miles after the West Glacier Entrance) is typically open on the weekends during winter, and restrooms are always open here.

Are the roads in Glacier National Park plowed in winter?

car driving into West Glacier in winter time

Once the snow starts falling, roads begin closing and most roads in the park are closed throughout the winter. Going-to-the-Sun Road from the West Glacier Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge (11 miles) is usually plowed and accessible by vehicles year-round.

From the east side entrance (St. Mary), you can usually drive the 1.5 miles to the St. Mary Campground.

HWY 2 that travels along the southern border of Glacier National Park is maintained US Highway and is a beautiful drive anytime of year.

What are the best options for traveling to and from Glacier National Park in winter?

The highways around Glacier National Park are plowed, but you’ll always need to take extra precaution during bad weather. Make sure to check road conditions, know how to drive safely in snow, and have proper snow tires or chains.

The nearby airport, just 24 miles from the West entrance of the park, is the Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). It offers numerous flights and is the most convenient way to visit Northwest Montana. Car rentals and shuttles can be arranged directly at the airport.

Or, consider take thing train! Amtrak’s Empire Builder train travels across the northern United States from Chicago to Seattle and Portland along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail. This line stops year-round in West Glacier (WGL) and East Glacier Park (GPK).

Check out our detailed post for more helpful information about How to Get to Glacier National Park

woman hiking in a snowy Glacier National Park

There are many fun things to do in and around Glacier National Park in the winter! Popular activities include sightseeing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, and snowmobiling. The two best activities allowed within Glacier National Park during the winter are cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Visitors during winter will get to enjoy the incredibly scenic snow-covered landscapes without the summer crowds.

Read below for information on experiencing these adventures either on your own or with a local guide.


Since the road from West Glacier Entrance to the Lake McDonald Lodge is usually plowed, it’s a great option for easily accessible sightseeing around the largest lake in the park. Alternatively, join a local guide on a half-day tour of historic and scenic areas in Glacier National Park and the surrounding area. Learn the fascinating history and see the calm, snow covered landscapes around the Lake McDonald Lodge, Apgar Village, and the Hungry Horse Dam.

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing

woman cross country skiing in Glacier

For those interested in a bit more activity many winter trails are accessible near the West Glacier Entrance as well as outside of the park. One of the most popular trails begins at the parking lot of the Lake McDonald Lodge and follows Going-to-the-Sun Road and is mostly flat terrain, perfect for beginners. In less than two miles, a left turn off the road to cross the bridge will reward you with a stunning view of the McDonald Falls.

Keep in mind that weather conditions will affect the trail difficulty, and although snowshoeing is very easy to learn it is definitely a workout. Know your ability level and plan accordingly.

Consider joining a guided Snowshoe in Glacier National Park through this winter wonderland to enjoy the terrain safely. For those that are experienced and interested in a self-guided exploration, make sure to download the trail description and map brochure from park officials.

Dog Sledding

For a truly special experience, take a sled ride pulled by a group of canine athletes through the snow covered forests! This guided tour takes place outside of Glacier jsut north of Whitefish and is fun for the whole family and groups of any size, providing an unforgettable adventure.


An exciting and up-and-coming new winter activity snowbiking is all the craze for outdoor winter enthusiasts. With more agility than a snowmobile you'll be able to truly tear up some of the freshest powder around. A highly modified dirt-bike frame with tracks similar to a snowmobile this unique experience can quickly become a once-in-a-lifetime highlight or an exciting new winter hobby. While not allowed within Glacier National Park nearby terrain provides equally stunning views and glimpses of the park from afar. Check out a Snowbike Tour Near Glacier National Park.


Unlike Yellowstone, snowmobiles are not allowed within Glacier National Park but there is no shortage of excllent terrain nearby! Snowmobile rentals can be taken out on popular trails such as the Canyon Creek complex and McGinnis Creek.

If you prefer a guided experience, snowmobile tours and guided rentals are available to book just north of Whitefish. If you're a beginner or looking for an easier experience check out a Classic 1/2 Day Snowmobile Tour or if you'd rather skip the groomers and head off-trail consider a Backcountry Snowmoible Tour.

Backcountry Skiing and Camping

man hiking up to winter lookout in deep powder snow

For the experienced and intrepid skier, an overnight trip in Glacier National Park will reward you with a unique and unparalleled experience. The journey up the Going-to-the-Sun Road from the West Glacier Entrance to Logan Pass is approximately 25 miles. This adventure is reserved for advanced skiers that are trained in avalanche safety and winter camping. Note that a backcountry permit is required and review the Leave No Trace principles. Also, check out this backcountry winter camping video by the NPS as a good primer.

Alternatively, if you'd like a local expert to show you the way check out some Whitefish Backcountry Ski Touring. Utilize the lifts at Whitefish Mountain Resort to quickly access some of the freshest and deepest powder aroud.

Stay warm and safe during winter in Glacier National Park

The weather changes very quickly in Montana, so you’ll need to be prepared with layers and the proper gear (see below for what to pack). Remember that the restaurants and facilities inside the park are closed this time of year, so be sure to pack enough water and food for your time here (a water station is available at the Apgar Visitor Center), as well as downloaded maps since cell service is limited. Always check the weather forecast before visiting.

Safety precautions need to be taken when recreating in the park. Hypothermia is the top danger to visitors in wintertime, so be sure to drink plenty of water, snack often, stay dry by wearing proper clothing, and pack survival gear. Be aware of tree wells and areas prone to avalanches, and do not ski on frozen lakes.

Wildlife is still very prevalent in winter. White-tailed deer are most commonly seen, and always remember that you are in bear and mountain-lion territory. Even though grizzlies should be hibernating, always carry bear spray and refresh your knowledge bear safety and check out Bear Aware: How to Stay Safe in Glacier National Park.

deer in the snow

Stay updated on conditions and trail closures and current avalanche status, especially if you plan to go backcountry skiing.

Check in with the Traveler’s Information Station at 1610 AM or call 406-888-7800.

Cozy places to stay in and around Glacier National Park in winter

The famous lodges of Glacier National Park are closed and boarded up during winter. However, you can find many great options just outside of the park entrances such as include the Great Bear Inn, Belton Chalet, and Izaak Walton Inn. Additionally, you can find many hotels and cabins in the surrounding area of Columbia Falls, Whitefish, and Kalispell.

For the traveler that doesn’t mind the cold, you can camp at the Apgar and St Mary Campgrounds, or in the backcountry with a permit. Additionally, several Forest Service cabins are available to rent.

a cozy winter cabin in northwest Montana

What to pack for a trip to Glacier National Park in Winter

Since the weather changes drastically, wearing proper layers is the best way to adjust to the changing temperatures throughout the day. All of the gear that you bring will depend on what activities you plan on doing. If you’re joining a guided tour, you’ll receive detailed information on what to bring and what gear is provided. But in general, the list below are must-haves for your trip to Glacier in the winter:

  • Gloves: waterproof and insulated.
  • Boots: waterproof with good traction.
  • Neck Gaiter: for warmth and sun protection.
  • Beanie
  • Base layers: quick-dry material like merino wool, polyester, and nylon. Avoid cotton!
  • Mid layers: warm and insulated material like fleece.
  • Jacket: waterproof and insulated, or a shell with an insulated mid-layer.
  • Hand and toe warmers
  • Backpack
  • Water bottle or hydration bladder
  • Snacks
  • First Aid Kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Bear Spray
  • Printed maps and reservation information

Now you have a good idea of how to explore this magical place when the temperatures drop! Visitors to Glacier National Park in winter can truly enjoy solitude and experience this winter wonderland in a completely different way than most. Plan to adventure to nearby areas just outside of the park, as there are many things to do in the neighboring towns as well. Plan ahead, stay safe, and enjoy the calm serenity of our snow covered playgrounds!

Written by: Haley

Haley is a native Montanan who has been exploring Glacier National Park & the greater Flathead area from her earliest childhood memories. A full time resident to the valley for over ten years, she spends her summers on the rivers, trails, and lakes, and her winters skiing on Whitefish Mountain Resort (though she still calls it Big Mountain). As a ski bum turned marketing guru, she now loves to share her local knowledge through blog posts & over cold beers at her favorite haunt - the Montana Tap House in Whitefish.

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