During this trip, we hiked and cycled through the park’s Western entrance, specifically from Apgar Village. On the park’s opposite side, the Eastern entrance, you can find several other incredible trails such as Two Medicine and St. Mary Lake. Two Medicine entrance takes about 1.5 hours by car to travel to, so you can easily see both the Eastern and Western regions of the park.
It can be rather difficult to drive into the park’s entrances. Many people prefer to bike or hike from West Glacier to Apgar Visitor’s Center, which is also the gate to the iconic Going-To-The-Sun Road. This way, a pass isn’t required and you have much more flexibility to independently explore trails.
Important Tip: Tickets for the Going-To-The-Sun Road book up extremely fast, so make sure to purchase tickets far in advance (at least 3 days ahead).
E-Bikes: how they work and how to rent them at GNP
Renting an E-Bike is super easy at Glacier Park, as there are rental stations both inside and outside the park. Just make sure that you have a car with enough space to store the bikes, because they’re both heavier and larger than normal trail bikes. E-Bikes have different settings, like Eco, Tour, Sport, and Turbo. Eco is the lowest and most similar to traditional biking, while Turbo is the most electric setting the bike has.
Glacier National Park – Parking + Cycling
I would highly recommend biking or doing a hybrid bike/hike experience rather than solely trekking – especially if your vacation entails limited time. This way, we were able to cover twice the mileage in several less hours than if we walked the entire way. However, there were some places where I had to pull my bike or leave it in a designated area as the trail was not bike friendly.
You can’t find many parking options outside of GNP that will allow you to leave your car for hours on end. That’s why many people resort to traveling by bus at a drop-off point or lodging close to the park. For a couple of the hikes, we were able to park our rental at a nearby facility that permitted parking for 2-5 hours, which allowed us to unload our heavy bikes. Another option is purchasing a parking reservation pass on Reservation.com, and drive into Apgar Visitors Center, which has long-term parking and a shuttle.
Getting to Glacier National Park
There are 7 total entrances into GNP, and it’s best to find lodging within a 30 minute radius of the park. On the Westside entrance near Apgar Village and the Going-To-The-Sun-Road, you’ll find a quaint town that has a few cabin-style restaurants, shops, and bakeries (like the famous Huckleberry pie).
Lake Mcdonald, Fish Creek Trail, and Polebridge
At the beginning, we briefly toured the village to see what it has to offer by cutting through some short biking trails. I should also mention that the trails are quite narrow most of the time, so while it may be tempting to go 30 mph on your E-Bike, be careful on populated trails. Those that are more barren or paved, as well as open-road trails are the ones we went fast on. Once we got to the park, we rode on Camas Trail for a while, which is a beautiful forestry trail consisting of different terrain and gorgeous Alpines. This is a perfect trail to start on if you’ve never seen the park, as it gives you a little sneak peak into the park’s overwhelming beauty. Camas Trail consists of rocky paths, bridges, and short paved roads. It leads into plenty of different directions and large mountainous trails. After departing from the trail, we were able to make our way around one of the park’s largest cold water lakes, Lake McDonald. This huge sightseeing point is known for its glorious views of snowy peaks in the backdrop, and the line of bordering Alpine covered mountains. In addition, the lake is open for swimming, paddle boarding, and kayaking so travelers can escape the direct sunlight.
There were a few more loose paths we traveled, specifically on Fish Creek to travel north through the park. One thing that I found is that the further north you go, the more barren the trails get. There are much fewer people who visit the park’s northern regions, although these are some of the most beautiful and picturesque. Places like Polebridge and North Fork are sparse of tourists, as well as bikeable trails. You have to endure a multiday hike of at least a couple days to arrive anywhere in the northern district, as there are hardly any entrances in this area. Most trails around Polebridge and North Fork also require you to be in good physical condition, as the terrain becomes much less stable and there is often an elevation gain.
Best Hikes Near Polebridge:
- Bowman Lake – Challenging; almost 27 miles. Bowman offers spectacular views of a large, clear blue lake immersed in a series of intimidating mountains
- Cyclone Lookout Trail – Moderate; 4 miles. Cyclone Lookout boasts incredible valleys and endless peaks
- Quartz Lake Loop Trail – Moderate; 12.7 miles. Quartz Lake is a peaceful body of water with some of the best forest scenery
Huckleberry Lookout Trail + Mountain
This was one of the best parts of the park in my opinion. Following several miles of Fish Creek, you’ll reach Huckleberry Lookout, a preview to the near 6,500 mile tall Huckleberry Mountain. While this is a challenging hike or bike ride, the endless views are more than worth the trip. Since we planned on riding the E-Bikes the entire way, we resorted to the main road, which provided tons of overview spots for us to pull over and soak in the different scenery.
It’s a tiring experience, but the best thing about it was the deserted peacefulness. It felt oddly freeing to be cruising the path with nothing but vast nature to the left and right. Once we reached Huckleberry Lookout, the perspective grew more intense. It feels like you’re standing directly on top of the tallest mountain in the park, although it technically isn’t the highest peak. The rolling hills slowly fade in the distance, and the view truly emulates tranquility.
Hidden Lake + Gunsight Pass
Hidden Lake is a modest trail that requires a little bit of work but won’t take you all day to complete. The lake cascades through valleys and mountains, allowing you to see the park’s resting environment at its best. Gorgeous emerald trees are lined everywhere, providing pockets of shade where you can sit and absorb the scenery. Gunsight Pass is no stranger to the land’s prepossessing nature either, consisting of stunning lakes, gazing meadows, and soaring mountains. Gunsight is a little more challenging than Hidden Lake, but you’ll be in awe of the park’s seductive scenery the entire duration.
Day Hikes – What to Bring
First and foremost, bring plenty of water. A hiking backpack with ample pockets for water bottles (both refillable + disposable) is ideal. While there are some spots to find fresh water in the park, it won’t always be guaranteed. Other non-perishable snacks that contain high energy such as trail mix, nuts, bananas and dried fruit are great options. Avoid leaving trash on the trails, and be careful not to keep food out for the sake of attracting bears.
Glacier National Park is widely popular with bears, especially Grizzly Bears and Black Bears. This is why it’s important to bring bear spray, which you can easily retrieve from Glacier International Airport, or other shops in and around West Glacier like Glacier Guides and Montana Raft. Note that bear encounters are not common, however, even in the backcountry.
Apgar Village – Inside Glacier Park
Apgar Village is a charming, fun spot to grab some food and drinks, rehydrate, or sit by the lake. Its rustic lodge appeal fits perfectly with the park’s aesthetic, and even in the summertime I didn’t find it to be overly packed. Right in the center of the village lies Eddie’s Cafe & Gifts, where you can find hunger-curbing dishes, cold beverages, and tasty mixed drinks to reward yourself for all your hard work. Right around the corner is Cedar Tree Gift Shop, the largest gift shop in the park, and a few places to rent bikes, paddleboards, and kayaks.