How to Get to Glacier National Park (flying, driving, or by train)
Ready to tick Glacier National Park off your bucket list but scratching your head about how to actually get there? Worry not, we've got the inside scoop—straight from our own experiences to guide you through the skies, roads, or rails, all the way to this natural wonderland.
Where is Glacier National Park?
Glacier National Park is like a scene from your wildest outdoor dreams, tucked away in Montana's rugged Rocky Mountains. If you're looking up at the sky, wondering where this gem is, you'll find it near the U.S.-Canada border, just in the heart of Big Sky Country. It's a place where pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes come together to create a natural playground that's just waiting for you to explore.
Kalispell, MT to Glacier National Park (West Glacier Entrance): 32 mi | 40 min | Google Maps
Missoula, MT to Glacier National Park (West Glacier Entrance): 137 mi | 2 hr 26 min | Google Maps
Bozeman, MT to Glacier National Park (West Glacier Entrance): 311 mi | 5 hr 8 min | Google Maps
Seattle, WA to Glacier National Park (West Glacier Entrance): 550 mi | 8 hr 26 min | Google Maps
Denver, CO to Glacier National Park (West Glacier Entrance): 970 mi | 14 hr 12 min | Google Maps
Specifically, where in Montana is Glacier?
If you're looking to pinpoint Glacier on the map, you'll find this slice of heaven in Northwest Montana. To get more specific, Glacier National Park stretches from the town of West Glacier to St. Mary on the east side, with the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road connecting them right through the park. It's nestled comfortably between the towns of Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls, which are the towns most visitors to Glacier use as their "basecamp" while exploring the park.
Taking a train to Glacier National Park
Taking a train to Glacier National Park isn't just a trip, it's a throwback to those good ol' glory days of travel. Amtrak’s Empire Builder line rolls right into the park at the West Glacier and East Glacier Park stations, depending on the time of year. Plus, you get to meet a bunch of fellow adventurers in the viewing car, trading stories while the backdrop of Big Sky Country zips by. Take a train to Glacier National Park is certainly the slowest way to get there, but if you're looking for a truly unique way to experience some of America's most beautiful destinations, consider hopping on this Amtrak line. The Amtrak Empire Builder connects major cities from Chicago to Seattle.
Where to fly into for Glacier National Park
When flying to Glacier National Park your best bet is to land at Glacier Park International Airport (FCA), right in the heart of Flathead Valley in Kalispell, Montana. It's the closest you can get to Glacier and it's only a mere 30 miles west of the park. Flying into FCA means you're just a hop, skip, and a jump away from those towering peaks and jaw-dropping views of Glacier.
Glacier Park International Airport receives flights from eight major airlines: Delta, American Airlines, United, Allegiant, Alaska, Sun Country, and Avelo. For being a relatively small airport, they host direct flights to quite a few major cities including Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, and even New York City.
If you're flying in to visit Glacier National Park, you'll want to rent a car at the airport since the airport is 30 miles from the closest park entrance. We'll talk more about car rentals for Glacier in just a second so keep reading.
Driving to Glacier National Park
Road-tripping to Glacier National Park is an adventure in itself, filled with epic views to keep you and your crew amped the whole way. Driving lets you take the scenic route at your own pace not to mention how it allows you to bring all of your hiking and camping gear with you more easily than if you were flying with all that gear.
Car restrictions in Glacier National Park
Keep in mind that driving to Glacier National Park while scenic and convenient, comes with its own set of challenges. For example, if you're planning to drive the Going to the Sun Road (which we highly recommend) your vehicle cannot be over 21 feet long (including bumpers), wider than 8 feet (including mirrors), or taller than 10 feet due to the road's very windy structure with lots of rocks jutting out into the lanes that can easily damage vehicles. This rule is in place for your own safety so do note that if the park rangers tell you that you cannot drive your massive RV up the road, it's for your own good.
Permit required for vehicles in Glacier National Park
Due to Glacier National Park's growing popularity, vehicle and motorcycle reservations are required during the peak months to enter the park. While that sounds annoying and complicated, it's really not! Here's everything you need to know for the 2024 season.
Reservations are required for driving the Going to the Sun Road if you plan on beginning your drive on the road between the hours of 6:00 AM - 3:00 PM from May 24 - September 8.
Reservations are required for entrance into the Many Glacier portion of park if you plan to enter this area between the hours of 6:00 AM - 3:00 PM between the days of July 1 - September 8.
Reservations are required for the North Fork region of the park if you plan to enter this area between the hours of 6:00 AM - 3:00 PM between the days of May 24 - September 8.
Reservations for each day are released at two different times: 120 days in advance (beginning January 25, 2024), then more reservations openings are released the day before a date at 7:00 PM MST (beginning May 23, 2024).
Alright, let's chat about hitting the road in style – renting a car for your Glacier adventure. So, you've touched down and are feeling the Montana air – it's time to get some wheels. Most major rental companies are at the Glacier Park International Airport, ready to hook you up with the perfect ride for those mountain roads. Whether it's a roomy SUV for all your friends and gear, or a zippy little number that just begs for those hairpin turns on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, there’s a rental with your name on it. Plus, being behind the wheel means you’re on your own schedule. Want to pull over every five minutes for those picture-worthy views? No one's stopping you! Just remember to reserve your car ahead of time, especially in the summertime, unless you fancy the thrill of hitchhiking or biking your way to the park – which, let's be real, could be its own kind of adventure.
Onsite at Glacier Park International Airport you'll find Budget, Avis, Hertz, and National/Alamo. Nearby but off-site from the airport other major rental companies including Enterprise, Dollar, Thrift, and even Toyota can be found.
Do I need four wheel drive for visiting Glacier National Park?
If you're planning to visit in the peak tourism months when snow is melted then no, you do not need four wheel drive. The Going to the Sun Road and other roads surrounding the park are well maintained and do not require any special gear.
Do note that if you're wanting to get off-road and go deeper into the forest you can certainly find those kinds of roads in the area. However, most rental car companies will not allow you to take your vehicle off of paved surfaces so be sure to read the fine print before adventuring beyond the pavement.
Ride share and taxi options for Glacier National Park
Uber and Lyft are both available as ride share options from the Glacier Park International Airport. Keep in mind that Montana is very large and getting around by ride share will mean long distances and will quickly add up on the meter. The more financially wise option would be to rent a car and drive yourself if you are comfortable doing so.
Taxis are also available from Glacier Park International Airport including larger shuttles for larger groups (more on this below).
Shuttle options for visiting Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is an incredibly scenic destination and some people would rather hire someone else to do the driving for them. If you're traveling in a large group and/or you'd rather sit back and let someone else do the driving for you, a private shuttle might be the way to do. There are plenty of shuttle and tour options for Glacier National Park and the surrounding areas. If you're looking for a shuttle service to pick you up from the airport and drive you around Whitefish, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, etc., be sure to checkout the list of shuttle companies on the airport's official website.
If you're looking to pay for a shuttle service in the park itself, all of those tours will be via vendors designated by the official national park. Keep in mind that there is a difference between the shuttle in Glacier and the actually tours. There is a free shuttle that transports passengers up and down the Going to the Sun Road (generally used by hikers and cyclists). If you want a more leisurely and scheduled ride that includes a tour, be sure to book the Sun Tours or the Lodges Red Bus Tours.
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We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!