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8 Must-See Spots in Glacier National Park

You know how every once in a while, especially in national parks, you’ll run into an incredibly well-traveled older couple, who have seen just about every beautiful wilderness area across the United States? Their favorite is probably Glacier National Park. It’s something special—a little piece of the Canadian Rockies that the U.S. stole. For the Blackfeet Nation, who have inhabited the park and its surrounding area for millenia, it’s a uniquely spiritual place. You can feel it when you go there. A trip to Glacier is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to make sure you make the most of it, here are some must-see spots.

8. Triple Divide Pass

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Image by Kellen Stuart

Besides being home to an incredible view, Triple Divide Pass is home to a rare hydrological phenomenon. The Rocky Mountains run along the Continental Divide, which divides America’s waterways. All the water that flows east from the Continental Divide goes to the Atlantic Ocean, while all the water that flows west goes to the Pacific. At Triple Divide Pass, that separation merges with a third: all the water that flows north from Triple Divide flows to the Arctic. Standing at Triple Divide, you’ll be standing at an apex of possibility that spreads across the entire continent.

7. Waterton Lakes

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Image by Matthew Kok

If you’re willing to get backcountry permits and backpack for a few days, you can go and touch the Canadian border, where Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park meets Glacier. The history of these two parks is intertwined, ever since they were declared a joint International Peace Park. Once upon a time, Waterton-Glacier was a place where folks could freely walk this natural area, crossing the border between the two countries at will. Sadly, COVID complicated things. Still, their joining represents peace and unity between the two countries.

6. Going-to-the-Sun Road

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Image by Cavan Images

This is one of Glacier National Park’s most iconic attractions. If you’re in the park, you simply have to take the time and drive this road. It offers epic views the whole way. As you drive, I recommend listening to Fleet Foxes’ song of the same name—it’s the perfect soundtrack. While most visitors know of this road, they might not know that it features in movies like The Shining and Forrest Gump.

6. Dawson Pass

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Image by Matthew Kok

If you want a gnarly hike with outstanding views, this is the one for you. Named after Thomas Dawson, a guide from Glacier’s early days, this trail boasts views of Sinopah Mountain, Mt. Helen, Tinkham Mountain, and a small spur trail to No Name Lake. Most folks will connect back to Many Glacier campground via the Pitamakan Pass trail, which makes for an incredible loop. Watch out for high winds on this high, exposed traverse. Trekking poles are recommended, and cameras are required.

4. Trail of the Cedars

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Image by Tomas Nevesely

For those less focused on hard hiking and high-adrenaline views, there’s another gorgeous option available to you here in Glacier. The Trail of the Cedars is a short, wheelchair-accessible hike that boasts some ancient, towering trees. Few things inspire human wonder in the same way as massive trees that were here before us and will (hopefully) be here long after. Enjoy the footbridge over Avalanche Creek and the views of Lower Avalanche Gorge.

3. Two Medicine

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Image by Haizhan Zheng

Two Medicine is a part of Glacier National Park that isn’t talked about as much as, say, Going-to-the-Sun Road, but it’s well worth your time. It’s another extension of Glacier’s natural beauty, but it’s a sacred spot in its own right. Along with Chief Mountain up by the border, Two Medicine has significant spiritual meaning. I caught a ride from Chief Mountain with David from Mountain Chief Cab Company, and he told me some nearby peaks’ names and some stories as we drove back to East Glacier. As I remember, he told us the name Two Medicine came from a year in the past where, because of some natural event, Blackfeet people could not have their annual gathering where they normally would. Some of them met in their original meeting place, and the rest established a new one in the form of Two Medicine. In that way, it represents community despite obstacles.

2. Many Glacier

Image by Ducken99

Maybe because it’s nestled slightly further into the park, the feeling of a stay in Many Glacier is special in its own right. There’s the historic Many Glacier Hotel, designed much like an alpine Swiss chalet, which lends a regal air to Swiftcurrent Lake. The campground, though, is where the real magic is. People from far and wide gather here for the easy access to world-class hikes and natural features to explore. With a stay at Many Glacier, you can head up Swiftcurrent Pass and stop at some stunning backcountry campsites. You could also hike through the Ptarmigan Tunnel or check out Iceberg Cirque, an incredible national amphitheater carved out by glaciers.

1. Grinnell Glacier

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Image by Jordan Siemens

Easily accessed from Many Glacier, the hike to Grinnell is a highlight. It’s a great slice of Glacier’s offerings, and while it is challenging, families could certainly take it on. The glaciers for which this park is named are, of course, receding. This is one reason it’s important to check out Grinnell or some similar glacier during your visit. It’s good to get a sense of that process, even as you look around at the landscape they carved out once upon a time, imagining their former size and power. It’s a reminder that things change. As you hike, you may find yourself grounded again in the beauty, in the possibility of spying mountain goats, moose, or grizzly bears, and loving the wild land for what it is now.

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