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How to Visit Glacier and Banff in the Same Trip: Crossing the U.S./Canada Border and More Tips

At about four hours apart, Glacier National Park and Canada’s Banff National Park are two popular destinations with similar environments. Glacier is best known for its massive glaciers and valleys created by those glaciers. The park is the 10th most popular national park in the U.S. Meanwhile, Banff is the crown jewel of Canadian parks. It’s the most popular national park in the country and is well known for its glowing blue lakes and snowcapped mountains.

Many visitors will use the opportunity of visiting one of these parks to also visit the other. It this two-park trip is on your bucket list, here’s what you need to know about crossing the U.S./Canada border and getting from one to the other.

Crossing the U.S. and Canadian Border

You need your passport if you’re heading from Glacier as a U.S. citizen and entering Canada. Both Canadian and U.S. officials will require you to have it to enter the other country.

Congress voted in 2009 on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which requires Americans to have a passport to travel between the U.S. and Canada. The same is true for Canadian tourists heading towards the U.S. While some may have a NEXUS card, the border along Montana doesn’t generally accept them, so a passport is the safest route.

Once you arrive at either park, you’ll need a pass to enter. Additionally, Glacier also occasionally requires a reservation, so check before you go.

Places to Stop

waterton-glacier national park
Prince of Wales Hotel Waterton, AB, Canada. (Source: Christopher Osten)

Whether heading north or south, at least two stops are worth making along the way. 

Heading north from Glacier across the Canadian border, it doesn’t take long to hit Glacier’s sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park. The two areas create the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The area contains spectacular beauty and is a celebration of protecting the outdoors across international borders.

Closer to Banff, you’ll find the city of Calgary in Canada. With a population of 1.3 million people, it’s essentially the size of Dallas, Texas. The city has a major airport and plenty of restaurants and businesses worth checking out if you want a return to society after days spent in the beauty of national parks.

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