Glacier Park International Airport is the closest airport to Glacier National Park. Airport also has rental car facilities and shuttle services that you could use to get to the park.
Missoula International Airport is located in Missoula County, Montana. It is about 3 hours drive to Glacier National Park from Missoula.
Flying can be expensive, especially in summer, so I decided to drive from Seattle. The drive is long, but part of it is very scenic. It’s about a 9-hour drive, and it took me two days to reach the first park. Depending upon how much you like driving and how many stops you make, you could drive to Glacier from Seattle in 2-3 days.
If driving from Seattle …
Seattle to Spokane drive: https://goo.gl/maps/9zXUdojt1bqdBoBW8
Spokane, WA to Kalispell, Montana: https://goo.gl/maps/AnjXLVx6tSpJfuCX6
How much time to spend?
There is so much to see in these parks that no time is enough. You can spend days, weeks, or months in each park; some people have dedicated their whole life exploring the area. I, unfortunately, had a minimal time because of my busy work schedule and limited vacation time. I spent only 17 days in this area. I mostly did scenic drives in each park and some of the popular hikes. Also, something to keep in mind is that if you are not camping, then the daily cost of staying in a 3-4 star hotel or a lodge could cost you anywhere between $200-$350 a day.
Where to stay in Glacier National Park.
- Lake McDonald Lodge
- Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins
- Many Glacier Hotel
- Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins
For more details on lodges click here
Day One – Glacier National Park.
In 1910 the Glacier National Park became United State’s 10th National Park. In the year 1850, there were approximately 150 glaciers in the park, but today only 26 named glaciers remain. According to some studies, two more glaciers will completely disappear by the year 2030 due to climate change, and by the end of this century, all glaciers in the park will disappear. To read more about melting glaciers click here
Rent a boat at Lake McDonald
Formed as a result of glacier carving, Lake McDonald is the longest lake in Glacier National Park. Lake offers several activities such as boat rentals, hiking, lodging, horseback riding, and picnic areas. I choose to do a boat rental.
Hike Avalanche Lake and Trail of Cedars
Trail of Cedar is a handicap accessible boardwalk. Avalanche lake hike begins from Trail of Cedars, and its about 5.7 miles round trip. The trail has only 730 feet elevation gain. Trail difficulty is rated as easy-moderate. It took me about 3 hours round trip to complete the trail. Lake is stunningly beautiful and serene. I also saw a bear on my way back to the trailhead.
Drive “Going to the sun” road.
Day 3 – Grinnell Glacier Hike
Grinnell Glacier Hike is ranked as number one hike in Glacier National Park by TripAdvisor. Grinnell Glacier Hike is a must-do hike. The hike is 10.6 miles long, but it can be reduced to 7.2 miles by taking a boat ride to get to the other end of the lake. The boat can be taken from outside the Many Glacier Hotel. If, for some reason, 7.2 miles are too long for you or you are short of time, you could only do Grinnell Lake hike (which is on the way to Grinnell Glacier). The Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier are named after George Bird Grinnell. George Grinnell was the early American who explored the park.
Day 4 – Iceberg Trail OR Hidden Lake Overlook Hike
I had planned the Iceberg trail, but it was closed due to substantial bear activity. Since the path was closed, I choose to do the Hidden Lake Trail instead. Hidden Lake Trail is a smooth, family-friendly hike. Especially if you are only going to Hidden Lake Lookout, then it is a straight walk with some elevation gain in the end.
If you plan to spend more time in the park check out following
- Horse back riding https://www.swanmountainglacier.com/
- Hike to Virginia Falls.
- Kayaking on Swiftcurrent Lake
Day 5 – Drive to Banff National Park
Day 6 – Banff National Park
Where to stay in Banff National Park
- Best Western Plus Siding (2.5-star)
- Mount Royal Hotel (3 star)
- Moose Hotel And Suites (3.5 star)
- Fairmont Banff Spring (4 star)
- The Rimrock Resort Hotel (4 star)
Lake Minnewanka is the largest lake in Banff National Park, and it’s the only lake that allows motorboats into the lake. With many beaches around the lake and picnic areas, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon. You can also explore the lake by taking an interpretive boat tour. Details can be found here. Other options on Lake Minnewanka
- Guided Fishing https://www.banffjaspercollection.com/canadian-rockies/banff/guided-fishing-trips/
- Kayak/Boat Rentals https://www.banffjaspercollection.com/canadian-rockies/banff/lake-minnewanka-boat-rentals/
Banff Gondola, the eight-minute ride to the summit of 7,500-foot Sulphur Mountain. The temperatures at the base of the mountain can change drastically from the summit. Cost is CA$62 for adults, CA$31 for 6-15, and 5 and younger go free. An easy boardwalk takes you to Samson’s peak.
Johnston Canyon hike is perfect for families and people for almost any fitness level. Lower Falls hike is about 0.7 miles one way, and the upper falls hike Is around 1.6 miles. It took us about 2 hours for the return trip, going to both lower and upper falls.
There are plenty of activities available on Lake Louise, but we decided to sit down in front of the lake and enjoy the breathtaking views. Activities on Lake Louise.
- Lake Louise Gondola https://www.lakelouisegondola.com
- Kayaking – Can be booked from the lake.
- Horseback riding tours. https://www.brewsteradventures.com/summer-trail-rides, http://www.timberlinetours.ca/daytrips.html
The Moraine Lake is nestled in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the lake mirrors the snow-capped peaks.
Day 9 – Yoho National Park
Fields is a small town in the center of Yoho National Park with a community of about 200 people. The town is easily accessible from Trans-Canada Highway. There are several accommodation possibilities in the town. Click here to see some of the options . We booked Bear’s Den Guesthouse (https://www.field.ca/accommodation/bears-den-guesthouse). The place was very clean and comfortable. Our host was very communicating and making sure we had everything we needed.
Natures Bridge is a rock formation formed by Horse River. From the parking lot, there is a short walk to the viewing platform of natures bridge
Takkakaw Falls is 1260 feet tall which makes it the second highest waterfall in Canada (Della Falls in Vancouver Island being the highest 1444 feet tall).
Day 10 – Icefields Parkway
Bow Lake is another gorgeous glacier-fed lake on Icefields parkway. Bow Glacier and Bow Falls in the background make it a postcard-perfect.
Peyto Lake is accessible through Icefields parkway
Walk on the Athabasca Glacier
Ice Explorer – a specialized bus that’s equipped to handle the icy terrain – which will transport you out onto the glacier (an 80-minute journey), where you’ll be allowed 20 minutes to explore. Departing Ice Explorers leave the Athabasca Glacier every 15 to 30 minutes. mid-April to mid-October;
Sunwapta Falls – Upper Sunwapta Falls is just a 2 min short walk from the parking lot. The lower falls hike is about 1.5 miles round trip
Ranked as the number one attraction in Jasper National Park by TripAdvisor. Athabasca Falls is a beautiful waterfall and a must-visit attraction. There is a large parking lot near the falls which provides very easy access to several self-guided walks around the falls.
A scenic limestone canyon with waterfalls. Maligne Canyon trail is about 2.7 miles and it is divided into 6 bridges. The first three bridges are more popular than the others and offer the best vantage points. A lot of people do not hike all six bridges but if you plan to hike all 6 bridges, you could start from the lower end of the canyon from the sixth bridge. By the time you are in the mid of the trail, you will be going downhill when you are tired.
Mount Edith Cavel Trail is 3.8 miles loop trail near Jasper National park. The trail is heavily trafficked especially between July and September.
Sulphur Skyline Trail (Moderate) or Valley of the Five lakes (Family friendly)
Details for Jasper Gondola can be found here. https://www.jasperskytram.com/.
Fly or drive back home or head to your next destination.