Glacier National Park has been called “The Crown Jewel” of the continent, and it is certainly one of the most dazzling gems of northwest Montana. This park encompasses more than a million acres of pristine terrain along the US – Canada border and even straddles the international border connecting with it's Canadian counterpart Waterton Lakes National Park to become North America's only International Peace Park.
The geography of Glacier National Park is stunning. Crystal clear lakes and streams are set among beautiful coniferous forests that populate the large sweeping valleys throughout the park and stretch up the sides of majestic mountain ranges which are crowned with a granite diadem. More than 130 named lakes are hidden within those valleys around the park and countless streams, creeks, rivers and waterfalls dot the landscape in every direction.
The park is an outdoor lovers paradise with more than 730 miles of hiking trails and several back country camps to discover as well as a couple magnificent wilderness alpine chalets including Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet.
While the actual glaciers in the park have receded quite significantly in recent decades, Glacier National Park does still serve as one of the few national park destinations in the United States where visitors can access a real living glacier and see it up close in person.
Many of the same animals that lived in the park hundreds of years ago can still be found here today with the exception of the bison and the woodland caribou. Some species that call Glacier Park their home are very rare indeed and will not be found in nearly any other state or national parks around the contiguous United States, including the grizzly bear, the wolverine and the Canadian lynx.
The Going-to-the-Sun road that transects the park is one of the most beautiful, thrilling and awe-inspiring stretches of road in north America. This 50+ mile stretch of highway crosses over the continental divide and connects the town of West Glacier on the west side of the park near Lake McDonald with the town of Saint Mary on the east side of the park next to Saint Mary Lake. Driving the Going-to-the-Sun road has become the most popular activity in Glacier National Park and attracts millions of visitors through the parks gateways every year.
Besides the Going-to-the-Sun road, there is very little sign of human involvement within the park. Construction of buildings and structures has been kept to a very minimum in order preserve the parks natural beauty. However, among the structures that do exist in and around the park you will find many of the guest lodging facilities to contain architectural designs that are very reminiscent of historical Swiss architecture. The reason behind this is that many of these guest structures were constructed by the Great Northern Railroad company back around the late nineteenth century when the railroad was trying to attract tourism traffic from the east. Part of their strategy in accomplishing this was to brand Glacier National Park as “America's Switzerland.” Nearly all of the hotels and chalets inside the park are now registered as national historic landmarks.
Many opportunities exist for adventure in and around Glacier National Park including: horseback rides on many of the trails inside the park; whitewater rafting along both the middle fork and north fork of the Flathead River; airplane and helicopter tours; guided hikes and more. You can also take boat tours on several of the parks larger lakes, including Lake McDonald, Saint Mary's Lake, Two Medicine Lake, Swift Current Lake, and Lake Josephine.