Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

How to Avoid Crowds in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of the nation’s most visited national parks. Over three million people visit the park each year and most choose to visit in the summer. Visiting a national park with crowds is not always fun, that’s why we have created a list of how to avoid crowds in Glacier National Park.

Tips For Avoiding Crowds In Glacier National Park:

1. Start Early/Start Late Afternoon

2. Enjoy hikes outside of the Park

3. Overnight Rafting Trips

4. Backpacking Glacier National Park

1. Start Early / Start Late Afternoon

The best way to start your day is to get up early and go to Glacier National Park.  Getting to the park before 6:00 a.m. may be daunting but it can turn into one of the most incredible experiences.  Watch the sunrise come up over the mountain peaks.  Listen to the birds singing their morning songs, and live in the moment with uninterrupted views of the park’s amazing landscapes.  

If sunrises are too early for you, don’t worry.  In the summertime, the sun sets later up here and you will have plenty of time to explore the park after 5:00 p.m.  The best part about arriving at the park in the late afternoon is that people are going home when you arrive – finding parking spots becomes easier, you can explore popular trails without the crowd, and the sunsets are beautiful.  The other amazing thing about going to the park early or late is that your chances of seeing wildlife increase as they are most active during dusk and dawn.

Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, there is plenty of time and space to explore Glacier National Park without the crowds. Bring your camera because there are plenty of moments you will want to capture during your visit and your chances of seeing wildlife increase as they are most active during dusk and dawn.

Check out the sunrise and sunset times so you can be there during the magic hour while avoiding the crowds in Glacier National Park.


2. Enjoy Hikes Outside of Glacier National Park

hiking without the crowds in glacier

The Flathead Valley is a mecca for hiking trails. From challenging mountain hikes to easy strolls in downtown parks, there is a hike for any ability.

Explore the 2.4 million acres of land highlighted with mountain peaks, alpine meadows, lakes, streams, and rivers. There are over 2,249 miles of trails in the Flathead National Forest, some great trails to explore while avoiding crowds in Glacier are:

  • Finger Lake Trail (2.6 miles)
  • Holland Falls National Recreation Trail (3.3 miles)
  • Beardance Trail (13 miles)
  • Stanton Lake (3.8 miles)  

Columbia Mountain, near Columbia Falls, is a favorite destination for a short hike or a day hike.  This 4-mile roundtrip hike takes you through the forest to a 30-foot double waterfall located just off the main trail.  If you would like to test your abilities, you can hike to the top of Columbia Mountain which is about a 12-mile loop. Your reward at the top is sweeping views into the valley below.  

Jewel Basin is a great overnight hiking destination with over 25 lakes to set up camp.  There are 35 miles of trail that provide several different types of hikes.  Elevations range from 3,022 feet at Graves Creek to 7,542 feet at Big Hawk Mountain.   

Choose any of the many hike trails at various lengths to explore during your visit to the Flathead Valley. They will offer rewarding views and provide endless opportunities. Remember to stay safe and be aware of your surroundings as you are wandering the wilderness.  Take it slow and enjoy the peaceful, quiet moments.  


3. Overnight Rafting Trip with Glacier Raft Company

overnight raft trips are a great way to avoid glacier national park crowds

Glacier Raft Company offers overnight rafting trips that take you far away from the crowds and disconnect you from the digital lifestyle.  Our guided trips are offered all summer long that take you down the awe-inspiring Middle or North Fork of the Flathead River.

Experience 2 days on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River as you raft down class II and III rapids along the southern border of Glacier National Park.  Your days will be filled with thrilling river-running, fishing, camping, and outdoor fun!  At the end of the day, we set up camp on the river’s edge where you can try some fishing or just relax as your guides prepare dinner.  Sleep under a canopy of stars; then rise up in the morning for more river adventures until we reach West Glacier, Montana.  

Spend a few days on the North Fork of the Flathead River which originates 50 miles across the border in British Columbia, Canada. The rugged remoteness and scenic beauty are what bring people to this part of Montana.  Rafting along the western border of Glacier National Park provides spectacular views on this relatively tame river which generates class I and class II rapids.  As one of Montana’s truly wild rivers, you will traverse through many twists and turns while discovering the endless opportunities to fish and take in the area’s immaculate beauty.  

Take your adventure to where few people have gone before.  Join us on a 4 day Great Bear Wilderness rafting adventure.  The magnificent scenery on the Wild and Scenic Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead River carves through the heart of the awe-inspiring, rugged, and remote Great Bear Wilderness.  We are proud to be the only Montana Outfitter permitted to operate float trips on this section of one of the most protected and pristine waterways in the United States.  The heart-pounding whitewater experience happens during the month of June until the winter snowpack clears.  For 4 days, paddle raft 27 miles and camp along the Upper Middle Fork where you will experience class II to class IV whitewater rapids and terrific alpine lake fishing.


4. Backpacking Glacier National Park

avoid crowds in glacier by going backpacking

Get off the beaten path and backpack throughout Glacier National Park.  Glacier Raft Company offers full-pack rentals at the Glacier Outdoor Center so you don’t have to worry about packing or food. Everything you need will be waiting for you thanks to RightOnTrek who takes the stress out of buying and packing gear.  Visit our Camping and Backpacking Rentals page for more information. 

With more than 700 miles of backcountry trails explore, you can easily avoid the park crowds while taking in the breathtakingly beautiful and mesmerizing eco-system that makes Glacier National Park the Crown Jewel of the Continent. You will need a backcountry camping permit if you plan to venture overnight on one of the many trails.  They cost $7 dollars per person; per night and must be in your possession while hiking.  There are several rangers that are out in the backcountry, so don’t think you can get away with not having a permit.   Know your limitations and plan ahead.  These hikes are physically and mentally challenging but the journey can be worth the effort.  Your chances of encountering the stunning wildlife that inhabits the area greatly increase.  Travel with a buddy, carry bear spray, and have a plan.  More information can be found at National Park Service.


We hope you’ll consider joining Glacier Raft Company for a trip down the river. Our attention to detail along with a strong emphasis on safety, experience, and customer service make us the perfect match for your family or group whitewater rafting experience. 


4 responses to “How to Avoid Crowds in Glacier National Park”

  1. Eric says:

    Interested in hiking /self river trips

    • Amber Blaeser says:

      Hi Eric,

      We do have self-guided trips that are on a mellow section of the river we operate on. You are more than welcome to rent a raft with gear, and we can help you plan a self-guided river and hiking trip. Give us a call at 406-888-5454. (Adam Paugh is the guy you want to reach out to)

  2. Matthew Koehler says:

    Wondering about 1 day self guided rafting trips
    Do you have kayaks?

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