Exploring Glacier National Park's West Side

Glacier National Park is split by the Continental divide, creating two distinct sides, east and west. The west side of the park has a number of unique attractions that you should definitely try to visit when you're out this way. We've listed a few of our favorites below. If you have any questions, give us a call. We'll be glad to help.

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park's largest lake, stretching for 10 miles on the park's west side, with a depth of over 470 feet. It's surrounded by mountains to the north, south, and east. It has extremely clear water (The cold water doesn't allow plankton and algae to form.), with an infinite number of brightly colored pebbles on the lake bottom.

Accessing the lake is easy. It's a short distance from Glacier National Park's west entrance, just off U. S. Highway 2. In addition, Going-to-the-Sun Road follows the lake's south side for several miles.

Although fishing at Lake McDonald is not particularly popular, the lake is populated with various species of trout and whitefish, as well as kokanee salmon and suckers. Your best bet is to try trout fishing from a bank. When visiting Lake McDonald, you will have a chance to see a variety of wildlife. Grizzlies, black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, elk, and moose can be found on the lake's shores.

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 50-mile stretch of highway that spans Glacier National Park. The road starts at the park's west entrance, winds through the park, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass, and ends at the park's east entrance. It was built in 1932 and is listed as a National Historic Place, a National Historic Landmark, and an Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The entire route is typically open from early June until the middle of October. Along the route, you have the chance to see a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and an occasional grizzly bear. You'll also get fantastic views of waterfalls, hanging gardens, alpine lakes, and much more. However, you really have to pay attention when driving Going-to-the-Sun Road: It's narrow, has many tight switchbacks, and is prone to rock slides. Vehicles must be 21-feet long or less and 8-feet wide or less. Certain sections of the road require vehicles to be 10-feet or less in height.

Trail of the Cedars

Trail of the Cedars is a one-mile loop along a boardwalk, with an elevation gain of around 60 feet. It's appropriate for almost all hikers. The trailhead is just off Going-to-the-Sun Road. The trail runs through an ancient forest of red cedars and western hemlocks, with trees that are over 500 years old and 100 feet high. At the half-mile point, you pass over Avalanche Creek, where you'll have excellent views of part of Avalanche Gorge. (This is also where Avalanche Lake Trail connects to Trail of the Cedars.

If you want to extend your hike, you can head down Avalanche Lake Trail to Avalanche Lake.) The second half of the trail is paved and runs past Avalanche Creek Campground.

The North Fork

The North Fork is one of Glacier National Park's most remote and desolate areas. Located in the park's northwest corner, the North Fork starts near the Camas Creek Entrance and runs to the Canadian border. It acts as the gateway to Glacier National Park's Northern Wilderness. Getting to the North Fork area requires at least a 4WD vehicle. Trailers and vehicles are not allowed. You have to travel along narrow dirt and gravel roads for long distances. The reward is that you'll get to explore some of Glacier National Park's most beautiful locations, places that few visitors will ever see. The area is filled with huge meadows, open prairies grasslands, and an abundance of wildlife. And you always have the mountains of the Livingston Range as a backdrop.

Note that cell phone service is nonexistent in the North Fork area. Other services are only available at Polebridge, a small community outside the park's boundaries.