The Best of Glacier National Park in One Day

If you’re limited on time and only have one day to take in the sights, Glacier National Park’s biggest attraction is the 50-mile (81-km) Going-to-the-Sun Road. From West Glacier or St. Mary, the drive on the historic road over Logan Pass yields a taste of the park’s grandeur, with waterfalls, immense glacier-carved valleys, and serrated peaks.

To beat the crowds at Logan Pass, go there first thing, and then tour the west and east sides of the road. Pack a lunch to spend your time in the scenery, and plan to drive over and back for the full experience.

logan pass in summer
Logan Pass as seen from Going-to-the-Sun Road. Photo © Miroslav Liska/Dreamstime.

Logan Pass

Depart by 6am from West Glacier and 6:30am from St. Mary to drive directly to Logan Pass, since the parking lot often fills by 8am. At the pass, nab a photo of the Continental Divide sign, tour the small visitors center, and walk the paved self-guided interpretive trails. Climb the boardwalk and trail to Hidden Lake Overlook for views of Hidden Lake.

Bus Tour Option

If you want to avoid the stress of getting a parking spot at Logan Pass, take a red bus tour or the Blackfeet-led Sun Tour bus from West Glacier, Apgar, or St. Mary. You can soak up the scenery rather than focusing on driving the narrow, cliffy road. Plus, tour buses are guaranteed parking at Logan Pass.

Descending the West Side

After departing the pass, pull over at Oberlin Bend Overlook to take in the views of the road’s west side. Stop at Big Bend to see waterfalls, and The Loop to photograph Heavens Peak.

Drop through the West Side Tunnel and follow McDonald Creek downstream. Visit historic Lake McDonald Lodge and walk to any of the beaches from pullovers along Lake McDonald.

person standing on a wooden bridge over mcdonald creek
McDonald Creek. Photo © Zimu Liu/Dreamstime.

Descending the East Side

On the descent east of Logan Pass, enjoy burbling Lunch Creek before driving through the East Side Tunnel, which frames Going-to-the-Sun Mountain at the exit. Use binoculars to see Jackson Glacier in the distance from Jackson Glacier Overlook. Stop at Sun Point for the view of St. Mary Lake. Finish by touring the St. Mary Visitor Center.

map of glacier national park in montana

Becky Lomax

About the Author

Becky Lomax grew up hiking, camping, and skiing in Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, and Mt. Rainier National Park (where her dad used to serve as a ranger).

During college, she worked summers in Glacier National Park. After teaching high school English for many years outside Seattle, she and her husband moved to Montana, where she served as a hiking and backpacking guide in Glacier, worked at a ski resort, and began to write about the outdoors. She relishes visiting national parks to hike, bike, backpack, kayak, and raft.

Through her writing, she advocates for conserving wild places for their unique attributes and the renewal they bring to humans. She has written about hiking trails, historic lodges and roads, camping, paddling, skiing, bicycling, wildlife, wildflowers, birds, and climate change. For magazine stories, she has tagged along with biologists into the field to radio collar bighorn sheep and grizzly bears, even touching the bear's claws and smelling its fur to discover its earthy scent.

She has published stories in several national travel magazines including Smithsonian and Backpacker. She has also authored Moon USA National Parks, Moon Glacier National Park, and Moon U.S. & Canadian Rockies Road Trip.

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