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

As a professional travel writer, Andrew Hempstead spends as much time as possible on the road, traveling incognito, experiencing the many and varied delights of each destination just as his readers do. He looks forward to spending every second summer at home in the Canadian Rockies, traveling mountain highways and hiking trails, exploring new places, and updating old favorites.

Since the early 1990s, Andrew has authored and updated more than 60 guidebooks, and supplied content for regional and national clients like Expedia and KLM. His photography has appeared in a wide variety of media, ranging from international golf magazines to a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum.
Andrew and his wife, Dianne, own Summerthought Publishing, a Canadian regional publisher of nonfiction books. He is a member of The Diners Club World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. Andrew has also spoken on travel writing to a national audience and has contributed to a university-level travel writing textbook. He and his family live in Banff, Alberta.

Becky Lomax was three years old when her parents first took her to stay with friends who worked as rangers at Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park. During college, Becky worked two summers in the historic Glacier Park Lodge, an easy hop to Two Medicine. She spent her days off hiking, backpacking, and climbing throughout the park.

After teaching high school writing and speech outside Seattle, she and her husband moved to Whitefish for quick access to Glacier. She worked in the park for a decade as a hiking and backpacking guide, leading many first-time visitors to Gunsight Pass, Fifty Mountain, and Iceberg Lake. She also served on staff at Granite Park Chalet, spotting wolverines and bagging nearby peaks in her off time.

Today, Becky maintains her strong link with Glacier by using her full-time writing career as an excuse to keep hiking in the park. In magazine stories, she lauds the park’s trails, historic lodges, scenic drives, wildlife, and wildflowers. She tags along with biologists in the field to radio-collar bighorn sheep and grizzly bears. She also treks annually to Grinnell Glacier to write about how climate change is melting the park’s ice fields.

Becky serves as the western writer for On the Snow, a website that provides snow reports for ski resorts. She also writes stories for regional newspapers and national magazines such as Smithsonian and Backpacker, and is the author of the bestselling Moon USA National Parks.

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