Wildlife in Glacier National Park: Safety Tips and Hot Spots

Glacier National Park has 60 mammal species and more than 260 species of birds; bring the binoculars to aid in wildlife-watching.

Wildlife lovers can see 60 mammal species and more than 260 species of birds. Photo © sekernas/iStock.

Hot Spots for Viewing Wildlife in Glacier National Park

  • Inside Road: Spot elusive gray wolves on this uncrowded dirt road at dawn or dusk.
  • McGee Meadows: The North Fork Valley houses 196 bird species. McGee Meadows bustles with snipes, soras, and red-tailed hawks.
  • Avalanche Paths: In early spring, grizzly bears prowl for carcasses in avalanche slopes on Mount Cannon and the Glacier Wall on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
  • Logan Pass: Mountain goats and bighorn sheep wander through the parking lot at Logan Pass and frequent the Hidden Lake Overlook trail.
  • Two Dog Flats: In spring and late fall, elk feed in early morning at Two Dog Flats near Rising Sun while aspens attract woodpeckers, flickers, and owls.
  • St. Mary and Virginia Falls: These two waterfalls create perfect habitat for dark, bobbing American dippers.
  • Mounts Henkel and Altyn: Grizzly and black bears feed on huckleberries on these two peaks in Many Glacier in late summer.
  • Swiftcurrent Valley: A gentle hike runs through moose country to Red Rock and Bullhead Lakes. Listen for white-crowned sparrows, loons, Clark’s nutcrackers, and golden eagles.
  • Goat Lick: On U.S. 2, the natural mineral lick attracts mountain goats in early summer.
  • Waterton Lakes: Waterton’s Maskinonge and Linnet Lakes wetlands abound with ospreys, swans, and kingfishers.
  • Bison Paddock: The Waterton bison paddock houses a small herd of shaggy bovines that once roamed wild.
  • Kootenai Lakes: Hop the Waterton tour boat and hike to Glacier’s Kootenai Lakes to see moose and trumpeter swans.

Tips for Safely and Successfully Viewing Wildlife

  • Safety for you and safety for the wildlife is important. For spying wildlife up close, use a good pair of binoculars.
  • Do not approach wildlife. Although our inclinations tell us to scoot in for a closer look, crowding wildlife puts you at risk and endangers the animal, often scaring it off. Sometimes simply the presence of people can habituate an animal to hanging around people; with bears, this can lead to more aggressive behavior.
  • Let the animal’s or bird’s behavior guide your behavior. If the animal appears twitchy, nervous, or points eyes and ears directly at you, back off: You’re too close. The goal is to watch wild animals go about their normal business, rather than to see how they react to disruption. If you behave like a predator stalking an animal, the creature will assume you are one. Use binoculars and telephoto lenses for moving in close rather than approaching an animal.
  • Most animals tend to be more active in morning and evening. These are also optimum times for photographing animals in better lighting.
  • Blend in with your surroundings. Rather than wearing loud colors, wear muted clothing that matches the environment.
  • Relax. Animals sense excitement. Move slowly around them because abrupt, jerky movements can startle them. Look down, rather than staring animals directly in the eye.
  • Don’t get carried away watching big, showy megafauna like bears and moose only to miss a small carnivore like a short-tailed weasel.
  • Use field guides to help with identification and understanding the animal’s behavior.
  • If you see wildlife along a road, use pullouts or broad shoulders to drive completely off the road. Do not block the middle of the road. Use the car as a blind to watch wildlife, but keep pets inside. If you see a bear, you’re better off just driving by slowly. Bear jams tend to condition the bruin to become accustomed to vehicles, one step toward getting into more trouble.
Map of Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park

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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