Of all the adventures in the world, exploring national parks will always be a favorite pastime for this slow-traveling cat. While each national park has its own unique charm, I found Glacier National Park to be particularly suitable for cats. Filled with rushing rivers and majestic waterfalls, there is so much running water to observe that any cat would be completely mesmerized. In fact, visiting Glacier National Park in June is the best time to see these waterfalls at their peak flow.
Aside from the splendor of running water, the month of June is a great time to visit this park. You can look forward to amazing weather, spectacular views, and plenty of outdoor activities for you, your cat, and the whole family to enjoy!
- What’s so special about Glacier National Park in June
- Yes, there really are glaciers here
- The best way to get there
- The 7 entrances to Glacier National Park
- Where to stay at Glacier National Park in June
- What to expect from the weather
- What to pack for Glacier National Park in June
- Getting around the park
- Best things to do in Glacier National Park in June
- Conclusion on Glacier National Park in June
What’s so special about Glacier National Park in June
While the park is open year-round, it experiences the vast majority of activity in July and August. With freezing temperatures well into May, June is the shoulder season at Glacier National Park.
As the snow and ice melt into summer, this is a great time to take advantage of fewer crowds. During the peak season, the park can experience around 700,000 visitors. The month of June, however, has hovered closer to 550,000 in the last few years.
At a popular park like Glacier, fewer crowds can make a big impact on your experience. This means less traffic, more available lodging, shorter wait times at restaurants, and more space around the campsites, just to name a few!
Glacier National Park is close to the United States’ northern border and located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. This makes for a cool reprieve from southern latitudes. In the month of June, you can expect daytime temperatures in the range of 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s worth noting that you can still expect some precipitation in June, however. Just make sure to schedule a few days in the park and bring your rain gear. When you feel the crisp mountain air against your skin, you’ll be glad you chose the month of June!
One of my favorite seasonal phenomena, the annual snowmelt results in stunning waterfalls and surging rivers throughout the park. Some of the best waterfalls in the park include Virginia Falls, Lunch Creek Waterfall, Baring Falls, Florence Falls, and Running Eagle Falls. Also make sure to check out the stunningly blue creek at the beginning of Trail of Cedars, one of the most popular hikes in the park.
With fewer crowds in June, you’ll likely experience more active wildlife than during the peak tourist season. June is a particularly good time to see grizzly bears as they are coming out of hibernation and filling up on yummy berries and fish. Other wild animals to look out for include bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, bald eagles, and ospreys.
Hike and bike access to the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road
Early to mid-June is a unique time of year when the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road is open for hikers and bikers, but not yet open to cars. Each summer the road opens at a different time, depending on the weather conditions. Visiting in June optimizes your chance to have the unique experience of hiking on the road without any car traffic.
Yes, there really are glaciers here
Yes, there really are glaciers in Glacier National Park! However, contrary to what the name suggests, this is not the best place to go glacier exploring. Think of Glacier National Park as a place that is heavily influenced by glaciers of the past, with a few holdovers hiding away in the mountains.
With that said, visiting the park is a great opportunity to learn about how the massive glaciers of the last ice age shaped its magnificent landscape. We have these glaciers to thank for the park’s pristine valleys and turquoise blue lakes.
If you still want to see a glacier or two you can check out Jackson and Salamander glaciers, which are both visible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road. In the mood to hike? You can also check out Grinnell, Sperry, Piegan, Sexton, Vulture, and 2 Ocean glaciers. For the best views of glaciers in the United States, however, it’s highly recommended to visit Alaska.
The best way to get there
When traveling to Glacier National Park, you only have a few options: driving from home, flying and using the shuttle system, or flying and renting a car. Each option has its pros and cons.
Driving from home
If you live within a day’s drive to Glacier National Park, this is the recommended option for you! Driving has its obvious advantages like the ability to bring more gear and the flexibility to make your own schedule. I am personally a big fan of roadtriping in America. Why not make a multi-day trip to see this amazing park?
If you are approaching from the West, you should aim for the West Entrance to the park, located just outside of a town creatively named West Glacier. Coeur d’Alene and Missoula are just a few of the great towns to stop in on your way to the park.
If you are approaching from the East, you can either drive around to the West Entrance, which is the main entrance, or take the St. Mary Entrance, which is the most used way to enter from the east. Both entrances will connect you to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which runs through the entire park. However, if you are traveling in early June, the road may not be open yet. Even if you are approaching from the east, you may consider driving around the park to the West Entrance in order to see more of the park.
Flying and using the shuttle system
If you are coming from afar, you’ll need to fly to Glacier National Park. The closest airport is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA), located about 40 minutes outside of the West Entrance. From here, there is plenty of overnight lodging and shuttle services going into the park. Once you are inside the park, a free shuttle service is available on a first come first serve basis.
While experiencing the park without a car provides some wonderful advantages (like not having to find a parking space!), it also requires some planning. Make sure to keep an eye on the shuttle schedule and bring everything you need in your day pack.
Flying and renting a car
If you are traveling from afar but still want some flexibility, then renting a car from a local airport is your best option. If you go this route, you can consider flying into one of the bigger towns located close to the park. Great Falls, MT, for example, is a lovely place to spend a day before or after your adventures in the park. Other popular choices are Missoula, MT Helena, MT, or Coeur d’Alene, ID.
The advantage of renting a car is that you can explore some of the more remote areas of the park and make your own schedule. When exploring more popular destinations, you can always use the free shuttle system.
The 7 entrances to Glacier National Park
Like most National Parks, Glacier has multiple entrances, 7 to be exact! Some entrances are closed for the winter and others may not connect to the rest of the park. So how do you know which one to use? Don’t worry, it’s easy!
The park is famously divided by the Continental Divide and is generally categorized into the west side and the east side.
Entrances on the west side
West Entrance (the main entry point to the park, connects to Going-to-the-Sun)
In the month of June, the West Entrance will give you the most bang for your buck. Due to weather, parts of the east side of the park will likely be closed due to road conditions. Also, keep in mind that the Going-to-the-Sun road, which travels over the continental divide and connects the west and east sides of the park, is one of the last areas to open for the summer.
Entering on the west side ensures you’ll hit some of the park’s best highlights, even in inclement weather. This entrance is open year-round, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s almost always plowed and accessible by car, excluding extreme weather conditions.
The west side of the park is the larger side of the park. Here, you can enjoy Apgar Visitor Center, Lake McDonald (the park’s largest lake), and Lake McDonald Lodge, which was built in the early 1900s. Additionally, you’ll find a ton of beautiful hiking trails including views of glaciers and stunning waterfalls. Finally, the town of West Glacier is located just outside of the park. Here you’ll find an adventurer’s outpost providing access to a variety of tours as well as gear for sale or rent.
Camas Creek Entrance (remote entrance on the west side, connects to Going-to-the-Sun)
Before choosing this entrance, double-check that it is open to car traffic. Depending on the weather, this gate may stay closed through June. Should you enter the park here, however, you can enjoy fewer crowds and an increased presence of wildlife.
This entrance is also close to Huckleberry Mountain Lookout, known for its stunning 360-degree views. Camas Creek Road will connect you to the Going-to-the-Sun road and the rest of the west side of the park.
Polebridge Entrance (remote entrance of the northwest side, does not connect to Going-to-the-Sun)
The Polebridge entrance is a great place for adventurous souls. Following a rough road, it can take over an hour to get into the heart of the park. However, you will also experience some of the most pristine and remote areas Glacier has to offer. If you decide to use this entrance, double-check if it is open to vehicular traffic.
This entrance is located in the tiny, off-grid town of Polebridge. It’s mostly full of rugged lodging but also features the Polebridge Mercantile. We highly recommend a stop at this charming general store to grab a delicious homemade huckleberry bear claw. Next door, you’ll also find the Northern Lights Saloon, which is a fantastic spot to enjoy a cold beer after a day in the park.
The Polebridge entrance is the only access point for two of the park’s most beautiful and remote lakes: Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake. Please note that you will not be able to access the main part of the park from here. If you would like to drive on the Going-to-the-Sun road, you will need to exit through the same entrance and follow North Fork Road south to the Camas Creek entrance.
Entrances on the east side
Saint Mary Entrance (main entrance on the east side, connects to Going-to-the-Sun)
If you would like to spend time on the east side of the park in June, this is your best entrance. Located next to the town of Saint Mary, this entrance is generally open for vehicular traffic during the summer season. However, if you are traveling in early June, you should double-check.
This side of the park features Saint Mary Lake, the second largest lake in the park, as well as a popular hike to the beautiful Virginia Falls. This is also the only eastern entrance that connects to the Going-to-the-Sun road.
Two Medicine Entrance (located on the east side, does not connect to Going-to-the-Sun)
This entrance is fairly accessible in the summer months, including June. It brings you straight into the Two Medicine area of the park. Best known for its stunning waterfalls, this is a great area for hiking! It’s also home to Two Medicine Lake, another favorite of the park’s glacial lakes.
If you enter the park here, please note that you will not be able to connect to the Going-to-the-Sun road. You will need to exit through the same entrance and re-enter the park from the Saint Mary Entrance.
Many Glacier Entrance (remote entrance on the east side, does not connect to Going-to-the-Sun)
This entrance brings you into the Many Glacier region of the park. Here you’ll find the Many Glacier Hotel, a historical building from the early 1900s as well as Iceberg Lake. While the entrance is open year-round, Glacier Route 3, the road leading up to the gate, is not plowed. Check road conditions before attempting to use this entrance.
Cut Bank Entrance (remote entrance on the east side, does not connect to Going-to-the-Sun)
Another area that is not accessed very often, the Cut Bank Entrance is typically used for primitive camping and exploring the backcountry. This is a great area to get away from the crowds and for experienced hikers to explore the wilderness.
Where to stay at Glacier National Park in June
When traveling to Glacier National Park, you have many options for where to stay. One thing to consider when traveling in June is that it’s one of the wetter months in the park, with an average of 14 days of precipitation. Camping enthusiasts should be prepared to perform all necessary camping activities in the rain.
If you are interested in indoor accommodations, there are plenty of those too! Depending on your preference for proximity to nature, budget, and favorite activities you are sure to find a location and accommodation that fits you best.
Camping in the park
Regardless of the weather, camping in the park has great advantages, like breathing in that fresh mountain air, waking up inside the park, and being easy on the wallet.
The park has 6 campgrounds with spots that can be reserved in advance. Reservations open 6 months in advance and fill up quickly. This is one of those situations where the early bird really does get the worm!
If you are flexible, however, you can also go for one of the park’s 8 campgrounds that operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please note that spaces for RV campers are extremely limited and some sites are located off of bumpy and windy roads. First come, first serve camping works well for those with nimble vehicles and a flexible mindset.
Your final option for staying in the park is wilderness camping, which is similar to backcountry camping. Glacier National Park allows wilderness camping at designated locations and requires permits. This style of camping requires hiking in and out and does not offer any amenities. However, for well-prepared backpackers, this is a great opportunity to get away from the crowds and enjoy truly pristine wilderness.
Lodges in the park
Another great place to stay is in one of the park’s famous lodges. There are 9 lodges in total, located in the park. Each lodge has its unique charm and offers a range of amenities. This is an excellent option for travelers who want luxury, and convenience and are willing to pay for it.
Xanterra operates 5 of these lodges: Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, Village Inn at Apgar, Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins, and Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins. Bookings open 12 months in advance and fill up quickly.
Glacier Park Collection operates a whole host of hotels around the park. However, just two are technically inside the park: Apgar Village Lodge and Cabins and Motel Lake McDonald. You can generally book these hotels up to two seasons in advance, but it’s best to call them directly.
Finally, Glacier National Park offers two hike-in lodges. These are more rugged accommodations and are designed to service avid hikers.
Sperry Chalet offers furnished rooms, potable water, and 3 meals a day. There are no showers at this location and the hike in is fairly strenuous at 6.7 miles and over 3000 feet of elevation gain. They start accepting reservations in January of each season.
Granite Park Chalet is easier to get to, with the shortest route running 4.2 miles but is even more rugged than Sperry. They provide bare-bones shelter, with linens for rent. No meals are provided, however, you can use their full kitchen to prepare your own food. There is also no potable water, though guests filter their own water from the stream or buy bottled water at the camp store.
Staying just outside the gates
A less expensive alternative to staying in the park is staying just outside the gates. West Glacier, St Mary, Polebridge, East Glacier, and Babb all offer private campgrounds and/or lodges just outside of the park. If you are looking for an area with the most amenities, try West Glacier or St Mary. If you are looking for more remote camping, aim for Polebridge or Babb.
Driving in from town
If your style of travel is more of a mix of culture and outdoor activities, you may want to stay in town and do a day trip or two into the park. Missoula, MT, and Great Falls, MT are vibrant little towns located under 3 hours from Glacier National Park. If you are willing to expand your radius to 4 hours, you can also add Calgary, CA, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Helena, MT to your list. Each of these towns offers a wide variety of accommodations from camping to hotels with spas.
What to expect from the weather
Located in the Rockies, at a high latitude, Glacier National Park is one of the chillier places to visit in June. For those of us from warmer climates, however, the park can provide a refreshing getaway from the summer heat.
Additionally, summertime in the higher latitude states brings the added bonus of extended hours of daylight. In June you can expect the sun to rise around 5:30 am and set around 9:30 pm, giving you plenty of time to explore all that Glacier has to offer.
In the month of June, you can expect low temperatures in the upper 30s and highs in the upper 60s to lower 70s. The closer you get to late June the less you can expect freezing temperatures, even at nighttime. These chilly temperatures provide a great backdrop for taking on some of the park’s most challenging hikes.
As far as rain is concerned, you should be prepared for some rainy days. With an average of 14 days of rain in June, make sure to bring waterproof boots and a good raincoat to ensure you do not miss out on your top activities.
What to pack for Glacier National Park in June
Aside from your standard vacation packing list, you may want to consider the following items for traveling to Glacier National Park in June.
Keep in mind that it will be chillier than most locations in the month of June. Even though it is scorching hot in your hometown, do not forget to dig out a winter jacket. The cold evenings in Glacier National Park can drop below 40 degrees.
For the rest of your clothing, make sure to dress in layers. This will include long underwear for your base layer, a good lightweight fleece or down jacket for your middle layer, and a waterproof raincoat for your outer layer. Even if your winter coat is waterproof, you should still bring a raincoat for getting active during the warmer parts of the day.
Combine the winter snow melt with an average of 14 days of rain and you have a recipe for mud. Mud boots are recommended for this time of year, however, if you stay on maintained trails you can get away with mid to high-top waterproof boots.
Given the lower temperatures, you should also make sure to pack plenty of pairs of warm socks. Aim for socks made of wool or a synthetic material. These will help control your body temperature by wicking moisture away from your feet.
A great addition to your packing list for a trip in June is a waterproof backpack cover. This will help keep your pack dry and also allow easier access to all your stuff.
Additionally, June is a peak time for wildlife viewing. Don’t forget your camera equipment, binoculars, and wildlife identification books.
And finally, remember that you are in bear country. Bear spray is particularly important this time of year when wildlife tends to be more active.
Getting around the park
One thing to note about June is that in addition to your park entry fee, most areas of the park will require an additional reservation for your vehicle. For the 2023 season, you’ll need a vehicle reservation to enter Going-to-the-Sun road from the west side of the park. If you are entering from the east side, you will not need a reservation until July 1.
You will also need a separate reservation to drive and park in the North Fork area of the park. The other two areas, Many Glacier and Two Medicine will require a reservation starting on July 1. Requirements may shift, so always check the vehicle registration site for Glacier National Park to make sure you have the latest information.
Another option is to park in the parking lot at one of the main visitor centers and take advantage of the free shuttle. You’ll find shuttle stops at Apgar Visitor Center on the west side of the park and St. Mary Visitor Center on the east side. This is a great way to see the park without the hassle of looking for a parking space at the most popular stops.
Finally, biking enthusiasts may decide to either bring a bike or rent one from one of the many outfitters located just outside the park. Just remember that the park is large with lots of variation in elevation. If you decide to bike the Going-to-the-Sun road, which runs through the middle of the park, get ready for a 50+ mile round trip and over 3000 ft in elevation gain. Of course, you can explore shorter routes, but be prepared to spend most of the day on your bike.
Best things to do in Glacier National Park in June
Glacier National Park is a great destination because it offers activities for visitors with a range of outdoor experience, interests, and abilities.
One of the best-known activities in the park, taking a scenic drive is a must-do during your time at Glacier. The most famous drive is the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which generally opens in its entirety mid-to-late June.
The good news, however, is that you can drive most of the road’s lower elevations year-round. To explore the western section of the road, enter the park through the West Entrance. If you’d like to explore the eastern section of the road, you’ll need to exit the park and take Rt 2 around the south side of the park. The entire drive will take approximately 2 hours, but is scenic in its own right! Once you arrive at the St. Mary Entrance you can explore the eastern portion of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The other main road worth exploring is North Fork Road, which runs along the park’s western boundary. This road is a great representation of the Flathead River. The drive ends in Polebridge, which is a fun little community to explore before heading back down to the main park.
You also have the option to enter the north side of the park through the Polebridge Entrance. The road into the park is rough, but if you have time to spare and a nimble vehicle, you will be rewarded with truly pristine wilderness.
On your way back, make sure to stop at the Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery for one of their world-famous huckleberry bear claws. This drive is approximately 1 hour, one way.
Glacier National Park is known for its picturesque, crystal blue, glacier-fed lakes. And what better way to explore than via a boat tour?
Glacier Park Boat Company has been operating boat tours in Glacier Park since 1938. They offer narrated tours on historical vessels ranging from 1 to 2 hours in length, costing approximately $20-$40 per person.
In the month of June, you can book a tour of Lake McDonald on the west side of the park and Two Medicine Lake on the east side. Starting around mid-June they also offer tours of St. Mary Lake and Many Glacier Lake, both located on the east side of the park. Tour availability can vary by season, so always check their website before finalizing your itinerary.
Hiking in Glacier National Park in June
At Glacier National Park, you’ll find over 700 miles of hiking! This is one of the most popular activities at the park. These trails offer a range of difficulties, allowing access to the wilderness for everyone.
If you are looking for a beautiful trail that is also wheelchair accessible, check out Running Eagle Falls Trail (east side) and Trail of the Cedars (west side).
For the best hikes on the west side of the park in June, aim for hikes around Lake McDonald. This is a lower elevation area of the park and will likely have better hiking conditions this time of year. One of the best-known hikes in the park is Avalanche Lake, which is 4.5 miles, round trip. Relatively flat, this trail is generally ice-free by June.
The east side of the park is higher elevation, but depending on weather conditions, you still may be able to explore some areas in June. Start out at the St. Mary Visitor to check on trail conditions before venturing out into the wild. If you are lucky with the weather, Hidden Lake Overlook and the Highline Trail are two of the most popular hikes on this side of the park.
Conclusion on Glacier National Park in June
Visiting Glacier National Park in June is a truly memorable experience! With just a little bit of planning, you can experience a surge in wildlife alongside the park’s stunning waterfalls at their most powerful. And, as a bonus, you will beat the crowds of the high season in July and August.
Just remember that you can not count on the Going-to-the-Sun Road being open, so you may need to get creative about getting around the park. You can also expect rain and chilly temperatures, so make sure to be prepared with the proper clothing and gear.
But, above all, enjoy your experience! Visiting in June will provide a unique experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.
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