Spring Tips for Visiting Glacier National Park in April, May, and June
Glacier National Park is a majestic wonderland in Montana, with over a million acres of stunning wilderness, rugged mountains, and pristine lakes. While the park is a popular destination during the summer months, springtime in Glacier is a magical time to explore this iconic national park. If you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park in the spring, here is everything you need to know.
When to Visit Glacier National Park During Spring
Spring in Glacier National Park is a dynamic time with changing weather patterns, snowmelt, and wildlife activity. The Going-to-the-Sun Road partially opens by late April or early May typically BUT that is not usually for vehicles. Instead, it’s open to hikers and bikers. (More on that in a minute.)
Glacier National Park in April
It might be spring outside the park, but Glacier National Park in April is still in the winter season with temperatures ranging from 17°F to 45°F. Most of the park’s facilities and roads are closed until late May or early June, but visitors can still enjoy some activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and winter hiking. It is important to note that visitors should be prepared for cold and snowy conditions, and should check weather and road conditions before visiting.
Glacier National Park in May
Glacier National Park in May is still in its shoulder season, and many roads and facilities remain closed. The average temperatures range from 30s to 50s°F, and snow is still present in many areas. However, May is a great time for wildlife watching and hiking, as the park is less crowded. Lower altitude hiking trails are also usually open to hikers. The park’s visitor center usually opens in mid-May. Some campgrounds and lodges in the Apgar area usually open by the end of May as well.
Glacier National Park in June
Glacier National Park in June is a beautiful time to visit, and early June usually means you’ll be the family crowds that begin traveling to the park as soon as school gets out for the summer. The average temperature ranges from 40° to 70°F. Many of the park’s facilities and activities are open, including the Going-to-the-Sun Road for bikers and hikers, most hiking trails (depends on how far Going to the Sun Road has been plowed), boat tours, and ranger-led programs. As for driving Going-to-the-Sun Road, visiting in June can still be a gamble. It’s usually not open before late June and sometimes doesn’t open until mid-July.
June is also a great time to see wildflowers and wildlife such as grizzly bears, moose, and bighorn sheep. Just be sure to pack warm layers and rain gear, as the weather can be unpredictable in the mountains.
Read More: When is the Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park?
Roads and Entrances
During the spring season, some roads and entrances may be closed due to snow and other weather conditions. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the most iconic drives in Glacier National Park, but it’s typically closed during the spring due to snow and ice. Visitors can access the park through the West Glacier entrance, which is open year-round. During winter any amenities are closed, but comes spring, the Apgar Visitor Center opens in mid-May.
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Parking is available at Apgar, Lake McDonald Lodge, and the Avalanche Lake parking lot. Shuttles with bike trailers also run between these parking lots and is available on a first come, first serve basis.
Though the St. Mary Visitor Center doesn’t open until late May, the entrance is accessible for those on foot or bike. Parking is to be done at the Visitor Center.
If weather conditions permit, Many Glacier, Rising Sun, and the North Fork entrances will also open sometime in late spring, usually the beginning of June.
Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road
If you’re an adventurous cyclist, spring is a great time to bike the Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTTSR). In fact, biking the GTTSR is a big reason why many visitors choose to come to Glacier National Park in the spring.
Important 2023 Note: The west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is shut for construction until May 15, 2023, from the four-way intersection at Apgar to Logan Pass. Winter activities such as hiking, biking, skiing or snowshoeing are not permitted on the west side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road this spring. Instead, plan your spring adventures that include biking or hiking the Going-to-the-Sun Road to be on the east side from St. Mary.
GTTSR is closed to vehicle traffic until it’s cleared of snow, which means cyclists can enjoy a quiet and scenic ride. Honestly, we wouldn’t dare bike the road when cars are allowed on it! Drive it once and you’ll see what we mean. The road is narrow with steep cliff drops so biking it when no cars are around makes for a safer and more enjoyable experience.
If you’re not sure your legs can handle the bike ride, check out one of the newfangled e-bikes. You can rent one from outfitters located in West Glacier and Apgar Village. E-bikes give you the option of how much power assistance you would like from the small motor.
When biking Going-to-the-Sun Road, you can only go as far as the road’s been plowed. So typically you’re not able to bike the whole thing until maybe the last day or two before the road opens (which is never announced ahead of time so it’s hard to plan around).
You can see the history of Going-to-the-Sun road opening and closing dates for vehicles here. It all depends on how much snow the mountains got and what the weather in Glacier National Park was like that spring.
If GTTSR seems too daunting for you, or you’re visiting Glacier National Park with young kids you don’t want to tow up the hill (though people do this!), check out the Apgar bike path Biking the Apgar bike path with kids in Glacier National Park is a wonderful family activity that offers breathtaking views of mountains, forests, and lakes. The path is relatively easy and safe, making it ideal for families with children of all ages.
As you ride along the path, you’ll be surrounded by stunning scenery and you may even spot some wildlife along the way. Wear layers since you can get warm biking up the mountain and much colder on the way down when you’re not exerting as much energy.
Spring Hiking in Glacier National Park
Springtime is an excellent season for hiking in Glacier National Park, with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. You’ll want to research before going, though, and stop into the Apgar ranger station (open from mid-May) or check the online updates page for the most recent updates on trail closures or avalanche risks.
Typically during spring, your best bets for hiking are to stick to the lowland trails like Trail of the Cedars, West Lake McDonald, Apgar Lookout, and Johns Lake.
On the east side of Glacier National Park, if open (St. Mary entrance typically opens in late May and , check out the St. Mary/Virginia Falls hike for a fun spring amble to the falls, which will likely be even larger than they are during the summer season due to recent snow melt. Another good hike near the St. Mary entrance is the Beaver Pond loop from the historic St. Mary ranger station.
Wildlife in the Park During Spring
During this time of year, you may be lucky enough to spot grizzly and black bears coming out of hibernation, as well as moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and elk. Birds such as western bluebirds, mountain bluebirds, and American robins are also common. Keep an eye out for smaller mammals like marmots, pikas, and squirrels, as they are often active during the spring months. Look up to see eagles and hawks circling the landscape looking for prey.
Remember to keep a safe distance and respect the animals’ natural habitats when observing wildlife in the park. Having bear spray with you is a must.
Also pay attention to any news of recent sightings and change your hike or bike routes accordingly. You definitely don’t want to run into a hungry mama bear with her babies who recently woke up from sleeping all winter long! Moose can also be wildly unpredictable and dangerous so keep a wide distance from them.
Make noise going around blind corners in bear and moose-prone areas so you you don’t startle the large wildlife of the park. If they hear you coming, they’ll likely get out of the way before you even know they’re there.
Rafting in Glacier National Park
For adrenaline junkies, spring is a great time to go whitewater rafting on the park’s many rivers. This is the time of year when the snowmelt has river rapids raging. By the end of the summer usually the dry heat has lowered the river levels quite a bit.
So as you might expect, unless you are an expert whitewater rafter, you should definitely hire a river guide who knows what they’re doing when rafting down the fast currents of the Flathead’s Middle Fork by Glacier National Park.
Glacier Guides, based out of West Glacier, are a popular choice of outfitter for such an excursion.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Glacier National Park
Wildflowers in Glacier National Park
Spring in Glacier National Park is a beautiful time of year, as the landscape comes alive with vibrant wildflowers. Some of the most common wildflowers that bloom during this time include pasque flowers, glacier lilies, and trillium flowers.
Pasque flowers are one of the first wildflowers to bloom in Glacier National Park, typically appearing in late May. Their delicate purple petals are a beautiful sight against the snow-covered landscape.
Glacier lilies, also known as avalanche lilies, are another early bloomer. These bright yellow flowers grow in clusters and are a favorite of many hikers and photographers.
Trillium flowers can be found blooming in the moist forests and meadows of Glacier National Park. These delicate white flowers with three petals are a beautiful sight to behold in the spring and early summer.
If flower gazing is a must for you during your trip to Glacier, be sure to check with the park rangers for the most up-to-date information on bloom times, as weather patterns can cause variations from year to year.
Read More: The Ultimate Lodging Guide for Glacier National Park
Enjoy Your Time Visiting Glacier National Park in the Spring!
Visiting Glacier National Park in the spring is a fantastic way to experience the park’s natural beauty without the crowds of the summer season.
With fewer visitors, cooler temperatures, and unique spring activities like biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road and hiking through blooming wildflowers, spring is an ideal time to explore this iconic national park. Just make sure to check road and entrance closures before you go, and be prepared for changing weather patterns.
We’ll leave you with this one last tip: Wear layers and pack extra socks and clothing in a waterproof backpack!