Glacier National Park, a gem of Montana’s wilderness, offers some of the most breathtaking sunrise views in the United States. As the first rays of sun touch the rugged mountain peaks, the sky turns into a canvas of vibrant colors, offering a magical experience.
For those eager to witness this natural spectacle, choosing the right spot is crucial. This guide will introduce you to the 5 best sunrise spots in Glacier National Park: Lake McDonald, Going to the Sun Road, Two Medicine Valley, North Fork, and the majestic Many Glacier, with a special focus on Swiftcurrent Lake. Whether you’re a photographer aiming to capture the perfect shot or a traveler seeking a serene start to your day, these spots promise unforgettable moments.
So, grab your camera, pack a thermos of coffee, and let’s discover where to witness the most stunning sunrises in Glacier National Park.
|Best Sunrise in Glacier National Park
|Best Sunrise Spot on Going to the Sun Road
|Best Sunrise Hikes
|Best Hotel Sunrise View
1. Lake McDonald Is The Best Sunrise Spot in Glacier National Park
Nestled on the west side of Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald stands as a beacon for those chasing the first light of day. It’s not just a lake; it’s a mirror to the sky, reflecting the early morning hues in its vast, tranquil waters. As the largest lake in the park, its shores are kissed by the sunrise, painting a picture of peace and solitude that’s hard to find elsewhere. The mountains stand tall, guarding the lake, as the sky above transitions from the soft blues of night to the warm glow of dawn. This moment, where the natural world awakens, serves as a poignant reminder of the untouched beauty that Glacier National Park preserves.1
Hike to Lake McDonald for Sunrise
|West side of Glacier National Park
|Distance (round trip)
|7.1 miles (Apgar Lookout Trail)
|Start Time for Sunrise
|Approximately 2-3 hours before sunrise
Why Lake McDonald for Sunrise?
- Photographic Potential: The calm waters of Lake McDonald perfectly reflect the changing colors of the dawn sky, offering unparalleled photo opportunities.
- Solitude: While popular, finding a quiet spot along the shore or on the Apgar Lookout Trail early in the morning allows for a peaceful experience.
- Wildlife Sightings: The morning hours are ideal for observing the park’s wildlife in their natural setting, with the possibility of sighting deer or bears along the lake’s edge.
Tips for a Successful Sunrise at Lake McDonald
- Check the Weather: Conditions can change rapidly in the park. Clear mornings offer the best sunrise views.
- Wear Layers: Mornings by the lake can be cool, even in summer. Dressing in layers ensures comfort throughout the experience.
- Headlamp and Essentials: For those hiking to Apgar Lookout, a headlamp is essential for the early start. Don’t forget water, snacks, and your camera to capture the moment.
2. Going to the Sun Road Offers Tons Of Viewing Opportunities
Traversing the heart of Glacier National Park, Going to the Sun Road is more than just a pathway; it’s a journey through the very essence of the park’s majestic beauty. As dawn approaches, this iconic road offers travelers a unique opportunity to witness the sunrise from various vantage points, each presenting the park in a new light. The road winds its way up the mountainside, providing a front-row seat to the spectacle of the morning sun illuminating the peaks and valleys. The moment when the sun crests the horizon and bathes the landscape in a soft, golden light is nothing short of magical, revealing the true grandeur of Glacier’s rugged terrain.2
Sunrise Journey on Going to the Sun Road
|Logan Pass, Wild Goose Island Lookout
|Varies by viewpoint
|Not applicable; drive-up viewpoints
|Start Time for Sunrise
|Depends on location; Logan Pass is highly recommended for early arrivals
|Easy to access; suitable for all visitors
Why Going to the Sun Road for Sunrise?
- Diverse Landscapes: The road’s elevation change offers a variety of perspectives on the park’s landscapes, from dense forests to alpine meadows.
- Iconic Photography: Locations like Wild Goose Island Lookout provide iconic shots with the sun rising over the mountains and reflecting on the lakes below.
- Accessibility: Unlike hikes that require early starts and strenuous effort, Going to the Sun Road allows for comfortable sunrise viewing from the convenience of your vehicle or selected lookouts.
Tips for a Successful Sunrise on Going to the Sun Road
- Plan Your Spot: Research and choose your sunrise viewing location in advance. Logan Pass and Wild Goose Island are popular for their stunning views.
- Arrive Early: Parking spots at popular viewpoints can fill up quickly, even in the early hours. Arriving early ensures a prime location for the sunrise.
- Vehicle Prep: Ensure your vehicle is in good condition for the drive, as some sections of the road can be narrow and winding.
- Respect Wildlife: Keep an eye out for wildlife crossing the road or grazing near it, especially in the early morning.
3. Two Medicine Valley Has The Best Sunrise Hikes
Tucked away on the southeastern side of Glacier National Park, Two Medicine Valley is a hidden gem that offers a serene and intimate sunrise experience. This lesser-known area of the park is rich with Indigenous history and natural beauty, making it a perfect spot for those looking to immerse themselves in the quiet majesty of nature’s dawn. As the sun rises, it illuminates the valley, highlighting the towering peaks of Sinopah Mountain, Rising Wolf Mountain, and others, casting a breathtaking display of light and shadow over the landscape. The reflection of the awakening sky in Two Medicine Lake adds a tranquil beauty to the scene, making an early morning visit to this valley a soul-stirring experience. 3
Sunrise at Two Medicine Valley
|Southeastern Glacier National Park
|Two Medicine Lake shoreline
|Varies; short walks to extensive hikes available
|Depends on the hike; many flat areas along the lake
|Start Time for Sunrise
|Arrive about 30 minutes before sunrise to catch the changing colors
|Easy to moderate, depending on chosen activity
Why Two Medicine Valley for Sunrise?
- Natural Splendor: The valley’s pristine landscapes, framed by dramatic peaks, offer a peaceful sunrise setting.
- Photographic Opportunities: The interplay of light and shadow, especially around Two Medicine Lake, provides exceptional conditions for photography.
- Solitude: Less frequented by tourists, Two Medicine offers a chance for quiet reflection and a more personal connection with nature.
Tips for a Successful Sunrise in Two Medicine Valley
- Explore Variously: Consider a gentle walk along the lake or a more ambitious hike to higher viewpoints for diverse perspectives of the sunrise.
- Wildlife Watching: Early mornings are an excellent time for wildlife observation. Keep an eye out for elk, bears, and a variety of birds.
- Prepare for the Weather: Mountain mornings can be cool. Dress in layers and bring a warm beverage to enjoy as the sun rises.
- Check Access: Some areas may be restricted due to wildlife activity or weather conditions. Verify the latest park updates before heading out.
4. North Fork Is The Most Secluded
The North Fork area of Glacier National Park is a remote and rugged territory, offering a raw and unfiltered encounter with nature. Accessible via rough, unpaved roads, this less-traveled section of the park promises an adventurous journey to those seeking solitude and untouched wilderness. As the sun begins to rise, the expansive skies of the North Fork area light up in a spectacular array of colors, from deep purples to fiery oranges and pinks. This vast landscape, with its open meadows and towering peaks, including Bowman and Kintla Lakes, becomes a breathtaking canvas for the sunrise, providing a sense of isolation and freedom that is increasingly rare. 4 5
Sunrise in North Fork
|Northwestern Glacier National Park
|Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake
|Varies; accessible by car with options for short walks or hikes
|Not applicable for car access; varies for hikes
|Start Time for Sunrise
|Arrive about 30-45 minutes before sunrise to experience the changing light
|Easy access by car; hiking difficulty varies by trail
Why North Fork for Sunrise?
- Untouched Beauty: The area’s remote nature means fewer visitors and a more pristine environment.
- Spectacular Vistas: The wide, open spaces of North Fork provide panoramic views of the sunrise over the park’s northern peaks.
- Adventure and Solitude: The journey to North Fork itself is an adventure, leading to a peaceful, solitary sunrise experience.
Tips for a Successful Sunrise in North Fork
- Vehicle Preparedness: The roads to North Fork are rough and unpaved. Ensure your vehicle is capable of handling these conditions.
- Early Departure: Given its remoteness, starting your journey early is crucial to catching the sunrise in the best spots.
- Bear Country Precautions: North Fork is known for its bear activity. Carry bear spray, make noise, and know how to behave if you encounter a bear.
- Pack Essentials: Bring everything you might need, including water, snacks, and warm clothing, as services are limited in this area.
5. Many Glacier Hotel Offers Sunrise Views Of Swiftcurrent Lake
The Many Glacier region, located in the northeastern part of Glacier National Park, is a haven for those seeking the dramatic beauty of sunrise amidst the rugged Montana wilderness. Central to this area is Swiftcurrent Lake, a pristine body of water that perfectly mirrors the surrounding peaks, including the imposing Grinnell Point and Mount Wilbur. As the day begins, the first rays of sunlight touch the mountain tops, cascading golden light down their slopes and across the lake, creating a spectacle of nature’s grandeur. This moment, when the landscape is bathed in the soft glow of dawn, is a profound experience, showcasing the serene yet wild heart of Many Glacier.
Sunrise at Many Glacier & Swiftcurrent Lake
|Northeastern Glacier National Park
|Swiftcurrent Lake, in front of Many Glacier Hotel
|Accessible directly by car; short walks for varied perspectives
|Minimal; primarily flat around the lake area
|Start Time for Sunrise
|Arrive 30-45 minutes before sunrise to enjoy the pre-dawn colors
|Easy; suitable for all ages and fitness levels
Why Many Glacier & Swiftcurrent Lake for Sunrise?
- Iconic Views: The reflection of the sunrise on Swiftcurrent Lake, with the backdrop of iconic peaks, offers one of the most photographed scenes in Glacier National Park.
- Accessibility: Easy access to stunning sunrise views, making it perfect for those who prefer a less strenuous morning.
- Wildlife Encounters: Many Glacier is known for its abundant wildlife, including moose and bears, offering a chance to observe these majestic creatures in the early morning light.
Tips for a Successful Sunrise at Many Glacier & Swiftcurrent Lake
- Stay Quiet and Patient: Wildlife is more active in the early hours. Keeping a respectful distance and minimizing noise can lead to memorable encounters.
- Photography Gear: Bring a tripod and use a wide-angle lens to capture the expansive beauty of the lake and mountains at dawn.
- Stay at the Many Glacier Hotel: For the ultimate sunrise experience, consider staying overnight at the hotel to be just steps away from one of the best sunrise spots in the park.
- Be Prepared for Crowds: While not as secluded as some other spots, arriving early can help secure a prime viewing location along the lake.
Embarking on a journey to witness the sunrise in Glacier National Park is an experience like no other. Each of the spots we’ve explored – Lake McDonald, Going to the Sun Road, Two Medicine Valley, North Fork, and Many Glacier with Swiftcurrent Lake – offers a unique perspective on the park’s natural beauty. From the reflective waters of Lake McDonald to the panoramic vistas along Going to the Sun Road, and the tranquil beauty of Swiftcurrent Lake, these locations provide unforgettable moments for every visitor. Whether you’re a photographer seeking the perfect shot, a nature enthusiast eager to start the day surrounded by wilderness, or simply looking for a peaceful moment to start your day, Glacier National Park’s sunrises are a testament to the park’s majestic beauty. As the day begins, let the first light illuminating the peaks and valleys inspire you to explore, reflect, and appreciate the natural world in its most splendid form.
Where can I watch the sunset in Glacier National Park? For sunsets, Glacier National Park offers equally stunning locations. Many of the sunrise spots are also fantastic for sunsets, especially Lake McDonald and Going to the Sun Road. Additionally, consider visiting the west side of the park for sunsets, where the sun dips behind the mountains, creating dramatic silhouettes and colorful skies. Apgar Village and the shores of Lake McDonald are particularly popular for their sunset views.
Where is the best view in Glacier National Park? While “best” is subjective and depends on personal preferences, Going to the Sun Road is often cited for offering the most spectacular views in the park. This road takes you through the heart of the park, with access to numerous viewpoints, hiking trails, and diverse landscapes. Logan Pass, situated along this road, provides panoramic views that are hard to beat, encompassing wildflower meadows, rugged mountain peaks, and the chance to spot wildlife.
Can I visit these sunrise spots all year round? Access to some sunrise spots, especially those along Going to the Sun Road, may be limited or closed during the winter months due to snow and weather conditions. It’s best to check the National Park Service website for Glacier National Park for current road conditions and accessibility information before planning your visit.
Do I need a permit to enter Glacier National Park? Yes, you need to pay an entrance fee to enter Glacier National Park. During peak season, a vehicle reservation may also be required for certain areas of the park, including Going to the Sun Road. Check the official Glacier National Park website for the most current information on fees, reservations, and permits.
This comprehensive guide aims to prepare you for an unforgettable sunrise experience in Glacier National Park. With each location offering a unique glimpse into the park’s natural beauty, your early morning efforts will be rewarded with serene landscapes, wildlife encounters, and the unparalleled peace that comes with the first light of day.
- “Apgar Village (U.S. National Park Service).” Www.nps.gov, www.nps.gov/places/apgar-village.htm
- “Going-To-The-Sun Road General Info – Glacier National Park (U.S. National Park Service).” Nps.gov, 2016, www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/gtsrinfo.htm
- “Two Medicine | Glacier National Park, Montana | Crown of the Continent Geotourism | Travel Planning Guide.” Crownofthecontinent.net, crownofthecontinent.net/entries/two-medicine-glacier-national-park-montana/de12a301-d6b4-4cd8-8c4b-62c453175916.
- “Bowman Lake.” Www.visitmt.com, www.visitmt.com/listings/general/lake/bowman-lake
- “Quartz Lake Loop.” AllTrails.com, www.alltrails.com/trail/us/montana/quartz-lake-loop-trail