The northern lights in Glacier National Park , Montana is truly breathtaking. Seeing this wonder with your own eyes can be life-changing. Experiencing them in the mountains over the dancing reflections on Lake McDonald, now that is a story worth telling to future generations. The only problem is, how do you see the northern lights in Glacier National Park?

What Are The Northern Lights?

watch the northern lights in glacier
The dock is the perfect viewing spot to experience the northern lights on Lake McDonald.

The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are one of nature’s most spectacular sights. They appear in a tapestry of colors such as light green, pink, purple and blue across the night sky.

The mysterious glow is created when electrically-charged particles from the sun interact with Earth’s atmosphere causing it to illuminate.

Areas near and within the Arctic Circle are often ideal locations for viewing this dazzling show of light but from time to time they can be seen further south due to high geomagnetic activity in the atmosphere.

Whether you take a trip to witness them in person or enjoy them from home, these magical illuminations never fail to impress.

Can You See The Northern Lights In Glacier National Park?

watch the Northern Lights Lake McDonald
A stunning park with even an even more stunning night sky.

Yes, the northern lights can be seen in Glacier National Park. Being so far north, when conditions are right, this is a great place to see the aurora borealis.

During the day, visitors of all ages can enjoy the wide range of activities available, such as hiking and riding in historic red buses.

But when night sets in, an enchanting display of wonder awaits – to witness the majestic northern lights dancing across a starry night sky.

Seeing them come to life while standing amidst this outstanding landscape is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

With its ideal location and clear skies away from city lights, Glacier National Park offers one of the best places to see the northern lights in all their glory!

How To See The Northern Lights In Glacier National Park

1. What Is The Best Time Of Year To See The Northern Lights In Glacier National Park?

 
northern lights lake mcdonald
The lake can’t help but enhance the dancing reflections of the night skies.

Winter is the best time to catch a glimpse of the northern lights in Glacier National Park because the amount of after-dark hours is higher than in the summer months.

However, not many people are going to make their way to the frozen wonderland to see them.

So during the summer months, August and early September are going to be the best times to see the aurora borealis. This is as close to the winter months as people usually get when visiting the park.

Early September is definitely the optimal month of the two. With night falling earlier than in August, more hours of opportunity open up than earlier in the year.

2. What Is The Best Place To See The Northern Lights In Glacier National Park

No matter which location you choose at Glacier National Park, you won’t be disappointed with the northern lights display!

Northern Lights Glacier National Park 
northern lights lake mcdonald
looking glass road
Colorful displays paint the night sky in Glacier National Park.

Lake McDonald

The best place by far to watch the northern lights is at Lake McDonald near the West Glacier entrance.

The lake provides a wide open space for viewing and enough distance away from the mountains to be able to see the aurora borealis in full

The Lake is usually pretty calm too. The lights can be seen reflecting off of the surface of the water bringing about a whole new dimension.

There are also quite a few places to stay near Lake McDonald that make seeing the northern lights over the water that much more convenient.

Logan Pass

The other place worth watching the northern lights at is Logan Pass on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Here the view is unhindered by surrounding mountains and can be seen through the far off peaks.

Logan Pass on Going-to-the-Sun Road offers an incredible view of the northern lights to visitors. As there are few obstructions, the lights can be seen in all their glory miles away. With the stunning and serene backdrop of mountain peaks and valleys shrouding the natural phenomenon, views from this special place inspire a feeling of awe and wonderment in those fortunate enough to experience it. From Logan Pass, you can embrace nature’s beauty as you marvel at this spectacular light show in its purest form.

One of the biggest downfalls of viewing here however is there are no lakes for the lights to reflect off of. If dancing reflections are on your bucket list, it is recommended to see one of the other two spots listed.

Bowman & Kintla Lakes

While many visitors try their luck at experiencing this phenomena from Lake McDonald or Logan Pass, if all else fails, Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake provide fantastic refreshment of the otherworldly experience.

Both locations are easily accessible and offer unpolluted night skies perfect for admiring the Aurora Borealis. Kintla Lake in particular is perfect for avid photographers looking for a picture perfect opportunity; its lack of light pollution ensures pictures turn our just as vibrant as what is seen in person.

3. Plan When To See The Northern Lights In Glacier National Park

 
northern lights lake McDonald silhouette
A view like that’s happens once in a lifetime.

The sun goes through cycles of solar flair activity that usually peak every 11 years. The last time this activity peaked was in 2013. This gives the year 2024 the best chances of you seeing the northern lights in Glacier National Park.

If you’re planning on going to the park earlier than that, don’t worry. The northern lights will gradually become more common the closer to 2024 we get.

If your planning your trip around aurora viewing, check out the Aurora Forecast tool from Spaceweather.com

4. Go Out Nightly For The Best Chance At Witnessing The Northern Lights

Northern lights at St. Mary
looking glass road
The dancing lights shine above Saint Mary.

Taking the time to head outside at night is a great way to experience Glacier National Park in all its beauty, especially if you are hoping to catch a glimpse of the stunning Northern Lights.

Creating a nightly routine that includes plenty of darkness between 8pm and midnight will offer the best opportunity for success in seeing this spectacular light show high above.

Allowing yourself some extra time to take in the diverse landscape of Glacier National Park could prove rewarding when it comes to spotting this unique event.

5. Check The Weather For The Park

Northern Lights in Glacier National Park over Lake McDonald
The stunning northern lights over Lake McDonald

Check the weather before heading to Glacier National Park if you want to catch a glimpse of the mesmerizing northern lights. After all, what’s the point of making the trip if thick clouds block your view? Ensure clear skies and increase your chances of witnessing this natural spectacle by staying informed about the weather conditions. Don’t let clouds rain on your parade – plan ahead and make the most of your northern lights experience in Glacier National Park.

Tips To Maximize Your Northern Lights Adventure

If you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the northern lights in Glacier National Park, you don’t want to miss out on capturing it.

Make sure your camera settings are up to the task, whether you’re using a dedicated camera or a mobile phone. Phones from recent years are usually good in low light conditions, but if yours is on the older side then you might need to adjust some settings before taking pictures; things like shutter speed and ISO can make a big difference.

That way, when your friends ask to see what you saw in Glacier National Park, you’ll have plenty of photos that truly show off their natural beauty of the northern lights.

Conclusion

Viewing the northern lights in Glacier National Park is an amazing experience few get to see. If you are lucky enough and the opportunity arises, be sure to visit Lake McDonald to see the best light show of a lifetime.

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