If you’re visiting Glacier National Park, you’re in for an amazing time. The park is full of beautiful scenery and outdoor activities to enjoy. With so much to do, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this amazing Glacier National Park 1 day itinerary to make the most of your visit. So pack your bags and get ready for a day you’ll never forget!
Is One Day Enough To See Glacier National Park?
Honestly, no, one day is not enough to see Glacier National Park. We recommend about 5-7 days to get the full glacier experience.
However, one day is enough to get a good feeling for the park. The 1 day itinerary is jam packed with some of the best things to take part in. It will be a very long day indeed, in the end though, it will have been worth every second.
When Does Glacier National Park Open?
The park is technically open year-round, 24 hrs. a day. Most visitor centers however will only be open from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (during the summer season). The visitor centers will be closed during the winter months.
Glacier National Park 1 Day Itinerary
- Enter the park (5:45 AM)
- Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road (5:50 AM)
- Watch the sunrise on Lake McDonald (6:00 AM)
- Take a swim
- Visit McDonald Falls (8:00 AM)
- Hike Trail of the Cedars (9:00 AM – 10:00 AM)
- Visit Weeping Wall (10:30 AM)
- Visit Haystack Creek Falls (11:00 AM)
- Visit Logan Pass(Noon)
- Eat Lunch(12:30 PM-1:00 PM)
- Hike Hidden Lake Overlook(1:00 PM-4:00 PM)
- Visit Jackson Glacier Overlook(4:30 PM)
- Visit St. Mary Lake(5:00 PM)
- Hike to see Virginia Falls and St. Mary Falls(5:30 PM-7:00 PM)
- Stargaze(As long as you want)
- Watch out for northern lights
Tips For Achieving Your Glacier National Park 1 Day Itinerary
- Pack a lunch and snacks
- Get gas before entering the park
- Make a reservation for Going-to-the-Sun Road
- Have your phone charged
- Plan out how long you have
- Wake up Early
- Entry to Going-to-the-Sun Road is free before 6 AM
Entering The Park
The first step to your jam-packed day in Glacier National Park is to of course enter the park. West Glacier entrance will be where we are entering at today. This is the most popular entry point and is where your list starts.
Entering the park at any time requires a 7-day pass. Don’t worry though. A pass can be obtained by filling out a short form and paying before Park Rangers are stationed at the entrance.
Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
Depending on how early you arrive at Glacier National Park, entry to Going-to-the-Sun Road can be free as long as you enter before 6:00 AM. Do not expect to get waived through once the clock hits 6 AM. It isn’t going to happen. Not only does showing up early save money and the hassle of reservations, but it is also essential to seeing everything on your 1-day itinerary.
The rest of your itinerary is all things along Going-to-the-Sun Road. Being the most scenic road in America, there is a ton to see and it will take up a ton of your day.
Watch The Sunrise On Lake McDonald
Skip this if you must, but fair warning, you will miss out on one of the most beautiful sunrise locations in North America. Take the time to enjoy this amazing sight.
A calm morning, with a few clouds in the sky, is the best for Lake McDonald’s sunrises. The blaze orange clouds and the pink-topped peaks reflect off the water in a fire-like blazing glory.
Rainbow rocks line the bottom of the lake, making the color pop out no matter which direction you look.
It is truly a stunning view that should not be missed.
McDonald Creek Falls
Next up on your 1-day itinerary is to stop and view McDonald Creek Falls. This won’t take much time, being only a few pull-offs and a short walk.
The cascading waterfalls that makeup McDonald Falls are a great sight that includes forest, mountain backgrounds, a Creek, and of course the waterfalls.
A few great pictures can be taken here. The best spot is on the side of the bridge away from the road. Here all the aforementioned features can be seen, making it a great selfie spot.
Hike Trail Of The Cedars
This hike is for forest lovers. Massive cedar trees reaching 10 feet across and 100 feet tall reside here.
Humidity along with the valley location make this the perfect spot for cedars to grow. Normally only seen on the west coast, the location makes for great growth potential.
Although it is recommended to hike this trail to get the full experience, only walking a little bit can get almost the same effect.
See Weeping Wall
Sitting right on Going-to-the-Sun Road, Weeping Wall would be very hard to miss unless the water is done running.
Weeping Wall looks as if the water is coming straight out of the rock face next to the road. Now we all know water doesn’t just come out of rock, however, the effect still looks really neat.
This section can be missed in a few blinks of an eye so be sure to be on the lookout!
Experience Haystack Creek Falls
One of my favorite parts of Going-to-the-Sun Road is Haystack Creek Falls. It’s not like the waterfall is massive or fast flowing. However, Haystack Creek Falls starts at the peak of the mountain and flows all the way down to Haystack Creek for a total of over 1.5-miles.
Being able to look up at the source of the falls and look down at the end is something that doesn’t happen every day. It is a truly unique experience that must be had on your 1-day trip.
Visit Logan Pass
Congratulations! You have reached the highest point on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Look around. Take in the stunning view. Explore the visitor center.
The next 4 hours will be spent here around Logan Pass with 3 hours allotted for the hike. There should be plenty of time to see the visitor center, eat lunch and take the hike.
Time to eat! Hopefully, you brought something yummy.
Hike Hidden Lake Overlook
If there is one trail you hike on the 1-day itinerary, make it Hidden Lake Overlook Trail.
Chances of seeing wildlife such as mountain goats and bighorn sheep on this trail are very high. Usually residing in the alpine meadows, you will also get to see a ton of wildflowers bursting into life.
Once at Hidden Lake Overlook, enjoy stunning views of Hidden Lake and Bearhat mountain.
Surrounding the lake is vibrant green foliage shimmering off of the ice-blue water.
Definitely don’t miss out on this hike. It is the most popular in the park and will be the highlight of your Glacier National Park 1-Day Itinerary.
Visit Jackson Glacier Overlook
Your first (and only) look at a glacier in Glacier National Park! Due to melting, glaciers are becoming less common in the park, but Jackson Glacier is still around.
Easily viewed on Going-to-the-Sun Road, Jackson Glacier Overlook is a must-stop and see.
This stop will not take long at all and is worth the time to check out.
See St. Mary Lake
Welcome to the second largest lake in Glacier National Park. St. Mary Lake is an impressive sight with mountains towering around the shores.
A lot of time can be spent on Saint Mary Lake. The next hike can be skipped to experience more of the lake. The next trail is an amazing one though
Hike Virginia and St Mary Falls Trail
What better way to end a spectacular day in Glacier National Park than to experience the most popular waterfalls in the park? Well, there is one, but we will get to that soon enough.
Virginia Falls and St. Mary Falls are an amazing sight and don’t take very long to get to. Only 1.5 miles separate you from some amazing sights.
Not only will you see the falls, but Virginia Creek will also put you in awe too.
Cascading water creates a ton of water features and rapids that are outstanding sights. Cliff-like edges looking down into the creek give a whole new perspective on the experience.
Virginia Falls and St. Mary Falls are well worth the stop if time allows.
Stargazing And Look For Northern Lights
On a clear night, stars are out in droves. There are so many, trying to see them all is pointless. The night sky shines white, but not from the moon… from the stars. This alone is worth staying after sunset.
The real MVP however is the northern lights. If luck allows, the graces of these dancing light shows will embrace you in a psychedelic trance, filling your mind with shock and awe.
Catching this otherworldly spectacle can be difficult, especially for a single night. However, with some planning, you can get the best chance possible.
When I said that Hidden Lake Overlook will be the highlight of your day trip, I lied. If you’re able to witness the northern lights, those moments will be the highlight of your trip.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Glacier National Park?
The best time to visit Glacier National Park is during the summer season. The park will be busy during this time, but any other time you run the risk of Going-to-the-Sun Road being closed.
There are other things to experience when Sun Road is closed, however, you will be cutting off a major part of the Glacier experience.