Is Glacier National Park Safe?

Glacier National Park, located in the northwest corner of Montana, is a breathtaking natural wonderland known for its rugged mountains, pristine lakes, and vast wilderness areas.

With over a million acres of protected land, the park boasts more than 700 miles of hiking trails, offering visitors a chance to explore some of the most stunning landscapes in North America.

Home to diverse wildlife, including grizzly bears, moose, mountain lions, wolverines and mountain goats, Glacier National Park is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and adventure seekers.

Planning a trip to Glacier National Park is exciting! It’s one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my opinion. Of all the National Parks I’ve visited, Glacier National Park is one of my favorites. You may be asking yourself “is Glacier National Park safe?” and the answer is yes, but with certain cautions. Especially if you’re hiking one of the best trails in Glacier or traveling solo.

Know Before You Go: Glacier National Park

Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit Glacier National Park is between July-September when the weather is favorable and the trails are open. 
Going-To-The-Sun Road, the only road that cuts through the park and connects the East and West sides, does not open until July each year. Many of the hiking trails on this list are only accessible via GTS road. 
If you’re interested in Glacier National Park waterfalls then July is the best time to visit, when snowmelt is best. 
If you’re hoping to avoid crowds I recommend going to Glacier National Park in September, after Labor Day (this is what I did).

Where To Stay: There are 13 campgrounds with over 1,000 sites to choose from within the park. Some popular ones include Apgar, Many Glacier, and St. Mary. Reservations can be made for some sites, while others are first-come, first-served.
If you prefer to stay outside of the park there are many options on the East and West sides. The West side of the park is more popular and has more options for where to stay at Glacier National Park.

How To Get There: The closest airport is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA), located in Kalispell, Montana, approximately 30 miles west of the West Entrance. However, most people fly into Missoula International Airport (MSO) to save money. MSO is approximately 150 miles south of the park.

How To Get Around: The best way to get around the park is with the free NPS shuttle service. The shuttle only runs during peak season, so if you plan to arrive before July or after Labor Day then you’ll need to bring your own vehicle. No reservations are required for the shuttle. It operates on a first-come, first-serve basis.

It’s possible to drive your own car, but you’ll need a timed-entry pass during peak season (more on this below). Driving Going To The Sun road has a vehicle limit of 21 feet long and 8 feet wide. Also keep in mind that parking in Glacier National Park can be extremely challenging year-round. Even during off-peak season I still had trouble finding parking spaces at most trailheads.

Reservation System: Between May 24 – September 8 vehicles entering Glacier National Park are required to have an advanced vehicle reservation. Reservations can be obtained through up to 6 months in advance on a rolling window.

Safety: Glacier National Park is a safe park, but it has abundant wildlife, including Grizzly bears. Always hike with bear spray readily accessible, and know how to use it.

Entrance Fees: Glacier National Park entrance fees are $35 per vehicle (good for 7 days). During the winter season this pass is only $25 (Nov-Apr).

Is Glacier National Park Safe?

Glacier National Park is generally a safe place to visit, but as with any outdoor activity, there are some risks that visitors should be aware of and take precautions to minimize.

Some potential hazards in Glacier National Park include:

  1. Wildlife encounters: Glacier is home to a variety of wildlife, including grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, and moose. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings and follow recommended safety guidelines when encountering wildlife.
  2. Weather conditions: Glacier’s weather can be unpredictable and change quickly. Visitors should be prepared for a variety of conditions and check weather forecasts before heading out. Even in warmer months you can expect colder temperatures at elevation. I was wearing mittens and a hat at Logans Pass in mid-September.
  3. Terrain: The park’s rugged terrain can be challenging, particularly for inexperienced hikers. Visitors should be sure to stay on established trails and carry appropriate equipment and supplies.
  4. Water hazards: The park’s rivers, lakes, and streams can be dangerous, particularly during spring runoff. Visitors should be aware of the risks and follow safety guidelines when near water.

Overall, if visitors take appropriate precautions and follow park regulations and safety guidelines, Glacier National Park is a relatively safe destination for outdoor adventures.

solo hiking in glacier national park

Hiking alone in Glacier National Park can be risky, as there are potential hazards such as wildlife encounters, unpredictable weather, and rugged terrain. It is generally recommended that visitors hike with at least one other person, as hiking in a group can increase safety and help in case of an emergency.

It’s also worth noting that there have been no bear attacks reported in Glacier National Park for hiking groups of 4 or more. While it is undebatable that it is safer to hike in a large group, you are able to safely hike alone as long as you follow safety measures.

I hiked many trails in Glacier National Park, like Avalanche Lake hike, alone and found that hiking during “busier” times meant I could see a group of other hikers ahead of or behind me. Having other hiking parties in the area is helpful in case of an emergency.

If you do choose to hike alone, there are steps you can take to minimize the risks:

  1. Plan ahead: Research the trails you plan to hike, check weather conditions, and bring appropriate gear and supplies.
  2. Stay on marked trails: Staying on established trails reduces the risk of getting lost or injured, and helps protect the park’s delicate ecosystems.
  3. Follow wildlife safety guidelines: Be aware of your surroundings, make noise to avoid surprising wildlife, and keep a safe distance from animals.
  4. Bring bear spray: Bear spray is a highly effective deterrent against bear attacks and is recommended for all visitors to the park.
  5. Hike with a partner or group when possible: Hiking with others increases safety and is more enjoyable. If you’re traveling solo you can aim to pace behind other groups and plan your hikes during more popular times when you can expect the trail won’t be completely deserted.
  6. Carry a map and compass or GPS: These tools can help you navigate in case you become lost or disoriented.
  7. Be prepared for changes in weather: Glacier’s weather can change rapidly, so bring appropriate clothing and gear to stay warm and dry.

Overall, while hiking alone in Glacier National Park does carry some risks, visitors who take appropriate precautions can minimize those risks and enjoy a safe and rewarding outdoor experience.

Bear Safety In Glacier national park

Bear safety is an important aspect of visiting Glacier National Park, as the park is home to both grizzly and black bears. It’s crucial to take necessary precautions to avoid negative encounters with these animals and ensure the safety of both visitors and wildlife.

There are several ways to properly practice bear safety while in Glacier National Park.

Carry bear spray. Always. Every hike. Every time. Bears are becoming more and more accustomed to humans, which means you can encounter them anywhere, even if you’re a quarter mile down the trail. Don’t assume you have to hike for a long time before you’ll need your bear spray ready.

Hike in groups when possible. Groups are noisy. They smell (to a bear). It’s far more likely that a bear will be aware of your presence when you’re in a group. A majority of bear encounters and attacks happen because the animal is startled to come across you – noise and smell will give the bear a heads up before you’re too close and it feels threatened.

Make noise on the trails. See “hike in groups” above. Noise will let a bear know you are approaching, and give it enough time to get out of your way before it feels cornered or threatened. Most attacks are done in defense, not offense. You can avoid a bear attack simply by avoiding putting a bear in a position to defend itself.

Properly store food and scented items, especially in campsites and while you’re not using them. Even if you’re running to the restroom and will return in 5 minutes – it’s more than enough time for a curious bear to make it’s way into an unoccupied campsite. The immediate threat is obvious – there’s a bear in your campsite! But long term it’s also really bad for bears to become accustomed to being around humans as it creates an environment ripe for more bear encounters and attacks.

The park also provides resources and education on bear safety to help visitors stay safe while enjoying the natural beauty of Glacier National Park.

Is The Blackfeet Indian Reservation Safe?

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation boarders the Eastern side of Glacier National Park. Like any other area, it has its own set of challenges and risks. However, as with any place, there are things you can do to help ensure your safety while visiting the reservation.

It’s important to be aware of the crime rate in the area, and there have been reports of criminal activity on the reservation, including theft, assault, and drug-related crimes.

It’s also important to be aware of the possibility of encountering wildlife, as the reservation is home to a variety of animals, including grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, and moose.

That being said, many people visit the reservation without incident and find it to be a welcoming and hospitable place. As with any travel destination, it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time to understand any potential risks and take appropriate precautions. Personally, I felt safe as a solo traveler on the reservation.

If you plan to visit the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, it’s a good idea to:

  1. Research the area and understand any potential risks before you go.
  2. Stay aware of your surroundings and be alert to any potential dangers.
  3. Respect the local culture and customs.
  4. Follow all posted signs and regulations, including any wildlife safety guidelines.
  5. Use common sense and good judgment when making decisions.

By taking these steps, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Continue planning your trip to Glacier National Park with these additional guides:

Benefits Of Traveling Alone

Written by Claire Fleming

I’m a travel enthusiast who spends half the year in my self-built camper van with my dog, Oscar, and the other half at my home in Raleigh, North Carolina or on international adventures.

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