5 Reasons to Visit Glacier National Park in Winter
Photo: Visuals Unlimited/Corbis
Tucked in the northwestern region of Montana is Glacier National Park, a hiker’s paradise amidst the Rocky Mountains with over 700 miles of trails to choose from. During the warmer months of the year, this alpine member of the National Park Service is frequented by nature lovers, who come to admire the lakes, meadows, and above all, the mountains — but during the winter is when the things can get really engaging, with the smaller crowds and a blanket of white everywhere. Like at Yellowstone, some people believe that Glacier National Park is actually better during the winter, for there are sights and activities one can do that you can’t during spring or summer:
1. A Winter Wonderland
Photo: Heath Korvola/Getty Images
First, it’s obvious, during winter, there is snow everywhere! Sure there is snow in the upper elevations during the warmer months, but in the winter season (late October through April), snow covers the trees and meadows, making it unlike any other time of the year.
2. Snowshoes and Cross-Country Skis
Photo: Jean Tabbert, glaciernps on Flickr via CCBY2.0
With snow comes snowy activities in Glacier National Park. While snowmobiling is prohibited, that doesn’t mean you can’t get out there and be mobile in the snow. Cross-country skiers have several trails to choose from, with varied scenery and difficulty. Snowshoeing is also popular, with guided tours available.
3. Animal Tracks
Photo: David Restivo, glaciernps on Flickr via CC BY 2.0
People aren’t the only ones making tracks in the snow. After all, Glacier National Park is home to 60 species of mammals, including the grizzly bear — it boasts one of the largest populations of them — the gray wolf, elk, lynx, wolverine, cougar, mountain goat and bighorn sheep. The advantage to snow prints is that you can be clued into an animals whereabouts — so you can view (or avoid) them accordingly.
4. Mountain Climbing
Photo: Lowell Georgia/CORBIS
Mountain climbing is in fact permitted during the winter months, to anyone who is skilled enough to face the challenge of hypothermia. But if you’re the adventurous type — and have enough layers to bundle up — you can register with a park ranger to climb. Just heed all advice and warnings they give you; avalanche chances increase as upper layers of snow ice over.
5. Frozen Lakes
Photo: Richard Hamilton Smith/CORBIS
Winter wonderlands aren’t just about the land; there’s water too. Visiting Glacier National Park during the winter affords you glimpses of completely frozen over lakes, like St. Mary’s Lake, the park’s second largest — with ice up to 4-feet thick.