Nicknamed the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park lays among the Rocky Mountains on the border of Canada.
In northern Montana, this park is so named for being home to two dozen glaciers. Ironically, it isn’t the National Park with the most amount of glaciers. That doesn’t make it any less breathtaking.
Can you see Glacier National Park without hiking?
(photo by Emily Rachel Poisel)
With the Rocky Mountains in mind, it’s important to note that you don’t have to be a hiker to enjoy Glacier.
No matter the reason you’d prefer to see the park on four wheels, it’s certainly do-able!
Driving across the park can vary from 30 minutes to two and a half hours, depending on which route you’re traveling.
The most famous route to take is Going-to-the-Sun Road which travels north from the Apgar Visitor Center in West Glacier for 22 miles before a hairpin turn turns the road back down south another 25 miles to the Saint Mary Visitor Center.
Along the way, you’ll see Lake McDonald, Paradise Meadow, Triple Arches, Jackson Glacier, and Saint Mary Lake and Falls.
Not to mention experience The Loop – the hairpin bend in the road near Crystal Point, about half-way along the road. The road passes several trail heads, many of which have parking and scenic view
What will I miss if I don’t go hiking?
If it makes you feel better for choosing not to hike through Glacier National Park, there are not many active glaciers to see!
Mount Rainier and Grand Teton are a couple of parks with some great active glaciers, but the eponymous National Park has most of its active glaciers hidden away in snowy niches.
You’ll definitely see the Jackson Glacier, but may miss most others.
What can you do besides hiking?
Besides hiking in Glacier National Park, you can have guided tours throughout the wilderness in different methods of transportation.
There are boat trips, bus tours, horseback rides, and white rafting trips.
(Wild Goose Island – by Loco Steve)
Itinerary for a no-hike visit
With no hiking planned, the best itinerary for your immersive Glacier National Park trip is driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Whether you start from the west or the east entrance, simply follow the route from one Visitor Center to another.
All the important look-out points are marked and have parking, so there’s no worry about missing the major points.
Going-To-The-Sun road eventually leads to Logan Pass, which is the highest point of th drive and part of the Continental Divide.
At Logan Pass you will be able to park and enjoy sweeping views of Glacier National Park, mountain views, wildflower fields, and you can potentially spot wildlife such as mountain goats and big horn sheep.
Another site not to miss on Going-To-The-Sun-Road is Wild Goose Island.
Wild Goose Island is one of the most photographed sites at Glacier National and it also appears in the opening of the movie ‘The Shining’.
An alternate drive is Rte 3, branching off of Hwy 89 in Babb, ending 12 miles later at Many Glacier. You can stay at the hotel and take a boat tour across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes. Kayaks are also available to rent.
Another great option that doesn’t involve hiking is to take a Red Bus Tour. These vintage Red Buses is an excellent way way to see and learn more about Glacier National Park.
There are various tour options available with the Red Busses and tours last from 2.5 hours up to 8 hours.
If you’re not going to be hiking Glacier, staying in the park isn’t technically necessary.
Rent a hotel in one of the quaint towns nearby and drive into the park each day.
Some past adventurers even recommend sweet little visits, like a winter picnic – eat in your car with a stunning view!
With over a million acres of land, including 130 lakes and three legs of the Rockies, Glacier National Park is a veritable wild beauty.
You can enjoy the views from the comfort of your own car, sometimes without even standing out in the cold.