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Your Guide to Stargazing in Glacier National Park

With famously dark skies, Glacier National Park is ideal for stargazing. The International Dark Sky Association actually named Glacier Park, along with Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, the world’s first transboundary international dark sky park.

But what are the best spots for stargazing in Glacier National Park? We will guide you through everything you need to know to get that picturesque view.

What Month is Best for Stargazing in Glacier National Park?

best for stargazing in glacier national park

According to Rove, the best time for stargazing in Glacier National Park is winter, where the nights are cold and clear.

There are various events held in the park that supports stargazing through summer, including the famous Logan Pass Star Parties, but the winter months are typically better for stargazing.

Can you see the Northern Lights in Glacier National Park?

northern lights in glacier national park

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, take place when charged electrons from the earth’s energized magnetic field collide with the upper atmosphere and produce mesmerizing green lights in the sky.

It is possible to see the Northern Lights from the northern parts of Western Montana, including Glacier National Park!

Your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights is between September and March at Lake McDonald, Bowman, and Kintla Lakes, or from the town of Polebridge.

The Northern Lights are more likely to be visible on a clear cold night during a new moon phase; when the moon is too full and bright, the Northern Lights are more difficult to see.

Can you see the Milky Way in Glacier National Park?

The Milky Way, and other galaxies, are visible from Glacier National Park. Capture the Atlas explains that the Milky Way is visible throughout the entire year, but the best time to see it in Glacier National Park is from mid-March through mid-May.   

The best time to view the Milky Way is between midnight and 5 a.m. on nights with a new moon.

The Best Spots for Stargazing in Glacier National Park

The entirety of Glacier National Park is perfect for viewing the stars, but there are a few locations in particular that are known to offer the best vantage points. Below are the spots offering the most stellar views of the sky.

St. Mary

st mary

St. Mary lies at the east entrance to the park and is home to the St. Mary Observatory, one of the prime destinations in Montana for stargazing.

The Dusty Star Dome has one of the largest telescopes in the National Park Service and the largest in Montana at 20 inches.

Visitors will see high-resolution views of not only stars but planets and galaxies, either through the telescope or on one of the 55-inch monitors.

Lake McDonald

lake mcdonald

Lake McDonald has been labeled as one of the best places in Glacier National Park for stargazing, if not for the lack of light pollution and tree cover, then for the sparkling reflection of stars in the water.

The largest lake in the park, Lake McDonald is located on the western side of the park and is nestled in the Lake McDonald Valley.

Lake McDonald Lodge lies on the shores of the lake and is a particularly good option for accommodation if you plan on stargazing during your visit to the park. As conditions are extremely cold and dark, it helps to not have to travel too far to get the best view!

Bowman and Kintla Lakes

Lakes in general often make for wonderful stargazing locations due to the lack of trees and reflective properties of the water. 

Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake are both located in the north-western area of Glacier National Park, with Kintla Lake being a stone’s throw from the Canadian Border.

Multiple sources confirm that both lakes are fantastic locations for stargazing as they offer “mesmerizing views and reflections”.

Polebridge

One of the entrances to Glacier National Park, Polebridge lies just beyond the park’s north-western boundary.

The tiny community has all the makings of a prime stargazing location, including a lack of light pollution. As Polebridge is an off-the-grid destination, electricity is used sparingly.

Additionally, the lack of cell service and Wi-Fi can add to a tranquil vibe that makes the conditions perfect for spending a night with the stars.

There is a selection of rustic lodging options in Polebridge, including authentic log cabins, which also make for a great base for stargazing.

The Half the Park Happens After Dark Locations

From June through September, Glacier National Park hosts a program called Half the Park Happens After Dark, which consists of guided viewing and star parties.

These take place at rotating locations throughout the park but can be a great option if you’d like to get the most out of your stargazing with a little guidance.

Those who’d like to participate can check the Ranger-Led Activity Schedule for the exact locations of the program.

Typically, nightly astronomy programs are either held at the Apgar Visitor Center Plaza or at the Dusty Star Observatory in the St. Mary Visitor Center parking lot.

Logan Pass Star Parties are held at the Logan Pass parking lot.

Stargazing in Glacier National Park – Conclusion

Stargazing is one of the most popular activities in Glacier National Park, and with good reason. The clear, dark skies offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to take in the wonders of the galaxies above, and for a lucky few, to witness the wonder of the Aurora Borealis.

Have you ever been stargazing in Glacier National Park? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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