Best Things to Do in West Glacier, Montana in 2024

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: April 19th, 2024

You feel the solid mountain underneath your feet, and hear the crunch of the path as you come to a stop. A crystal-clear lake shimmers below you. On the horizon, the sawtooth peaks of Glacier National Park stretch for miles. 

You breathe deeply, the Christmastime scent of fir trees fills your nostrils, and you can almost taste the crisp, clear air. That’s the magic of West Glacier, Montana – a tiny town with access to a world of outdoor adventure, scenic beauty, and genuine Montana charm. 

Whether you’re a hiker seeking a challenge, a family looking for a memorable vacation, or simply someone drawn to nature’s wonders, West Glacier won’t disappoint.

Outdoor Adventures

Explore Glacier National Park

glacier national park 7-day

Glacier National Park is a hiker’s paradise, whether you’re into short, relatively easy hikes or longer, multi-day hikes. From jaw-dropping views along the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road to lakeside strolls perfect for families, Glacier has something for everyone.

The park’s diverse terrain means you can spend a morning scrambling to a hidden waterfall and an afternoon taking in wildflowers along a boardwalk trail. Want a challenge? Pick one of the iconic hikes, like the trek to Grinnell Glacier. Along the way, you’re liable to see mountain goats, bighorn sheep and, if you’re really lucky, a bear or moose.

While summer is the most popular season, fall hikers are rewarded with fewer crowds and golden foliage. Glacier even has winter trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing if you’re truly adventurous. It’s easy to lose yourself in Glacier National Park’s vastness, so plan your route in advance and always check the park website for real-time trail conditions and closures.

It might be the crown jewel of Montana, but Glacier National Park is a place where you’ll discover your own hidden gems at every turn (oh, and no trip to West Glacier is complete without venturing into the Crown of the Continent, so make sure you plan that!). 

Whitewater Rafting on the Flathead River

whitewater rafting boats

Get your adrenaline pumping on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River with experienced guides. Whether you’re a seasoned rafter or a first-timer, there’s an adventure waiting for you on this stunning stretch of river. With several outfitters based in West Glacier, it’s easy to find the perfect trip for your group.

Want a mix of excitement and calm? Choose a half-day option that combines thrilling Class II-III rapids with stretches of smooth water perfect for spotting eagles, deer, and even the occasional bear along the riverbanks. Looking for a family-friendly option? Opt for a mild float with fun splashes and gorgeous views of Glacier National Park’s mountain peaks.

For those seeking a full day of thrills, longer trips take you deeper into the Flathead’s wild heart. Paddle hard through challenging rapids, then celebrate your teamwork with a refreshing riverside lunch prepared by your guides. The Flathead River isn’t just about whitewater – it’s about immersing yourself in Montana’s rugged beauty from a whole new perspective.

No matter which experience you choose, the expert guides will ensure your safety and fill the trip with laughter and local knowledge. Prepare for stunning scenery, unforgettable thrills, and maybe even a few refreshing dips in the pristine waters.

Art & Culture

Step Back in Time at the Belton Chalet

  • Location: Right outside Glacier’s entrance
  • Type: Historic lodge, restaurant, tours
  • Focus: Railroad history, early National Park days
  • Cost: Meal prices, tours have fees

The Belton Chalet isn’t just a place to stay or grab a meal, it’s also a time machine whisking you back to the golden age of train travel and the early days of Glacier National Park. Built in 1910 by the Great Northern Railway, this iconic lodge has witnessed over a century of history unfold against the backdrop of the park’s stunning peaks.

Step inside and the rich wood paneling, antique furnishings, and historic photographs transport you to another era. Sink into a plush armchair by the massive stone fireplace and imagine weary travelers from the past doing the same. Savor a hearty meal with sweeping mountain views in the dining room, where the menu often features a taste of classic dishes with a modern twist.

Want to dive deeper into the past? Take a guided tour and learn the lodge’s secrets. Discover how it ushered in a new era of tourism to Glacier, hear tales of its notable guests, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of one of its resident ghosts!  Whether you’re a history buff or simply someone who appreciates old-world charm, the Belton Chalet is more than just a building. It’s a tangible connection to the pioneering spirit that shaped Glacier National Park and the West.

Local Art Scene 

West Glacier might be a gateway to outdoor adventure, but its vibrant local art scene invites you to slow down and appreciate the beauty that inspires it. Stroll through the town’s galleries and discover how Montana’s landscapes, wildlife, and spirit come alive through various mediums.

Immerse yourself in stunning landscape photography capturing the grandeur of Glacier National Park from unique perspectives. Admire wildlife paintings that seem to leap off the canvas, celebrating the elk, bears, and mountain goats of the region. Discover one-of-a-kind home goods crafted by local artisans – a hand-turned wooden bowl, a cozy woven blanket, or nature-inspired jewelry to take a piece of Montana home with you.

The art scene here isn’t just about what’s on the walls – it’s about connecting with the artists themselves. Many galleries offer chances to chat with the creators, or even attend workshops where you can try your hand at capturing the West Glacier magic.

Relaxation & Indulgence

Lake McDonald

lake mcdonald

  • Location: Apgar Village, inside the park
  • Activity: Boating, picnicking, swimming
  • Vibe: Varies from busy (Apgar) to serene on less-visited parts of the lake
  • Price Range: Park entrance fee

The heart of Glacier National Park is more than just a scenic backdrop – it’s a place to escape the crowds and reconnect with the simple joys of nature.  Whether you crave a quiet escape or a splash of activity, you’ll find your bliss along its shores.

Pack a picnic and find a secluded spot to soak up the sun, with the mountains reflected in the lake’s crystal-clear waters. Venture out in a kayak or canoe, explore hidden coves and glide silently past waterfowl. If you’re feeling brave, take a refreshing dip in the lake’s revitalizing waters.

Apgar Village offers boat rentals, a lakeside snack bar, and a lively atmosphere.Wander further along the shoreline, though, and you’ll discover quieter stretches where the only sounds are birdsong and the gentle lapping of waves. As the sun sets, painting the sky with vibrant colors, you’ll understand why Lake McDonald is a place where hours slip away unnoticed and a sense of pure contentment washes over you.

Discover West Glacier’s Eateries

West Glacier’s small-town culinary scene packs a surprising punch. After a day of hiking or exploring, refuel at a cozy cafe with hearty breakfasts and locally-roasted coffee. Treat yourself to fresh Montana flavors, from huckleberry pie made with foraged berries to perfectly cooked trout.

Find laid-back family restaurants serving up crowd-pleasing favorites as well as spots with upscale fare showcasing local ingredients. And, as always, everything is served with a stunning mountain backdrop.

Hidden Gems & Unique Experiences

Venture off the beaten path and discover the hidden treasures of West Glacier and Glacier National Park.  From secret scenic spots to exclusive tours and encounters with Montana’s wild side, get ready for moments that make your trip truly unforgettable.

  • Stargazing…But Elevated: The open air and low levels of light pollution make stargazing a given. Local astronomy clubs offer guided lectures, and even give you the opportunity to view planets and constellations through their telescopes.
  • Scenic Train Ride…With a Twist: If you can swing a five-hour drive to Lewistown, the Charlie Russell Chew Choo offers a quaint and historic 4.5 hour ride through spectacular scenery as you eat a full course prime rib dinner and learn about the history of the area. And in December, they offer a special 1.5 hour Christmas train ride, complete with cookies, hot cocoa, and a visit from Santa Clause!
  • Backroads & Byways: Partner with a local rental car company or outfitter to recommend a lesser-known scenic drive. This could focus on historic routes, wildlife hotspots, or even a “best pie stops of the Flathead Valley” type of itinerary.
  • Horseback Adventures: Not your typical rent-a-horse-for-an-hour, Bear Creek Guest Ranch offers several different week-long horseback riding packages throughout the year. In the spring, you can learn what it means to be a ranch hand while you rope cattle and ride the prairie. In the summer, you can take a week to ride almost to the Canadian border, passing through fields of wildflowers, bison graveyards, and even watch a rodeo. And in the fall, you’ll ride through the beautiful autumn colors, returning each night to a home-cooked meal.
  • The Flavor of the Place: Tap into the locavore trend. A short hour-drive can take you to a cherry farm, or you can take a guided tour and learn how to forage for wild mushrooms. 


West Glacier may be small, but it packs a mighty punch. Whether you fill your days with heart-pumping adventure or choose to soak in the scenery with a good book, it’s a place that leaves a lasting impression. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your West Glacier, Montana getaway and let the magic unfold.

About The Author

Mark Barnett

Mark Philip is a writer and lifestyle enthusiast from the Midlands in the U.K. With a background in martial arts and fitness, Mark headed out to Bangkok, Thailand where he now lives and works. Mark has authored e-books, articles, and blogs across a wide range of topics for commercial, educational, factual, lifestyle and leisure-based purposes.

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