The 10 Best Glacier National Park Tours

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

Montana has its fair share of impressive scenery and landscape by way of its national parks. Glacier National Park is one such region that allows you to escape into the vast expanse of the outdoors, away from crowds and cities.

It also puts you in the direct vicinity of over a million acres of forests, alpine lakes, rugged mountains, and wildflower meadows.

Glacier National Park was established in 1910 and contains somewhere in the region of 700 miles of well-maintained trails, which provide endless hiking and biking opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

Some of the best Glacier National Park Tours will allow you to cover some of the highlights, although the choice of things to do and see is broad.

Here you can explore the 26 remaining glaciers, or journey along the famous 50-mile ‘Going-to-the-Sun’ Road, which is built into the cliff sides of the Rocky Mountains and is a biking enthusiast’s dream.

The park also presents the adventurer with some mean rafting opportunities, and wildlife enthusiasts find themselves well catered for in this haven for grizzly bears and other native animals and birds in the wild, dense mountain forests.

So whether you visit the park to marvel at the scenery like the snow-capped peaks reflected in glassy lakes, or get involved in some serious physical pursuits, finding a tour to suit your itinerary will help you get the best of this vast landscape.

A visit to Glacier National Park is certainly something that leaves its mark on any adventurer –so let’s take a look at some of the best Glacier National Park Tours on offer.

1. Red Bus Tour

red bus tour

The famous red vintage buses that are a familiar sight in the park and also part of its heritage serve as an ideal way to get around and learn more about the locality. The buses have roll-back tops which allow full views of the surrounding scenery.

The guides on the buses are seasoned veterans with much to share. Obviously, the seats are not quite up to modern standards, but maybe this adds to the authenticity. The red buses facilitate 17 people, and the daily tours usually sell out quickly.

The Glacier Park Red Bus Tours are all-round trips and set off from both the east and west sides of the park. Trips from the east side cover features such as Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, Many Glacier Hotel, and Rising Sun Motor Inn inside the park, as well as some of St. Mary’s.

On the west side departure points tour participants can take in the Apgar Visitor Center, the Village Inn at Apgar and Lake McDonald Lodge.

2. 6-Day/5-Night Bike Tour

night bike tour

If you think that possibly the best way to get around any natural, outdoor expanse is by bicycle, then this could be for you. On this 6-day tour, you will get to ride along the cyclist’s dream, the ‘Going-to-the-Sun Road’ and you’ll soon realize why it is considered one of the most scenic roads in America.

It’s not purely saddle-work on this trip though and you’ll also get to do a little rafting along the scenic Flathead River, and indulge in a spot of trekking and a picnic by the shore of Two Medicine Lake.

Then there is a boat ride and hike to Grinnell Lake in the midst of Glacier National Park’s peaks. Along the way, you’ll get to learn something of the history and culture of the Blackfeet Nation from a couple of tribal elders. The trip also includes a few days in the western town of Whitefish, for yet more riding and rafting through the Flathead Valley.

3. Custom Guided Day Hike

custom guided day hike

If you prefer taking things in at a slower pace and think that going on foot is the best way to experience the park – then this one-day, custom hike is for you! This is a private tour for 1 to 5 provided by local guides and they can help you decide which route will best suit your requirements.

The guide can meet you at your hotel or camp if you are staying in Glacier National Park, and the day hikes usually cover 8 to 12 miles. This is flexible though and can be tailored to your hiking abilities and points of interest.

For instance, if you want to bring children on the hike the guides may put together 2 or 3 smaller hikes over a larger area, and can be easy, moderate, or advanced in difficulty according to your preferences.

4. Half-Day Guided Rafting Trip

half-day guided rafting trip

This half-day rafting trip can be either a white water adventure or a scenic float, depending on which you prefer. The scenic float trips are available between May and mid-October, while the white water adventures usually occur between May and early September, according to the level of the rivers.

This is a private, guided rafting trip in Glacier that accommodates up to 8 people and allows you to paddle as part of the crew on the raft if you wish, as it winds its way along 9 different rapids.

Unless you would rather sit back and take in the scenery, as it stretches for 8 miles of picturesque viewing, that is. For the rafting experience, the difficulty is rated as easy or moderate, and is considered family-friendly.

The trips last for anything between 2 and 4 hours, according to the level of the river. Private transportation to and from the river is included, as is all necessary safety equipment, and guide services.

5. Half-Day Nature Walk Tour

half-day nature walk tour

This is a relatively easy-going, half-day trip in Glacier and is an ideal first introduction to the park for many visitors. You’ll participate in 2 short walks, each about 1 mile in distance, with minimal elevation.

The tour starts at around 9.30 am and culminates at 1.30 pm. Participants are driven into Glacier National Park via the West Glacier entrance, 1 mile from the guide’s office.

You’ll get to learn about outdoor ethics, as well as a bit of forest fire science and river ecology, and maybe even a spot of history of early settlers. Your local guide will lead you on an interpretive tour equipped with all the necessary transportation, snacks, equipment (and bear spray).

You’ll still need to bring a daypack to carry your own water bottle, camera/phone, binoculars, raincoat, fleece, a Glacier National Park Pass – and comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

Once in Glacier, you will walk about the 1-mile round trip through the glaciated Lake McDonald Valley with its resident beaver and moose. Then another drive covers the short distance to Glacier’s North Fork Valley, where you’ll stop at various scenic viewpoints, such as McGee Meadows and McDonald Creek.

Finally, you arrive at the North Fork of the Flathead River, from which you’ll take another short, easy walk, 1-mile round trip.

6. Fly Fishing – Full Day Trip

fly fishing

This is a day full of fly fishing that is suitable for any level. The trips usually run between June and September, depending on guide availability. You can fish on either the Middle Fork or North Fork of the Flathead River, on waters that are federally protected, and contain Rainbow and Brook trout.

The North and Middle Forks of the Flathead River normally become fishable towards the end of June, and this continues into autumn. The fishing is done from a dory and can accommodate 3 people, including your guide.

The local guides are highly knowledgeable and are happy to show you the ropes if necessary. The all-day trips include a delicious, locally sourced, organic lunch on the river. All equipment is provided unless you want to use your own.

7. Overnight Fishing Trip with Camping

overnight fishing trip

These overnight or 2-3day fly fishing trips are centered on the scenic and remote North Fork of the Flathead River. This Glacier National Park river lies on the western border and contains native Westslope Cutthroat, Rainbow Trout, and Brook trout.

The guides are knowledgeable professionals, with a few handy tips to pass on if you don’t have much experience. This overnight trip includes camping riverside at night, and organic meals prepared from locally sourced ingredients are provided.

This trip is ideal from July onwards until early September, depending on guide availability, and is best suited to no more than 2 people.

8. Four-Day Backpacking Guided Tour

backpacking guided tour

If you fancy indulging in what the guides consider the perfect amount of time for a Glacier Park backpacking trek – then check out this 4-day affair. This is a moderately difficult trek that usually begins on Saturdays between May and September.

The minimum age is suggested as 15 for this trip, and you will need to pay park entrance fees yourself. You can rent equipment if required including sleeping bags and tents.

You’ll see parts of the park on this trek that many visitors are completely unaware of, as you pass through subalpine and alpine meadows among the Glaciers’ towering peaks. The guide will highlight many points of interest, and be on the lookout for wildlife.

You’ll get to camp in the Glacier’s backcountry campgrounds, many of which are close to lakes or streams, in case you fancy a spot of fishing and or swimming.

Mileage covers around 5-12 miles per day, and elevation gain and loss I around 500 to 800 feet, unless hiking over a pass when it could be more than double that. The guides prepare all meals from locally sourced and organic ingredients, and groups of 7 can be accommodated.

9. Nature Walk and Float Experience Combination

nature walk and float experience combination

This is a split combo tour that is relatively easy and family-friendly. The half-day trip is an ideal introduction to the park, as you can learn about the nature and ecosystem as well as getting involved in a nice and laid-back water experience. So you can get 2 different perspectives in one trip!

The nature section involves 2 short, easy walks in Glacier National Park – both about one mile – and it takes just over 3 hours to complete.

After this relaxing morning walk, you get to enjoy a 2 hour long, scenic float on the Flathead River. A lunch break of about 1.5 hours is included before the float, then it’s on to the river.

10. Raft and Bike Day Tour

raft and bike day tour

This full-day tour is another combination, this time involving a raft and a bicycle. You get to raft Glacier’s border river in the morning, then in the afternoon, you explore on 2 wheels, with both lunch and dinner included.

The river winds through 8 miles of the John F. Stevens Canyon, and the rapids are class II and III, which means a fun white water rafting adventure! It is considered moderate difficulty, but no experience is necessary.

This tour is usually available between May and late June, and occurs between the hours of 10:15 am – 7:30 pm, starting from the operator’s office where you meet the guide. First, you’ll get kitted out with the necessary safety equipment, and helmets and life jackets are mandatory.

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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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