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West Glacier, Montana

West Glacier is just steps away from the western entrance of Glacier National Park. The community has a small permanent population but is often bustling with travelers. 

Many stay in the charming mountain town and use it as a base to explore the region, while others pass through West Glacier on their way into the park.

The gateway community boasts several outfitters, tour companies, and local guides offering a range of backcountry trips, from hiking to fly fishing.

The village itself is lined with idyllic stores selling Glacier souvenirs, friendly dining establishments, a variety of lodging options, and even a golf course with spectacular views of the park. 

West Glacier flew under the radar of white settlers throughout most of the 19th century, until the transcontinental Great Northern Railway was completed in 1893

A station called Belton was founded where West Glacier stands today, which generated a small community. However, even after the arrival of the Great Northern Railway, the local population remained small due to the difficult-to-access location and the rugged terrain. 

Today, the majority of businesses in West Glacier are seasonal and are there for the benefit of travelers. Tourism is the community’s main export. 

glacier national park

Main Attractions

There’s a reason why West Glacier is one of the busiest communities in Montana during the high season. Here you’ll find several points of interest, not the least of them being Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park

gateway west glacier national park

The Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park is doubtless the top reason to visit West Glacier.

The village is a fantastic place to base yourself if you plan on visiting some of the park’s most prominent sites, like Going-to-the-Sun Road, Lake McDonald, the Trail of the Cedars, or the Apgar Visitor Center. 

Nestled against a heavenly alpine backdrop complete with sparkling blue lakes, the park is home to 700 miles of hiking trails and offers the perfect opportunity to witness wildlife in a natural setting.

Within the park, there are also several campgrounds and rustic lodging in the way of historic chalets. 

Crown of the Continent Discovery Center

The Crown of the Continent Discovery Center is a stone’s throw from Glacier National Park and a must-stop for anyone visiting the park.

 In the center, you’ll find key information about the park and an activity booking center, an outdoor gear shop, a gift shop, a coffee and spirits bar, and an ice cream parlor. 

At the discovery center, you can also pick up freshly made lunch or stop to dine at La Casita Mexican Restaurant. The discovery center is also a great place to learn about Glacier National Park through the free interactive geotourism exhibits on display. 

You can also rent mopeds here or talk to the center’s many business partners, including companies offering helicopter tours, rafting tours, and lodging. 

Historic Belton Depot

The Historic Belton Depot is a relic of West Glacier’s fascinating history. The station was constructed in 1910 before being donated to the Glacier Natural History Association in 1991. 

It still operates as an active station for the Amtrak Empire Builder in West Glacier, and there is also a bookstore on the premises. Travelers can pick up books here that gives an insight into the local landscape, history, and ecosystem. 

Recreation Activities

West Glacier gives visitors unlimited access to the great outdoors for which Montana is famous. There are a selection of popular recreation activities to enjoy here, from hiking to fishing. 

Hiking

Hiking is arguably the most popular recreational activity for those visiting West Glacier. Of course, with its 700 miles of hiking trails, Glacier National Park is the premium location in the area to enjoy a hike.

There are trails for hikers of every age and skill level, ranging from the long and challenging to the quick and easy. 

Near the West Glacier Entrance, one of the most frequented trails is the Trail of the Cedars. The trail is wheelchair accessible and loops from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Along the way, you’ll see the ancient red cedar trees for which the trail is named. 

Outfitters

Though you can explore Glacier National Park and West Glacier without a guide, there are several outfitters in operation that run tours highlighting the very best of the region. For those who don’t know where to start or would like to rely on the experience of a guide, tours are an option worth considering.

Some of the outfitters that you’ll find near West Glacier include the Glacier Division of Swan Mountain Outfitters, Glacier Outfitters, and Glacier Nomadic Adventures. There are tours of all kinds on offer, from camping trips to horseback riding. 

glacier cafe

Fishing and Water Sports

Montana is known for its fishing and river culture, and West Glacier is one of the best locations to experience that culture firsthand. 

The waters in and surrounding the park are ideal for fishing and other aquatic adventures, including river rafting.

 Some of the companies offering highly rated water experiences or equipment rental include the Glacier Outdoor Center, Great Northern Whitewater Rafting, Wild River Adventures, and Glacier Guides and Montana Raft.

Wildlife Viewing 

For animal lovers, Glacier National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime destination. Few other places in the country offer the chance to observe animals in their natural environment the way that Glacier does. 

In the park, keep your eyes peeled for grizzly bears, wolverines, mountain lions, coyotes, moose, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, and more. 

According to Travel Lens, one of the best places to view wildlife in the park is the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, where you’ll likely see bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain goats, bears, and marmots in the alpine wildflower meadows. 

Accommodation

West Glacier is a town geared towards the thousands of tourists that flow through. Naturally, there are a variety of lodging options to explore. Some of the most highly rated lodges include:

Special Events

August – Annual Woodcarvers Rendezvous

Activities Near West Glacier

lake mcdonald

Recreation Activities

glacier store

National Parks and Forests

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