Glacier National Park: Crown of the Continent

Robin Buck, a full-time RVer and travel blogger, shares her firsthand experience with NIRVC.

Visiting some of our country’s beautiful national parks is often at the top of many RVers’ bucket lists. After all, it is the perfect way to appreciate nature in a very up-close and personal way. While we have thoroughly enjoyed our time in each national park we’ve been to, some of them really stand out as favorites. One that is at the top of my list is Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park is located about as far north as you can go in the wilderness of northern Montana. We were so close to Canada that our phones even dinged with a “Welcome to Canada” message! Nicknamed the “Crown of the Continent,” this park’s 1 million acres are home to stunning mountains, frozen glaciers, thundering waterfalls, pristine lakes, glorious meadows, and an abundance of wildlife. This vast diversity offers something for everyone whether you choose to enjoy it by car, from a boat tour, or on foot on one of the many hiking trails.

Going to the Sun Road

By far the #1 attraction in Glacier National Park is the Going to the Sun Road. This 50-mile-long scenic drive crosses the park from east to west and offers some of the most breathtaking natural views in the country. The narrow road hugs the mountainside as you twist and turn your way up and over the Continental Divide. At the top, Logan’s Pass is the highest point in the park that can be reached by car at 6,646 ft in elevation. There’s a visitor center here and trailheads for two of the park’s most popular hikes: Hidden Lake Nature Trail and the more strenuous Highline Trail.

Driving the length of this national historic landmark can take several hours, depending on traffic and how many times you stop. There are numerous turnouts and parking areas where you can take a break to stretch your legs, take photos, and admire the stunning views. I especially recommend stops at the Jackson Glacier Overlook, Triple Arches, and the Weeping Wall. If you do nothing else in the park, this road will give you a sense of Glacier’s rugged terrain and towering mountain peaks. As you enjoy the view of alpine meadows and wildflower fields, be on the lookout for grizzly bears, mountain goats, deer, and bighorn sheep to name just a few.

St. Mary Entrance

If you start your journey on the eastern side of Glacier National Park, you will come in through the Saint Mary entrance. There is a nice visitor center here where you can speak to a ranger, get trail information, buy souvenirs, or get your park passport book stamped. As you begin up the Going to the Sun Road, one of the first things you will come to is Saint Mary Lake. It is the second largest of the park’s over 700 lakes!

You can enjoy lots of nature opportunities in this area without even going very far into the park. We loved the different perspective we got as we rode on a boat tour and learned more about Saint Mary Lake. The tour includes a stop at Sunrift Gorge where a short walk leads to the rushing waters of Baring Falls. There are also several other hikes to waterfalls in this area. The Sun Point nature trail leads to an overlook with spectacular views of Saint Mary Lake and the mountains looming above it. This spot is especially magnificent at sunset! You can also see the tiny Wild Goose Island popular from the opening scenes of The Shining movie.

West Glacier Entrance

If you enter the park from the western side, you can stop in the Apgar Visitor Center or visit the nearby shops and watersports rentals. Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park and offers many water recreation opportunities, as well as wonderful photo ops of its popular colored pebbles. At the northern end of the lake, you can look over McDonald Falls where brilliant aquamarine water rushes towards the lake.

Other popular sights on the western end of the park include Avalanche Creek and the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. This wheelchair accessible trail winds its way into the forest of towering old-growth cedar and hemlock trees. Some of these ancient trees are estimated to be 500 years old! As you walk through the lush forest with its tall trees, ferns, and mosses make sure to stop for a photo at the footbridge over Avalanche Creek. The power of the water rushing through the gorge is stunning.

Many Glacier Entrance

If you want to explore another fascinating and popular part of Glacier National Park, the Many Glacier area is full of jaw-dropping landscapes as well as lots of trails and wildlife. The entrance is about 17 miles north of the St Mary entrance on the eastern side of the park. I suggest stopping for lunch at the historic Many Glacier Hotel or taking a sightseeing boat ride on Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes.

If you want to hit the trails, there are lots of hikes to choose from with something for all levels. We hiked to Grinnell Lake which amazed us with its turquoise waters and numerous waterfalls tumbling down the steep cliffs of the glacier. Those up for a more strenuous challenge can hike all the way up to Grinnell Glacier or try the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail. It’s a very “cool” experience to stand on a massive glacier!

Know Before You Go

Glacier National Park is one of the parks where timed entry tickets are required during the busy summer months. In addition to the park entry fee, you must go online at and reserve a timed entry ticket ahead of your visit. If you are not able to get a timed ticket, you can always enter the park before or after the designated ticket hours. We found that going into the park before the opening hours allowed us to deal with less traffic and increased our chances of spotting wildlife or getting a peaceful lake picture with the mountain reflection.

It’s important to note that there are size restrictions on Going to the Sun Road, so it’s best to leave the RV at the campground for this adventure. There are campgrounds in the towns just outside both the eastern and western sides of the park that can accommodate big rigs. If you don’t want to do the driving, you can opt to take the park shuttle bus or sign up for a guided Red Bus Tour.

Weather is also a concern when visiting this northern park. The Going to the Sun Road typically opens in late June or early July each year after the snow is plowed. We encountered snow along many areas even after the road was open in late June during our visit, so if you want to see more wildflowers and less snow then visit later in the summertime.

Beauty Abounds in this Park

As its name implies, you will see massive glaciers in this park along with the hundreds of lakes and valleys that they helped to form over millions of years. Spectacular mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls are around every bend. We marveled at the plant and animal species that thrive here and were excited to see more wildlife here than any other park we visited including bear, elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and marmots. We truly couldn’t believe how amazing the views were no matter where we looked.


Glacier National Park is an explorer’s paradise, and there are so many areas not even mentioned here. You could spend a week or two in the park and not see it all. Whether you choose the exhilarating Going to the Sun Road, water fun on one of the many lakes, or an incredible hike to see a glacier, you will not be disappointed. An RV trip to Glacier National Park is one you will remember forever.


Robin Buck

Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who have been traveling full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome for 5 years. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends and discovering America one stop at a time. Robin writes about their travel adventures, RVing tips, and the full-time RV lifestyle on her blog RVing with Robin.

National Parks Have Something for Everyone

Have you ever been to a national park? They are among the most popular destinations in America with visitors numbering in the millions each year, many of whom are RVers. Before we retired and started traveling in our motorhome, neither my husband nor I had ever been to a national park. Now, though, we are on a quest to visit as many of these treasured vacation spots as we can.

Taking the obligatory sign picture at the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park

So Many Places to See

Visiting any of the 63 national parks in your RV is a great way to spend time outdoors and see the vast beauty of our country up close. The national parks are only a small part of what’s known as the National Park System, which includes 424 individual areas that span more than 85 million acres!

These areas include historic sites such as monuments and battlefields as well as seashores, scenic rivers, trails and, interestingly, the White House. Located throughout the country, each area provides a unique insight into the region and includes many environments like lakes, mountains, caves, forests and even sand dunes. There’s truly something for everyone.

Playing on the giant dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Variety is Amazing

The wide variety of things to see and do in each of these national park areas is incredible. No matter what your interests are, you can be sure to find something you will enjoy. Photographing nature and observing the scenery and wildlife is always big on my list.

Beautiful flowering cacti in Big Bend National Park
Bison herd near the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park

Every park we’ve visited has had numerous hiking trails for exploring the area’s diversity. We also saw many jaw-dropping geological features. If history is your thing, you will find an abundance of information and interesting facts about both the park itself and the surrounding area on-site. Plus, the dark skies in the more remote parks allow for unbeatable stargazing opportunities.

Early morning hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

My husband and I are fortunate to have experienced many exciting activities in the parks we’ve visited. We cruised around mountain lakes on a charter boat in Glacier National Park, rode on a thrilling jeep excursion in Canyonlands National Park, explored the inside of caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, soaked in a hot spring pool at Hot Springs National Park, walked (and drove!) through a redwood tree in Redwood National Park and flew in a seaplane to Dry Tortugas National Park and snorkeled in the ocean, just to name a few. All kinds of unique adventures await you in our country’s parks!

Jeeping fun in Canyonlands National Park
Enjoying the view at the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park

Plan Your Visit

With so many options, one of the hardest things to do is deciding where you want to go first. A great way to start is by checking out The National Park System website is easy to use and allows you to learn more about the parks, including visitor center operating hours, road and trail conditions, weather, safety tips, camping information and available activities. It is important to check for any active alerts or closures that might be in effect as well as restricted access areas.

Over the past few years, several parks have implemented a timed ticket entry system to manage visitation levels. This $2 ticket is in addition to park entry fees and must be purchased ahead of time at (Hint: if you can’t get a ticket, you can still enter the park at off times before or after the ticket windows). The parks currently affected are Arches National Park, Glacier National Park, Haleakala National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, but some other parks are increasingly requiring reservations and permits to access some of their most popular areas, such as watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Save Money with a Park Pass

If you’re going to visit several parks in a single road trip, you can save money by purchasing a National Parks Pass. Available at the park entrance or online, a pass costs $80 for annual access to all national parks and federal recreation lands for one vehicle or up to 4 people. Given that entrance fees for some parks are $35 each, visiting 3 parks makes the cost worthwhile. There are also free lifetime passes available for seniors, veterans and those with permanent disabilities, as well as free annual passes for active duty military members and all 4th graders. View all the available passes here.

When You Arrive

Planning your trip ahead of time will allow you to make the most of your time in the park. When you arrive, I highly suggest starting at the visitor center. Here, you can watch a short film to learn the history and geography of the park. Make sure you talk to a park ranger, too. They are the experts who can answer questions, offer suggestions for activities, provide trail maps and let you know about special events like guided hikes or ranger talks.

Stopping at the visitor center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You can use all of this information to help plan the duration of your visit, including details on where to park, getting to the most popular sites and finding unique adventures you don’t want to miss! Don’t forget to stamp your National Parks Passport and browse the gift shop for a memento to commemorate your stop.

National Parks Passport book with stamps

Get Out in the Park

After checking out the visitor center, you’ll be ready to head into the park! We often start with a scenic drive so we can stop at the overlooks and take everything in. Some of the most stunning viewpoints are at these overlooks. This is a great time to have your camera handy to capture the gorgeous scenery.

Admiring the hoodoo formations at Bryce Canyon National Park

If we plan to spend several days in the park, we usually wait until day 2 to do some hiking. Since we’ve already received trail information and have likely decided on a specific hike, we can get an early start to beat the crowds — and the heat.

Always make sure you bring the necessary supplies for whatever activities you have chosen to do. For example, you will definitely want to wear good walking shoes and pack sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water and snacks that won’t melt or spoil. If the trail has a high elevation, walking sticks are extremely helpful. Don’t forget the bear spray, if required!

Hiking a trail in Capitol Reef National Park

Respect Nature

Whatever you choose to do in the national park, please remember to minimize your impact on the park’s plants, animals and ecosystem. The motto “leave no trace” encourages visitors to respect wildlife, be considerate of others, leave what you find, stay on trails and properly dispose of waste.

We are so fortunate that conservationists and leaders had the foresight to create the National Park Service back in 1916. The government agency ensures the preservation of our nation’s natural beauty and resources so they will be around for everyone to enjoy and learn from for years to come.

Have Fun and Make Memories

Traveling in your RV is the perfect way to experience a national park. You can camp within the park or at a nearby commercial campground. We often meet up with family or friends for even more fun during our stay. Whatever areas you visit or activities you choose, you are sure to create lasting memories!

Exploring the caves with friends at Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Robin Buck

Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who have been traveling full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome for 5 years. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends and discovering America one stop at a time. Robin writes about their travel adventures, RVing tips, and the full-time RV lifestyle on her blog RVing with Robin.