5 Things to do off the beaten path while visiting Glacier National Park

5 Things to do off the beaten path while visiting Glacier National Park

If you are visiting Glacier National Park this season you will likely hike a mountain, drive Going To The Sun Road, and maybe get some camping in. While these activities are staples of this beautiful area, there are other, often overlooked activities to spice up your trip. Here are five I highly recommend:


Wild Horse Island

Wild Horse Island is one of the most overlooked State Parks on Flathead Lake and a great place for a day long adventure. The largest island on Flathead lake, Wild Horse Island is an expansive 2,160 acres piece of paradise. It was originally occupied by the Salish and Kootenai tribes who used the land to graze their horses. The seclusion helped to deter local horse thieves. Because of this seclusion, the Island, which is only accessible by boat, doesn’t get a lot of traffic compared to other State Parks in the area. Wild Horse Island is home to a wide range of wildlife including Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, several species of waterfowl, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey, and a few wild horses that roam the island. This is your opportunity to escape the summer crowds and add a little extra adventure to your trip.


National Bison Range

Bison on beige colored grass with mountains in the background on a cloud day
Majestic Bison. Photo by Eric Murray on Unsplash

Established in 1908, the National Bison Range is one of the oldest National Wildlife Refuges in the United States. The Refuge serves as home to one of the last remaining intact Bison herds in North America, which comprises around 500 Bison. The Range is a great place to experience the majestic Bison in its natural setting. Elk, Deer, Big Horn Sheep, and Bears also roam the area. Hiking trails are limited and most wildlife viewing is done from inside a vehicle. The refuge is a total of 18,800 acres and it is recommended that a minimum of four hours be set aside to drive the entire preserve. The National Bison Range is located outside of Charlo, Montana, a couple of hours south of West Glacier. This is a great option for getting quality family time and can be enjoyed rain or shine.



One of the most overlooked fisheries in Montana, the Flathead River and its tributaries, is the last remaining stronghold for Montana’s native trout, the West Slope Black Spotted Cutthroat Trout.

Man holds a cutthroat trout while standing in a drift boat in the river.
West Slope Black Spotted Cutthroat Trout

The Flathead River boasts some of the most remote stretches of water located in the US. The Flathead consists of three primary forks: the South Fork, flowing out of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Middle Fork, flowing from the Great Bear Wilderness, which also makes up a large portion of the southern boundary of Glacier National Park, and the North Fork, which flows south from Canada and forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park.

Panoramic image of river with graveel shore and mountains and clouds in the background
Middle Fork of the Flathead River

Trout are present throughout the entirety of the primary forks as well as the main stem and down to Flathead Lake. There are several fishing accesses along the river making it easy to find places to wet a line. The Flathead river fishes well throughout most of the year with the exception of late spring and early summer when snow melt gorges the rivers with excess muddy water. For current fishing reports stop by Lary’s Fly and Supply in Columbia Falls or visit Wild Montana Anglers website.


Hike into Canada*

For an international experience, consider hiking across the border. Because Glacier is an International Peace Park, it is jointly operated by the US and Canadian governments and is known communally as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Visitors can take a scenic 8-mile boat ride to the Canadian town of Waterton after hiking into the Goat Haunt region of Glacier. For individuals who prefer to use their legs to cross international borders, there are several trailheads accessible from this area also. Don’t forget your passport/enhanced ID! If you want amazing mountain views and a unique hiking experience, this is the trip for you.

*Only US and Canadian residents are allowed to cross the border at the Goat Haunt Ranger Station.


View the Northern Lights

Also known as Aurora Borealis, the northern lights are a natural phenomenon seen when solar flares collide with Earth’s atmosphere. These collisions cause the night sky to be filled with streaks and pulses of lights of various colors, but often greens and pinks. The northern lights are vi

Aurora Borealis. Photo credit: Photo by Annie Niemaszyk on Unsplash

sible frequently in Glacier National Park, since it is designated as a Dark Sky Park. Elevated areas outside of West and East glacier are great spots to view this amazing light show. You have to be willing dip into your sleep schedule to catch the Northern Lights, since they are generally seen late at night or the early morning hours before dawn. If you have never been a witness to this incredible event, it is well worth losing a few hours of shut eye.


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