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Free Things To Do in Glacier National Park

If you have extra time, Trail of the Cedars is worthwhile.

#1

#1 in Glacier National Park

Free
Housed in a small cabin built in 1929, the Apgar Nature Center sits in a grove of cedar trees and is one of the official park visitor centers. The nature center features interactive activities for kids: children can feel a grizzly bear's fur, listen and identify birds by their "songs" or create their own puppet show. Educational displays detail plants found in the park and teach about the habitats of the vast array of wildlife. Ranger-led talks and other programs are held in the outdoor seating area.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Apgar Nature Center
Housed in a small cabin built in 1929, the Apgar Nature Center sits in a grove of cedar trees and is one of the official park visitor centers. The nature center features interactive activities for kids: children can feel a grizzly bear's fur, listen and identify birds by their "songs" or create their own puppet show. Educational displays detail plants found in the park and teach about the habitats of the vast array of wildlife. Ranger-led talks and other programs are held in the outdoor seating area.
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#2

#2 in Glacier National Park

Free
Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, is the major hub of activity on the west side. Carved out by massive glaciers thousands of years ago, the valley is home to the rustic Lake McDonald Lodge – one of the park's most popular accommodations – and several historic chalets. The area offers an array of activities including bus tours, boat tours, horseback riding, ranger presentations and access to two of the park's popular day hikes, the Avalanche Lake Trail and Trail of the Cedars. The lodge offers numerous dining options in a hunting lodge setting, complete with a roaring fireplace in the lobby. The lodge opens in late May and closes in late September and advance reservations are highly recommended. Tours and activities, as well as the park's free shuttle service, operate on the same schedule. There are also several campgrounds situated around Lake McDonald, as well as the Apgar Visitor Center. Reserve online in advance of your visit.
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Hiking Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, is the major hub of activity on the west side. Carved out by massive glaciers thousands of years ago, the valley is home to the rustic Lake McDonald Lodge – one of the park's most popular accommodations – and several historic chalets. The area offers an array of activities including bus tours, boat tours, horseback riding, ranger presentations and access to two of the park's popular day hikes, the Avalanche Lake Trail and Trail of the Cedars. The lodge offers numerous dining options in a hunting lodge setting, complete with a roaring fireplace in the lobby. The lodge opens in late May and closes in late September and advance reservations are highly recommended. Tours and activities, as well as the park's free shuttle service, operate on the same schedule. There are also several campgrounds situated around Lake McDonald, as well as the Apgar Visitor Center. Reserve online in advance of your visit.
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#3

#3 in Glacier National Park

Free
One of two wheelchair and stroller accessible trails in the park, Trail of the Cedars is a short loop hike – less than a mile – that begins and ends on Going-to-the-Sun Road, meaning you can hike it in either direction. The hike features a raised boardwalk that passes through a fragrant, old-growth red cedar forest, but the highlight is at the midway point. Here, you'll reach a footbridge over Avalanche Creek with sweeping views of the gorge and a stunning waterfall surrounded by rainbow-colored rocks. The only downside? Since this easy hike is accessible to visitors of all skill levels, parking is often difficult to find during peak season (July to Labor Day). 
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Trail of the Cedars
One of two wheelchair and stroller accessible trails in the park, Trail of the Cedars is a short loop hike – less than a mile – that begins and ends on Going-to-the-Sun Road, meaning you can hike it in either direction. The hike features a raised boardwalk that passes through a fragrant, old-growth red cedar forest, but the highlight is at the midway point. Here, you'll reach a footbridge over Avalanche Creek with sweeping views of the gorge and a stunning waterfall surrounded by rainbow-colored rocks. The only downside? Since this easy hike is accessible to visitors of all skill levels, parking is often difficult to find during peak season (July to Labor Day). 
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#4

#4 in Glacier National Park

Free
Going-to-the-Sun Road is a paved, two-lane highway that snakes through Glacier National Park, dividing the park into east and west regions and crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. One of the most spectacular scenic drives in America, this road is both a National Historic Landmark and a Civil Engineering Landmark and passes through almost every type of terrain the park offers, from glacial lakes, waterfalls and cedar forests to alpine peaks. Several viewpoints and pullouts make it easy to stop and take in the view and snap photographs. Though portions of the 52-mile route are open year-round, the alpine sections do close due to snow. Generally, the road is fully open in late June or early July, but check the park website in advance. 
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Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Going-to-the-Sun Road
Going-to-the-Sun Road is a paved, two-lane highway that snakes through Glacier National Park, dividing the park into east and west regions and crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. One of the most spectacular scenic drives in America, this road is both a National Historic Landmark and a Civil Engineering Landmark and passes through almost every type of terrain the park offers, from glacial lakes, waterfalls and cedar forests to alpine peaks. Several viewpoints and pullouts make it easy to stop and take in the view and snap photographs. Though portions of the 52-mile route are open year-round, the alpine sections do close due to snow. Generally, the road is fully open in late June or early July, but check the park website in advance. 
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#5

#5 in Glacier National Park

Free
The visitor center at Logan Pass is located in the middle of the park off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, less than 20 miles west of the St. Mary visitor center and about 30 miles north of the Apgar Visitor Center. Offering maps and trip-planning information, the center also features exhibits, restrooms, water fountains, a bookstore, ranger-led guided hikes, parking and free shuttle service to the other two visitor centers.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Logan Pass
The visitor center at Logan Pass is located in the middle of the park off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, less than 20 miles west of the St. Mary visitor center and about 30 miles north of the Apgar Visitor Center. Offering maps and trip-planning information, the center also features exhibits, restrooms, water fountains, a bookstore, ranger-led guided hikes, parking and free shuttle service to the other two visitor centers.
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#7

#7 in Glacier National Park

Free
The Iceberg Lake Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers, who are treated to stunning views of Mount Wilbur, Iceberg Peak and the Continental Divide upon reaching the snow and ice-filled lake. The hike begins behind the cabins at Swiftcurrent Lake and shares the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail for the first few miles, splitting off just past the Ptarmigan Falls. Hikers are rewarded with views of gorgeous alpine meadows in the spring and summer.
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Hiking Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
Iceberg Lake Trail
The Iceberg Lake Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers, who are treated to stunning views of Mount Wilbur, Iceberg Peak and the Continental Divide upon reaching the snow and ice-filled lake. The hike begins behind the cabins at Swiftcurrent Lake and shares the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail for the first few miles, splitting off just past the Ptarmigan Falls. Hikers are rewarded with views of gorgeous alpine meadows in the spring and summer.
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#9

#9 in Glacier National Park

Free
Named for anthropologist and conservationist George Bird Grinnell, the Grinnell Glacier is one of the most-photographed attractions in the park. The Grinnell Glacier hike is a little more than 10 miles round-trip and, at the viewpoint, reaches 1,600 feet in altitude. Hikers can take a shortcut to the trailhead by using the Glacier Park Boat Company shuttle or catch the trailhead at various points including Logan Pass and the Many Glacier Hotel. If you want to park your car, a free shuttle service runs from all three visitor centers: Apgar, St. Mary and Logan Pass. The early morning boat shuttles from Lake Josephine or Swiftcurrent Lake are popular with hikers, as the boat ride trims several miles off the trail. Reserve a round-trip ticket in advance ($27.50 for adult; $13.75 for children). One-way return-only tickets are available on a space-available basis and can be purchased from the boat captain.
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Hiking Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
Grinnell Glacier
Named for anthropologist and conservationist George Bird Grinnell, the Grinnell Glacier is one of the most-photographed attractions in the park. The Grinnell Glacier hike is a little more than 10 miles round-trip and, at the viewpoint, reaches 1,600 feet in altitude. Hikers can take a shortcut to the trailhead by using the Glacier Park Boat Company shuttle or catch the trailhead at various points including Logan Pass and the Many Glacier Hotel. If you want to park your car, a free shuttle service runs from all three visitor centers: Apgar, St. Mary and Logan Pass. The early morning boat shuttles from Lake Josephine or Swiftcurrent Lake are popular with hikers, as the boat ride trims several miles off the trail. Reserve a round-trip ticket in advance ($27.50 for adult; $13.75 for children). One-way return-only tickets are available on a space-available basis and can be purchased from the boat captain.
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#10

#10 in Glacier National Park

Free
One of the most popular hiking trails in the park – and one of the most strenuous – the Highline Trail follows the Continental Divide and features stunning scenery of glacial valleys, alpine meadows and a famous ledge called the Garden Wall. Here, the trail narrows to just a few feet and the drop-offs are known to terrify those with a fear of heights. The park service has installed a hand cable along this stretch of the ridge for safety. Because the trail is 11 miles round-trip, it's not considered suitable for novice hikers (although there is a short loop to visit only the Garden Wall). The Garden Wall is located a quarter mile from the trailhead for those who prefer the shorter hike.
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Hiking Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
Highline Trail
One of the most popular hiking trails in the park – and one of the most strenuous – the Highline Trail follows the Continental Divide and features stunning scenery of glacial valleys, alpine meadows and a famous ledge called the Garden Wall. Here, the trail narrows to just a few feet and the drop-offs are known to terrify those with a fear of heights. The park service has installed a hand cable along this stretch of the ridge for safety. Because the trail is 11 miles round-trip, it's not considered suitable for novice hikers (although there is a short loop to visit only the Garden Wall). The Garden Wall is located a quarter mile from the trailhead for those who prefer the shorter hike.
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