Glacier National Park in the winter is magical.
While visiting you will see blankets of snow and have the opportunity to take part in several winter activities.
- Use this guide to plan your Glacier National Park winter vacation:
- What to Pack for Glacier National Park in the Winter
- Winter Weather at Glacier National Park
- Where to Stay Near Glacier National Park
- What to Do at Glacier in the Winter
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WHAT TO PACK FOR A NATIONAL PARK TRIP IN THE WINTER
- US National Parks Pass – You can order passes online or get them at any of these Federal Recreation Areas. BUY THE PASS AT REI and they will donate 10% of sales to the National Park Foundation.
- Waterproof hiking boots or shoes
- Insulated boots
- Heavy wool socks – we LOVE Darn Tough Socks!
- Walking stick or trekking poles
- Wicking and quick-drying base layers
- Fleece jacket
- Wool, down or heavy-weight insulated jacket
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Insulating hat
- Insulating winter gloves
- Fleece neck gaiter or buff
- WATER – water bottles or hydration backpack
- FOOD – healthy snacks
- Flashlight or headlamp
- National Park maps
- Lip protection with sunscreen
- Polarized sunglasses
- Hand lotion
- Toilet paper (carry out in a bag – do not bury)
- Hand sanitizer
- First aid kit
- Bags to pack out trash
- Cell phone
- Portable charger
- Guide books
- Camera Gear Checklist – FREE DOWNLOAD!
Winter Weather at Glacier National Park
During the winter you can almost guarantee freezing temperatures with averages ranging from the low 30s to around 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Although this seems extremely cold, with the right gear and clothing you will still really have an enjoyable trip you will love.
If you are visiting Glacier National Park in December you can expect temperatures to be around 27 degrees Fahrenheit as the high and dip all the way down into the mid-teens. On average they get about 19 days of rain in December.
As we move into January you will still see quite a bit of rain, about 19 days and the temperatures will range from 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 17 degrees Fahrenheit.
February brings some warmer temperatures with the highs averaging around 32 degrees and the lows around 14 degrees.
Is Glacier National Park open in winter?
Glacier National Park is open every day throughout the year, however, in the winter some visitor facilities may close depending on the weather.
Check the Glacier NP website for current conditions.
Can I see the Northern lights in Glacier National Park?
Don’t forget that “Half the park is after dark” at Glacier.
Yes, you can see the northern lights at Glacier National Park. We recommend Lake McDonald since it has an open view to the north.
Check the Aurora Forecast and look for KP rating of 5 or above for the best chances to see northern lights.
Glacier NP Road Closures in the Winter
Although Glacier National Park is open throughout the whole year, weather forces most roads in the park to close. The Going-to-the-Sun Road from West Glacier to Lake McDonald Lodge is plowed and open year-round, weather permitting. Check the Glacier NP website for current conditions.
Lodging Near Glacier National Park in the Winter
During the winter months, lodging is not available within the park. There is frontcountry camping available for primitive camping. There is no running water available and these spots are first come first serve.
If you choose to go backcountry camping, you will need to obtain a permit in person at the Apgar Backcountry Permit office up to 24 hours prior to going.
Check the Glacier NP website for information on winter camping.
Things to Do in Glacier National Park in the Winter
There are so many Glacier National Park winter activities that you will want to do! Be aware that most of the facilities in the park are closed during the winter.
West Glacier Headquarters is open throughout the week and Apgar Visitor Center is open on the weekend.
Skiing and Snowshoeing
Snowshoeing and cross country skiing is a great way to get around in the park. Some of the most popular places to ski and snowshoe are beyond Lake McDonald Lodge. There are many hikes that you will be able to go on with snowshoes while visiting.
Most of them start around Apgar. Some favorites are Apgar Lookout, Fish Creek, and Lake McDonald West shore. These are fairly easy hikes that many people can enjoy even in the cold winter months.
Most of the bigger wildlife will be hibernating in the winter, but there is a good chance that you will be able to see elk, deer, and moose on your visit. You will also see birdlife while visiting.
Ranger Led Programs
If you are visiting on the weekend you will want to take part in the ranger-guided snowshoe walk. This begins at the Apgar Visitor Center and lasts about 2 hours. These walks are free for those who would like to join.
With the park pretty much to yourself, you will have the opportunity to take some amazing pictures of Glacier National Park. Be sure to take some pictures of Lake McDonald with the beautiful reflections within the water.
Winter Activities Near Glacier National Park
If you are looking for adventurous winter activities there are several fun things to do just outside the park. CLICK HERE for more information.
Although snowmobiling is not allowed in the park, it is a fun activity to do just outside in Glacier County. You can rent snowmobiles and go exploring on your own or take a guided tour.
Have you ever wanted to go dog sledding? Well, now you can! You will get the chance to get behind a team of dogs to see the land in a whole new way.
If Downhill skiing is your cup of tea, then travel about 30 minutes away for world-class skiing. There you can rent skis, take lessons, and hit the slopes this winter.
Ice fishing is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Drop a line in the ice and see if you can catch a fish while visiting.
Bundle up with the family and enjoy a sleigh ride together! While in the sleigh you will be able to take in some breathtaking sights of the beautiful snowy landscape.