Visiting Glacier National Park for the first time? Anna is here to help.
Anna McHugh was born and raised in the mountains of northwest Montana. She has spent her entire life exploring every corner of Glacier National Park, and now she dedicates her career to helping others do the same. From the reservations department at Glacier Park Collection, Anna shares insightful vacation tips and insider information with park guests to ensure their trip of a lifetime.
We asked Anna to share her secrets for planning the perfect Glacier National Park vacation.
- Come for at least five days. A weekend trip just won’t do. There is so much to see and do in the park that many visitors come back year after year and still find new places to explore. “I’ve been here my entire life and I still haven’t seen everything,” Anna says.
To maximize your time, Anna suggests a four-night itinerary: two nights in West Glacier and two nights in East Glacier. There are several lodging options at each unique location, including West Glacier Village and Motel Lake McDonald on the west side and Glacier Park Lodge on the east side.
And if you’re feeling adventurous and have your passport handy, hop the Canadian border and visit the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park.
- Bring your car. Although shuttles run throughout the park, you’ll need a car to reach some of the best spots. Many trailheads are located in remote locations not serviced by the shuttle system. However, if you do find yourself in need of a ride be sure to check the shuttle timetables and routes before heading out on your adventure.
- Stock up on supplies while you’re in town. Columbia Falls and Whitefish have large grocery stores that make stocking up for your trip a breeze. Once you arrive at the park, your purchasing options become much more limited. Anna suggests loading up on grocery supplies before you reach the park, then picking up your general campfire supplies at West Glacier Mercantile or the St. Mary Grocery Store. Make sure to drop by these charming shops for a souvenir or tasty treat at some point during your stay.
- Sign up for activities. There are plenty of exciting activities to help you explore the park in a more guided setting. If you’re looking for a family-friendly activity, Anna suggests horseback riding or an afternoon on the ropes course. Of course, there’s no better way to experience the park than by the river. Anna’s favorite activity is whitewater river rafting on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River because “the guides are friendly and there are amazing things you can only see from a raft.”
- Get out on the trails. From the Two Medicine Valley to St. Mary Valley, there are over 700 miles of hiking trails in Glacier National Park. Never set foot on a mountain trail before? No problem! Trails in the park range from one-mile interpretive nature walks to challenging 20-mile treks. Hiking is an extremely popular activity during the summer so arrive early to ensure a parking spot and beat the midday crowds. Remember to check the trail status report and always pack bear spray and extra water when hiking in Glacier National Park. Check out some of Anna’s favorite hikes, below.
- Eat lots of ice cream. There’s nothing more refreshing than a big scoop of ice cream after a long day of adventuring. Anna’s favorite flavor is Moose Tracks, a delicious blend of fudge and peanut butter mixed into traditional vanilla ice cream. Grab a cone from the Cedar Tree Gift Shop, stroll down to the shores of Lake McDonald and take in the view.
- Make new friends. Montana has a way of making you feel right at home. “We’re glad you’re here and we want you to appreciate our home the way we do,” says Anna. More often than not, locals and seasonal staff alike will jump at the opportunity to offer helpful insider tips with a smile. Take the time to strike up a conversation with your neighbor, you never know what you’ll learn!
Anna’s favorite hikes in Glacier
- Hidden Lake Overlook (Going-to-the-Sun Road): Easy, 2.7 miles, 540 ft. elevation gain.
- St. Mary Falls/Virginia Falls (St. Mary Valley): Moderate, 3.6 miles, 525 ft. elevation gain.
- Apgar Lookout (West Glacier): Difficult, 7.1 miles, 1,845 ft. elevation gain.
- Scenic Point (Two Medicine Valley): Difficult, 8 miles, 2,300 ft. elevation gain.
- Iceberg Lake (Many Glacier Valley): Difficult, 9.6 miles, 1,200 ft. elevation gain.