Glacier National Park's early season is prime for biking and hiking.
Situated in northwest Montana is one of America's most breathtaking national parks—Glacier. Known as the Crown of the Continent and the "Backbone of the World," Glacier National Park spans over 1 million acres. The park is open year-round, welcoming travelers to explore its glacial-carved terrain, expansive trail system, sparkling blue waters and the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road. While summer is the peak season, spring is one of the most magical times of year to visit for a few reasons, one of which is biking.
Prior to the Going-to-the-Sun Road opening to vehicular traffic (which typically happens in late June), the road becomes one of the West's premier destinations for spring biking and hiking as the plows work to remove winter's snowfall from the road. With two entrances—one in West Glacier and one in St. Mary—bikers can pedal from west to east or east to west as they take in the many sights, sounds and smells of spring in Glacier National Park.
While you can bring your own bikes to ride in the park, there are a handful of local companies from Whitefish to West Glacier that offer bike rentals, making it easy to add a day trip onto your Montana spring itinerary.
In West Glacier, Glacier Guides and Montana Raft offers a variety of ways to bike the road. Choose from self-guided tours with their bike rentals, guided tours or their Paddle and Peddle package that includes a morning whitewater rafting trip followed by an afternoon bike ride with an interpretive guide. Their guided tours begin in mid-May and continue until park roads are open to vehicle traffic.
Most self-guided and guided tours depart on the west side from Lake McDonald Lodge or Avalanche Creek, which is also where the road will be closed to vehicular traffic. For travelers wanting to help ease car traffic and catch an eco-friendly ride, a bike shuttle operates on the weekends from the Apgar Visitor Center. The shuttle drops bikers and their bikes at Lake McDonald Lodge during the initial plowing, and adds Avalanche Creek to their round-trip route once the road is open.
Meanwhile, about 30 minutes west of West Glacier is the mountain resort community of Whitefish. Serving as one of the gateway communities to Glacier National Park, Whitefish has easy access to bike rentals for pedaling the Going-to-the-Sun Road, as well as various other trails and roads in the area. Rentals are available at Glacier Cyclery & Nordic, Great Northern Cycle & Ski and Sportsman & Ski Haus.
Bikers and hikers in Glacier National Park will see vibrant shades of blue and teal in various creeks, as well as waterfalls that can be seen from the Going-to-the-Sun Road. When pedaling from the west side, be sure to keep your eyes open as you ride past McDonald Creek. While not many get the opportunity to see them, Harlequin ducks are drawn to the fast-moving waters of McDonald Creek and may be seen floating among the creek's rushing waters.
Spring also brings ample wildlife-watching opportunities in Glacier National Park, including black and grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and yellow-bellied marmots. When biking or hiking, travelers are well-advised to carry bear spray, as bears are often moving across or along the road and hiking trails during the spring season.
After spending the day biking in the Crown of the Continent, relax over a Montana brew at Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls, taste Montana spirits at Glacier Distilling Company in Coram or fuel up at a variety of restaurants in Columbia Falls and Whitefish.
Travelers looking to spend a few days in and around Glacier National Park will find comfortable accommodations on the west side in West Glacier, Hungry Horse, Columbia Falls, Kalispell and Whitefish. The east side offers lodging in Essex, East Glacier Park, St. Mary, Babb and Browning. These towns offer several ways to extend your stay with abundant outdoor adventures. Spend a day enjoying Whitefish Mountain Resort and the resort's zip line tours, Alpine Slide and mountain biking trails. Book a fishing trip or whitewater rafting trip with one of the knowledgeable guides in West Glacier or explore the Rails to Trails' route in Kalispell. You can also take a guided hike in Glacier National Park.
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Find more spring travel information, and start planning your trip to Montana and Glacier National Park, at WWW.VISITMT.COM.