There are many iconic scenes in Glacier National Park – the mountains rising over Lake McDonald, goats prancing around Logan Pass and the solitary Wild Goose Island in St. Mary Lake. But in recent years, another scene has frequently greeted visitors: traffic and lots of it.
In 2017, a record-breaking 3.3 million people visited Montana’s most legendary landscape, a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Many of those visitors came in their own car, creating equally legendary traffic jams at West Glacier, Bowman Lake, Logan Pass and elsewhere.
But there are many ways to get to and around Glacier Park without your own vehicle. Here are a few of our favorites.
Getting to the park
Eagle Transit’s Kalispell to Glacier Park Shuttle
From July 1 until Sept. 4, Flathead County’s Eagle Transit offers two round-trips a day from Kalispell to Apgar. The bus leaves every morning at 7 a.m. from Rosauers in Kalispell and makes multiple stops in Columbia Falls and Coram before arriving at the Apgar Visitor Center at 8:40 a.m., where people can catch a shuttle over the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The bus returns to Kalispell in the early afternoon before making one more round-trip (departing Rosauers at 2:35 and arriving at Apgar at 4:10 p.m.). The return trip departs Apgar at 8:30 p.m., just after the last in-park shuttle arrives, and returns to Kalispell at 10:05 p.m. Fares are $3 one way or $5 round trip. Park entrance fees still apply. For more information visit, https://flathead.mt.gov/eagle/documents/SummerBustoGlacierNationalPark.pdf
Amtrak’s Empire Builder
Taking the train is a unique and historic way to get to Glacier Park. The Empire Builder departs Whitefish every morning at 7:41 a.m. and makes stops in West Glacier, Essex and East Glacier Park. From those points, you can enjoy a picnic, go for a hike or just take in the sights. In the evening, you can catch the train back to the Flathead Valley with departures from East Glacier Park at 6:41 p.m.; Essex at 7:41 p.m.; and West Glacier at 8:23 p.m. Tickets are approximately $7 to $20 depending on how far in advance you buy them. For more information, visit www.amtrak.com.
Getting around the park
Free Going-to-the-Sun Road Shuttle
From July 1 until Sept. 23, the National Park Service offers a free hop on, hop off shuttle service between the Apgar Visitor Center and the St. Mary Visitor Center. The west side service, between Apgar and Logan Pass, runs every 15 to 30 minutes and starts with express service to Logan Pass at 7 a.m. and full service (making all stops along the way) at 9 a.m. Transfers may be required at Avalanche Creek. The final shuttle west leaves Logan Pass at 7 p.m. The east side service runs every 40 minutes and starts at 7 a.m. The last shuttle east leaves Logan Pass at 7 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/shuttles.htm.
Xanterra Hiker Shuttle
Xanterra Parks and Resorts offers hiker shuttles between the St. Mary Visitor Center and the Many Glacier Hotel in coordination with the free NPS Going-to-the-Sun Road shuttle. Schedules vary, depending on when the Park Service shuttle arrives, and tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children. On the west side, Xanterra offers shuttles between the West Glacier train station and the Lake McDonald Lodge in the morning and evening. Tickets are between $3 and $10 for children and adults. Reservations are required. For more information, http://www.glaciernationalparklodges.com/red-bus-tours/shuttles.
Guided Bus Tours
If you’re looking to have someone else do the driving and learn a little history at the same time, Sun Tours offers interpretive bus rides on the east side with a focus on Blackfeet Indian culture. For more information, visit http://www.glaciersuntours.com. Xanterra Parks and Resorts also offers historic Red Bus tours around the park. For more information, visit http://www.glaciernationalparklodges.com/red-bus-tours.