Call me crazy, but I was a little nervous about snowshoeing through part of the almost 1 million acres of Glacier National Park in Montana. The shoes just seemed ginormous, especially for someone who is prone to tripping over her own barefoot feet. But a day prior to my snowshoe debut, while I was learning to be a dogsledding musher in Western Montana, the guide told me that the difference between being a beginner and expert snowshoer was about five steps. Just five strides forward is all it took to become a professional.
He was right.
Snowshoeing Glacier National Park
Many people opt to visit Glacier National Park in the Summer, when the weather is in the high 70s so they can hike the over 700 miles of trails, horseback ride along the treed paths and whitewater raft the Flathead River. But, we were here in the middle of the winter when the park is covered in a beautiful blanket of white.
It was an untouched vision of natural beauty.
We may not have been able to swim in the chilly waters or ride atop a pretty pony, but we still had the opportunity to enjoy the pristine forests and spectacular views with giant rackets strapped to our feet.
We arrived to the Apgar Visitors Center and were fitted with our snowshoes. It was a pretty fool-proof process, even for me. Simply slip your feet into the snowshoes while wearing whatever normal shoes you have on your tootsies that day (hopefully they are snow boots!) and then tighten the straps.
After our fitting, the adorable park ranger and our hiking guide, gave us simple instructions about the 2 mile hike we were about to embark on. The most important part was that there would be little chance of running into a bear since they were in hibernation, but she did warn us what to do if we saw a mountain lion.
It looked something like this:
We then began to walk down an ungroomed trail lined with trees. My first step was a little wobbly, I tripped on my second and caught my balance by the third.
By step number five, I was a pro.
We explored the park for a couple of hours, ogling the flowing creeks, iced over ponds and large lakes, plus all the snowy mountains whose beauty reflected into the sea below it. We hunted for birds in the trees and watched as a beaver swam outside of his lodge, which you could see below the shallow water.
Just before we finished the two mile trek, our charming chaperone asked us to stop, be still and just listen to the sound of winter. There was a peace that surrounded us; one bird chirping, snow falling off the branches of the trees and the light sounds of us breathing.
This is why you come to Glacier National Park in the Winter.
. . . Check it Off Your Bucket List . . .
Glacier National Park is an over 1 million acre park in Northwestern Montana. It is a hikers paradise with over 700 miles of hiking trails. On the weekends in the winter (typically the beginning of January to late March), the Apgar Visitors Center offers twice a day hikes (10:30am and 2:00pm) for free. You can bring your own snowshoes or rent them there for $2. This does not include the park entrance fee which starts from $15, check current fees at National Park Service.
The closest airports are Kalispell and Great Falls, though you may find it cheaper to fly into Missoula which is about 2 1/2 hours south. By car you can access the park via Highway 2 along the south of the park or Highway 89 on the east.
When to Go:
November through February bring the most snowfall to Glacier, which of course makes it the best time for snowshoeing. Though you need to be careful because as the winter goes into full force (December and January) there are very few roads that are plowed, which will make some sections unreachable. But throughout the winter it is still possible to get to the Apgar Visitor’s Center for snowshoeing via Going-to-the-Sun Road. Check the National Service Park for up-to-date trail information and area closures or call the Apgar Visitor Center directly at (406) 888-7800.
Where to Stay:
Many choose to stay in either Whitefish (25 minutes away) or Kalispell (45 minutes away) then drive to Glacier National Park from there. This is especially true in the winter months when many hotels in the park close.
Belton Chalet | 12575 Highway 2E, West Glacier | MAP | More Info
Belton has one of the best brunch’s in the area with its corn nut crusted chicken and a Kentucky hot brown on bacon cheddar waffle.
Cafe Kandahar | 3824 Big Mountain Rd, Whitefish | MAP | More Info Have Chef Andy Blanton prepare you a delicious multi-course meal at the Chef’s Table. Nosh on beautifully presented beet gnocchi and duck confit that can be paired with wine.
Desoto Grill | 227 1st St W, Kalispell | MAP | More Info
Get your fill of Rockabilly barbecue at Desoto Grill. Their local meats are smoked on-site and are falling off the bones. You won’t be able to keep yourself from licking your fingers.
Hops Downtown Grill | 121 Main St, Kalispell
Indulge in one of the juicy extreme burger at Hops. It’ll be a tough choice between the Spring Brook Ranch yak burger with Tibetan barbecue sauce or the wild boar with jalapeños and cheddar.
Moose’s Saloon | 173 N Main St, Kalispell | MAP | Website Get a pizza pie at this old casual saloon, then carve your initials in the wood — if you can find a vacant spot!
Other Bucket List Things to Do Nearby:
Take a thrilling dogsled ride with Base Camp Bigfork. If your the adventurous type, ask to be the musher.