Visiting in Fall
David Restivo, NPS
Fall in Glacier National Park can be a wonderful time to visit, however, visitors at this time of year have to be more self-sufficient when they are in the park. Generally, the park is a lot quieter, wildlife is more active, and the trees are turning colors. On the west side of the park, the trees begin changing color mid September, and on the east side, fall color appears more towards the end of September and beginning of October. The last color change is when the larch trees (a deciduous conifer that loses its needles), mainly on the west side of the park, turns a gold color in mid October. Sometimes the best road for viewing the larches is on Hwy 2 around the southern boundary of the park.
During shoulder seasons, lodging and other guest services are available in gateway communities. Contact respective Chambers of Commerce for listings. If you are looking for accommodations such as hotels, please visit the Travel Montana website to find accommodations outside Glacier National Park. Restaurants and stores can be difficult to find depending on your location, so come prepared.
If you plan on camping within the park, St. Mary, Many Glacier, Bowman, Kintla, and Quartz are in primitive status, no running water or flush toilets by mid September. Apgar Campground will still be in full service until early to mid October, then it will become a primitive campground at the Apgar Picnic area for the remainder of the year. Sprague Creek, Fish Creek and Avalanche close by Labor Day. Two Medicine, Cutbank and Rising Sun close for the season by early September. For exact operating dates of the campgrounds within Glacier, please visit our Campground Status page.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is less congested with vehicle traffic during the fall. While portions of the road remain open all year, the alpine section of this road generally closes for the season the third weekend of October, regardless of weather. Some sections may close earlier to accommodate accelerated road rehabilitation work. Please see our Going-to-the-Sun Road FAQs page for detailed information about closures. Other park roads remain open until the 3rd week of November. If you are planning on traveling to Canada, the Chief Mountain Port of Entry is open from Labor Day to September 30th, from 9am to 6pm and then closes for the season. The Port of Piegan/Carway, on Hwy 89, is open year round, 7am to 11pm. Keep an eye on our Current Road Status page for live status of all park roads.
David Restivo, NPS
Fall is a great time to watch for wildlife. Winter preparations are being made at this time by all animals, especially by bears, as the long winter requires them to fatten up as much as possible. You may notice wildlife along roadsides as they graze and eat. Please do not approach or feed wildlife, and observe them with binoculars, spotting scopes, or long telephotos lenses. For more information, see our Wildlife Safety page.
Our weather can vary quite a bit. Although, you could have very nice weather, snow could occur at all locations during the fall, so be prepared for winter like conditions. If we do have snow that warrants road closures, we close roads until we can get them plowed out.
Visitor information can be obtained in person at Headquarters (open Monday through Friday year round), the Apgar Visitor Center (weekends only after mid September), St. Mary Visitor Center (closes mid September) and the Logan Pass Visitor Center (closes mid September).
Did You Know?
Glacier National park was named for the glaciers that carved, sculpted, and formed this landscape millions of years ago. Despite the recession of current glaciers, the park's name will not change when the glaciers are gone.