The grandeur of Yosemite National Park in California (left) photograph courtesy of the National Park Service. Exterior of Independence Hall in Philadelphia (right) photo by Robin Miller and courtesy of the National Park Service.
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
World Heritage Sites in the United States

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
(World Heritage Site in Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada
and Glacier National Park in the United States)

West Glacier, Montana
 
View of Sinopah and Painted Teepee in Glacier National Park. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.View of Sinopah and Painted Teepee in Glacier National Park.
National Park Service

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and World Heritage Site straddles the northern Rocky Mountains along the border between the United States and Canada. The world's first "international park," the combined site encompasses breathtaking snowcapped mountains, high-altitude lakes, and rivers cascading from glaciers. Glacial landforms, preserved fossil assemblages, breathtaking rock formations and other geological features provide outstanding aesthetic beauty.  Ancient cedar-hemlock forests, alpine tundra, and extensive bunchgrass prairie provide diverse natural habitats for over 300 terrestrial species of animals. These mountains are home to a number of threatened or endangered species including the grizzly bear, gray wolf, lynx, bald eagle, and peregrine falcon.

Waterton-Glacier's distinctive climate, its interface between mountain and prairie ecosystems, and its three separate watersheds, all help to create a rich diversity of flora and fauna that is particularly impressive given the relatively small area included in the parks. Straddling the world's largest peaceful border, Waterton-Glacier symbolizes goodwill and cooperation between Canada and the United States. Referred to as the Crown of the Continent’s Ecosystem, this area is home to one of the world’s most remarkable and unique natural environments.

In addition to its natural beauty, the parks have a long and rich history for the continent’s native populations. American Indians have lived in and used these mountains for over 10,000 years and this long occupation continues to the present day. The Blackfeet Indians and their closely related tribes north of the border occupy traditional lands east of the park boundaries. On the western site, Kootenai and Salish Indian tribes. To this day, all of the nearby tribes look to the mountains as sacred areas and continue to visit them for reasons both traditional and ceremonial.

Early European explorers arrived in the Waterton-Glacier area primarily in search of animal pelts. Over time, this exploitation of the region’s natural resources expanded to include the establishment of a mining industry, and groups of settlers soon began to migrate to the area. By 1891, the completion of the Great Northern Railway allowed a greater number of people to enter into the heart of northwest Montana, leading to a significant increase in the region’s settlement along with the development of small towns.

Visitors travel in a red bus on the Going to the Sun Road. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.Visitors can experience the park by taking a
historic Red Bus Tour on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
National Park Service

Around the turn of the century, people began to view the land differently, recognizing that the area had a unique scenic beauty. Efforts for the area to gain national recognition of the site’s natural and cultural significance prevailed. Waterton Lakes became Canada’s fourth national park in 1895 and Glacier National Park became the tenth national park in the United States in 1910. Decades later, in 1932, the United States and Canada merged the two sites to create the world’s first International Peace Park to commemorate the peace and goodwill the two nations continue to share.

Today, visitors to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park are given a variety of options through which they can experience the area’s natural grandeur, scenic beauty and rich history. In the United States, one of Glacier National Park’s major highlights is the breathtaking Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50 mile stretch traversing the park's wild interior that is a National Historic Landmark. Winding around mountainsides and offering some of the best sights in northwest Montana, visitors are invited to drive all or part of the road’s distance, with opportunities to hike, camp, and obtain food and lodging along the way. While Going-to-the-Sun Road is one of the main highlights in Glacier National Park and provides access to the Lake McDonald Valley, Logan Pass, and the St. Mary Valley, the park offers many other magnificent places to discover. The North Fork, Goat Haunt, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine are also worthy of exploration. Each location in the park is unique, allowing visitors to discover historic homesteading sites, changing landscapes, Native American history, wilderness, peace, alpine meadows, and glacially-carved valleys.

The historic Lake McDonald Lodge (also known as Lewis Glacier Hotel) is a National Historic Landmark and one of the finest examples of a Swiss-Chalet style hotel remaining in the United States, with the exterior of heavy European character, and interior of rustic design unique to the American West. Constructed in the late 19th century and inspired by the Swiss alpine traditions, this historic “destination resort” in an exceptional scenic setting still remains as picturesque as when it first opened. Within the boundaries of Glacier National Park, Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, Sperry and Granite Park Chalets, and the Two Medicine Chalet comprise one of the largest collections of Swiss-chalet structures in the United States.

Plan your visit

Glacier National Park, part of the Waterton Lakes-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site and a unit of the National Park System, is located in the northwest corner of Montana along the spine of the Rocky Mountains, approximately 33 miles from Kalispell, MT and 125 miles from Great Falls, MT. Glacier National Park is open every day of the year. Winter weather tends to dictate when most visitor facilities open and close. Generally from late May to early September, facilities are open to welcome summer visitors. Visitor Centers throughout the park open and close at different times during the year and are staffed with Park Rangers who provide interpretation and information to help in trip planning. For more information, visit the National Park Service Glacier National Park website or call 406-888-7800. For information on Waterton National Park in Canada, visit the Parks Canada Waterton Lakes National Park website.

Glacier National Park is the subject of an online lesson plan, Going to the Sun Road: A Model of Landscape Engineering. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places website.

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