10 Reasons Glacier National Park is Better Before 4th of July

I lived in Whitefish Montana for five years and have traveled extensively through the western National Parks. I believe that Glacier is the most beautiful National Park, with jagged mountains and epic views around every corner. I also believe that spring, which in Montana means before the 4th of July, is the best time to visit Glacier and here’s why….

Biking Going to the Sun Road

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

The Going to the Sun Road is the first place to have been registered as a National Historic Place, National Historic Landmark, and Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, but it’s the beauty of the drive that keeps people coming back in droves.

Usually, it’s hard to embrace the remarkable views with all the traffic and turns, but there’s a magic window, usually between Memorial Day to Father’s Day, when the road is closed to cars but open to bikes. There are even services to rent bikes, including Ebikes, and to shuttle you back from Avalanche Campground where your ride begins.

Rafting the Flathead River

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

The Middle Fork of the Flathead River is the first nationality designated Wild and Scenic River. It flows unobstructed 240 miles from its source in British Columbia past Glacier National Park. Glacier Raft Company offers an amazing half day or full day rafting run with nine named rapids, but it’s even better during the spring.

Since it’s a free flowing river, the snowmelt keeps a perfect water level so the journey is fun and safe. Also, wildlife is more active all day in the spring instead of bedding down midday to avoid the summer heat.

Solitude Hiking Trail of the Cedars

Photo Credit: Canva.

With its heavy tree cover and low elevation, Trail of the Cedars is a favorite hike in Glacier. It’s so popular during the summer that it’s hard to find a parking spot and even harder to be alone on the trail.

That’s all different before the summer rush. Everything is quieter before the 4th of July naturally, but with so many people biking, the trails are particularly empty.

Glacial Views from Lake McDonald

Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

The views from Lake McDonald are stunning in the spring because there is more snow on the mountains. Spring is definitely the time to see glaciers in Glacier. 

Plenty of Room at the Inn

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

The Belton Chalet stands up to dining experiences nationwide with filet so tender you can cut it with a butterknife and apple crisp so tasty you have to save room for dessert. It’s so good and so close to Glacier that it’s hard to find a table. Unless, you’re coming in the off-season. It’s still all the great food and views, but without the hassle.

Glamping with a View 

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

Maybe I’m getting soft, but I hate tent camping in the rain. Luckily, there’s ample availability at West Glacier RV Park and Cabins before the summer rush. I much prefer hearing rain pitter patter on a tin roof than dripping down my rain fly.

Bluebird Days

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

If you stay in Glacier long enough, you might be lucky enough for the clouds to part and sunshine to come pouring in. They say you can have all four seasons in a Montana Spring.  That includes bluebird spring days with all the sun of summer but without the crowds.

Rainy Day Activities

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

You can’t count on sunshine all spring, so you best have some rainy day plans. Rafting in the rain is awesome because you’re going to get wet anyway. Of course, there’s nothing like grabbing a pie at Glacier National Pizza and a pint at Freda’s and just staying warm and dry.

Golfing to the Sun Road

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

Whether you like dad jokes or not, flexibility is the key to weather the weather. Why let the rain dampen your spirits when you can wait for a break in the rain and put in an easy 18 of mini golf at Golfing to the Sun Road? Besides, if it does start raining again you’re right next door to plan B of pizza and a pint.

Sleeper to Seattle

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

West Glacier Village has a population of 174 and its own Amtrak Station (Belton). The Great Northern Railway’s See America First campaign promoted train access to Glacier National Park from its origin in 1910 to present day where there’s still passenger service direct from Seattle.

The unparalleled availability of food and lodging in West Glacier during the spring season makes a car free visit not only possible, but practical too! You can even book rafting at the Glacier Raft Company in West Glacier and arrange for a bike tour to pick you up at your cabin (or room at the Belton Chalet) as well.

Other Resources for Glacier and Whitefish

Photo Credit: Ed Coleman.

If you enjoyed this article, we have some more related content to recommend to you. Our biking in Glacier piece has details of the ride up to the Sun Road. Our Glacier hiking guide has directions and maps for Trail of the Cedars and other early summer hikes like the Johns Lake Loop. Finally, our things to do in Whitefish for every season has a collection of early summer activities outside the park in nearby Whitefish.