Glacier National Park - The Basics

Glacier National Park entrance sign NPS 600x400

Created in 1910, Glacier National Park provides over one million acres of habitat and protection for a wonderful variety of wildlife and wildflowers.

The geologic history of Glacier is read in the numerous exposed layers of Precambrian sedimentary rocks. These extremely well-preserved sediments date back to over 1 billion years. Subsequent sculpting by massive bodies of ice has transformed this area into a dramatic example of glacial landforms. Today several small alpine glaciers of relatively recent origin dot the mountains.

Glacier National Park contains a particularly rich biological diversity of plant and animal species. This combination of spectacular scenery, diverse flora and fauna, and relative isolation from major population centers have combined to make Glacier National Park the center of one of the largest and most intact ecosystems in North America.

Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta were joined together by the governments of Canada and the United States in 1932 as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first park of its kind in the world.

Both parks have been designated Biosphere Reserves. In December of 1995, they were jointly designated the “Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park World Heritage Site.”

Glacier National Park and the area claim some of the most astonishing geology in the country. The rocks that form the mountains were laid when the area was resting under a primordial sea dating back as far as 1.5 million years ago. The highest peaks of Glacier Park at 7,000 feet contrast with the deeply glaciated valleys. Colliding plates caused buckling and warping that in turn formed the mountains some 150 million years ago. During the last ice age, glaciers filled the park; the largest glaciers are located in the St. Mary and McDonald Valleys. Ten thousand years later the glaciers melted revealing Glacier Park as we see it today.

The Salish and Blackfeet tribes were the first to traverse this rugged land in the 1700s. In 1792 the first white frontiersman toured the Glacier Park area and twenty years later a trapper named Finan McDonald crossed the Marias Pass only to be ambushed by Blackfeet Indians. Under the pressure of the railroads, miners, and white settlers, the Blackfeet sold the eastern slope of the park in 1895 for 1.5 million. Although copper mining and oil exploration were booming, conservationists joined forces with railroad interests to preserve the area as a national park. In 1910 President Taft signed a bill creating Glacier National Park. In 1933 the Going-to-the-Sun Road was completed which opened a new experience to those traveling by car.

Lake McDonald in West Glacier, the largest lake in Glacier National Park, is a springboard for many exciting activities. The lake is a fisherman's paradise teeming with all kinds of trout including cutthroat, bull, rainbow, and brook. Walk atop Sperry Glacier or hike one of over 700 miles of hiking trails with differing levels of difficulty, from the most leisurely nature walks to brutally steep backcountry treks. For those who prefer the comfort of their car, the 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road is a beautiful drive and runs between West Glacier and St. Mary, offering easy access through the Glacier wilderness. During the summer the road is snow-free, although snow occasionally falls well into the season in the 6,680-foot-high Logan Pass. You will not be disappointed by the extravagant parade of splendid views offered of glaciers, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife.

About Us

Our mission is to provide the most comprehensive information site for the state of Montana. We welcome public input and comments.


1627 W. Main #447
Bozeman, MT 59715

Contact Us

Created with love by New Times Media Corporation

We're New Times Media - a friendly and fun group of people. At New Times Media we love to share anything and everything we know about the great state of Montana, so we created this site to make learning about our state as easy as possible. Our site is free to use and has the simplest possible user interface.

Privacy policy:

We use Google Analytics for site usage analytics. Your IP address is saved on our web server, but it's not associated with any personally identifiable information. We want you to enjoy and benefit from our site without worrying about who is tracking you (OK, so Google might track you, but that’s not us!)

Terms of service: the legal stuff

By using our site you agree to our Terms of service. TLDR: You don't need an account to use our site. Our site is free of charge and you can use it as much as you want. You need an account if you wish to list your business or control your business information. You can't do illegal or shady things with a business listing on our site. We may block your access to your page(s), if we find out you're doing something bad. Share anything you see, but don’t use our stuff for your own use without permission from us. We’re not liable for your actions and we offer no warranty. We may revise our terms at any time.