There is no disputing the natural beauty of Glacier National Park. It’s an absolutely stunning place where the wilderness has remained untouched and the mountains reach to the sky. And it’s one of the few places in North America where all of our native carnivores still survive. Grizzly and black bears, wolves, and cougars roam the steep slopes and lush, green valleys.
For pet people traveling to Glacier National Park with dogs, however, protecting the national park and it’s inhabitants means severe restrictions on where pets are allowed to go.
There are only two roads in Glacier. One runs north and south along the western edge of the park. The other is the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road that cuts east and west across the heart of the park for 50 miles. Going-to-the-Sun is the more popular of the two roads and takes about 3 hours to drive – each direction – if you stop for a few pictures along the way.
Along Going-to-the-Sun Road, pets are allowed in developed areas, picnic areas, parking areas, and within 100 feet of roads. For your dog, it’s going to be a long day in the car. So, if you’re driving Going-to-the-Sun Road (and you should!), plan several short stops to get your pups out to stretch their legs.
There is only one trail in Glacier National Park that is dog friendly, and only when it’s not covered in snow. McDonald Creek Bike Path is a paved trail that runs 2.5 miles between West Glacier and Apgar Village. Buster and Ty suggest starting in West Glacier, grabbing an ice cream at Eddie’s when you get to Apgar, taking a rest by Lake McDonald, and then making your way back to the car.
Once you’ve done with Going-to-the-Sun Road and the McDonald Creek Bike Trail, there’s not much entertainment left in Glacier National Park for dogs. You could find a pet sitter or daycare to keep your dog company while you hike the park trails. Or you could explore the surrounding area for more activities to enjoy together!
For dogs that hike, head south and hit one of the national forests with your pooch. Flathead, Kootenai, and Lewis and Clark National Forests are all within easy striking distance. And all the trails in all the national forests are pet friendly! Hungry Horse Reservoir in Flathead National Forest is especially beautiful and it felt like we had the trails to ourselves.
Remember, it’s possible you could meet wildlife on these trails, so take precautions. While dogs are allowed to be off-leash in most areas of the national forests, it’s not a good idea if they don’t have a reliable recall. Bears have also been known to pursue dogs, which could be dangerous for both you and your pup. We recommend investing in bear bells for yourself and your dogs. Letting the bears know that you’re coming is the best way to avoid meeting one!
READ MORE ⇒ More Tips for Hiking Safely With Pets
If you’d prefer an urban trail with less likelihood of wildlife encounters, check out the Swan River Trail in Bigfork. This is an easy 3-mile walk with nice views of the Swan River. And when you’re finished, walk into town for some shopping and a snack. We got lucky and arrived during an art festival!
Flathead Lake is twenty-seven miles long, stretches up to fifteen miles wide, and is one of the cleanest lakes in the populated world for it’s size. The clear water turns a beautiful turquoise blue in the sunlight. Orchards dot the eastern shore and small towns spread along the western shore. Explore the crystal waters by car, or rent a canoe for a fun day on the lake.
Whitefish is a quaint resort town tucked between Whitefish Lake and the Whitefish Mountain Range. While you’re there, explore the many trails, check out the award-winning restaurants, or stop by the five-acre Hugh Rogers Dog Park in Armory Park.
We camped in an RV park very close to the national park entrance in West Glacier, and wouldn’t recommend that choice. After two days, we’d seen all we could in Glacier National Park with the dogs. We spent the rest of our visit driving to Bigfork and Whitefish where there were more pet friendly activities. My suggestion is to find a pet friendly hotel or campground around Whitefish for your stay.
READ MORE ⇒ Barking Dogs in Hotels: Tips for a Quiet Stay
One of the challenges of traveling with pets is finding restaurants where you can eat together. Unfortunately, we did not find a great selection of pet friendly eateries in the area. That means pet travelers should plan on getting take-out or booking accommodations that allow you to prepare your own meals.
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See all the gear we use to make traveling with our pets easier, safer, and more fun!
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