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Visiting Glacier National Park with Dogs

A visit to Glacier National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. With over 700 miles of hiking trails through pristine forest, alpine meadows, mountain views, and spectacular lakes, Glacier is a human hikers paradise. But how does this premier national park stack up for those traveling with dogs?

Is Glacier National Park dog-friendly? Unfortunately, Glacier National Park is not one of the dog-friendly national parks. While dogs are allowed within the park boundaries and can explore the roadways with their people, dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails. 

Keep reading to find out more about Glacier National Park and how to make the most of a visit with your dog. This post includes details about the areas you can take your dog, in addition to hiking trails outside of the national park that allow your dog deeper into the wild beauty of this area of Montana.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is located at the western edge of Montana. The park is named for the many glaciers that it contains. Unfortunately, the number of glaciers are shrinking. In 1966, the park had 35 active named glaciers. By 2015, only 26 of those remain. 

A fun fact about Glacier National Park is that it is united with Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. This union occurred on June 18th, 1932 forming the world’s first International Peace Park. The parks are managed separately, but they cooperate in wildlife management, scientific research, and some visitor services. 

Because Glacier National Park is so large, it is broken into a few main regions. The following are highlights:

  • Many Glacier – Possibly the most beautiful area of Glacier National Park, this area contains stunning views of multiple glaciers.
  • Two Medicine – The original train depot location before Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR) was constructed. Today this is an off-the-beaten-path destination with great hiking and camping. 
  • St. Mary – The park’s eastern gateway offers spectacular vistas along St. Mary Lake. 
  • Lake McDonald – This area boasts the largest lake in the park. 
  • Apgar – The park’s western gateway includes lodging, dining, camping, and a visitor center. 

Whatever region (or regions) you choose to explore, Glacier has something grand to offer everyone. Arriving on a foggy day like we did made it just that much more amazing when the views cleared and we were able to explore further into this stunning national park. 

Dog-Friendly Activities in Glacier National Park

Glacier, like many national parks, has strict regulations regarding pets. Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, under physical restraint, or caged at all times (including in open-bed pickup trucks). Pets can not be left tied to an object when unattended. Pet owners must pick up pet waste and properly dispose of it. And owners must not allow a pet to make noise that is unreasonable. 

Dogs are NOT allowed:

  • On trails
  • Along lake shores
  • In the backcountry
  • In buildings
  • On roads closed to vehicle traffic (Unlike in other national parks, here closed roads are considered backcountry trails. If you want to walk a mountain road with your dog, consider Rocky Mountain National Park instead.)

So where are dogs allowed?

  • In developed areas
  • In front-country campgrounds and picnic areas
  • Along roads
  • In parking areas
  • In boats on lakes where motorized watercraft are permitted
  • On the bike path between Apgar and West Glacier (when free of snow)

Find more details about Glacier National Park’s pet restrictions on the official pet information page

Apgar Multi-Use Path

During our visit to Glacier National Park, we camped in Apgar Campground in order to take advantage of the dog-friendly trail between the campground and West Glacier. This is a nice paved trail that offers mostly forested terrain. 

 

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Going-to-the-Sun Road is Glacier National Park’s main attraction. This road provides access for millions of guest to enjoy awe-inspiring alpine lakes, knife-edge ridgelines, and craggy mountain tops.

In order to drive this amazing road, vehicles must be less than 10 feet in height, shorter than 21 feet in length, and no wider than 8 ft in width. During our visit with the dogs in 2018, we were driving an RV on our way from North Cascades National Park to Yellowstone. As a result, we didn’t have a vehicle small enough to traverse the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR). All the pictures of this road included in this post are from a 2010 trip in a Hyundai Elantra without dogs present. 

If you are going to visit Glacier National Park with dogs, I highly recommend that you make sure you have a vehicle that is an appropriate length/height to drive this road. A trip to Glacier National Park isn’t complete without it. Opened in 1933, this route unlocks many of the most spectacular landscapes to motorists.

The GTSR is typically fully open in late June or early July and typically remains open until mid-October. Portions of the road that are at lower elevation do remain open year-round. 

It takes at least 2 hours to drive the full 50 miles of the GTSR, so plan accordingly. The speed limit is only 25 miles per hour in the alpine section. The road peaks at 6,646 as you head through Logan Pass. 

Interested in learning more about this one-of-a-kind driving experience, check out Glacier National Park’s video tour of the different sections of the GTSR. 

Goat Lick Overlook

On our way out of the park, we also stopped at Goat Lick Overlook and were able to take the pups down a short dog-friendly, paved path to see the goats standing along the cliffs licking salt from the rocks.

View of goats from Goat Lick Overlook

Camping at Glacier National Park

There are multiple drive-in campgrounds along Going-to-the-Sun Road and the park’s east and west boundaries. Full details can be found at the official NPS.gov site, but the following is a quick summary. 

The 13 front country campgrounds are:

  • Apgar (this campground allows the longest vehicles, with campsites accommodating vehicles up to 40 ft in length. This campground is also open year-round)
  • Avalanche
  • Bowman Lake (this campground is located off of a dirt road, large units not recommended)
  • Cut Bank (this is a primitive campground located off of a dirt road)
  • Fish Creek
  • Kintla Lake (located off of a dirt road, large units not recommended)
  • Logging Creek (this is a primitive campground located off of a dirt road)
  • Many Glacier
  • Quartz Creek (this is a primitive campground located off of a dirt road)
  • Rising Sun
  • Sprague Creek (no towed units)
  • St. Mary (open year-round)
  • Two Medicine

Glacier has a helpful webpage that lists the times that campgrounds are filling at in order to help those without reservations find a campsite. Campsites can only be reserved at St. Mary, Many Glacier, and Fish Creek, the rest are first-come, first-served.  (The exception to this is that Apgar does have a group campsite that is reservable.) 

We enjoyed our stay at Apgar Campground and found the sites to be nice, level, and wooded. And the convenience of having a dog-friendly trail leave from the campground cannot be overlooked.

On a previous trip (without the pups), I stayed at Two Medicine Campground, which was also lovely.

View from the lakeshore at Two Medicine Campground

Dog-Friendly Activities in the Areas Surrounding Glacier National Park

While opportunities for hiking with dogs within Glacier National Park are limited, there are many options just outside the park’s boundaries.

Waterton Lakes National Park 

Just across the border in Canada is Waterton Lakes National Park. The pet restrictions in this adjoining national park are much different than Glacier’s. According to the official website

Pets are permitted on hiking trails but must be on a leash at all times. Dogs and other pets may jeopardize your safety and theirs by provoking and attracting wildlife. Bears, cougars, porcupines, coyotes, wolverines and small predators such as marten are all capable of injuring or even killing your pet.”

I left my passport at home, but if you plan ahead and pack your passport and your dog’s rabies certificate, you should be able to pass into Canada and explore the trails in Waterton Lake. Just use extra caution in the spring, as Waterton Lakes is known to have mule deer who will aggressively attack dogs in order to protect their fawns. 

Nearby National Forests

There are plenty of trails in the adjacent national forests of Montana. However, you will still need to use caution when taking your dog into the wilderness of this region. 

The following blog posts offer some dog-friendly hiking options near Glacier, some of which are in the surrounding national forest. 

Final Thoughts About Visiting Glacier National Park with Dogs

Glacier National Park is a premier hiking destination, but unfortunately, the amazing trails are not open to dogs. But if you want to visit Glacier National Park with your dog, make sure to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road. You will get some amazing views from the side of the road. 

After you have finished your drive, camp at Apgar campground so you can take advantage of the dog-friendly multi-use trail. Then head into the surrounding national forest to hike to your (and your dog’s) heart’s content. 

If you want more reading material about visiting Glacier National Park with dogs, check out these informative blog posts. 

Or if you want to explore a different national park, check out our growing list of blog posts to help you plan a dog-friendly adventure to one of the United States’ national parks.

 

3 replies on “Visiting Glacier National Park with Dogs”

Honestly, it depends. Many US National Parks do not allow dogs to be left in RVs unattended. But I have been at some national parks (Pinnacles and Carlsbad Caverns) where it has been permissible to leave the dogs in the RV while we hiked. I would recommend calling and asking a representative of Glacier National Park for the most updated information before planning your trip with the dogs. Additionally, it may be weather-dependent and depend on the time of year that you visit. If the weather is too hot or cold, most national parks do not allow you to leave your dogs in an RV unattended.

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