Glacier National Park is a stunning display of the geological processes that changed North America over the last billion years. The rock formations in the park are almost entirely sedimentary, laid down between 1600 to 800 million years ago when this area was an inland sea. They were uplifted during the formation of the Rockies beginning around 170 million years ago, and today contain some of the best Proterozoic fossils in the world. The mountains were carved into their present form by the advance and retreat of glaciers during the last ice age, and the park, as its name suggests, contains an abundance of glacial features, including lakes, valleys, and remnant glaciers (although these have diminished significantly in the last century).
The park offers many opportunities to see wildlife, and its ecosystems are almost unchanged from what they were at the time of Lewis and Clark. Different trails offer visitors close encounters with animals from mountain goats to pine martens. The park is also one of the largest remaining natural grizzly habitats, and during late summer, grizzlies will often come to lower elevations to eat the area's popular berries and catch fish in the lakes. In addition to grizzly bears, the park is also home to two other endangered species: the Canadian lynx and the bull trout. 23 species of fish live in park waters, and fishing is a popular park activity. Birdwatchers will find many species of waterfowl in addition to larger birds of prey, including bald eagles.
Coniferous forest is the predominant ecosystem, although the forest is visibly different on the east and west sides of the Divide. Trails wind through subalpine meadows full of wildflowers and alpine tundras.
Biking - Bicycles are restricted to bike paths, roadways, and parking areas. Check the National Park Service's Glacier website for path, and road closures. Bikes are forbidden on trails. Bicycle rental is not available in Glacier National Park. It is possible to bike the length of Going-to-the-Sun Road, but the park limits bike access during peak traffic hours since many portions of the road do not have shoulders. The best times of day to go are the early morning or late afternoon. Although it is easiest to bike the road from east to west, be prepared for a steep elevation gain as you approach Logan Pass and cross the Continental Divide from either direction.
Boating - Boat tours are available at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, Rising Sun, Waterton Lake, and Lake McDonald. Personal motorized boats are permitted on some of the park's lakes, but usually limited to 10 hp motors.
Camping - There are several dozen backcountry campgrounds along the trail system, as well as frontcountry campgrounds available to motorists and RVers.
Winter Activities - Park visitors during the winter (approximately December - April) may explore the park using skis or snowshoes. Some trails may be closed due to avalanche or snow-related hazards, and visitors should check conditions with a ranger before departure and check out after return.
Fishing - Glacier is famous for its great trout fishing. Fishermen may fish without permits and can keep any fish they catch, but are advised to clean fish carefully: throw entrails into water far from shore, as the smell of fresh fish will attract bears.
Hiking - Over half of the visitors to Glacier National Park report taking a hike along some of the park's 700 miles of trails. Hikers can purchase topographical maps, trail guides, and field guides at visitor centers. Guided day hiking and backpacking treks are available. Check the National Park Service's Glacier website for more info. The Trail of the Cedars, Huckleberry Mountain, Hidden Lake, Sun Point, and Swiftcurrent Nature Trails are hiker friendly and have signs that dot the trails to help hikers. The Trail of the Cedars is wheelchair accessible.
Horseback riding - Most of the park's trail system is open to horses. Guided trips and horse rentals available at Many Glacier, Waterton Lake, Two Medicine, Rising Sun, and Lake McDonald Lodge.