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Glacier National Park in September

Glacier National Park In September
You thought summer in Glacier National Park was beautiful? Wait till you see this…

September is the best time to visit Glacier National Park! The weather is lovely, it’s far less crowded than summer, and you can even see fall colors starting mid-September! We’ve compiled everything you need to know about visiting Glacier in September, the top fall hikes, and other things to do in Glacier National Park.

Does Glacier National Park have fall colors in September?

Glacier in September has amazing fall colors! The trees change colors around mid-September and reach full gold foliage when the Larch trees change around mid-October.

Is Glacier cold in September?

It can be a bit cold. The average high in September is 72 down in West Glacier and the average low is 40. It might not seem cold but it’s typically 10-15 degrees colder up at Logan Pass. Similarly, Many Glacier is usually 10 degrees colder than West Glacier.

Where can I see fall colors in Glacier?

Glacier Valley is filled with Aspen trees! Fall colors are best enjoyed on the scenic drive up Going-to-the-Sun road but there are many great hikes with fall colors through all regions of the park.

Do I need reservations to visit Glacier N.P. September?

Nope! This is one of the great parts of visiting Glacier in September. You no longer need a Going to the Sun Road ticketed reservation after September 6th and the campgrounds are all first-come first-serve after Labor Day.

Glacier National PArk, September Fall Colors
If you thoughts summer in Glacier was beautiful, wait till you see fall. (Photo taken on Going to the Sun Road in late September)

Why Visit Glacier National Park in September

1 | Fewer Crowds

Glacier is one of the most stunning National Parks in America but it’s also one of the most crowded! In fact, doing a Yellowstone to Glacier National Park road trip was the most popular trip in the west this year!

The good news is, when you summer turns to fall and September comes around, the park empties out fast!

Glacier in September is a far less crowded than mid-summer which can make for a much more enjoyable experience whether you driving the Going to the Sun Road or hiking one of Glacier’s top 5 trails!

2 | Fall Colors in Glacier

Fall Colors in Glacier, Going to the Sun road
Stunning fall colors on Glacier’s Going to the Sun Road

Plot twist, fall comes early in Rockies. While fall doesn’t technically begin until September 22nd this year, mountainous areas don’t get the memo.

At high elevation like Glacier National Park, nightly low temperatures make the fall leaves change colors much sooner.

This is great because during the great month of September, you can enjoy pleasant warm days and low crowd levels, while also enjoying beautiful fall colors!

Best Time to See Fall Colors

Generally, you can see fall colors best between mid-September and mid-October.

Aspens are the first to turn colors around mid-september. Aspens change colors first on the west side of the Going to the Sun Road and eventually make their way to the east side of the park (including Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and St Mary’s) by the end of September.

Western Larch trees are even more abundant in the park and even more spectacular to see however these don’t change color until mid-October.

3 | No Going to the Sun Road Pass Required

Logan Pass, Glacier in September
Open roads on Going to the Sun road in late September

The Going to the Sun road is a Glacier bucket list adventure that you can’t miss!

If you didn’t know, in Summer 2021 the National Park Service implemented a new ticketed entry system for Going to the Sun Road. This meant you had to obtain a ticket reservation in advance in order to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

What great about visiting Glacier in fall is that after September 6th, you don’t need a ticketed entry to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road!

4 | Services Still Available

While fall colors stay through October, many services don’t. Many campgrounds close in October as do most of the lodges and Visitor Centers inside the national park.

In September, almost everything is still open!

The Going-to-the-Sun road is usually open until the 3rd Monday of October but can often close sooner dependent on weather. In September, you’re almost guaranteed to be still able to drive the scenic highway.

You can click here for current road status in the park.

5 | Backcountry Camping Permits

Backcountry camping permits are very difficult to obtain mid-summer. In September, it’s much easier to get these permits which are available in-person up to 24 hours in advance.

What to Pack for Glacier National Park in September

Gear up right for glacier with our top 5 favorite outdoor essentials:

  1. Grab the REI Flash 22, our all time favorite day hiking pack
  2. Join our Live Outside the Box revolution with our Nomads With A Purpose Merch line
  3. Choose functional style with Kuhl’s Splash Roll Ups for women and the Renegades for Men
  4. Wear our favorites. The La Sportiva Bushidos are our all time favorite hiking shoe
  5. Camping? Our favorite piece of gear that we never leave without is the Luci Outdoor 2.0 Solar Lantern

Things To Do in Glacier in September

1 | Drive Going to the Sun Road

No trip to Glacier is complete without driving the legendary scenic highway up to the top Logan Pass. On this drive, you’ll spot stunning fall colors. With less congestion, it’s easy to take your time and stop at all the great pullouts along the way.

If you’re an active traveler, take a quick hike Hidden Lake Overlook. It’s not the best hike for fall colors, but it is one of the best glacier hikes. In the summer it’s always crazy crowded and in September, it’s so much more peaceful. In late September, don’t be surprised if the meadows are covered in snow.

2 | Go For A Hike

With fall colors and fewer crowds, September is great time to hike in this beautiful National Park. Some hikes give way for better fall foliage viewing opportunities.

The east side of the Continental Divide has more coniferous Aspen trees which change color. This makes the hiking better at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, St Mary’s, and Apgar.

Click here to scroll down to the top fall hikes in Glacier.

best day hiking backpack
Gear up for Glacier! Shop the REI Flash 22 and be prepared for any day hike!

3 | Watch Wildlife

While summer is certainly full of great wildlife viewing opporutnies, the possibility of seeing rare wildlife is even better in fall when bears are fattening up for the winter. Glacier is along a key North America migration routes and you’ll see many eagles, hawks, raptors, deer, elk, and more! 

4 | Drive Highway 2

Highway 2 is the highway just outside of Glacier National Park that takes you past West Glacier, to Essex, and beyond to East Glacier. This beautiful drive is full of hidden gems that most people don’t know to explore on a trip to Glacier.

Click here to see the 5 of best hidden gems along highway 2. 

In late September, I recommend taking a day to drive this highway, either stopping and doing a hike, or just driving out to East Glacier Park Village and back.

5 | Explore Looking Glass Hill Road

Keep your scenic drive going from Highway 2 and continue onto Highway 49 to the 11 mile section of road known as Looking Glass Highway. This less popular scenic road give you views of Two Medicine fall colors from a high vantage point.

6 | Go for A Fall Float

Rafting is all the rage in summer in Glacier but when temperatures start to drop, the idea of cold water might not sound so appealing.

Fortunately, the Middle Fork river slows down in September and many rafting companies in the area offer relaxing, fall floats. Less about adrenaline, these floats give you great views of fall foliage.

7 | Bike the Camas Road in the North Fork

Biking Glacier's Camas Road
Biking Glacier’s Camas Road
Photo credit: explorewhitefish.com

The North Fork road is unpaved dirt road up near the Bowman Lake area. Biking the Going to the Sun Road is fun in spring, but in the fall, biking this dirt road is unforgettable due to vivid fall foilage.

Best Fall Hikes in Glacier National Park

When it comes to fall hike sin Glacier, lower elevations usualy better. Here are some of the best treks to take on in September!

Many Glacier Fall Hikes

Many Glacier, Glacier NP
Many Glacier is a basecamp for great fall hikes

Many Glacier is great place to find fall colors! There are many great hiking trails that bring you through fall foliage the best of which includes Bullhead Lake (7 mi RT).

Iceberg Lake and Cracker Lake are stunning hikes too but don’t have quite as many colorful trees.

If you’re looking for a shorter hike, try Apikuni Falls which is only 2 miles roundtrip.

Two Medicine Fall Hikes

If you’re looking for a strenuous fall hike, Firebrand Pass or Pitmakan-Dawson Pass loop are full of fall foliage aspen trees and delivers amazing panoramic views. These two hikes are 10 miles and 15 miles round-trip respectively and are no easy feat, but make for a memorable fall colors.

If you don’t want a strenuous hike, the easy hike to Lower Two Medicine Lake is also great.

Pitmakin-Dawson Pass Hike, Glacier National Park
Full of fall colors down low, and epic views of high, Pitmakin Pass is a no-brainer for the most adventurous folks.
Photo credit: 10adventures.com

St Mary’s Fall Hikes

St Mary’s area has two great fall picks. The Beaver Pond Loop (3.5 mi RT) may seem just average in the summer, but in fall it’s a colorful wonderland and a super easy way to see fall foliage.

If you want a more epic hike, check out Gunsight Lake. While it’s not full of quite so many aspen trees, the alpine lake at the end is incredible.

Apgar Fall Hikes

Apgar is a better choice for fall hikes in very late September because it’s primarily Larch trees. If you are visiting at this time, Rocky Point is a beautiful fall hike with views of Lake McDonald too.

Where to Stay in Glacier National Park in September

Many Glacier Lodge or Campground

Many Glacier brings you up close and personal with epic nature. When you stay up here, fall colors are right outside your front door whether you stay at the lodge or the campground. The lodge here is almost like a European Refugio, and if your budget allows for it, staying here is an unforgettable trip.

Campsites at Many Glacier
Beautiful camping at Many Glacier

If you want to be surrounded by nature more, Many Glacier Campground is probably the best National Park campground in the US. The campground has amazing forested sites and feels off-grid but also has comfortable amenities like flush toilets, drinking water, trash services.

Many Glacier is open until September 27th by reservation only. Primitive camping (no amenities) begins September 28–October 31.

Lake McDonald Lodge or Apgar Campground

If you’re visiting in late September when Larch trees begin to go golden, staying closer to Apgar and the Going to the Sun Road is a great choice.

Lake McDonald Lodge is on the north end of the lake, right on the water and feels like a cozy cabin retreat.

Apgar Campground is one of our favorites since you’re close to Apgar’s town amenities and still surrounded by forest. Apgar Campground is open through October 12th with all amenities.

Cedar Creek Lodge

Cedar Creek Lodge is actually in Columbia Falls, just 15 minutes outside the park but is extremely popular. Staying here makes you closer to upscale ski town, Whitefish, and feels like staying at a ski resort in itself.

Are you visiting Glacier this September? Let us know in the comments and tell us which of these things you’re most excited to see!

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