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.
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.
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.
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.
Yes and no! Up until September 10th, you will need a vehicle reservation to drive into Glacier National Park from any entrance station. After September 10th, you don’t need any reservation to visit Glacier National Park! Plus, the park campgrounds are all first-come first-serve after Labor Day. This is one of the great parts of visiting Glacier in 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
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 Reservation Required
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. And in 2023, the National Park Service extended that system to every access road in the park. This meant you had to obtain a ticket reservation in advance in order to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road as well as the North Fork Road, Many Glacier Road, and Two Medicine Road.
What’s great about visiting Glacier in the fall is that after September 10th, you don’t need a ticketed entry to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road!
If visiting prior to September 11th, read our blog about how to get a reservation in Glacier National Park in September.
Pro tip: Reservations for dates between September 1st – September 10th are released on May 1st.
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:
- Grab the REI Flash 22, our all time favorite day hiking pack
- Join our Live Outside the Box revolution with our Nomads With A Purpose Merch line
- Choose functional style with Kuhl’s Splash Roll Ups for women and the Renegades for Men
- Wear our favorites. The La Sportiva Bushidos are our all time favorite hiking shoe
- 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.
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
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 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.
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.
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 the 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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Tuesday 30th of August 2022
I am just beginning to explore what a trip to Glacier will look like beginning September 12 and for possibly a two week stay. We are a couple in our early 70's traveling with our RV and really want to experience the best Glacier has to offer including all key sites mixed with some hiking. The RV can function without a hook up but we would prefer that option. Your website has given us a great overview of what to expect and any insights that could help us cut to the chase of where to stay in order to cover the most highlights would be great. For example, should we stay put in one site or is there a reason to move to different campsites (other than perhaps space considerations on the park of the particular facilities)? Thanks