Top 10 Interesting Glacier National Park Facts

Glacier National Park Insights! In this article, More Than Just Parks presents you with 10 astounding facts about one of America’s most spectacular national parks.

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About Glacier National Park

about glacier national park

Before we delve into all the fantastic activities you can enjoy at Glacier, let’s start with a brief history lesson. Don’t worry, it will be short, and remember, I don’t assign any homework. After all, I’m retired. And marking homework was never that enjoyable anyway.

As for Glacier, it officially became a national park in 1910. Jumping ahead to 2019 (I told you the lesson would be brief), Glacier National Park ranked as the 10th most visited park, making it one of the most popular national parks to explore in the United States.

Some Basic Facts About Glacier

  • Location: Montana
  • Acreage: The country’s 10th national park, Montana’s Glacier preserves 1 million acres of glacier-carved peaks and valleys, pristine turquoise lakes and streams, and dense ancient forests for all to enjoy.
  • Visitation:  Glacier National Park in the United States attracted a total of approximately three million visitors in 2021.
  • Highest Elevation: Mt. Cleveland is the park’s tallest peak, listed at 10,466 feet.
  • Lowest Elevation: The lowest is the Middle Fork River near West Glacier at 3,215′.
  • Average annual precipitation: In the driest corners of the park, along the northeast and northwest edges, rainfall averages 23 inches (58.4 cm) a year, while the lowlands of the west side receive about 30 inches (76.2 cm) of precipitation on average.
  • When Did It Become A National Park? On May 11, 1910, President William Howard Taft signed a bill into law establishing Glacier National Park.


The Earliest Peoples To Inhabit Glacier Were The Kootenai

kootenai people

The earliest peoples to inhabit the area now known as Glacier National Park were the Kootenai. These indigenous peoples have a rich history and unique culture, which have long been intertwined with the lands and resources of the region.

The Kootenai, also spelled Kutenai or Ktunaxa, are a Native American tribe with a vast historical presence in the northwestern parts of the United States and southwestern Canada. Their traditional territories encompass parts of Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia. Within these regions, the Kootenai were skilled hunters, fishers, and gatherers who relied on the abundant natural resources for their sustenance and way of life.

The Kootenai were semi-nomadic, moving seasonally to different areas within their territory in order to exploit available resources. In the area now known as Glacier National Park, the Kootenai people would come to hunt, fish, and gather plants, as well as to hold spiritual ceremonies. The tribe had a deep respect for the land and its resources, which they believed were gifts from the Creator.

Throughout their history, the Kootenai people have demonstrated remarkable adaptability and resilience in the face of challenges, such as European colonisation and the subsequent imposition of foreign governments and policies. Despite these challenges, the Kootenai have managed to preserve their culture and maintain a connection to their ancestral lands.

Today, the Kootenai continue to have a strong presence in the region, with several bands residing in Montana, Idaho, and British Columbia. Their ongoing connection to Glacier National Park and the surrounding areas serves as a reminder of the rich cultural history and the importance of respecting and preserving indigenous knowledge, rights, and traditions.

A Railroad Tycoon Helped To Establish Glacier National Park

establishment glacier national park

A railroad tycoon played a significant role in the establishment of Glacier National Park. In the early 20th century, Louis Warren Hill, the son of James J. Hill – the founder of the Great Northern Railway – recognised the potential of the area as a tourist destination and set out to promote it to the public.

Louis Hill had a vision of transforming the picturesque landscapes of the region into a national park, believing that it would not only preserve the natural beauty of the area but also encourage tourism along the Great Northern Railway. He was inspired by the success of other national parks, such as Yellowstone, which had proven to be a significant draw for visitors travelling by train.

To realise his vision, Hill embarked on an extensive campaign to promote the region. He commissioned photographers and painters to capture the stunning vistas of the area, and he published brochures and promotional materials showcasing the breathtaking beauty of the landscapes. In addition, Hill lobbied the United States Congress and garnered the support of influential individuals to back the creation of a national park.

Hill’s efforts were successful, and in 1910, President William Howard Taft signed a bill that officially designated the area as Glacier National Park. This milestone marked the culmination of years of work by Hill and other advocates who believed in the importance of protecting the region’s natural and cultural heritage.

Once the park was established, Hill continued to play an instrumental role in its development. Under his leadership, the Great Northern Railway built a series of lodges, chalets, and other amenities to accommodate visitors. The railway also constructed the iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road, which provided tourists with a spectacular and accessible route through the heart of the park.

Glacier National Park Helped To Give Birth To “Parkitecture”


Glacier National Park played a significant role in the development of “Parkitecture,” a unique architectural style that emerged in the early 20th century in the United States. This style was characterised by the use of native materials and a harmonious design that blended with the natural surroundings, reflecting the ethos of the National Park System and its commitment to preserving the environment.

The birth of Parkitecture in Glacier National Park can be attributed to the efforts of Louis Hill and the Great Northern Railway. As they sought to promote tourism to the park and develop infrastructure to accommodate visitors, there was a clear need for an architectural style that would be visually appealing, environmentally sensitive, and culturally appropriate.

Parkitecture emerged as a response to this need. Drawing inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement, Swiss chalet design, and indigenous building techniques, architects and builders crafted structures that complemented the park’s landscapes while providing comfortable accommodations for guests. The use of local materials such as timber and stone was not only practical but also allowed the buildings to blend seamlessly into their surroundings.

One of the most iconic examples of Parkitecture in Glacier National Park is the Many Glacier Hotel. Designed by architect Thomas D. McMahon and completed in 1915, this grand lodge showcases the hallmarks of Parkitecture, featuring a rustic exterior constructed from native materials, and a design that echoes the nearby mountains and valleys. Other notable examples include the Glacier Park Lodge, the Sperry Chalet, and the Granite Park Chalet.

A Cattle Queen Was One Of The Early Visitors

One of the early visitors to Glacier National Park was a cattle queen named Lucy Hill Stateler, a remarkable and pioneering woman who played a significant role in the park’s early history. Lucy, born in 1861, was a trailblazing rancher, businesswoman, and adventurer who gained prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Lucy Hill Stateler, along with her husband William, owned and managed a successful cattle ranch near the park’s boundaries. The couple was well-known in the region for their entrepreneurial spirit, keen business acumen, and active engagement in local affairs. Lucy, in particular, was a prominent figure in her community, defying societal norms and expectations for women at the time.

In the early years of Glacier National Park, Lucy was one of its most enthusiastic and influential visitors. She frequently ventured into the park, exploring its rugged landscapes on horseback and sharing her experiences with others. Her passion for the park, combined with her knowledge of the land and its resources, made her an invaluable advocate for its preservation and promotion.

Lucy Hill Stateler’s presence in Glacier National Park was instrumental in fostering connections between the park and the local community. Her support for the park, both in its establishment and ongoing development, contributed significantly to its success as a tourist destination and a protected natural area. Her story also serves as a testament to the vital role that women played in the early history of America’s national parks.

Today, the legacy of Lucy Hill Stateler and other pioneering visitors to Glacier National Park can be seen in the ongoing efforts to protect, preserve, and share the park’s natural and cultural heritage with visitors from around the world. The spirit of adventure, determination, and appreciation for the environment that characterised these early explorers continues to inspire countless individuals who visit the park each year.

An Influential Editor & Conservationist Nicknamed Glacier The “Crown Of The Continent”

crown of continent

An influential editor and conservationist, George Bird Grinnell, played a pivotal role in the history of Glacier National Park by coining the nickname “Crown of the Continent” to describe its majestic beauty. Grinnell was a prominent figure in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, known for his advocacy for conservation, his work as an editor of Forest and Stream magazine, and his extensive writings on natural history, wildlife, and Native American cultures.

George Bird Grinnell first visited the region that would later become Glacier National Park in the 1880s, while working as a naturalist on a geological survey. Captivated by the stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural history, he became a passionate advocate for the protection and preservation of the area. Grinnell’s extensive knowledge of the region and his dedication to conservation made him a powerful voice in the campaign to establish the park.

It was Grinnell who bestowed the evocative nickname “Crown of the Continent” upon the area. This poetic phrase captured the essence of Glacier’s awe-inspiring beauty, with its soaring peaks, pristine lakes, and vast expanses of wilderness. The nickname also emphasised the park’s unique ecological importance as a vital watershed, feeding water to the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and Hudson Bay.

As an editor, writer, and respected conservationist, Grinnell used his platform and influence to garner support for the creation of Glacier National Park. His efforts, combined with those of other advocates like Louis Hill, contributed significantly to the successful establishment of the park in 1910.

Today, the moniker “Crown of the Continent” endures as a fitting tribute to the splendour of Glacier National Park and serves as a constant reminder of its importance, both as a natural wonder and as a symbol of the enduring power of conservation efforts. The legacy of George Bird Grinnell and his tireless advocacy for the preservation of America’s wilderness areas remains an inspiration to current and future generations of conservationists and nature enthusiasts alike.

Glacier National Park Features An Engineering Marvel

Glacier National Park is home to an engineering marvel known as the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This spectacular highway, completed in 1932, is a testament to the ingenuity and determination of the engineers and workers who constructed it. The road spans approximately 50 miles (80 kilometres) across the park, traversing rugged mountain terrain and offering breathtaking views of the park’s landscapes, flora, and fauna.

The construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was a significant engineering challenge. The road had to be built with minimal impact on the surrounding environment and adhere to strict aesthetic guidelines to ensure that it blended seamlessly into the landscape. The terrain was steep and treacherous, and the harsh weather conditions, including heavy snowfall and frequent avalanches, further complicated the construction process.

Despite these challenges, the Going-to-the-Sun Road was meticulously designed and built to navigate the park’s dramatic topography. The road features numerous switchbacks, tunnels, and viaducts that allow it to ascend and descend the mountainsides while preserving the park’s natural beauty. Notably, the road reaches its highest point at Logan Pass, which sits at an elevation of 6,646 feet (2,026 metres).

The construction of the Going-to-the-Sun Road was a significant accomplishment in the field of civil engineering, and it remains an iconic feature of Glacier National Park. The road serves as a vital link between the park’s east and west entrances, providing visitors with access to some of the park’s most renowned attractions, such as Lake McDonald, the Highline Trail, and the Many Glacier area.

Today, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a popular destination for millions of visitors who come to Glacier National Park each year to experience its unrivalled beauty and diverse recreational opportunities. The road’s status as an engineering marvel, a National Historic Landmark, and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark is a testament to the skill, creativity, and perseverance of those who built it, and it continues to captivate and inspire visitors from around the world.

The World’s First International Peace Park Is At Glacier

The idea of creating an International Peace Park originated from the Rotary Clubs of Alberta and Montana, who proposed the concept as a way to strengthen the bond between the United States and Canada. Their vision was to unite the two parks, which share a border along the Rocky Mountains, in a spirit of peace and collaboration. In 1932, the governments of both countries officially endorsed the proposal, and the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was established.

The creation of the International Peace Park was not only a diplomatic and symbolic gesture but also a commitment to joint stewardship of the shared ecosystem. Both countries work together on initiatives to protect the parks’ natural and cultural resources, preserve the biodiversity, and manage visitor experiences. This collaboration ensures that the parks’ pristine landscapes, abundant wildlife, and rich history are protected and enjoyed by visitors from around the world.

The Night Of The Grizzlies Changed How People Interacted With Bears At Glacier

The Night of the Grizzlies, a tragic event that occurred on 13 August 1967, led to significant changes in how people interacted with bears at Glacier National Park. On that fateful night, two separate grizzly bear attacks resulted in the deaths of two young women, Julie Helgeson and Michele Koons. These incidents were the first fatal bear attacks in the park’s history and led to a comprehensive re-evaluation of park policies and practices related to human-bear interactions.

Prior to the Night of the Grizzlies, park visitors often had a casual attitude towards bears, frequently approaching them for photographs and feeding them with human food. Bears, in turn, became more habituated to humans and started associating them with food, which increased the risk of dangerous encounters. The tragic events of 1967 served as a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining a safe distance from these wild animals and respecting their natural behaviour.

In response to the attacks, Glacier National Park implemented a series of measures aimed at reducing the likelihood of human-bear conflicts. These measures included:

  1. Improved bear management practices: The park introduced strict guidelines to minimise the risk of bears becoming habituated to human food. These guidelines included proper food storage, strict rules for disposing of waste, and the closure of areas with high bear activity.
  2. Education and awareness: The park increased its efforts to educate visitors about bear safety, including the use of informational materials, signage, and ranger-led programmes. Visitors were taught how to behave in bear country, the importance of carrying bear spray, and how to respond in the event of an encounter.
  3. Monitoring and research: Park staff began to closely monitor bear populations and conduct research on their behaviour and habitat use. This information helped inform management decisions and contributed to a better understanding of how to coexist with these iconic animals.

 The Mountain Goat Is The Official Symbol Of Glacier National Park

mountain goat

The mountain goat, a hardy and sure-footed animal native to the high alpine regions of North America, is the official symbol of Glacier National Park. These remarkable creatures have adapted to the challenging conditions of their mountainous habitat, and their presence in the park is emblematic of the rugged beauty and pristine wilderness that characterise the region.

Mountain goats, with their distinctive shaggy white coats, curved horns, and sturdy build, are well-suited to the steep slopes and harsh weather conditions of Glacier National Park. They have specialised hooves with a soft, rubbery pad surrounded by hard keratin, which provides excellent traction on rocky surfaces. This adaptation allows them to navigate the park’s treacherous terrain with ease.

The mountain goat population in Glacier National Park is an important part of the park’s diverse ecosystem. These animals are herbivores, feeding primarily on grasses, sedges, and other alpine plants. Their presence contributes to the overall health and balance of the park’s plant communities, and they also serve as a vital food source for predators such as grizzly bears and mountain lions.

The Number Of Glaciers At Glacier National Park Is Shrinking

The number of glaciers at Glacier National Park is indeed shrinking, a concerning trend that has been observed over the past several decades. The primary cause of this decline is climate change, which has resulted in warmer temperatures and reduced snowfall in the region. These changing conditions have led to significant glacial retreat, impacting not only the park’s iconic landscapes but also its ecosystems and local communities.

When Glacier National Park was established in 1910, it was home to more than 100 glaciers. However, recent studies have shown that the number of glaciers has dramatically decreased, with fewer than 30 remaining today. Scientists predict that if current warming trends continue, the park may lose all of its glaciers within the coming decades.

The loss of glaciers in Glacier National Park has far-reaching implications for the environment and the people who rely on it. Glaciers play a vital role in maintaining the park’s hydrological systems, acting as natural reservoirs that store and release water throughout the year. As glaciers recede, the availability of water for both humans and wildlife is affected, potentially leading to water shortages and altered ecosystems.

Tips for Visiting


Check to see if the national park you’re visiting has a permit or reservation system in place before visiting. As parks become increasingly crowded more has to be done to safeguard them which means controlling the hundreds of millions of people who visit these places each year.

Popular national parks with reservation systems of some kind include Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Arches, Acadia, Denali, and more.


Try visiting a national forest while you’re on your trip to avoid the crowds. There are 155 national forests in America, many of which are equally as beautiful as the national parks they neighbor and only see a fraction of the visitors.

For example, try the Flathead National Forest next to Glacier National Park, the Bridger-Teton next to Grand Teton, and the Dixie which borders nearly all of the Utah National Parks.


National parks are amazing but wild places so it is essential to practice basic safety while visiting them. Every year people die while vacationing in national parks. This is easily avoided by:

  • Sticking to trails
  • Checking the weather before going out on a hike
  • Maintaining a safe distance between wildlife which means at least 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from predators
  • Avoid ledges with steep drop offs

Final Words

In conclusion, Glacier National Park is a remarkable treasure that showcases the beauty and diversity of the natural world. From its rich history and cultural significance to its iconic wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, the park offers visitors a unique and unforgettable experience.

However, the challenges posed by climate change, particularly the shrinking number of glaciers, serve as a stark reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our planet’s fragile ecosystems.

By continuing to engage in conservation efforts, promote sustainable practices, and educate the public about the importance of environmental stewardship, we can ensure that Glacier National Park remains a thriving and inspiring destination for generations to come.

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