Updated: November 2021. Originally published: August 2013
There is no dispute about the natural beauty of Glacier National Park. But for people traveling with pets, Glacier can be a challenge. Learn how to make the most of a visit for your pet.
The glacier is an absolutely stunning place where the desert has remained untouched and the mountains reach the sky. And this is one of the few places in North America where all our native predators still survive. Grizzlies and black bears, wolves and cougars roam the steep slopes and lush green valleys.
For people who travel to Glacier National Park with dogs, however, protecting the national park and its residents means serious restrictions on where pets are allowed.
Glacier National Park with dogs
There are only a few roads in Glacier. One runs north and south along the western end of the park. Highway 2 runs from East Glacier Park Village to West Glacier. And the most famous, Going-to-the-Sun Road, crosses east and west through the heart of the park at 50 miles.
The road to the sun is the most popular route for exploring the park. Driving takes about 3 hours – in each direction – if you stop for a few photos on the road. And why don’t you want to stop for photos?
Are pets allowed on the way out to the sun?
On the way to the sun, pets are allowed in developed areas. This means picnic areas, parking spaces and within 100 feet of roads. For your dog, the day in the car will be long.
If you drive Going-to-the-Sun Road (and you should!), Plan to make a few short stops along the way to get your little ones to stretch their legs.
Hiking suitable for dogs in Glacier National Park
There is only one trail in Glacier National Park that is suitable for dogs and only when it is not covered with snow. The McDonald Creek Bike Trail is a paved trail that runs 2.5 miles between West Glacier and Apgar Village.
We suggest you start at West Glacier, grab some ice cream at Eddie’s when you reach Apgar, relax by Lake MacDonald and then return to the head of the trail.
Beyond the glacier – activities suitable for pets in the area
Once you’ve done Going-to-the-Sun Road and the McDonald Creek Bike Trail, there’s not much fun left for dogs in Glacier National Park.
You can find a pet caregiver or kindergarten to keep your dog company as you walk the park’s paths. Or you can explore the surroundings for more activities to enjoy together!
Hiking near Glacier National Park
For traveling dogs, head south and hit one of the national forests with your dog. Flathead, Cootenai and Lewis and Clark National Forests are within easy reach. And all trails in all national forests are suitable for pets!
The Hungry Horse Dam in Flathead National Forest is particularly beautiful and feels like you have trails for yourself.
Remember that it is possible to encounter wild animals on these trails, so take precautions. While dogs are allowed to be without a leash in most areas of national forests, it is not a good idea if they do not have a reliable pull.
Bears are known to chase dogs, which can be dangerous for both you and your puppy. We recommend investing in bear bells for yourself and your dogs. Informing the bears that you are coming is the best way to avoid meeting one!
READ MORE ⇒ More tips for safe hiking with pets
If you prefer city trails less likely to encounter wildlife, explore the Swan River Trail in Bigfork. It is an easy 3 mile walk with nice views of the Swan River.
After the walk, do some shopping and stop for a snack in the city. We were lucky and happened to be there during an art festival!
Take a scenic drive around Flathead
A short drive south of the glacier, Lake Flathead is twenty-seven miles long, stretches up to fifteen miles wide, and is one of the cleanest lakes in the world for its size. The clear water turns a beautiful turquoise blue in the sunlight.
Orchards are dotted along the east coast, and small towns stretch along the west coast. Explore the crystal clear waters by car or rent a canoe for a fun day at the lake.
Take a walk around Whitefish
Whitefish is a quaint resort town nestled between Whitefish Lake and the Whitefish Range. While you’re there, explore the many trails, visit the award-winning restaurants, or stop at Hugh Rodgers’ five-acre Armory Park.
Pet-friendly accommodation near Glacier National Park
We camped at RV Park very close to the entrance to West Glacier National Park and would not recommend this option. After two days we saw everything we could in Glacier National Park with the dogs and spent the rest of the time exploring outside the park.
We recommend that you find a pet-friendly hotel, vacation rental or campsite around Whitefish for your stay.
READ MORE ⇒ Barking dogs in hotels: Tips for a quiet stay
Challenges when traveling with pets
One of the challenges of traveling with pets is finding restaurants where you can eat together. Unfortunately we did not find a large selection of pets suitable for pets in the area.
This means that travelers with pets should plan to take home or book accommodation where you can prepare your own food.
We hope our experience helps you enjoy your favorite trip to Glacier National Park!
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