Enjoying Glacier National Park’s quiet season

Screen Shot 2019-09-15 at 10.10.40 AMBy Justin Franz

I probably shouldn’t be telling you any of this.

Last year, more than 2.9 million people visited Glacier National Park in the northwest corner of Montana, most of them between Memorial Day and Labor Day. In recent years, it’s been normal for nearly a million people to visit the park in July alone.

Of course, in a 1 million-acre park, one would think there would be enough room for everyone to stretch their legs in peace. But much of the park is wild and remote, meaning hundreds of thousands of people are crammed into a few easily accessible areas, such as the legendary Going-to-the-Sun Road, a tight alpine highway that stretches 50 miles across the park. On a sunny Saturday in the middle of summer, it’s not uncommon for the line of cars at the park entrance to stretch for miles.

That’s why most locals — myself included — elect to visit the park after the hordes of summer visitors have packed up their hiking and selfie sticks and headed home. We know the best time of year to visit Glacier Park is during the quiet days of autumn, when visitation drops like a rock through clear Lake McDonald, the largest body of water in the park.

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This story was published by the Washington Post in August 2019.