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Glacier by Boat

Glacier National Park, by Bob Hoelscher

There are plenty of places you can’t explore with just a hike, from the Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York Harbor to Channel Islands National Park off the California coast. Montana’s Glacier National Park is another perfect example, as a sightseeing boat cruise is a necessary component to maximize a visitor’s experience at many National Park Service units and other tour destinations.

Visitors can choose from five different cruises at Glacier. The two most popular begin at the ends of the famed “jammer” bus tours of Going-to-the-Sun Road, pretty much a standard inclusion for groups visiting the park. On the west side, a one-hour cruise of Lake McDonald is available, and from the east, the 90-minute cruise of St. Mary Lake, which offers spectacular views throughout and a brief stop at lovely Baring Falls, earns my highest recommendation for assembling a splendid day in that great park.

Although Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine are further off the beaten path, a 90-minute cruise of the two can be had at Many Glacier; there is also a 45-minute cruise of Two Medicine Lake.

Finally, for those groups venturing into Alberta, Canada, to adjoining Waterton Lakes National Park, a two-hour cruise on Upper Waterton Lake travels to Goat Haunt, Mont., the northern gateway to Glacier National Park. Furthermore, all of these cruises, except the one on Lake McDonald, make stops that allow easy or moderate hiking options of about two hours, then a return on a later boat.