Glacier National Park is located in the U.S. state of Montana, bordering the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The park encompasses over 1,000,000 acres (4,047 km2) and encompasses parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains), over 130 named lakes, more than 1,000 different species of plants and hundreds of species of animals. This vast pristine ecosystem is the centerpiece of what has been referred to as the "Crown of the Continent Ecosystem", a region of protected land encompassing 16,000 square miles (41,440 km2).
The region that became Glacier National Park was first inhabited by Native Americans and upon the arrival of European explorers, was dominated by the Blackfeet in the east and the Flathead in the western regions. Soon after the establishment of the park on May 11, 1910, a number of hotels and chalets were constructed by the Great Northern Railway. These historic hotels and chalets are listed as National Historic Landmarks, and a total of 350 locations are on the National Register of Historic Places. By 1932, work was completed on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, later designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, which provided greater accessibility for automobiles into the heart of the park.
The mountains of Glacier National Park began forming 170 million years ago when ancient rocks were forced eastward up and over much younger rock strata. Known as the Lewis Overthrust, these sedimentary rocks are considered to have some of the finest fossilized examples of extremely early life found anywhere on Earth. The current shapes of the Lewis and Livingston mountain ranges and positioning and size of the lakes show the telltale evidence of massive glacial action, which carved U-shaped valleys and left behind moraines which impounded water creating lakes. Of the estimated 150 glaciers which existed in the park in the mid 1800s, only 25 active glaciers remained by 2010. Scientists studying the glaciers in the park have estimated that all the glaciers may disappear by 2030 if the current climate patterns persist.
Glacier National Park has almost all its original endemic plant and animal species. Mammals such as the grizzly and mountain goat as well as less common ones such as the wolverine and lynx are known to inhabit the park. Hundreds of species of birds, more than a dozen fish species and even a few reptile and amphibian species have been documented. The park has numerous ecosystems ranging from prairie to tundra and the easternmost forests of redcedar and hemlock normally found in large numbers closer to the Pacific Ocean. Though larger forest fires are uncommon in the park, in 2003 over 10 percent of the park was impacted by fires.
Glacier National Park borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada—the two parks are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, and were designated as the world's first International Peace Park in 1932. Both parks were designated by the United Nations as Biosphere Reserves in 1976, and in 1995 as World Heritage sites.
Flora and fauna
The park offers many opportunities to see wildlife, and its ecosystems are almost unchanged from what they were at the time of Lewis and Clark. Different trails offer visitors close encounters with animals from mountain goats to pine martens. The park is also one of the largest remaining natural grizzly habitats, and during late summer, grizzlies will often come to lower elevations to eat the area's popular berries and catch fish in the lakes. In addition to grizzly bears, the park is also home to two other endangered species: the Canadian lynx and the bull trout. 23 species of fish live in park waters, and fishing is a popular park activity. Birdwatchers will find many species of waterfowl in addition to larger birds of prey, including bald eagles.
Coniferous forest is the predominant ecosystem, although the forest is visibly different on the east and west sides of the Divide. Trails wind through subalpine meadows full of wildflowers and alpine tundras.
By Plane: Glacier Park International Airport near Kalispell, Montana is located 25/40 km miles west of the Park entrance in West Glacier, Montana. There are also airports in Great Falls, Montana (200 miles/322 km east of West Glacier), Missoula, Montana (156 miles/252 km south of West Glacier) and Calgary, Alberta (227 miles/445 km north of West Glacier). Car rentals are available at airports.
By Car: Visitors arriving by car will use U. S. Highway 2 to access the Park from either the east or west. Visitors can also access the Park from the north using Highways 89 or 17.
By Train: Amtrak services both East Glacier and West Glacier. Glacier Park, Inc. provides a shuttle service at these locations.
Glacier Park Lodge, Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier Hotel, Prince of Wales Hotel, Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins, Village Inn at Apgar