Glacier Outdoor Center Blog

Posted: June 8th, 2014 by Jeff

Early Season Hiking in Glacier National Park

Early season visitors often ask us, what are some hiking options in Glacier National Park when the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed? While having the road open does give you easier access to many more hiking opportunities, there are still plenty of other options while the road is still being worked on in the early season. This week, we are going to cover three options for the West Side of Glacier National Park. From an easy level to more difficult, these three hikes all provide some unique view of Glacier National Park.

Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

Johns Lake Loop
Trail Head – Johns Lake Trail head, 1.3 miles east of McDonald Lodge on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Distance – 1.9 miles
Difficulty – Easy

Johns Lake Loop is a short loop through a quiet old-growth forest of cedars that features glimpses of Lake McDonald, Johns Lake, McDonald Creek and two beautiful waterfalls called Sacred Dancing Cascades and McDonald Falls. At the beginning of the hike will be a fork in the trail. To continue to Johns Lake, take the left fork. A short while longer will be another fork in the trail. Going right at this fork will bring you to Johns Lake with a pretty view of Stanton Mountain in the background. There is also a great chance to see wildlife in this area. After leaving the lake and returning to the main trail, stay left to continue the loop. Eventually you will cross the Going-to-the-Sun Road on the trail towards Sacred Dancing Cascade, McDonald Creek and finally McDonald Falls before finishing the loop right back at your vehicle.

Avalanche Lake
Trail Head – Begin on the Trail of the Cedars Trail head which leads to the Avalanche Lake Trail head.
Distance – 4.6 miles
Difficulty – Moderate

Avalanche Lake is a wonderful hike which takes you through old growth forest and travels along Avalanche Gorge the entire way until you finally reach Avalanche Lake. Avalanche Lake hike has medium grade steepness throughout most of its duration and eventually flattens out towards the top as you reach the lake. Upon approaching Avalanche Lake the trees open up to reveal a beautiful backdrop of Bearhat Mountain with multiple water falls cascading down. At this point the main trail to the top has been completed. If you would like to continue on towards the head of the lake, follow the off beaten trail alongside the western shoreline.

Apgar Lookout

Apgar Lookout
Trail Head – Half a mile past the West Entrance of the Park, turn left on the road for Apgar lookout and continue over the bridge until you reach the trail head sign.
Distance – 7.1 miles
Difficulty – Hard

Apgar lookout provides great views of Lake McDonald, Middle Fork of the Flathead River and Apgar Lookout Tower. The hike begins in the trees but quickly transitions to the burned (2003, Robert Fire) areas as you gain elevation. From the start of the burned area to the ridge just below the lookout is just less than 3 miles.  The Lookout Tower was built in 1929 and is no longer in use today and is considered a National Historic structure.

These three hikes are great choices for early season visitors. They are all accessible in the early season when the road is not fully open.  Remember when hiking in Glacier National Park, carrying bear spray is always a good idea. The bears have all waken up from their long winter sleep and are regularly seen in the Park. For more information on hikes or to pick up any gear you might have left home, visit Glacier Outdoor Center located at 12400 U.S. 2, West Glacier, MT 59936, just ½ mile before the Going-to-the-Sun Road turnoff.

Posted: March 3rd, 2014 by Jeff


The temperature and also the chance I will go fishing today. It is not that West Glacier isn’t beautiful in the winter. Really, it’s one of my favorite times to be up here. You have the place all to yourself, no one is out and about, and every spot on the river is yours.

That being said it’s zero. Everyone has their limitations, mine is 34 degrees. 34 lets you fish without deicing your guides every minute. It lets a bit of a hatch come off, and allows you to not get frostbite from the wind chill. But today is NOT 34 degrees, it’s zero.

The good news is that we have been getting a great amount of snowfall this winter. Skiing has been good, and lots of snow pack means that the Middle Fork and North Fork will have water throughout the summer. But that seems so far away when you are looking at the thermometer out the window and it says zero.

March is here though, and while it can be cold, the pre-runoff can be very good. Just you on the river, with your friendly guide of course. The fish pod up and some of the rainbows from the lake start moving up. While it’s cold, it’s a great time to be out here.

So while it’s zero, we are still in the shop, ready to talk fishing for this month or the next and help you get some dates booked for this summer. Summer, that time of the year, when fish eat big dry flies, sip emergers and when it’s not “zero.”

By: John Malison

Spring fly fishing Glacier National Park


Posted: November 30th, 2012 by OM

Chestnuts are roasting on an open fire and now that we’re finally able to stand after the Thanksgiving festivities, we’ve embarked upon our next adventure – cutting down our own Christmas tree.


Now, if you’re new to Montana then you may or may not know the proper steps to go into the forest to cut down a Christmas tree. Lucky for you, Glacier Raft Co. is here to help. Follow these tips for a proper cutting experience.

1. Permits to cut down your own Christmas tree are only $5 – a small price to pay for bragging rights to your very own tree.

2. Families can obtain up to three permits. Permits are required if you want to avoid fines when you’re chopping.

3. Tree cutting is NOT allowed in wilderness or BLM-wilderness study areas. So don’t even go there.

4. When you purchase your permit you will be provided with an info sheet. READ IT! They don’t just write these things for fun.

5. The Forest Service and BLM offices are open weekdays 8:00am – 4:30pm. If you can’t make it here during business hours, you can get your permit from these other locations.

Anaconda: Hardware Hank

Boulder: Ace Hardware Store

Wise River: Wise River Mercantile

Ennis: True Value Hardware

Harrison: Wheat and Thistle

Sheridan: McLeod Mercantile

Butte: Bob Ward and Sons Sporting Goods

Lima: Ralph’s Exxon

For more information contact the Forest Service at (406) 683-3900, or the BLM at (406) 533-7600.

Happy Chopping!


Posted: November 30th, 2012 by OM

We’re still reeling from an awesome Thanksgiving holiday in Glacier Country.

The holiday season is a time reflect and be grateful. And boy, are we grateful!

A special holiday THANK YOU to:

1. Our amazing management and staff. Every year we have a wonderful team dedicated to making the Glacier Raft Co. and Glacier Anglers experience the best it can be.  Our long-time employees continue to be the glue, and our new recruits always bring new energy and excitement.

 2. Montana. Every morning we get to wake up to the beauty of Glacier National Park. Enough said.

3. Our friends and family. Every year has been better than the last. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our families and friends.

4. YOU! Yes, you. We couldn’t get through the day if it weren’t for our amazing guests from all over the world. We are so lucky to host rafters and fisherman who return year after year, as well as those who are arriving for the first time. Thank you all so much for your support.

So there you go.  Thank you to all of the wonderful people who have contributed to Glacier Raft Company‘s 36 years and cheers to the next 36!

Posted: November 15th, 2012 by kali

Ever been curious about where we store all our gear at the raft co? When you come to hang out with us in the summertime, you see our colorful array of boats, PFDs, coolers, tables and fishing gear but when you’re finished with your trip it all seems to disappear, leaving behind an immaculate campus.

Where does the gear go?  Well, our guides and managers take pride in organization.  There is a place for everything. Trailers go into the proper queue, boats go into the stalls, rafts get cleaned and rolled up in the barn loft, coolers hang happily from the rafters, busses await their winter maintenance and all is good on the western front at  Glacier Raft Co. –see for yourself in the pics below!


Posted: November 8th, 2012 by kali

Recently we had the pleasure of touring the AIRE Manufacturing Facility in Boise, ID.  It was SWEET and we loved every minute of it. AIRE makes rafts, catarafts, canoes, kayaks and accessories. Check out these photos of our tour!


Posted: October 31st, 2012 by OM

The Whiteifish Mountain Films is quickly approaching and we couldn’t be more excited about it–we’re going to be raffling off several whitewater trips, so if you want to come rafting with us next summer, here’s another chance to do it for one dollar!

Whitefish Mountain Films

On Saturday, November 10th, Bluebird Guides will come together with Outside Media to present the 2012 Whitefish Mountain Films. Doors open at 5:00 pm at the O’shaugnessy Center for a full night of adventure films and fun. Entrance is just a $5 donation and everyone is welcome. Raffle prizes including skis, outerwear, ski trips and dinners at local restaurants will be distributed throughout the night. Cost of entry is a $5 donation. All raffle proceeds benefit the Whitefish Mountain Trail.



Rainy June has come and gone and that means that Summer is in full swing up here at Glacier Raft Company.

You may think that we spend our time up here at the raft company just rafting, fishing and playing in the Montana sunshine. And you may be right. However what you may not know is that some of the playing we do up at the raft center goes to a great cause!

This could be you!

On July 17th  the Glacier Raft Center will be teaming up with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation to help volunteer in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. We will be weeding and clearing trails to ensure fun and safe hiking in the wilderness. BMWF still has trips available for participation this summer. Check them out here!

Posted: May 10th, 2012 by OM

At the recent 2012 Simms Ice Out Guide Event, Simms hosted a Shoot Out contest in which filmmakers were challenged to make the best six-minute film in fewer than three days. Our own, Ryan Thompson was selected to participate in the Shoot Out challenge, one of four production companies chosen.

His production company is called Swift Current productions and he and pal George White took second in the opening night ceremonies, with the film, “Lights Out.” But, the crew was able to WIN the  People’s Choice Award.  The People’s Choice awards were decided via online voting the week following the Ice Out event.Thompson won handily and we couldn’t be more proud!

Check out his video above and also cruise on by the his Swift Current Productions Facebook page and give ‘em a quick like. You’ll be glad you did.

Spring is rearing its beautiful head and Glacier Outdoor Center is celebrating! Coming up in June, Glacier Anglers is hosting Festival of the Fly, a series of fishing events including the Fun on the Fly! Youth Fly Fishing Day Camp, the Cast Off 2012 casting competition, and Glacier Anglers Demo Days.

Fun on the Fly! Youth Fishing Day Camp will be on June 9th and June 30th, 2012. From 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. kids are encouraged to come and learn the basics of casting, knots, fly selection and entomology. Equipment will be provided for attendees to use in our private ponds.  Discounted rafting will be available for adults for $32 while kids are at the camp. Lunch will be provided and all youth ages 6-16 are welcome!

Cast Off 2012 will be Saturday June 16th, 2012 featuring clinics by certified casting instructors and Glacier Anglers pro staff. Industry experts and product reps will provide product demos and presentations throughout the day. GOC will host casting competitions for all ages and ability levels with great prizes and raffles. Films from the Fly Fishing Film Tour will be showing throughout the day at the Bear’s Den on Glacier Outdoor Center campus.

During Demo Days on June 30 and July 1, attendees can check out the latest boats from Aire and Outcast. Fly fishing rod, reel and line demos will be provided by R.L. Winston, Sage, Redington and Rio & Simms. Oh, and there’s a free BBQ–we’ll be grilling up burgers and dogs!

For more info please contact The Glacier Outdoor Center at (406) 888 5454.