Glacier National Park Animals: Complete Family Guide

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If you’re planning a family trip that combines stunning landscapes with the thrill of wildlife encounters, look no further than Glacier National Park.

This jewel of the Rockies is not just a haven for nature enthusiasts; it’s a playground for kids and a sanctuary for some of North America’s most magnificent animals.

In this guide, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of the park’s diverse wildlife, offering insights on the best places to find them, the best times to spot them, and tips for ensuring a safe and unforgettable experience.

NPS Glacier National Park entrance signPin

13 Top Glacier National Park Animals To Spot

Grizzly Bears

Witnessing a grizzly bear in its natural habitat is awe-inspiring. During the summer months, you might observe them foraging for berries, digging for roots, or swimming in lakes.

Glacier National Park has one of the largest remaining grizzly bear populations in the United States!

Glacier National Park animals: grizzly bear in a meadowPin
grizzly in a Glacier NP meadow

Grizzly bears, also known as brown bears, are massive, with distinctive humps on their shoulders. Their fur can range from blond to dark brown, and some bears even have a silver-tipped appearance.

They have been listed as a threatened species in the contiguous United States, including some areas near Glacier National Park. Conservation efforts are ongoing to protect and restore their populations.

Be sure to maintain a safe distance and stay on designated trails to avoid unexpected encounters. It is a good idea to carry bear spray when hiking just in case you come across one.

Where to Spot Them: Grizzly bears are often found in higher elevations, particularly in meadows and open areas. Many visitors have reported sightings along the Highline Trail and in the alpine meadows near Logan Pass. The areas around Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake McDonald are also known for brown bear activity.

Best Time to See Them: Summer is the prime season for grizzly bear sightings, especially from June to September. They are more active during the day, so keep your eyes peeled in the early morning or late afternoon.

Mountain Goats

Watch in awe as mountain goats effortlessly navigate sheer cliffs and rocky outcrops.

You might catch them licking salt deposits from rocks or engaging in playful interactions, offering a captivating display of their adaptability to the park’s challenging terrain.

mountain goat on a high boulder overlooking lake in Glacier National Park, MontanaPin
Doesn’t this guy look like he’s posing up there?

Mountain goats have distinctive white coats and impressive curved horns. Their cloven hooves provide exceptional grip on rocky surfaces.

Bring a camera with a good zoom lens to capture these majestic creatures against the rugged mountain backdrop.

Where to Spot Them: Mountain goats are commonly seen on steep, rocky terrain. Hidden Lake Overlook Trail and Logan Pass are popular spots to catch these agile climbers in action, as well as in the alpine tundra regions above the tree-line on the west slope and the east side of the park.

Best Time to See Them: Summer is the optimal time for mountain goat sightings, and they are often more active in the morning and evening.

Black Bears

Observing a black bear in the wild is a glimpse into the secretive world of the forest. They might be foraging for berries, fishing in streams, or ambling through meadows. Witnessing their natural behaviors is a rare and magical experience for families.

Glacier National Park animals: black bear standing on the side of a roadPin
Black bear in Glacier NP

Black bears come in various colors, including black, brown, cinnamon, and even white. They have a straight facial profile and rounded ears.

Pay attention to signs of bear activity, such as overturned rocks or scratched tree trunks. Be bear-aware by carrying bear spray and making noise on the trail to alert them of your presence.

Where to Spot Them: Black bears are versatile and can be found in various habitats, including forests and meadows. Many visitors have reported sightings along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Best Time to See Them: Black bears are active year-round, but summer and early fall offer the best chances for sightings. Dawn and dusk are peak activity times.

Mountain Lions

Spotting a mountain lion is a rare and exhilarating experience. These solitary and secretive creatures may be observed hunting or traversing the park’s quieter corners.

While elusive, the mere possibility of encountering one adds a thrilling (ok…scary is likely a better word) aspect to your Glacier National Park adventure.

mountain lion in the meadow during the dayPin
Mountain Lion in Arches NP

Mountain lions, also known as cougars, are sleek and muscular with a tawny coat. They have a distinctive long tail and may have a white or black tip.

While spotting a mountain lion is very rare, if you do encounter one, make yourself look bigger, back away slowly, and avoid running. Mountain lions are generally shy and prefer to avoid human contact.

Where to Spot Them: Mountain lions are highly elusive and rarely spotted by visitors. However, they may roam throughout the park, especially in more remote areas.

Best Time to See Them: Mountain lions are primarily nocturnal, making nighttime the most likely time for sightings. However, they can be active during the day as well.

Mule Deer

Observing mule deer is a serene and peaceful experience. They may be grazing in meadows, traversing through forests, or navigating lakeshores.

Glacier National Park animals: mule deer in a meadowPin
beautiful mule deer buck in Glacier National Park

Mule deer have large ears that resemble mule ears, giving them their name. Their coats vary from gray to reddish-brown.

Mule deer are accustomed to human presence but may become skittish if approached too quickly.

Where to Spot Them: Mule deer are commonly found in meadows and open areas throughout the park. The Many Glacier area is known for its frequent deer sightings.

Best Time to See Them: Mule deer are active year-round, but early morning and late afternoon are the best times for observing their grazing behavior.

White-Tailed Deer

Watching white-tailed deer gracefully move through the forest is like witnessing a scene from a fairy tale. They may be browsing on vegetation or navigating the woodlands with a combination of elegance and agility, creating enchanting family moments.

white-tail deer (doe) in Glacier National ParkPin
white-tailed deer in a meadow in Glacier NP

White-tailed deer have distinctive white tails that they flash as an alarm signal. Their coat color varies but is generally reddish-brown in summer and gray-brown in winter.

As with all wildlife, maintain your distance. And avoid sudden movements. White-tailed deer are generally more skittish than mule deer, so maintaining a respectful distance is crucial.

Where to Spot Them: White-tailed deer prefer forested areas and can often be seen near lakeshores. Trails around Two Medicine Lake offer good opportunities for sightings.

Best Time to See Them: White-tailed deer are active year-round, but early morning and late afternoon are ideal times for observing their graceful movements.

Bald Eagles

Watching a bald eagle soar overhead or perch on a branch near a pristine lake is a truly patriotic experience.

Witness their incredible aerial displays as they hunt for fish or interact with their mates, creating a sense of awe and admiration for the natural world.

Glacier National Park animals: bald eagle in a tree in the winterPin
Glacier National Park bald eagle in the winter

Bald eagles have distinctive white heads and tails, yellow beaks, and talons. They are large birds of prey with wingspans that can exceed seven feet.

Bring binoculars or a telephoto lens to get a closer look at these majestic birds.

Where to Spot Them: Bald eagles are commonly seen near bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers. Lake McDonald and Bowman Lake are excellent places to observe these iconic birds.

Best Time to See Them: Winter is a prime time for bald eagle sightings, especially when lakes are partially frozen. They are active throughout the day but may be more visible during mornings and evenings.

Red-Tailed Hawks

These skilled hunters may be soaring on thermals, scanning the landscape for prey, or engaging in impressive mid-air acrobatics, creating an exhilarating experience for families.

Red-tailed hawks have a distinctive red tail, along with a brown and white mottled appearance. They are large raptors with broad wings and a keen gaze.

red tailed hawk sitting on a postPin
it’s always fun to spot a bird of prey – and Glacier is a great place to find them

Look to the skies and listen for their distinctive calls. Red-tailed hawks are skilled hunters, and you may witness their impressive aerial displays as they search for prey.

Where to Spot Them: Red-tailed hawks can be found throughout the park, soaring high above open areas and forests. Look for them along the park’s scenic viewpoints.

Best Time to See Them: Red-tailed hawks are active during the day, with peak activity in the late morning and afternoon.

Canada Lynx

Spotting a Canada lynx in the wild is a rare and elusive experience. These solitary and secretive cats are skilled hunters, preying on snowshoe hares and other small mammals.

lynx sitting among some treesPin

The Canada lynx is a medium-sized cat with distinctive tufted ears and a short, bobbed tail. Its fur is dense and grayish-brown, providing excellent camouflage in snowy environments.

If you’re in lynx habitat, look for tracks in the snow, and listen for their distinctive calls. Patience and a keen eye are essential for any potential lynx encounter.

Where to Spot Them: The Canada lynx inhabits dense boreal forests and is rarely seen. While sightings in Glacier National Park are extremely uncommon, they may roam in more remote and forested areas.

Best Time to See Them: Lynx are primarily crepuscular (active during dawn and dusk) and nocturnal. Winter months might offer better visibility due to the contrast against the snowy landscape.

Golden Eagles

Spotting a golden eagle in flight is a breathtaking experience. These high-flying raptors may be seen riding thermals or executing impressive stoops to catch their prey.

Golden eagles are large birds of prey with dark brown plumage and golden-yellow napes. They have long wings and a powerful, hooked beak.

golden eagle in flightPin
Golden Eagle

Bring binoculars or a spotting scope for a closer view. Golden eagles are known for their keen eyesight, so they may spot you before you spot them.

Where to Spot Them: Golden eagles inhabit open and semi-open landscapes, such as meadows and cliffs. Watch for them soaring above Logan Pass and the Many Glacier region.

Best Time to See Them: Golden eagles are most active during the day, and they are often seen soaring on thermals in search of prey.

Gray Wolf

Observing a gray wolf in its natural habitat is a rare and remarkable experience. They may be seen traveling in packs, communicating through howls, or hunting together.

Witnessing these intelligent and social animals is a glimpse into the untamed beauty of Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park animals: gray wolf by a river bankPin

Gray wolves have a bushy tail, pointed ears, and a fur coat that can range from gray to black.

Wolves are elusive, so patience is key. Listen for their distinctive howls and watch for tracks or signs of recent activity. Keep a safe distance and avoid approaching them.

Where to Spot Them: Gray wolves inhabit remote and forested areas of the park. The North Fork area and the region around Kintla Lake are known for wolf activity.

Best Time to See Them: Wolves are most active during the early morning and late evening. Winter offers better visibility as vegetation is sparse.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

Witnessing a group of bighorn sheep navigating steep cliffs and rocky slopes is a spectacle of nature. These powerful and sure-footed animals may engage in playful interactions or showcase their impressive horns, offering a unique and memorable experience for families.

Glacier National Park animals: two bighorn sheep side by sidePin

Big horn sheep are characterized by their distinctive curved horns, which are present in both males and females. They have a brownish-gray coat that provides excellent camouflage in rocky environments.

Bring binoculars or a spotting scope to admire their impressive horns. Approach slowly and quietly, as bighorn sheep can be easily startled.

Where to Spot Them: Bighorn sheep are often found in the high-altitude areas of the park, particularly in rocky terrain. Look for them along the Highline Trail and in the alpine meadows near Logan Pass.

Best Time to See Them: Bighorn sheep are active year-round, and they may be more visible during the early morning and late afternoon.


Known for their strength, intelligence and tenacity, wolverines may be seen traversing vast territories in search of food. Witnessing one of these elusive creatures is a rare and awe-inspiring experience.

Wolverines are medium-sized carnivores with a robust build, strong jaws, and a bushy tail. Their fur can vary from dark brown to light tan, and some may have distinctive light-colored markings.

Wolverines face challenges related to climate change and habitat loss. Their low population densities and extensive home ranges make them vulnerable to disturbances.

wolverine walking on a fallen logPin

While the conservation status of wolverines may vary, staying informed about their ecology and contributing to habitat conservation efforts is crucial.

Look for tracks and signs such as scat or markings on trees. Due to their elusive nature, encountering a wolverine requires patience, a keen eye, and a bit of luck (although truthfully, this is one animal you may not really want to encounter in the wild!).

Where to Spot Them: Wolverines are elusive and wide-ranging, making sightings rare. Glacier National Park is part of their historic range, but due to their nomadic nature, spotting one within the park is challenging. Sighting have been reported recently along Hidden Lake Trail, so keep an eye out for them there.

Best Time to See Them: Wolverines are primarily crepuscular and nocturnal, making sightings during the early morning or late evening more likely. Winter months might provide better visibility against the snowy landscape.

And that wraps up this list of Glacier National Park animals to keep a look out for on your park adventure.

As you get out there in the park, remember that wild animals are unpredictable but encounters are incredibly rewarding provided you follow precautions, keeping your distance and being respectful of the animals in the park. Be patient, stay vigilant, and embrace the magic of the wilderness.

And always check the park’s website as well as at the ranger station to ask about recent wildlife sightings, as well as current park conditions. Remember also that if you’re headed to Glacier during peak season (summer) you’ll need to secure park reservations to enter! So plan ahead!

With these tips and insights, you’re well-equipped to create lasting memories surrounded by the natural wonders and captivating Glacier National Park animals.

Safe travels and happy exploring!

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Glacier National Park Animals: Use this Wildlife Guide as Your Family Looks for Wildlife in Glacier NP, Montana! #usnationalparks #familytravel #wildlifePin
happy trails, heatherPin
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About Heather Thibodeau

Heather Thibodeau is the founder and mom behind

She and her husband Dave (AKA Tib) are on a mission to travel to as many US national parks with their three kids in tow as they possibly can, doing their best to keep the little ones out in nature and off of screens in an increasingly digital world.

Heather has earned degrees in biology & chemistry from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies), and holds master's and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Duke University (Go Blue Devils).

Heather is also the creative force behind The Heathered Nest where she shares her love of all things DIY and home decor.

Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, This Old House,, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more.

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