Best time to travel to Glacier National Park, MT

Mountain Goats in Glacier National Park, MT 2024

Meet the great northern goat and find out why it licks salt deposits on the rocks

Best time: all year round (best in May–June)

Mountain Goats
Mountain Goats
Mountain Goats
A mountain goat in Glacier National Park

Mountain goats are among the most frequently encountered animals in Glacier National Park. The truth is that these subalpine to alpine species are quite used to visitors in the park, and those ungulates are not scared of humans at all. So the chances are pretty high that you too will see this wild animal up close. Keep in mind that it's not recommended to get closer than 25 yards (23 m) to any wildlife.

Mountain goat is quite symbolic for the Glacier Country. Rocky the Goat has been depicted on the logo for the Great Northern Railway, and goats are still among the most popular animals in the park. Glacier goats are excellent rock climbers and can jump up to 12 feet (4 m). They have beards, short tails, and long horns, reaching 6–11 inches (15–28 cm) in length. Their warm white coats help them survive winter when temperatures plummet to −46 °C (−51 °F).

Even though goats can be spotted in the park all year round, you'll have the highest chances to see them if you come early in the season, in May or June. When new green grass appears on the slopes in late spring and early summer, goats' mineral balance changes, and they seek the minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, found at the Goat Lick area and other spots around the park.

Goat Lick Overlook is located along Highway 2, not far from Essex, two miles southeast of the Walton Ranger Station. Goats are especially abundant on the exposed riverbanks of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Due to erosion, the banks have large masses of gray clay containing minerals that attract animals. Mountain goats are also frequently seen on the Hidden Lake Trail and near Logan Pass, on the Sperry Glacier Trail, and on Iceberg Lake Trail in the Many Glacier Area.

Practical info

When is the best time to see mountain goats in Glacier National Park?

Although mountain goats can be found in Glacier National Park at any time, the months of May and June are the best times to spot them. The goats flock to the Goat Lick area and other locations in the park during the late spring and early summer to get essential minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium that are found on the slopes where new grass emerges. Show more

Where are the best spots in Glacier National Park to see mountain goats?

Visitors who want to see mountain goats in Glacier National Park can have the best luck at locations like Goat Lick Overlook near Essex, the Logan Pass, Sperry Glacier Trail, the Hidden Lake Trail, and the Iceberg Lake Trail. Due to erosion depositing minerals in the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, the exposed riverbanks near the river are also prime spots to find this wildlife. Show more

How close can you get to mountain goats in Glacier National Park?

Wildlife enthusiasts who visit Glacier National Park are advised to keep at least 25 yards (23 meters) away from mountain goats and other wildlife. Although some mountain goats might become accustomed to human visitors, visitors should never attempt to touch, feed them or get too close to them, they still are wild animals that can be dangerous when irritated or provoked. Show more

Why do mountain goats lick salt deposits on rocks?

In Glacier National Park, mountain goats rely on salt deposits found on rocks to get calcium, potassium, and magnesium, minerals they need to maintain good health. These animals use their coarse tongues to remove the necessary minerals, with these minerals being especially abundant in areas such as rocky formations located near the Goat Lick section of the park. Show more

What minerals do mountain goats seek in Glacier National Park, and where can they be found?

To survive long and cold winters when the temperature can hit -46 °C, mountain goats in Glacier National Park need minerals, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They can find these minerals near the bank of the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, in the rocky formations near the Goat Lick area and on the slopes where new grass grows in May and June. These minerals help to balance their diet in the harsh environment of the park. Show more

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