We’ve seen and heard just about everything in our ten years in Glacier. So, we have compiled some of our most frequently asked questions about kayaking (and stand up paddleboarding) in Glacier National Park to help you with your planning.
Glacier Outfitters is located in Apgar Village, next to Lake McDonald. We rent single, tandem (that's a two person), and triple kayaks. We also rent stand up paddleboards and have a few kids kayaks for the little adventurer in your group. Keep reading to see our most frequently asked questions about paddling on Lake McDonald and then head over HERE to make your reservation before we sell out!
Our shop is conveniently located in Apgar Village, about a 3 minute walk from the shore of beautiful Lake McDonald. Our kayak and paddleboard rentals include a set of wheels that make walking the rentals between our shop and the lake super easy. We’ll go over specifics the day you rent from us about where you should or shouldn’t kayak that day based on weather conditions. But, there is no need to drive the kayaks anywhere or load them up on your vehicle, just walk them right from our shop!
Apgar Village is located about 2 miles inside the West Glacier entrance to Glacier National Park.
We do not have a parking lot. Parking in Apgar Village can be sparse or nonexistent most of the time. We highly recommend that you park at the Apgar Visitor Center, they have a very large parking lot that rarely gets full. From there, you can walk to our shop on the very quiet and pretty Apgar Bike Path, it is about a 7 minute walk from the Visitor Center to our shop in Apgar Village.
We rent sit on top Ocean Brand kayaks. We have single person, tandem (two person), and triple kayaks. Please note that our triple person kayaks are the same kayak as our tandem kayak, we just add a seat back to the very middle of the tandem kayak. The triple kayak is designed for families with young/small children, the child would sit in the middle seat and the person in the back will have less leg room, but easy access to the child in the middle.
We also have a few kids kayaks for little adventurers, the kid kayaks are for those confident paddlers under the age of about 10, with a 130lb weight limit, we usually recommend tying the kids kayaks to an adult kayak for added safety.
No weight limit. We rent Ocean Brand kayaks, and they are pretty darn sturdy and can withstand quite a bit of weight.
There is not. We trust that parents know their children's abilities, we provide infant and toddler life vests and they must be worn by children at all times.
Yes! We have life jackets for all ages and sizes, including infants, toddlers and even dogs!
Absolutely! We even have doggy life vests.
Probably! Every person is different and every day is different, but typically, Lake McDonald is a calm lake. If the day you visit is windy or we don’t think it is safe to go, we will let you know before sending you out. Safety is our top priority and we work hard to make sure everyone feels safe and confident when taking our gear out to adventure in Glacier. Plus–our kayaks are really sturdy! We rent Ocean brand kayaks, so they are great for beginners!
Our minimum is 2 hours, and typically that is plenty of time. But if you want to pack a picnic and kayak out to a piece of shore along the lake, you may consider booking longer so you can take your time and enjoy the day on the lake. You can also add on time the day of your rental.
Probably! We don’t offer advance reservations for the afternoon, but we do rent all of our kayaks and SUPs on a first come first serve basis from 11:30am each day. Typically, there is very little or no wait for kayaks/SUPs in the afternoon, as we have quite a large fleet and they are coming and going all day long. During peak times, you may experience a brief wait (+/-15 minutes). Also, please note that wind on Lake McDonald can pick up in the afternoons, so we can decide to stop renting kayaks/SUPs if weather and conditions change.
The exception to the afternoon reservation rule is that after Labor Day in September, we slow down drastically. We will allow afternoon reservations at that time, though they aren't really needed since we are usually aren't very busy.
There is shoreline along the right side of the lake. Just stay to the right and you will find multiple spots to come ashore for breaks. We will go over a map with you when you arrive, so you will have a much better idea and understanding before we send you on your way!
It isn’t warm! Lake McDonald is typically somewhere in the 50s, but can warm up to the low 60s in the middle of summer. While it sounds cold, it is quite refreshing on a hot summer day. And, in late fall and early Spring, the water temperature may actually be warmer than the air temp, so that can be nice as well!
We recommend bringing layers and clothing you don’t mind getting a little wet in. Water shoes, outdoor sandals or tennis shoes that you can get wet may be helpful as well. Your feet will likely get wet getting in/out of the kayak and Lake McDonald is rocky, so keep that in mind. If you get cold easily, a light jacket may be nice, but in the middle of summer, it can be very warm–so layers are nice!
You don’t want to take too much on the kayaks/SUPs, but a drink, snack and maybe your phone/camera for photos should be enough. We also have dry bags you can borrow (while supplies last) to keep your belongings dry while you are on the water. Having a towel or change of clothes in your car isn’t a bad idea either, just in case! Most importantly, arrive to our shop ready to go! Be dressed, have your drink/snacks ready and visit the bathrooms before coming to our shop.
You shouldn’t be getting soaked, but water drips off the paddles and can come up in the kayak a little bit, so having a towel or change of clothes in your car for after is smart. Your feet will likely get wet getting in and out of the kayak as well.
Sure! We rent spin rods as well. You don’t need a fishing license to fish inside Glacier, so just rent the rod and tackle from us and you’re good to go. We will warn you though, the fishing isn’t great–the lake is very deep and cold, so catching fish on Lake McDonald isn’t likely.
That is highly unlikely. Lake McDonald is 10 miles long and 472 feet deep, most paddlers can kayak at about 1-2 miles per hour, so to do the entire lake, which would be 20 miles round trip, would take the average person 10-20 hours…at best! Then you have to factor in wind, weather, choppy waters, etc. During a 2-3 hour kayak/SUP rental, you’ll likely just kayak along either shoreline, 1-3 miles total, and that is usually plenty.
We don't encourage taking our kayaks elsewhere. However, what you do with your rental is up to you. Just be aware that if you leave the park boundaries you will need to get the kayak/SUP inspected upon return (for invasive species). You will also be responsible for loading, securing and transporting the kayaks/sups on your own. We do not provide any racks or tiedowns, or assistance. Lastly, we do not allow our kayaks/SUPs to be operated on moving waters, that means no rivers. streams or creeks--only lakes.
If wanting to kayak at Bowman Lake, we highly discourage that decision, as the road there is quite long and bumpy and frankly--the views are just as amazing at Lake McDonald, so there is really no need!
As for other lakes inside Glacier, you may try renting kayaks from Glacier Boat Co at St Mary, Two Med or in Many Glacier.
Vehicle Reservations for the Going To The Sun Road (after the West Glacier Entrance) are required in 2024 starting on May 24th. You will NOT need a vehicle reservation to enter through the West Entrance to get to our shop in Apgar Village, just show your confirmation email at the gate with your Annual National Park Pass or Glacier 7-day Pass.
You can learn more about Vehicle Reservations on our Vehicle Reservations FAQ Page.
To buy an annual National Park Pass or a Glacier 7-day Pass, CLICK HERE
©Glacier Outfitters 2020.