hikes in Glacier National Park
Sculpted over millennia by ancient ice giants, Glacier National Park is one of North America’s finest jewels. Indeed, the scenery and landscapes here are so fine that the region has been dubbed the ‘Crown of the Continent’, and it’s widely regarded as one of the most marvelous places for hiking in North America. While there are still traces of the colossal glaciers that carved out the mountains and valleys, today this region is a lush, green, flower-strewn paradise.
With over 1000km of hiking trails, most of which lie in the backcountry, hiking in Glacier National Park is a real treat. Littered with stunning, crystal lakes and gurgling rivers and brooks, it’s easy to see that this is a land that has been shaped by water and ice. The craggy rocky mountain peaks, still decorated by glaciers, dominate the horizon and make for an incredible vista once you get above the treeline. However, a hike in Glacier National Park will also take you through dense forests and across expansive alpine meadows, covered with a carpet of beautiful, delicate flowers in the spring and summer.
There are many opportunities for wildlife spotting across the park, and you might have the chance to see big horned sheep, cougars, wolverines, moose, black bears and grizzly bears. Over 200 species of birds call the park their home, including harlequin ducks, blue herons, peregrine falcons and golden eagles. Don’t forget your camera – Glacier National Park is a photographer’s dream.
This jewel of Montana deserves to be explored, so if you’re looking for your next hiking adventure, why not choose Glacier National Park? We’re sure you won’t regret it!
The Top Hikes in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is an increasingly popular hiking destination, attracting visitors from all over North America, and even further afield! It’s increasingly seen as a great place for experienced hikers to get in shape and build their fitness by taking on some challenging day hikes and backpacking trips, with plenty of strenuous trails that rise to high passes and ridges. If you’re a fit, experienced hiker, you certainly won’t be disappointed by the range of challenging trails on offer throughout the park.
However, if you’re a beginner trekker, or traveling with family, there are lots of other types of hiking in Glacier National Park. Low elevation trails that skirt the lakes and rivers are an excellent option for groups with younger children, offering plenty of interesting things to look at along the way. In particular, kids will love the chance to do a little wildlife spotting, or admire one of the many gushing waterfalls in the park. Many of the easier trails have boardwalk paths to provide easy access for those with mobility issues, and there are lots of guided and non-guided nature trails to allow you to experience the best that the park has to offer!
Easy Hikes In Glacier National Park
Hidden Lake Overlook Hike: This stunning short walk to the Hidden Lake Overlook is one of our favorite easy hikes in Glacier National Park! You’ll pass by the beautiful ‘Hanging Gardens’, filled with alpine flowers, before reaching the spectacular viewpoint over the lake. With breathtaking mountain views, Rocky Mountain Goats on the route, and bears fishing for salmon in the lake, there’s plenty to see along the way! It’s a (deservedly) popular route and you’re likely to encounter lots of other visitors on the trail, so try to come early to avoid the crowds.
Family Hikes In Glacier National Park
St Mary and Virginia Falls Hikes: This family friendly route takes in two beautiful waterfalls close to Logan Pass on the Going-To-The-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Both St Mary and Virginia Falls are surrounded by fine mists that catch the light perfectly on a sunny day, and kids will love to see the tumbling falls surrounded by lush, green forest. The perfect family day out.
Day Hikes In Glacier National Park
Swiftcurrent Pass Hike: This incredible day hike in Glacier National Park is a real treat for adventurous hikers. You’ll pass alongside the river, by beautiful lakes and gushing waterfalls, before heading steeply uphill to the pass. The views are spectacular all along the way, with alpine meadows and dramatic vistas over the chain of lakes that stretches all the way to Lake Sherburne.
Challenging Hikes In Glacier National Park
The Highline Hike: If you can only do one challenging hike in Glacier National Park, make it the Highline Trail! This iconic trek is one of the most popular routes along the Continental Divide, offering a good workout in some of North America’s finest terrain. With flower-filled meadows, serene lakes and mind-blowing mountain views, this is one of the best ways to experience Glacier National Park at its best.
Other Great Hikes in Glacier National Park
Piegan Pass Hike: If you’re in the Many Glacier area, why not try this magnificent hike up to Piegan Pass? The trail rises gently through forests, meadows and gurgling streams, before emerging at the top of the pass. You’ll enjoy a marvelous panorama over Piegan Mountain on one side and Cataract Mountain on the other, in addition to the other major peaks of the region.
Scenic Point Hike: The aptly named Scenic Point Hike is known for its incredible views over the Two Medicine Area of Glacier National Park. This region is very important to the Blackfeet nation, who trace their origins to the mountains and springs within the park. You can admire the valley as you switchback up the mountain, and look out over the Upper and Lower Two Medicine Lakes and the Sweetgrass Hills from the top.
Swiftcurrent Creek Hike: This hike passes along a stunning valley, offering plenty to see and do along the way! You’ll enjoy a view of the pleasant Redrock Lake and the gushing Redrock Falls, pass through forests and over streams, and even tackle a (very bouncy) suspension bridge! The mountain views are spectacular, and kids will love the varied scenery and the chance to spot the occasional moose along the trail.
Iceberg Lake Hike: If you’re looking for an early summer hike in Glacier National Park, try this stunning trail that springs to life at the beginning of the season. Decorated all along the way with gorgeous wildflowers, this is a photographer’s paradise, with the intense blue of the lake perfectly offsetting the craggy gray ridge that surrounds it, usually still flecked with a little snow. The eponymous icebergs dot the lake in early summer, making this a unique and magical spot for a rest before retracing your footsteps back to the start.
Ptarmigan Tunnel Hike: The Ptarmigan Tunnel is one of Glacier National Park’s most unusual attractions, comprising a 76m passageway through the seemingly impenetrable rock of the Ptarmigan Wall. This magnificent trail offers a treat for those with enough energy to make the climb up to the tunnel: an incredible view over Elizabeth Lake and Natoas Peak. With lakes, waterfalls and atmospheric forests along the way, this is a hike that certainly won’t disappoint!
Grinnell Glacier Trail Hike: Widely regarded as one of the best hikes in the United States, the Grinnell Glacier Trail offers hikers a wonderful set of riches to admire. Right from the start, this trail will take your breath away, passing by the Swiftcurrent Creek and winding up towards Lake Josephine. There’s an exhilarating climb across carved ledges, up to an incredible viewing point where you can take in views of the Cirque surrounding Upper Grinnell Lake. This trail is not for the fainthearted, but certainly worth the effort.
When Is The Best Time To Hike In Glacier National Park?
Like many other Rocky Mountain destinations, the main hiking season in Glacier National Park is relatively short, from June to September. Some of the higher elevation trails are only accessible in July and August, and even in early summer you can expect to see a little snow on higher ground. Lower elevation trails are accessible from late May/early June, although June experiences high precipitation, which often falls as snow on higher ground. As a result, the best time to hike here is September, before the winter snows begin, when the weather is warm and sunny. By this time, the crowds on the busiest trails have dissipated, so you’ll be able to enjoy the park in peace. Whatever time of year you choose, remember that weather in the mountains is unpredictable and can change rapidly, so come prepared!
Other Outdoor Activities In Glacier National Park
While hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Glacier National Park, there are plenty of other things to do if you’re a fan of the Great Outdoors! In summer, the park is a paradise for backpacking adventures, with many multi-day trekking options in the backcountry. It’s also a good place to try your hand at road biking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, or take advantage of the many lakes and rivers to go boating or fishing (permits required). In winter, although the hiking trails are difficult to access, this is an excellent opportunity for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
How To Plan A Trip To Glacier National Park
Is Glacier National Park on your hiking bucket list? If so, take advantage of our comprehensive guide to planning a trip to Glacier National Park. You’ll find everything you need to get going, including advice about where to stay, where to eat, and all the best things to do during your trip. We’ve also got an ideal itinerary for the perfect day out in the region. We’ve fallen in love with this stunning hiking paradise, and we’re sure you will too!
Frequently-Asked-Questions About Glacier National Park
Do I need a permit to enter the park?
Yes, to hike in Glacier National Park you’ll need to purchase an entrance ticket, and you’ll need to buy a permit for activities such as backcountry camping, fishing, or boating. There can often be a lot of competition for backcountry permits in peak season so to avoid the queues, make an advance reservation well in advance to secure permits for your group.
Can you hike to a glacier in Glacier National Park?
The many glaciers that give the park its name have been retreating at a rapid pace in recent years as a result of human-induced climate change, with up to 70% loss in some areas. Many of the remaining glaciers in the park are perched high in the mountains, or obscured by the permanent snowfield. However, it is still possible to hike to some glaciers, the most popular route being the challenging hike to Grinnell Glacier.
Where should I stay when visiting Glacier National Park?
There are 13 campgrounds in Glacier National Park, all of which offer good facilities and room for both tents and RV campers. For those with an adventurous spirit, it’s also possible to camp in the backcountry, but make sure that you’ve secured a permit first. If you don’t fancy spending your nights under canvas, there are also several lodges and chalets close to the park, and plenty of hotels in the small towns of Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Somers and Bigfork.
Are there bears in Glacier National Park?
Glacier National Park is home to both grizzly bears and black bears, and it’s important to follow advice and take adequate precautions if you are hiking in the backcountry. However, bear-related incidents in the park are very rare. Occasionally the park ranges will close some trails or restrict access if it’s likely that there will be lots of bears in the vicinity (i.e., in prime fishing locations).
Is Glacier National Park dangerous?
Hiking in Glacier National Park is one of the best adventures you can have with your family and friends! However, hiking in a wilderness area does come with risks, and it’s important to be aware and to come prepared. Always follow advice from the park authorities, and check weather conditions before you embark on a hike. Make sure you are adequately kitted out for your hike, with emergency food, water, shelter, flashlights and other safety equipment.Read More
The best hikes in Glacier National Park
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