Hikes in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park Hikes
Glacier National Park hikes are a life changing experience, allowing visitors to take in some of the most stunning landscapes Montana has to offer. 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. If you are after the outdoor experience of a lifetime, then Glacier National Park hikes are the way to go!
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, Glacier National Park hikes 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 hikes present amazing opportunities for photographers!
This jewel of Montana deserves to be explored, so if you’re looking for your next adventure, why not choose one of the many Glacier National Park hikes? 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 is plenty of variety when it comes to Glacier National Park hikes. 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
You can find our full list of Glacier National Park hikes below.
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 for to experience Glacier National Park hikes 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, what Glacier National Park hikes will suit your needs, 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.
Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
McDonald Creek Trail
McDonald Creek Trail is a family-friendly trail that has many highlights. Traveling through lush green forests, you will discover McDonald Falls rushing through the rock formations. You will also get to see views from Avalanche Creek Outlook, which showcases beautiful views of the surrounding area.
Rockwell Falls Trail
Rockwell Falls Trail has one of the most stunning backdrops in all of Glacier National Park. Gaze at views of Lone Walker and Sinopah Mountain with Painted Tepee Peak and Mt. Helen in the distance. The peaks engulf emerald green Two Medicine Lake and give life to Rockwell Falls.
Running Eagle Falls
Running Eagle Falls Trail is a great kid and wheelchair-friendly hike that takes you through stunning scenery. Upon arrival at the waterfall, you will see the smaller rush of water at the base; however, there is more than meets the eye. The Running Eagle Falls are also known as Trick Falls, as a second, only-visible-in-the-summer, 40 ft waterfall lays overhead and blocks the smaller waterfall. This second, large waterfall only flows in the spring and summer months.
Sun Point Nature Trail
Sun Point Nature Trail is a stunning hike through some of the most picturesque landscapes in Glacier National Park. The hike is underrated because it is a shorter hike, but you don’t need a long trail to pack in what this one does! Wander through the forest and surround yourself with lakes, waterfalls and mountains and gaze at the most stunning views.
Trail of the Cedars
The Trail of Cedars takes you through a forest of Western Hemlock and Red Cedar trees along a boardwalk that is stroller and wheelchair friendly. Explore the amazing views that the trail has to offer, the highlight being the footbridge over Avalanche Creek that showcases the Avalanche Gorge below. If you want to see Avalanche Creek up close, climb the short but steep trail to get to the banks and see the power that the glacially melted water has as it rushes through the gorge.
Lee Ridge Trail
Glacier National Park is home to over 700.0 mi of incredible trails; however, the Lee Ridge Trail has a special view that expands past the United States. Atop the winding ridge, when you emerge from the trees, you will be met with views of Chief Mountain, Gable Mountain and the plains of Calgary, Canada. You can view two countries at once on this spectacular hike and explore all of the reasons this is a popular place to be.
Triple Divide Pass
The Triple Divide Pass Trail is a unique piece of Glacier National Park as it brings together three oceans as water flows off of its soaring mountain peaks and sweeps down into the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans. The surrounding area is prime grizzly bear and white wolf territory, so make sure you pack some bear spray and make a lot of noise as you hike in this beautiful landscape. On your hike, keep a lookout for Medicine Grizzly Lake, but watch your balance as it can be windy, and there are some narrow and steep ledges!
Huckleberry Mountain Lookout
The Huckleberry Mountain Lookout is a rewarding hike through fields lined with juicy huckleberries that are a favorite among hikers and other species. The lookout is still used by the National Park Service to monitor wildfires, so you can imagine the expansive views that Huckleberry Mountain lookout covers. Hike to the tower and feast your eyes on miles of lush green forests and cool gray mountains in the distance.
Beaver Pond Trail
The Beaver Pond Trail is a place that holds a lot of history, from the Historic Ranger Station and barn to the Red Eagle Fire that burned 34,000 acres of Glacier National Park and Blackfeet Lands in 2006. Wander through the groves and grassy fields, and don’t forget to check out the marshy shores of Beaver Pond for a moose or two, as this is their favourite place to forage. Continue past Red Eagle Lake, and you will see more damage done by the fires as you pass burned tree trunks heading to St. Mary Lake and out of this trail.
Apikuni Falls Trail
The Apikuni Falls Trail is a short hike but provides the hiker with a challenge. As you hike towards the falls, you can hear water roaring in the distance, propelling excitement for the natural wonders to come! Eventually, you will emerge and see the 100 ft waterfall exploding down the cliff face. With care, you can head down to the lower half of the waterfall to take in its beauty.
Cobalt Lake Trail
The Cobalt Lake Trail has a little bit of everything for you to explore while getting a great workout. The trail is filled with views of mountain peaks, colorful wildflowers, powerful waterfalls and sparkling lakes. Treat yourself to magnific views and see why the Cobalt Lake Trail is so popular.
Florence Falls Trail
The Florence Falls Trail is a captivating journey through rushing waterfalls like Deadwood Falls and cool grey mountain backdrops from Gunsight and Fusillade Mountains and Mount Jackson. Pass through thimbleberry patches and chest-high vegetation, which are an excellent source of food and a good hiding spot for grizzly bears, so keep an eye out and make some noise! If you can climb up some steep rocks, you will be able to stand on top of Florence Falls and watch the water crash down over 100 ft.
Kootenai Lakes Trail
Kootenai Lake Trail is in an interesting spot as it’s located right at the border of Canada and the United States. Your hike to the Kootenai Lake Trail actually begins on the Waterton Valley Trail and takes you through a beautifully green forest with relatively no elevation. Kootenai Lake is surrounded by the Porcupine Ridge, which holds the Citadel Peaks and makes for a wonderful setting.
Medicine Grizzly Lake Trail
Enjoy a hike through Medicine Grizzly Lake’s Trail and explore the beauty that makes up this popular trail. Walking on mostly flat ground, with a few patches of climbing, you will see Mad Wolf and Bad Marriage mountain soar above the grassy plains. As you carry on, you will be met with Cut Bank Creek that flows into moose territory, and you may spot a grey wolf as well. Right before you hit your destination of Medicine Grizzly Lake, you will wander through a field full of colourful wildflowers.
Upper Two Medicine Lake Trail
Take a day to explore all that Upper Two Medicine Trail has to offer. From the peaks of Pumpelly Pillar, to the rushing waters of Twins Falls, immerse yourself in the wilderness and possibly see some wildlife in their natural habitat. Towards the end, look for the large rock formation sticking out that provides excellent views of all of Two Medicine Valley.
Numa Ridge Lookout Trail
The Numa Ridge Lookout Trail is located in the remote northwestern area of the Glacier National Park. It caters to hikers who are looking for the wilderness experience and who prefer to hike in solitude. Explore the beauty of this trail as you hike through the mountains and take in views of the surrounding areas.
Loneman Lookout Trail
The Loneman Lookout Trail is in the remote wilderness in the southern end of Glacier National Park, where visitors rarely journey to. The hike challenges you with elevation gains and showcases some of the most stunning views of the surrounding areas. This is a great opportunity for hikers who enjoy long, remote hikes and prefer to explore in solitude.
Mount Brown Lookout Trail
Hikers looking for a real challenge are invited to hike the Mount Brown Lookout Trail, which has constant acceleration for the majority of the trek. Hikers will test themselves by ascending 1,280 m in just 5.0 mi during one of the toughest hikes in Glacier National Park. The views at the end make this hike well worth the effort, with captivating views of the forest, mountains and lake below. At the top of this hike you will feel on top of the world.
Hidden Meadow Trail
Hidden Meadow Trail is a short, unique trail that tells the story of a wildfire that burned through the trail 25 years ago. The trees that were affected can be seen sticking straight up in the air, with new, prosperous green trees growing beneath them. The trail takes you to a clearing with a large pond, which is a nice place to sit and have a snack and take a look around to see if any wildlife are nearby.
Otokomi Lake Trail
Otokomi Lake Trail is a stunning maze of cascading waterfalls through Rose Creek canyon, some of which you can see and some you can only hear in the distance. You’ll also find deep red rock mountains that hover over the basin of Otokomi Lake sprawled across this hike. The trail is a mix between dense forest and high vegetation, where you will find different types of berries, so make sure you make some noise to alert any bears in the area. On this hike, always be on the lookout for short side trails as this is where some of the best views are.
Other Activities in Glacier National Park
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