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
Scalplock Lookout Trail
Scalplock Lookout Trail is a challenging hike that continues with a steady grade all the way to the top. Once you reach the lookout, you are rewarded with stunning views of the Southern area of Glacier National Park. This hike takes you through the wilderness and has you going through mostly forest to get to the captivating sights ahead.
Two Medicine Lake Trail
The Two Medicine Lake Loop Trail is a mesmerizing hike through awe-inspiring landscapes. Wander through the forest, walk along avalanche chutes and take in the wilderness around you as you hike along this trail. Deep in the hike you will come across Twin Falls and you may spot a moose or two.
Red Eagle Lake Trail
Red Eagle Lake Trail is a beautiful hike that takes you through beautiful scenery and stunning mountains. The trail was burned by a fire that occured in 2006, so a hike through here on a sunny day means plenty of vitamin D—bring your sunscreen. After a fairly easy hike, you will see why this is such a popular trail as you gaze up at Curly Bear, Split, Red Eagle and Norris Mountain and Red Eagle Peak.
Rainbow Falls Trail
The Rainbow Falls Trail is a gorgeous hike that sits near the Canadian and United States border. It takes you through the forest among an abundance of huckleberries and ends with views of the falls with Mount Cleveland towering above. This is a remote hike where few people venture, so if you are looking for a quiet, solitary hike, this is perfect.
South Boundary Trail
The South Boundary Trail is a short hike down the Middle Fork Flathead River that boasts views of the surrounding forest. The hike used to carry on longer, but the erosion of the soil and lack of hikers have cut the trail distance down. Most hikers now turn and head back at Lincoln Creek.
Trout Lake Trail
Trout Lake Trail is a stunning, remote area of Glacier National Park that provides a challenging hike to anyone brave enough to take it on. The trail leads you up through Howe Ridge with a steep climb and then takes you through forested areas that were burned in a wildfire. These burned areas allow you to see small glimpses of McDonald Lake, and eventually, Trout Lake.
Lake McDonald Trail
Lake McDonald Trail is a great opportunity for hikers to get out into the wild and explore Glacier National Park. This hike takes you through much of the fire damage that took place years ago but also showcases the regrowth that is happening. Take in the views of Rocky Point while enjoying lunch and keep your eyes peeled for a bear or moose.
Waterton Overlook Trail
The Waterton Overlook Trail is a unique hike as it begins by crossing the border by boat from Canada to the United States, making a passport necessary to do this hike. The hike is family-friendly and gives you a small workout but rewards you with beautiful views. Immerse into nature with this spectacular hike.
Quartz Creek Trail
Quartz Creek Trail is a relaxing hike on a remote trail in Glacier National Park. The hike takes you through mostly forested areas and opens up to occasional meadows filled with wildflowers in the summer months. In the spring, Quartz Creek can be dangerous with high, heavy water flow, so be mindful of this if you are hiking during these months as you have to cross the creek towards the end of the trail.
Fish Lake Trail
Fish Lake Trail is a mix between relaxing and heart pumping. The start of the trail takes you through a dense forest as you begin to ascend along Gunsight Pass Trail. After a workout, you are rewarded with the serene setting of lily-pad-covered Fish Lake.
Howe Ridge Trail
Howe Ridge Trail is a hike through a forested area that was burned by a previous fire and is experiencing regrowth throughout. There are wonderful views during this hike; however, the new trees that are growing are beginning to obscure the sights slightly. During this trail, you will be able to see stunning views of Lake McDonald and the surrounding mountain peaks.
Snyder Ridge Trail
Hiking through Snyder Ridge Trail takes you through a forest for most of the trail that follows the ridge along the way. The views for most of the hike are of the surrounding dense forest until you come closer to the end of the trail. The last few miles will open up to small creeks and beautiful views of Fish Lake.
Other Activities in Glacier National Park
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