Glacier National Park is a national park located in the state of Montana in the United States. The park covers over 1 million acres and is home to glacier-carved peaks, alpine meadows, crystal-clear lakes, and diverse wildlife. Glacier National Park is a hiker’s paradise. Offering an abundance of scenic trails with stunning views of alpine lakes, towering mountains, and glaciers.
The park is home to over 700 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature walks to strenuous backcountry hikes. But, with over 700 miles of hiking trails it can be challenging to figure out which ones to do. We believe we can help you out! In this list we are talking about the 8 best hikes in Glacier National Park that you should check out.
Glacier National Park Highlights
Best Time to Go Summer (June to August): This is the peak season and the park is most crowded during this time. The weather is pleasant, and all the facilities, including lodges, campgrounds, and restaurants, are open. This is the best time for hiking and other outdoor activities but make your reservations well in advance.
How to Get to Glacier National Park: The closest airport to the glacier is in Kalispell and Great Falls. And if you are going, go to Waterton lakes the closest airport is in Calgary.
How to Get Around: Glacier National Park is fairly easy to navigate. The best way to navigate is by using your own vehicle or renting. The park service at Glacier does run a shuttle along Going-to-the-Sun Road from June through early September which is useful if you plan on doing any longer backpacking trips or hiking the highline trail.
Camping In Glacier National Park: There are quite a few campgrounds in Glacier National Park. Some of the most popular are Many Glacier, Apgar, and Avalanche Creek.
National Park Pass: Glacier National Park does have a fee depending on vehicle and time of the year. In the summer it is $35 per private vehicle to see other conditions of entry check out the NPS site.
If you plan on visiting other National Parks, The America the Beautiful Park pass is a huge money saver. It will give you access to over 400+ park systems and all National Parks for $80 good for the whole year!
Don’t Forget Leave No Trace: Before heading on your outdoor journey, make sure to review the Leave No Trace principles to help protect and leave these National Parks better than you found them.
The 8 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake Trail
- Length: 5.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 758ft
- Route Type: Lollipop loop
- Dogs Allowed: No
This 5.9 mile lollipop loop trail starts at the Trail of the Cedars and takes you through a beautiful forest before opening up to stunning views of Avalanche Lake. Which is surrounded by towering cliffs and cascading waterfalls.
The trail is rated as moderate on All Trails. For me it was easy to moderate. Trail of the Cedars is fairly flat at the start. But, when the Avalanche trail starts there are some uphill sections, nothing too steep. The beautiful, lush rainforest and wildlife definitely distract from any discomfort you might experience on this trail.
Huge tip, this trail is extremely popular during peak season and parking around the trailhead is limited. It took us about an hour before we could actually park to do this trail. Try coming earlier or later in the day if you do not want to have to experience the painstaking feeling of waiting all day to park your vehicle. Is it worth the wait? For sure, this trail is one of our favorite day hikes in the park.
Another tip do not forget to bring some rain gear. The Western portion of Glacier sees more rainfall than the eastern section. It rained on us off and on during our last hike here. Out of this list of the best hikes in Glacier National Park, this was one of our top favorites.
Grinnell Glacier Trail
- Length: 11 miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,109ft
- Route Type: Out and back
- Dogs Allowed: No
There are two ways to do this trail. First do the whole 11 mile out-and-back trail that starts at the Many Glacier. Second, cut off about 2 miles (each way) by taking the scenic boat ride across Swiftcurrent and Lake Josephine from the back of Many Glacier Hotel.
Either way is a fun adventure. The boat tour was a really neat experience, and the guides discussed the history of the area. Which as both of us being history nerds we found this very interesting and a change of pace.
Either way the trail will take you through beautiful alpine meadows, wildflowers, and past, turquoise-colored lakes. The trail eventually ends at the base of Grinnell Glacier, where you can see the ice melting and forming a waterfall.
All Trails rates this trail as hard which I definitely found appropriately rated due to its length and elevation climb. But this trail is worth the work for its abundance of stunning views and wildlife sightings. This is a must do hike at Glacier National Park.
- Length: 12 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1289ft
- Route Type: One way
- Dogs Allowed: No
Want to experience the heart of Glacier National Park? No other day hike takes you through it like the Highline trail. There are quite a few ways to conquer the Highline trail.
My first recommendation would be taking the highline trail one way from Logan Pass Visitor Center to the Granite Park Chalet and then going down the Granite Park trail to the “Loop”. Once you hit the bottom of the “Loop” of Going-to-the-Sun road take the shuttle back to Logan Pass Visitor Center.
The second option I recommend is doing an out and back from Logan Pass to the Chalet. You could even stay the night and camp at the Granite campground or Chalet.
Overall, this hike follows along the Garden Wall, a narrow ridgeline with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s a long hike, but most of the elevation gain is at the beginning of the trail, making the rest of the hike easier to moderate. Along the way, you may spot wildlife such as mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
If you do the first hike option, bring trekking poles because the descent down Granite Park Chalet to the “Loop” of Going-to-the-Sun road is fairly steep. Also, consider taking the optional garden wall trail prior to the Chalet to observe an amazing overlook over Grinnell Glacier. It is fairly steep as well but beautiful.
- Length: 9.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1459ft
- Route Type: Out and back
- Dogs Allowed: No
This 9.6 mile out and back trail starts at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and takes you through beautiful forests, past cascading waterfalls, and meadows of alpine flowers. The trail ends at Iceberg Lake, where you can often see ice chunks floating on the water. The lake itself is often full of what looks like icebergs which makes for a stunning sight.
Along the way it is not uncommon to see wildlife such as bears, moose, and mountain goats. During our hike to Iceberg Lake we heard from multiple people who saw a moose, and we saw a couple bears off in the distance.
The trail is rated as moderately difficult due to its length and elevation gain. But the stunning views of the surrounding landscape, the wildflowers, and the potential wildlife sightings make it one of our favorites.
Tip! There is not a lot of tree cover in this hike so during the summer it can be a little toasty. During our last hike to Iceberg Lake we got pretty warm and were down to shorts and a tank top. So do not forget to check the weather and layer up!
Grinnell Lake Trail
- Length: 7 miles
- Elevation Gain: 351 ft
- Route Type: Lollipop type loop
- Dogs Allowed: No
There are two ways to do this trail. First way is to start from the Many Glacier hotel and hike around lake Josephine to Grinnell Lake and loop back to the hotel.
Second, you can really shorten the loop by about 2 miles (each way) taking the scenic boat ride across Swiftcurrent and Lake Josephine to the trail head. Then hike to Grinnell Lake and take the boat back to Many Glacier Hotel.
Either way this is a great trail that is rated easy. Along the way you will be surrounded by mountains, lakes, and wildflowers. Once you reach Grinnell Lake, relax on the shore, enjoy a picnic, or take an alpine lake swim. If you are lucky, you may even see a moose.
Hidden Lake Trail
- Length: 5.3 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1375 ft
- Route Type: Out & Back
- Dogs Allowed: No
This out and back trail can be completed in two ways. First as a 3 mile out and back to the Hidden Valley Overlook. Second, as the 5 miles out and back that drops down into Hidden Lake. Both ways are absolutely stunning.
The trail starts at Logan Pass and takes you along a boardwalk trail to an overlook of Hidden Lake. Along the way, you’ll have plentiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. During our hike to Hidden Valley we saw quite a few mountain goats in the area.
Overall, the trail is rated as easy if you are doing the 3 miles out and back. And easy to moderate if doing the 5-mile version.
Trail of the Cedars
- Length: 0.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 49 ft
- Route Type: loop
- Dogs Allowed: No
This trail is fantastic for kids or individuals with disabilities. The Trail of the Cedars is a short, wheelchair-accessible hiking trail. It is mostly a boardwalk trail that runs parallel to Glacier Creek. And takes you through a dense forest of towering western red cedar trees, hemlock, and spruce.
Trail of the Cedars is a super popular trail that gets heavy traffic partially due to its proximity to Avalanche Trail. But overall, it is a beautiful trail that is surrounded by towering cedars, some of which are estimated to be over 500 years old.
During our hike through Trail of the Cedars we enjoyed the fresh smell of the Cedar in the breeze. And saw a lot of wildlife from a variety of birds, squirrels, and deer. The trail is also the access trail to one of the top hikes on this list, Avalanche Lake Trail.
St. Mary and Virgina Falls Trail
- Length: 2.9 miles
- Elevation Gain: 452 ft
- Route Type: Out & Back
- Dogs Allowed: No
St. Mary and Virginia Falls Trail is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in Glacier National Park. The trail is easy to moderate and starts off along the St. Mary river. You go up and down short inclines and declines until you get to a bridge in front of the gorgeous 35-foot-high St. Mary Falls.
Along the trail, you will see great views of wildlife and flowered meadows till you hit the next waterfall. The second waterfall, Virginia Falls, is a much larger waterfall that drops about 50 feet into a deep pool of rushing water.
Overall, the St. Mary and Virginia Falls Trail is a beautiful and rewarding hike that offers picturesque views of some of the most awesome waterfalls in the area.
Tips for Hiking in Glacier National Park
Leave No Trace: Don’t forget to follow the principles of leaving no trace. Remember to pack out what you pack in this way so we can keep these places beautiful for the next generations.
Plan Ahead: Always check the national park website and weather forecast. This helps you prepare for any weather changes or trail closures. That way there aren’t any surprises along the way.
Hike at Off Times: Big crowds is a big thing you will notice during peak season at Glacier National Park. I recommend hiking at those slightly off times to avoid too much traffic and when temperatures are a little cooler.
Brush up on Basic First Aid: Be sure to re-stock any supplies you have used in your first aid kit. Also, be sure to revisit things in your first aid kit that you may need and also items that you haven’t used and dont think youll need. The best first aid kit is one that is tailored to your needs.
Know Trail Etiquette: Don’t forget to brush up on hiking etiquette. In general, always try to give hikers going uphill the right of way, stay on the trail, and just be a decent person to others. You’d be surprised by how many people fail to do this. It is probably one of the most important things as it makes everyone’s experiences better.
Bring a Map: With the rise of many hiking phone apps it can be highly tempting to forego a paper map. Always bring a paper map. It is always better to have a backpack for navigation if things happen. Also, be sure you know how to read a topographic map!
Cell service: I highly recommend downloading the trail details prior to arriving and bringing a physical park map. I use AllTrails Pro to download all of my hiking maps so I can navigate without cell service.
Bring Water: Bring plenty of water or have a way to filter water. I recommend bringing at least a 1-3L hydration bladder depending on how much hiking you are planning on doing. For filtering water there usually is quite a few water sources around.
Sun Hat and Sunscreen: Glacier can get pretty warm during the day in the Summer. If you are going during peak season I recommend bringing sun protection.
Gear up for the Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
Depending on what season you go will vary what you bring when I pack. But in general, I would start with the following.
Hiking Backpack: This might go without saying. But I recommend bringing a hiking bag of some sort. For the hikes in this list you will really only need a daypack of about 15L -30L. If you plan on doing some backcountry camping then of course you will need a backpack that can carry more.
10 Essentials: I generally start with the 10 essentials and build from there. These essentials cover the basics for first aid, sunscreen, headlamps, and more. It’s a system created in case of emergencies.
Base Layer: Depending on when you go. You will either need a long sleeve, or t-shirt base layer. If going on the summer start with moisture-wicking underwear and a synthetic or wool t-shirt or long sleeve shirt. Start with a long sleeve if you are going during colder months.
Middle Layer: For a middle layer if you’re going in the summer, I recommend a loose nylon button down something durable but breathable. If you’re going in the cooler months a fleece or puffy coat will work well. For bottoms a light breathable pair of hiking pants or shorts should keep you comfortable all day.
Outer layers: I would bring some light rain gear just in case or at least have a poncho. Be sure to check the forecast to plan ahead and make sure. On our hike on the Avalanche trail, it rained on us almost the entire time we were very glad we had brought rain gear.
Socks for hiking: Opt for a breathable pair of socks. I recommend a merino wool blend because they last long and keep your feet from becoming a “swamp”. There are a lot of awesome socks for hikers out there. My favorite is Darn Tough micro hiker.
Hiking boots, shoes, or hiking sandals: Most of the trails in Glacier are somewhat rocky. I would lean toward hiking boots, shoes, or trail runners. You definitely could rock hiking sandals if you wanted to. I just prefer to have my toes covered.
Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park
The best time to visit Glacier National Park largely depends on your preferences and what you want to do during your visit. Here are some things to consider:
Summer (June to August): This is the peak season, and the park is most crowded during this time. The weather is pleasant, and all the facilities, including lodges, campgrounds, and restaurants, are open. This is the best time for hiking and other outdoor activities but be prepared for crowds and make your reservations well in advance.
Spring (April to May) and Fall (September to October): These are the shoulder seasons and offer quieter and more affordable visits. The weather is still mild, but there is a higher chance of rain and snow. Some of the facilities may be closed or have limited hours, but hiking and other outdoor activities are still possible.
Winter (November to March): This is the off-season and the park is least crowded. Many facilities are closed, but there are still opportunities for winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing, and ice climbing. The weather can be severe, with heavy snowfall and icy roads, so be prepared for cold temperatures and check park conditions before visiting.
Overall, the best time to visit Glacier National Park is from June to August, but if you prefer a quieter and more affordable visit, consider visiting during the spring or fall shoulder seasons.
Transportation for Glacier National Park
Overall, getting to Glacier National Park is fairly easy and is not too much of a chore. There are quite a few locations west and east. That provides accommodations for lodging and dining.
How to Get There
The closest airport to the glacier is in Kalispell and Great Falls. And if you are going, go to Waterton lakes the closest airport is in Calgary.
How to Get Around
The best way to get around Glacier National Park is by car. You can also use the shuttle bus as well which runs for free along the Going-to-the-Sun from July through early September from Apgar to St. Mary visitor center.
Camping In Glacier National Park
Camping in Glacier National Park can be an amazing experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Glacier National Park offers 13 campgrounds that vary in amenities and location. Here are some of the best campgrounds in Glacier National Park:
Many Glacier Campground: Located in the northeastern part of the park, this campground offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and access to hiking trails. It has 109 campsites with flush toilets, potable water, and a dump station.
Fish Creek Campground: Situated on the western side of the park, this campground offers easy access to Lake McDonald and has 178 campsites. It has flush toilets, potable water, and a dump station, as well as a camp store and showers.
Apgar Campground: This is the largest campground in the park, located on the west side near the park entrance. It has 194 campsites and offers flush toilets, potable water, and a dump station. It’s close to amenities such as a camp store, visitor center, and shuttle stop.
Bowman Lake Campground: This remote campground is located on the northwestern side of the park and offers a peaceful camping experience. It has 48 primitive campsites with vault toilets and no potable water, so campers must bring their own.
Two Medicine Campground: Located on the southeastern side of the park, this campground offers a quieter camping experience and access to hiking trails and water activities. It has 99 campsites with flush toilets and potable water.
It’s important to note that all campgrounds in Glacier National Park are on a first-come, first-served basis except for group sites, so it’s recommended to arrive early to secure a spot, especially during peak season
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most beautiful hike in Glacier National Park? Glacier National Park has over 700 miles of hiking trails! Every trail that we have done it Glacier has been worthwhile and had something to offer. Instead of the most beautiful hike ever here is our top 3: Avalanche Lake, Grinnell Glacier, and Highline. With Iceberg and Hidden Lake, a really close 4 and 5.
What not to miss at Glacier National Park? You really should not miss driving the Going to the sun road. And should explore some of the hikes to really immerse yourself in the beauty of Glacier
What is the prettiest part of Glacier National Park? The real question is what is not the prettiest part of Glacier National Park? The west and east sections although very similar offer a bit of different scenery. The West section tends to be lusher and greener which gave us rainforest vibes. The East tends to feel more alpine meadows and lakes.
Quick Summary: Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
- Avalanche Lake
- Grinnell Glacier Trail
- Highline Trail
- Iceberg Lake
- Grinnell Lake Trail
- Hidden Lake Trail
- Trail of Cedars
- St. Mary and Virgina Falls Trail
There you have it, our list of the 8 best hikes in Glacier National Park. No matter which hikes you choose in Glacier National Park, be sure to come prepared with proper gear, plenty of water, and bear spray. Respect the park’s rules and regulations, and always practice Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the beauty of this incredible national park for future generations!