The Best Places to Hike in Glacier National Park (Video)
Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
In a remote part of Montana lies the nearly 1,600-square-mile Glacier National Park. There’s little question that the alpine meadows and glacier-carved peaks make the trip here a worthwhile one. But it’s a vast area at the northern border, and some guidance is in order.
To help you plan your visit to the Crown of the Continent, here are our picks for the best places to hike in Glacier National Park. As always, don’t expect cell service and leave no trace behind. Bug repellent, bear spray, and rain gear are sensible items to bring along.
A short hike on a level trail, the east side of the glacier is a popular hangout spot for moose. These aren’t the largest falls in the park, but the trail is a good way to see the clear, blue waters of an alpine lake. It’s just over a two-mile loop and a solid choice for starting or ending your day.
For your best chance of spotting wildlife like mountain goats and bighorn sheep, try the Highline Trail. There’s some exposure here, but the views are truly majestic. Don’t forget to look down on the visitors driving along Going-to-the-Sun Road. And while the trail is long (11.5 miles), you can go as far as you’d like and turn around when you’re ready.
Head out on the Siyeh Bend Trailhead, crossing a creek and forest before reaching Jackson Glacier Overlook. Another forest thins out as you reach the Siyeh Pass Trail junction. From here, quickly enter Preston Park, a beautiful meadow with wildflowers. You might be stopped by snow and ice, or you may decide to continue the steep climb up to the Pass. From the summit of 8,100 feet, it’s another five-and-a-half miles until the trail's end at Sunrift Gorge.
Many Glacier Area
To reach the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint on foot, depart from the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead. Be prepared for a 1,600-foot elevation gain as well as a round-trip of over 10 miles. If you’re visiting the park in the summer, head to the Ptarmigan Tunnel from the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead (10.6 miles round-trip, with a 2,300-foot elevation gain). Take in the view of Ptarmigan Lake and Ptarmigan Wall at the southern entrance before entering the 240-foot tunnel. The tunnel was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps to facilitate early park tours.
Logan Pass Area
To reach the Hidden Lake Overlook, you’ll need to complete a 2.8-mile round-trip journey that gains about 500 feet in elevation from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. The Overlook grants you stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, many of which are over 8,500 feet tall. To get to the actual lake, it’s another 1.2 miles each way. You’ll descend on this portion the trail, losing 800 feet of elevation between the Overlook and lake.
Lake McDonald Area
The Lincoln Lake Trail is certainly strenuous, with a 16-mile round-trip trek and more than a 2,000-foot elevation gain. Meanwhile, the Lake McDonald West Shore Trail is level, but still 15 miles round-trip. Howe Lake is a nice alternative; the trail is three miles round-trip and only gains about 250 feet in elevation. It can get swampy, but is great for birding.
Trail of the Cedars
For a self-guided, wheelchair-accessible hike, the Trail of the Cedars is a good choice. The trail is 0.7 miles one way, and the trailhead begins at the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area. Walk through old-growth cedar trees before stopping for a bite at one of the tables.
Glacier National Park’s Backcountry
Itching to get into Glacier’s backcountry? Contact Glacier Guides for trips of up to seven days. You can even arrange for a porter service to have your camping equipment waiting at your destination each night. Custom day hikes are also available through the company.
Other Guided Hikes in Glacier National Park
Ranger-led activities, including hiking, are plentiful in the summer months. In the winter, a unique ranger-led snowshoeing walk is available on weekends. Finally, consider a combination boat trip and hiking adventure. Glacier Park Boat Company, an authorized concessioner, leads excursions to popular park attractions, including Many Glacier and Two Medicine Lake.