Julie United States 16 Comments

Glacier National Park is home to some of the most exciting hiking trails in the United States. The scenery in this national park is jaw-dropping and there is no better way to experience it than on your own two feet. Take your pick from easy strolls to spectacular alpine trails. Here are 10 of the best hikes in Glacier National Park.

About the Hikes in Glacier National Park

This list is organized by geographical location. Glacier National Park is a large park with several distinct areas. The hikes in this post are located in Many Glacier, Two Medicine, and the area around Going-to-the-Sun Road and Logan Pass.

Note: All hiking distances are round trip.

Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Hikes Along Going-to-the-Sun Road

For 50 miles, this road twists and turns through gorgeous mountain scenery. It tops out at Logan Pass, where you can start two of the hikes on this list. For many visitors, especially if it is your first time to Glacier National Park, the area around Going-to-the-Sun Road is where you will spend a lot of your time.

Avalanche Lake

Distance: 4.6 miles out-and-back
Total Ascent: 500 feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Length of Time: 2 to 3 hours
Trailhead: Trail of the Cedars, near Lake McDonald

Avalanche Lake is much different from most hikes on this list. Many hikes in Glacier National Park feature alpine trails and panoramic views of the mountain peaks. This hike is different. You will hike alongside Avalanche Creek and through a dense forest. There are no big climbs, no high alpine views, just a quiet trail through the woods that ends at a very pretty lake.

This hike starts at the Trail of the Cedars, a 0.7-mile loop trail. For the best experience, take the boardwalk trail through the dense forest of cedar trees and make sure you see Avalanche Gorge.

Trail of the Cedars

Avalanche Gorge

Avalanche Gorge | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

At the top of the loop, follow the signs to Avalanche Lake. It’s an overall uphill walk to get to the lake, but it is nothing too strenuous. Avalanche Lake makes a great picnic spot.

Hike to Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake Glacier NP

Avalanche Lake | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Hidden Lake Overlook

Distance: 2.8 miles out-and-back
Total Ascent: 460 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Length of Time: 1.5 hours
Trailhead: Logan Pass

This is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier National Park. Starting at Logan Pass, you will walk a combination of boardwalk and gravel trails to get to the overlook of Hidden Lake. Along the way, keep a lookout for mountain goats. This is one of the easiest places to see them in Glacier National Park.

Hidden Lake Overlook

Hidden Lake Overlook | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park


Hidden Lake Trail

View on the return hike from Hidden Lake | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

From the overlook, you can continue on the trail for another 1.2 miles (2.4 miles round trip) to Hidden Lake.

Highline Trail

Distance: 11.6 miles point-to-point
Total Ascent: 800 feet
Total Descent: 3000 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Length of Time: 5 to 7 hours
Trailhead: Logan Pass or the Loop. Starting at Logan Pass makes this an overall downhill walk.

The Highline Trail is one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park. For almost 12 miles, this trail takes hikers high above Going-to-the-Sun Road, with stunning views of the park and a chance to see glaciers, wildflowers, and wildlife.

This hike is done point-to-point, from Logan Pass to the Loop. The elevation gain is minimal, so if you are looking for a hike with high alpine views without having to hike up a massive mountain, you won’t find a better hike than the Highline Trail.

Highline Trail

Highline Trail | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park


Glacier National Park Hikes

St. Mary & Virginia Falls

Distance: 2.4 miles to St. Mary Falls, 3.8 miles to Virginia Falls (round trip)
Elevation Change: 260 feet loss (to St. Mary Falls) and a 285-foot gain (to Virginia Falls)
Difficulty: Easy
Length of Time: 1 hour (St. Mary Falls) to 2 hours (Virginia Falls)
Trailhead: St. Mary Falls Trailhead or St. Mary Falls Shuttle Stop

This trail takes you alongside part of St. Mary Lake and through a forest that was burned in July 2015. You can hike to St. Mary Falls, a beautiful two-tiered waterfall, with the option to continue onto Virginia Falls.

St Mary Falls

St. Mary Falls | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

There are two places to start this hike. There is a small parking lot on Going-to-the-Sun Road, labeled St. Mary Falls Trailhead. With a bit of luck, you can find a parking space midday. Or, take the shuttle to the St. Mary Falls Shuttle Stop. Starting at the shuttle stop takes off 0.4 miles round trip from the hiking distances below.

US National Parks List

Hikes in Many Glacier

This is one of the most beautiful areas of Glacier National Park. With massive, snow-covered mountains, waterfalls, lakes, and glaciers, this is a hiker’s paradise.

Apikuni Falls

Distance: 2 miles out-and-back
Total Ascent: 700 feet
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Length of Time: 1 hour
Trailhead: Apikuni Parking Area

This is a short, popular hike to a waterfall that is located near Many Glacier Hotel.

Apikuni Falls best hikes in Glacier National Park

Tami Freed/shutterstock.com

Cracker Lake

Distance: 12.6 miles out-and-back
Total Ascent: 1400 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 6 to 8 hours
Trailhead: Many Glacier Hotel parking lot

Cracker Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Glacier National Park. It is a brilliantly colored aquamarine lake that is surrounded by grassy slopes and wildflowers on the nearby mountains.

Glacier Cracker Lake best hikes in Glacier National Park


This hike starts near the Many Glacier Hotel. The first few miles of the trail are a horse trail, so it can be muddy and rutted.

Grinnell Glacier

Distance: 10.6 miles out-and-back
Total Ascent: 1600 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 5 to 7 hours
Trailhead: Grinnell Glacier Trailhead on Continental Divide Trail or Lake Josephine

This hike has it all…stunning alpine scenery, waterfalls, emerald green lakes, wildflowers, the chance to see wildlife, and of course, a glacier.

On this hike we spotted moose, bear, and mountain goats. The wildlife sightings and the gorgeous scenery made this was one of our favorite experiences in Glacier National Park.

Best Hikes in Glacier

View on the hike to Grinnell Glacier | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park


Grinnell Glacier Hike best hikes in Glacier National Park

Grinnell Glacier | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

There are two ways to do this hike. You can do this as a round-trip hike from main trailhead on Continental Divide Trail. Or, you can shorten this hike by taking the boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.

Iceberg Lake

Distance: 9.6 miles out-and-back
Total Ascent: 1200 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 5 to 7 hours
Trailhead: Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

Many people who hike this trail state that it is one of their favorite hikes in Glacier National Park. It’s still on our to-do list.

Iceberg Lake best hikes in Glacier National Park


This hike shares the trail to Ptarmigan Tunnel. You will also be walking through grizzly bear territory, so hike in groups, make lots of noise, and bring bear spray. Like the hike to Grinnell Glacier, you are treated to spectacular alpine views, wildflowers, and a beautiful alpine lake.

Ptarmigan Tunnel

Distance: 10.6 miles out-and-back
Total Ascent: 2300 feet
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 5 to 7 hours
Trailhead: Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

This hike shares the trail to Iceberg Lake. At about the halfway point, the trail to Ptarmigan Tunnel breaks off to the right. The trail gets steeper and more strenuous and you are treated to amazing alpine views. Near the end of the hike, you will walk through Ptarmigan Tunnel, which was blasted out of the rock in the 1930’s. From the far end of the tunnel, enjoy more stunning views of Glacier National Park.

Ptarmigan Tunnel best hikes in Glacier National Park

Kelly vanDellen/shutterstock.com

This trail is not as popular as Cracker Lake or Iceberg Lake, so if you like the idea of hiking without the crowds, this is a good one to consider.

Glacier National Travel Guide

Hikes in Two Medicine

The Two Medicine area may not be as popular as Going-to-the-Sun Road or Many Glacier, but the scenery and the trails are just as spectacular. And since this area gets fewer visitors, it feels more off-the-beaten-path.

Pitamakan Pass and Dawson Pass

Distance: 14.8 miles out-and-back
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length of Time: 7 to 9 hours
Trailhead: North Shore Trailhead

This epic day hike is done as a loop. Starting at the North Shore Trailhead near Two Medicine Campground, you will to Pitamakan Pass, circling around Rising Wolf Mountain. As you approach Pitamakan Pass, the views are jaw-dropping. At Pitamakan Pass, you will hike across the saddle, a narrow ridge where you have panoramic views of Glacier National Park. Continue to Dawson Pass and once you make it to Two Medicine Lake, take the shuttle back to Two Medicine Campground.

Glacier Two Medicine best hikes in Glacier National Park

Daniel DRSW/shutterstock.com

Best Hikes in Glacier: On a Map

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

When to Go Hiking in Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road is typically open from the end of June/early July through mid-October. Opening and closing dates are dependent on snowfall.

The best time to go hiking in Glacier National Park is in this time frame: early July through mid-October. The Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas may be open before and after these dates, but snow on the trails can make hiking hazardous. It’s best to visit Glacier National Park in the summer and early fall if you plan to go hiking and to have the opportunity to visit all areas of the park.

More Information

Visit the National Park Service website for more information on hikes in Glacier, as well as to check trail status and get important updates. Some trails can close due to Grizzly Bear activity and this is most common in the Many Glacier area.

If you will be visiting the park during the spring and summer months, you will need a timed entry ticket. Learn more here.

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Where We Stayed

Many Glacier Hotel. This is a grand, historic hotel. It looks amazing on the outside and has an enormous, rustic lobby with stunning views of Swiftcurrent Lake. Kara and I stayed in a standard room. It was a very basic room with a double bed and private bathroom. There is no air conditioning, but it is cool at night so that was not an issue. However, it’s an old hotel. The floors creak and the walls are thin, so if you are a light sleeper, bring ear plugs.

Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. I liked it here. Again, it’s very basic, with no Wi-Fi, cellular service or air conditioning. But we stayed in a building tucked away in the trees and it was very nice. Our room was enormous, the beds were comfy, and it felt more peaceful than staying at the Many Glacier Hotel.

Great Northern Resort. This place is wonderful. It is located in West Glacier, so it is a great place to stay to be near Lake McDonald and Avalanche Lake. We had an enormous room with two beds, air conditioning, and great Wi-Fi. I would stay here again.

Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge, Whitefish. This is where we stayed our last night at Glacier. The following day we had a flight home so I wanted to stay near the airport. Unless you are having a hard time finding accommodations inside the park, I wouldn’t recommend staying in Whitefish. It’s a 40-minute drive just to get to the west entrance and can take an hour and a half or longer to get to Logan Pass. However, after your visit, Whitefish is a great place to stay. There’s a lot to do here, with outdoor activities and family-friendly experiences.

If you have any questions about the best hikes in Glacier National Park, or you want to share your favorite hike, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information about Glacier National Park & the USA

MORE GREAT HIKES IN THE NATIONAL PARKS: From hikes to the tallest peaks to beautiful coast trails, read our Guide to the Best Day Hikes in the US National Parks. If you prefer to keep your hikes short and sweet, read our guide to the Best Short Hikes in the National Parks.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK: Check out our Glacier National Park Travel Guide for important travel information, sample itineraries, and how to plan your visit. Don’t miss our article Best Things to Do in Glacier National Park for more great things to do in the park.

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY: How many days do you need in Glacier? Get the answer to this question and learn how to plan your itinerary in our Glacier National Park Itinerary Planner.

ROAD TRIP ITINERARY: Learn how to put together Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks into one amazing 10 day road trip. For more great travel ideas, check out our article Best Road Trips in the USA.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.

Read all of our articles about Montana in our Montana Travel Guide and the United States in our United States Travel Guide.


Glacier National Park Hikes

Glacier National Park Best Hikes


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Comments 16

  1. Avatar for Angel

    Hello Julie, here I am again!!!
    On my trip on the west this summer, I will be visiting 10 national parks, some for hours, some for a few days, and Glacier is the only one I will be in for the fist time. I plan to stay there for 4 days, but I don’t know if I have planned my stay well.
    After visiting North Cascades NP, I will head to Glacier, but I will stop in Spokane to spend the night between both Parks. The next day, early in the morning, I will go to the west entrance of Glacier, it’s 4,5 hours from Spokane. I have booked an hotel in Kalispell, and I would like to do something in the Park that afternoon, any hiking trail… would it be possible? I know Kalispell is not close to the west entrance, and you say you don’t recommend do stay in that area, but what can I do coming from Spokane?
    The other 3 days I will stay in Saint Mary.
    By the other hand, I have read about bears in the park… I will travel alone and hike alone. Can this be dangerous?
    I have some suggestions for your trip to Spain, I will answer to your monthly update email.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Staying in Kalispell is fine, about a 45 minute drive to the park. On that day, hiking Avalanche Lake is a good idea, since it is on the west side of the park. From St. Mary, you can visit Many Glacier, Logan Pass (those 2 places will keep you busy for 3 days), but you could also go to Two Medicine. Just be aware of the permits to drive Going to the Sun Road. As for bears, Kara and I hiked together and did see a bear on the trail, when it was just the two of us. It’s OK to hike alone, but you should constantly talk to yourself or make noise, to alert the bear to your presence, should any be in and around the trails when you hike. In rare instances, trails can close if there are frequent bear spottings, so it is a good idea to keep checking the NPS website for updates. Most trails have a fair number of people on them, so you rarely will be alone. Kara and I just happened to be by ourselves for a little bit at the end of the Highline Trail when we saw the bear. Do a little more online reading about what to do should you come across a bear, so you know what to do. And maybe keep other people within view while hiking, because that will make it less likely you will cross paths with a bear. We would love suggestions for Spain. Tim does our travel planning and is the one who answers our emails so I’ll let him know to be on the lookout! Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Ras Bahadur Rai
    Ras Bahadur Rai

    Glacier National Park is a hiker’s dream come true! The stunning scenery and diverse trails make it an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to lace up my hiking boots and explore these top 10 hikes you’ve shared. From the peaceful Avalanche Lake surrounded by lush forests to the majestic Hidden Lake Overlook and the exhilarating Highline Trail, each hike promises unique wonders. And St. Mary & Virginia Falls sound like the perfect place to soak in the beauty of waterfalls and burned forests. Thank you for this comprehensive guide, I’ll definitely be referencing it when planning my visit to Glacier National Park. Happy trails!

  3. Avatar for Sara

    I am planning a trip to Montana in mid Aug and have just 2 days in Glacier.
    Planning on hiking Grinnell Glacier on day 1.
    Day 2 will be driving the going to the sun road. DO you think I should attempt hidden lake overlook hike on the second day? Will it be similar to the Grinnell hike, or different?
    thank you

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Sara. I think that Hidden Lake looks a lot different from the lake at Grinnell Glacier. Plus, it is a shorter, easier hike to get to Hidden Lake and you have a very good chance to see mountain goats on the way. If you can get parking at Logan Pass, I think it is worth hiking to Hidden Lake. Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Martie Stowell
    Martie Stowell

    Thanks so much for your site. We love it. I am wondering how I can print some of the hikes for Glacier and theTetons. I would look on my phone at the time but often there is no cellular service, ie, dry camping in the Tetons

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      On our Grand Teton hiking post, we have a pdf of the hikes that you can purchase on Etsy. The link is on that post. However, we don’t have something like that for this Glacier hikes post. You can save this post as a pdf and print the pages that are relevant. To do this, press CTRL+P (or command +P on a mac) to bring up the printer dialog box. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Emelie Fairchild
    Emelie Fairchild

    Thank you for the tips and great detail!

    The NPS website is sold out of Going to the sun entry tickets, but can you confirm there are many entry points to GNP and GTSR is just one of them with that being the only one requiring ticket entry?

    I called NPS and didn’t get much info.

    We are traveling on a 4 generation trip (Gpa is 92) this August! Thanks!!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Going to the Sun Road is the main road that cuts across the park. Logan Pass, Hidden Lake, the Highline Trail, St Mary Falls, Wild Goose Island overlook, Avalanche Lake, and Trail of the Cedars are all located on this road. You will either need a GTSR ticket or a shuttle ticket to get to these places. You can also look into taking a Red Bus tour. Outside of GTSR, you can visit Many Glacier or Two Medicine. But unfortunately, many of Glacier’s most popular sights are located along Going to the Sun Road. If you are staying in West Glacier, Whitefish, etc, you can get to the east side of the park (Many Glacier and Two Medicine) on Highway 2. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Emelie

        Thank you so much! Your info is inline with what I am finding to be true! It all looks so amazing! Thanks again!

  6. Avatar for Elle

    Hi, Julie!

    We are planning on taking a trip to GNP in August! Since the Many Glacier area is closed for the season, do you have any recommendations/knowledge on more good hikes around the Lake McDonald area? For one of our days, we plan on driving out to hike the Highline Trail out-and-back from Logan Pass to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook and possibly do Hidden Lake after if we are up for it, but we would love to do more hikes around Lake McDonald since it’s not as far of a drive from where we are staying. We would like to do a few easy-moderate hikes per day for our other two days such as Avalanche Trial since the Highline Trail hike will be a long and tiring day!


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Elle. I don’t know much about the hikes around Lake McDonald. We have not done those yet. You can get some info on the national park service website. Another option for how to spend your time is to visit Whitefish, Montana. It’s a cool little town and there some outdoor activities you can do here. Years ago Tim and I went mountain biking at Whitefish Mountain Resort, which was a lot of fun. There’s more to do here than just biking. If you are interested, a quick Google search or search on Trip Advisor might give you some more ideas. Kara and I hiked out to Hidden Lake after the Highline Trail. It’s doable since the Hidden Lake Trail isn’t too strenuous, but it does make for a long hiking day. If you have the energy to do both, and it’s a clear day, I say go for it. Plus, it can be hard to get a spot at Logan Pass, so you might not want the very early drive two days in a row to get a space here. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Sallie Williams
    Sallie Williams

    I worked at Many Glacier in college and have been back a couple of times for employee reunions. One was scheduled for this summer, late August, but was recently rescheduled to August 2021.

    I have hiked many of these trails and some that aren’t here. A challenging, but beautiful hike is Shangri-La. An easier, shorter one near Many G. and Swiftcurrent is Red Rock falls. Last time I was there, we saw a mother moose and a calf. My hands-down favorite is Grinnell Glacier, which I’ve hiked numerous times.

    Thanks for posting – Glacier is one of my favorite places on the planet.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Sallie. I’m sorry to hear that your reunion was postponed. But thank you for sharing your favorite hikes with us! We are hoping to return to Glacier soon and I will check out these hikes that you recommend. Kara and I loved Grinnell Glacier!! Can’t wait to go back and share this beautiful park with Tim and Tyler on our next visit. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Jan (@Chimptrips)
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, a bunch of these are hard work…10 miles plus…but 10+ amazing miles of views. Absolutely worth it! 🙂 Cheers, Julie

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