Julie United States 6 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.

This list is organized by geographical location. Glacier NP 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.

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

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

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

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

Hidden Lake Overlook

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 Trail

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

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

Highline Trail

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

Glacier National Park Hikes

Distance: 11.6 miles
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.

St. Mary & Virginia Falls

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Cracker Lake

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

kan_khampanya/shutterstock.com

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.

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

Grinnell Glacier

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

Grinnell Glacier Hike 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.

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

Iceberg Lake

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

Pung/shutterstock.com

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.

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

Ptarmigan Tunnel

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.

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

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

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

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

See Them All 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.

Our Articles about Glacier National Park

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.

Learn more about the national parks and planning a trip through the USA in our United States Destination Guide.

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Glacier National Park Hikes

 

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Comments 6

  1. 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!

    Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author

      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

  2. 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. Post
      Author

      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

    1. Post
      Author

      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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