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The 12 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

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These are the 12 best hikes in Glacier National Park, a massive wilderness area in Montana’s Rocky Mountains that you can’t afford to miss!

Best hikes in Glacier National Park Pinterest graphic

Glacier National Park hikes

Glacier National Park is one of the best U.S. National Parks for hiking. And with over 700 miles of hiking trails, it’s easy to see why!

Glacier National Park is known for its beautiful alpine scenery, wildlife, and glaciers. But to see all these things, you have to leave behind the famed Going-to-the-Sun Road and hit the trail!

This post highlights the best hikes in Glacier National Park, plus the best time to visit, how to get around the park, and what to pack.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is an incredibly scenic national park in Montana, just south of the US-Canada border.

Each year, millions of visitors hike the 50-day hiking trails within the park. You can hike to waterfalls, lakes, mountain ridges, and yes… glaciers!

Glacier National Park has trails for every ability level, including ADA-accessible nature walks. Put simply, the Glacier NP is a USA bucket list spot!

Essential Things to Know Before Hiking in Glacier National Park

  • Always check trail conditions on the Glacier National Park website. Inclement weather, fires, and bear activity can cause trail closures.
  • Plan to visit Glacier National Park between late June and early September for the best hiking conditions.
  • Always carry bear spray when hiking in Glacier National Park. It’s essential to keep your bear spray in an easily accessible location, like a hip belt or backpack chest strap. You can rent it at the airport or buy it at a local outdoor store upon arrival.
  • To avoid crowds and guarantee parking spots at the trailheads, start your day early. Plan to begin your hikes by 8 AM each morning.
  • Always follow the “leave no trace” principles, this includes packing out all food and waste, staying on the established trail, and leaving wildflowers in nature.
  • If you come across wildlife, slowly back away to give the animal plenty of space. You should keep at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and 25 yards away from all other wildlife.
  • Temperatures in Glacier National Park can fluctuate throughout the day. Mornings are cool and foggy and afternoons are sunny and hot. Dress in layers for ultimate hiking comfort.
Trail of the Cedars, Avalanche Creek Area in Glacier National Park
Trail of the Cedars, Avalanche Creek Area

How to Get to Glacier National Park

Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell is the closest airport. From here, you’re only 30 minutes away from the park.

The best way to get to the park from the airport is by car. You can choose from several rental car companies at Glacier Park airport.

Where to Stay in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park has 5 in-park lodges and 2 hike-in, hike-out lodges. To stay at any of these lodges, you’ll need to book at least a year in advance. For easy hiking trail access, stay at the Many Glacier Hotel or Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Camping is the best accommodation for budget travelers. Glacier National Park has 4 campgrounds that take reservations. The best campgrounds for hikers are either Many Glacier or St. Mary.

For families or groups, consider renting a home outside the park in West Glacier or St. Mary.

Alternatively, you can stay in a lovely Airbnb cabin in or around the park.

How to Get Around Glacier National Park

While Glacier National Park offers a free shuttle service, renting a car is the easiest way to get to trailheads.

To avoid crowds and ensure you’re able to find a parking spot, start your day early. Plan to arrive at popular trailheads, like Logan Pass or Many Glacier, by 8 am.

The main road through Glacier National Park, Going-to-the-Sun Road, connects the towns of West Glacier and St. Mary. This epic scenic drive takes you through the heart of the park and to many of the best hikes.

Parts of Going-to-the-Sun Road are narrow and winding, so vehicles over 21 feet long are not allowed.

Saint Marys Lake at Glacier National Park
Saint Marys Lake

Admission to Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park requires visitors to buy a pass to enter the park. The 7-day pass is $35 per vehicle. This pass gives you unlimited entries to the park for 7 days and covers everyone in your car.

If you plan to visit another national park within a year, the best value is to buy the America the Beautiful pass. For only $80, you get access to every U.S. national park. Buy the pass online from REI at least a month or two before your trip. (REI donates 10% of the sales to the National Park Foundation!)

Click here to buy your America the Beautiful pass

Best Time to Visit Glacier National Park

While Glacier National Park is open all year, the best time to hike is during the summer—yes, it is a lovely summer vacation spot. Plan your trip between late June and early September for the best hiking conditions.

If you want to avoid peak summer crowds, consider visiting around or shortly after Labor Day (first week of September).

Best Easy Hikes in Glacier National Park

1. Trail of the Cedars

Trail of the Cedars at Glacier National Park
Trail of the Cedars

Trail of the Cedars is an accessible trail off Going-to-the-Sun Road. An elevated boardwalk takes you through some of the park’s oldest growth trees.

As you walk, you can stop to read the informational displays about the history of the area.

This is the perfect trail for families or those looking for an easy, accessible stroll. As this is the easiest trail in the park, it stays busy. Be sure to arrive at Avalanche Picnic Area in the morning to find a parking spot.

  • Distance: 0.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 0 feet
  • Trailhead: Avalanche Picnic Area
  • Time Required: 30 minutes

2. St. Mary and Virginia Falls

Saint Mary Falls is one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park
Saint Mary Falls

Most people think of glaciers and lakes when hiking in Glacier National Park. But Glacier has some stunning waterfall hikes too! The most popular waterfall hike takes you to two falls: St. Mary and Virginia Falls.

From the St. Mary Trailhead along Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll descend through a forest that was burned in a recent wildfire. The barren trees give you clear views of St. Mary Lake ahead and are a great place to spot deer.

Virginia Falls is the taller, more impressive waterfall of the two. Here you can relax with a snack before returning to Going-to-the-Sun Road.

  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 260 feet
  • Trailhead: St. Mary Falls Trailhead
  • Time Required: 1.5 hours

3. Baring Falls

Baring Falls at Glacier National Park
Baring Falls – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by dustin_j_williams

Baring Falls is only a short distance from St. Mary Falls but gets fewer visitors. For a less crowded but equally beautiful waterfall hike, choose Baring Falls.

Starting at the Sunrift Gorge Pullout off Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll make the short descent to the falls.

Here you can enjoy the falls, which will be stronger earlier in the Summer due to snowmelt. If you can’t find parking at Sunrift Gorge, you can also hike to Baring Falls from Sun Point.

From the Sun Point Nature Trail, Baring Falls is a 1.6-mile round trip hike.

  • Distance: 0.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 250 feet
  • Trailhead: Sunrift Gorge Pullout
  • Time Required: 30 minutes

4. Redrock Falls

Red Rock Falls is one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park
Red Rock Falls is one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park

Redrock Falls is a less traveled trail along a series of lakes in Many Glacier. Often overshadowed by the more strenuous hikes in the area, Redrock Falls is the perfect trail for those looking to spot wildlife.

The quiet trail follows along Fishercap Lake and Redrock Lake before ending at Redrock Falls. Take time to stop at both lakes and look for moose. These lakes are common feeding spots for moose and their calves.

This trail provides great views of Swiftcurrent Mountain. On a clear day, you may be able to spot the fire tower at the peak!

  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 100 feet
  • Trailhead: Swiftcurrent Trailhead
  • Time Required: 1.5 hours

5. Paradise Point

Two Medicine Lake at Glacier National Park
Two Medicine Lake

Few hikers choose to venture to Two Medicine due to its distance from Going-to-the-Sun Road. But those that make the hour drive to Two Medicine will be rewarded with the perfect place for a quiet sunrise hike.

The Paradise Point trail starts near the Two Medicine General Store and takes you along the shore of Two Medicine Lake.

At sunrise, the glassy waters of Two Medicine Lake reflect the surrounding mountains and the pinks and purples of the morning sky.  The short stroll to Paradise Point is the perfect way to take in sunrise and start your day.

  • Distance: 1.4 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 160 feet
  • Trailhead: Two Medicine General Store
  • Time Required: 30 minutes

Best Moderate Hikes in Glacier National Park

6. Hidden Lake Overlook

Hidden Lake Overlook at Glacier National Park
Hidden Lake Overlook

Hidden Lake Overlook is one of the most popular trails in Glacier National Park. The trail starts behind Logan Pass Visitor Center.

A relatively flat, boardwalk trail takes you through open meadows to Hidden Lake. This area is known for mountain goat, bighorn sheep, and marmot sightings.

The view from Hidden Lake Overlook looks down upon Hidden Lake, and it is a beautiful spot for sunrise or sunset.

For a unique angle, continue the hike down to the shores of Hidden Lake. Fewer hikers venture this far, and it can provide a much-needed escape.

  • Distance: 2.8 miles (5.2 miles if you hike to the shore)
  • Elevation Gain: 460 feet (1,240 feet if you hike to the shore)
  • Trailhead: Logan Pass Visitor Center
  • Time Required: 1.5 hours

7. Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake at Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake gets its name from the avalanche chutes that frame the lake. The trail to Avalanche Lake starts along the boardwalk Trail of the Cedars.

You’ll pass through the oldest growth trees in the park, complete with mossy green forests and ferns.

As you hike, keep your eyes peeled for deer and wild mushrooms. When you reach the shores of Avalanche Lake, you’ll be able to see the avalanche chutes and several long waterfalls running down the mountain.

For a unique vantage point, continue along the shores of Avalanche Lake to the far south end of the lake.

  • Distance: 4.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 500 feet
  • Trailhead: Avalanche Picnic Area
  • Time Required: 2.5 hours

Best Difficult Hikes in Glacier National Park

8. Highline Trail

Highline Trail hike at Glacier National Park
Highline Trail hike

The Highline Trail is one of the most popular trails in Glacier National Park. Along this trail, you’ll find breathtaking vantage points, rolling hills, and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife.

The hike starts at Logan Pass Visitor Center and ends at The Loop, making for a unique one-way hike. After climbing above Going-to-the-Sun Road and through grassy valleys, you’ll reach the Garden Wall.

A short but strenuous hike up the Garden Wall trail takes you to a spectacular overlook of both the McDonald Valley and Grinnell Glacier.

Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats and marmots on this trail. At the end of the hike, take the free park shuttle from The Loopback to Logan Pass Visitor Center.

  • Distance: 11.8 miles (13.6 miles with Garden Wall)
  • Elevation Gain: 800 feet (1,700 feet with Garden Wall)
  • Trailhead: Logan Pass Visitor Center
  • Time Required: 6.5 hours

9. Grinnell Glacier

Grinnell Lake at Glacier National Park
Grinnell Lake

Grinnell Glacier is easily a bucket list-worthy hike. It’s one of the few trails in the park that lets you see the park’s famed glaciers up close.

The trail starts at the Many Glacier Hotel and winds along both Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. In the early morning, this is the perfect place for a bear or moose sighting.

The trail climbs nearly 2,000 feet up to the icy blue water of Upper Grinnell Lake. From here, you can see two glaciers: Grinnell Glacier and Salamander Glacier. If you’re brave, take a dip in the near-freezing glacial waters.

To cut off some of the distance, Glacier Park Boat Company runs a boat tour across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. The boat tour saves you over 3 miles but doesn’t cut off any of the elevation gains.

  • Distance: 10.6 miles (only 7.2 miles with the boat tour)
  • Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
  • Trailhead: Many Glacier Hotel
  • Time Required: 6 hours

10. Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake at Glacier National Park
Iceberg Lake

Glacier National Park has no shortage of alpine lakes, but Iceberg Lake is one of the best. This lake is known for its icebergs that float through the lake all year long.

The trail starts at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, passing by dense brush and bushes for the first few miles. This is a common place to find bears snacking on huckleberries as they fatten up for winter hibernation.

The shores of Iceberg Lake are the perfect place for a picnic and relaxing afternoon. Parts of this trail are shared with the hikes to Ptarmigan Falls and Ptarmigan Tunnel if you’re looking to explore more of Glacier National Park.

  • Distance: 9.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
  • Trailhead: Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead
  • Time Required: 5 hours

11. Ptarmigan Tunnel

Ptarmigan Trail at Glacier National Park
Ptarmigan Trail

Ptarmigan Tunnel is one of the more strenuous hikes on this list.

The long and steep hike takes you up to a historic tunnel passing through Ptarmigan Wall. Ptarmigan Tunnel was built in the 1930s and is only open from mid-July to late September.

The first part of this trail is shared with the trail to Iceberg Lake but splits after Ptarmigan Falls. Keep your eyes peeled for bears on this trail, and be sure to carry bear spray.

The views from either end of the Ptarmigan Tunnel are stunning. The tunnel passes through the mountain range, giving you views of both the Belly River Valley and Many Glacier Valley.

  • Distance: 10.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,300 feet
  • Trailhead: Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead
  • Time Required: 6 hours

12. Sperry Chalet

Lake Ellen Wilson at Glacier National Park
Lake Ellen Wilson – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by High Trails

The only overnight hike on this list, Sperry Chalet, is an incredibly unique adventure. After burning down in 2017, the Sperry Chalet has been rebuilt and reopened in 2020.

A spot at the coveted chalet doesn’t come cheap and requires booking almost a year in advance. A stay at the chalet includes 3 warm meals, bedding, and a private room.

This is the perfect stay for those looking to venture into Glacier’s backcountry without having to haul camping gear.

The strenuous hike to Sperry Chalet takes you through forests, meadows, rivers, and waterfalls. But after a long day of hiking, you’ll be able to relax at the Sperry Chalet and take in views of the park that few journeys to.

  • Distance: 12.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3,432 feet
  • Trailhead: Sperry Trailhead
  • Time Required: 7 hours

Final Thoughts on the Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of the best hiking destinations in the United States. But there’s so much to do and see that it can seem overwhelming!

You should spend at least 3 days in Glacier National Park. For the best hiking experience, plan to spend a week in Glacier National Park. This will give you plenty of time to spread out your hikes and see all that the park has to offer.

Regardless of which trails you choose, you’re sure to find stunning views and wildlife at every turn!

If you’re looking for more adventures in Glacier National Park, make time to check out all the best scenic stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road.

About the author

Julia is a detail-oriented traveler with the goal to visit every U.S. national park. Her blog, Well Planned Journey, helps you plan epic national park trips with detailed itineraries, hand-crafted gear guides, and tips to elevate your hiking skillset.

Follow her journey to visit every national park on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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