The 12 Best Hikes In Glacier National Park

Jason Gass
Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

With over 700 miles of hiking trails, Glacier National Park is home to some of the most incredible hiking paths in the US and has deservedly earned the reputation of a hiker’s paradise.

To experience the magnificent glaciers, alpine scenery, and indigenous wildlife, you need to ditch the familiar Going-to-the-sun Road and experience it by walking on your feet.

Glacier National Park offers much for both beginners as well as seasoned hikers – you can start with easy day hikes before you graduate to more challenging ones. Witness the wild up close as you walk in the woods, taking in lush verdant landscapes, stunning alpine meadows, and picturesque backcountry roads.

If you’re sold on the idea of hiking and are planning to go on a trail soon, pick out any of the trails from easy to difficult at the Glacier National Park mentioned below in our list of the best hikes in Glacier National Park:

The 12 Best Hikes In Glacier National Park

For this, and all of the trails featured in this article, it is worth noting that Glacier National Park charges a fee to enter. Winter rates are lower and come into effect between November and April. If you are thinking of becoming a regular you can also pick up a park-specific annual pass HERE.

best time to visit glacier national park

1. Highline Trail

highline trail
Image: Sathish J

No list of hikes in Glacier National Park would be complete without mentioning the classic Highline trail.

Deservedly one of the most popular trails in North America, the path starts at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and is located across Going-to-the-sun road, where the trail famously hugs the mountain until you reach the Garden Wall.

As you begin the hike up the mountain, the folks driving on Going-to-the-sun road get a bird’s eye view of hikers balancing carefully on a small ledge as the trail is about 4-5 feet wide. The elevation gain is minimal, offering amazing views without too much stress on your body as you eat up the miles.

Take in the spectacular beauty of the glacier, summer slopes covered with wildflowers, high alpine views, stunning snow-capped Heaven’s Peak, and the distant yet natural Bird Woman Falls from one of the hanging valleys.

You can continue hiking up the massive mountain to Granite Park Chalet and then descend to the Loop where you can pick up a free shuttle bus back to where you started. Beware of mountain goats, marmots, and grizzlies on this trail. This moderate trail is well-equipped with restrooms, drinking water, and a ranger station.

2. Pitamakan-Dawson Loop

This lengthy hike is done as a loop and can be covered over two to three days with overnight sleepovers at No Name Lake and Oldman Lake backcountry campgrounds.

You can choose any of two ways to complete the loop. Progressing clockwise, you can start the hike at the Two Medicine campground, cross the bridge at Oldman Lake Trail and head right towards Pitamakan pass and continue to Dawson Pass. This route will bless you with gorgeous gigantic peaks and endless gorges in every direction.

If you choose to hike in the anti-clockwise direction, the same ascent is more drawn out. Not to mention, you’ll be entering quickly into prime grizzly bear territory. Keep an eye out and make plenty of noise – this gives bears a heads-up and makes them less likely to react negatively towards humans in their territory. Five miles onto the hike, watch for bighorn sheep on your right as you descend through Dawson Pass into Bighorn Basin.

Despite its considerable length, this moderately difficult hike can be done in a day if you’re physically fit and have been training for it. This trail also has restrooms, drinking water, and a ranger station – in case you’re worried about finding help and safety.

3. Grinnell Glacier Trail

grinnell glacier trail
Image: Roy Luck

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the remarkable Grinnell Glacier is a top favorite hike that absolutely has to be ticked off your list. 

Why do we say favorite? Of all the park’s biggest glaciers that have melted over a span of 100 years, Grinnel still stands strong making it one of the most prominent of the remaining glaciers – you’ll certainly know the feeling once you see it!

Get a head start and follow Many Glacier Road, taking note of the marked signs for the Grinnell Glacier Trail. Another shorter way to do this hike is by taking a boat ride across Lake Swiftcurrent and Lake Josephine while basking in the breathtaking views the expanse has to offer.

If you’re lucky, you will spot animals like moose, mountain goats, and other wildlife. Feel the icy cold waters as you get up close to see Grinnell Glacier.

Enjoy the solitude of one of the remote areas of the Glacier National life as you become one with nature and absorb the emerald lakes, gushing waterfalls, impressive alpine scenery, and wildflowers before you head back.

Reward yourself for some relaxing time after a long hike in the open space and take in the pleasant views right in front of you. You can further hike down four miles to the border or simply sit and gaze across the lake into Canada.

While this is a difficult and strenuous hike, especially beyond the lakes, you will be greeted with marvelous views of Lake Grinnell before you climb further up to Grinnell Glacier. This trail also has provisions made for drinking water, restrooms, and picnic spots.

4. Iceberg Lake Trail

iceberg lake trail
Image: NPS Natural Resources

Have you ever seen an iceberg with your own eyes? 

While floating icebergs are a sign that climate change is real, Iceberg Lake gives you a first-hand experience of icebergs that float all throughout the year. Rightfully one of the most popular of Glacier’s hikes, this trail is at the top of our bucket list.

The trail begins at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and shares the trail to Ptarmigan Tunnel. All you need to do is follow the path and be cautious of grizzly bears who inhabit the area. You will find yourself surrounded by dense bushes and shrubbery for a couple of miles. Make sure to hike in groups and don’t forget to carry bear spray.

The trail runs below Altyn Peak and Mount Wilbur with shrouded views of Ptarmigan Falls. Keep walking until you grace yourself upon the emerald shore of the lake adjoined by 2,000-foot magnificent cliffs.

This easy to moderate hike is relatively gentle offering amazing views of treetops, meadows blooming with wildflowers, and a beautiful alpine lake. The lake’s still waters make for a spectacular foreground for a picnic spot, and the trail itself comes with restrooms and drinking water.

5. Avalanche Lake Trail

Did you know that Avalanche Lake got its name from the avalanche chutes surrounding the lake? 

To witness the scenic beauty of the lake, you need to start from the Avalanche Campground area. The trail starts along the boardwalk Trail of the Cedars leading to Avalanche Creek. You will pass through the oldest trees in the dense forest. As you walk by, you will see the frothing gorge making its way through thousands of cedar and hemlock trees.

After you hike for about two miles, you will arrive at the lakeshore. The lake is surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides where you can view the avalanche chutes and gorgeous cascading waterfalls. You can go on the hike for another 0.7 miles at the far end of the lake.

This easy to moderate hike is a popular spot for both families and seniors alike. Once you reach the lake, you can relax and take in the spectacular views. You can watch out for birds and other wildlife before heading back. The trail is well-equipped with restrooms, drinking water, and picnic spots.

6. St Mary and Virginia Falls

virginia falls
Image: GlacierNPS

If you thought Glacier National Park has only lakes and glaciers, you’ve got that wrong! 

Join the trailhead off of Going-to-the-sun Road and follow the path marked St Mary Falls. The forest you pass by was burned down in a fire in 2015, however it has been restored.

Once you reach the St Mary River, enjoy the astonishing views of St Mary Falls. You can also spot deer if you keep a lookout. Continue hiking up until you arrive upon Virginia Falls and take the trail across the bridge leading to a viewing platform. This trail has restrooms and picnic sites, so you can relax and grab a bite.

Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

7. The Hidden Lake Trail

hidden lake trail
Image: Darian Wong

Close to another popular hike within the park by way of Siyah Bend, this 5.2-mile out-and-back trail is generally reported as a moderately challenging route. The average completion time is around 3 hours, and this trail is very popular and well-worn.

Needless to say, you’ll most likely run into a few other hikers while exploring this route, which is best used from June through October.

This is a great hike that can be a little steep going down to the lake but is well worth the effort, and it is even more challenging heading back up. The lake is so gorgeous though and there is impressive if not breathtaking scenery all the way up and back down the trail.

The trail is accessible year-round although there are reports that the wooden walkway gets a little on the slick side once the snow has arrived. This area is subject to closures due to bear activity.

For more information, please visit the WEBSITE.

8. The Cracker Lake Trail

Also in the region of the Siyah Bend is this slightly more grueling 12-mile out-and-back trail. Most hikers report this route as moderately challenging and it takes an average of 5 hours to complete.

The Cracker Lake Trail is in another well-populated backpacking region of the park, and there are lots of opportunities nearby for other pursuits like camping and hiking.

The best times to visit this trail are May through October, and many who have experienced it have described it as one of the most stunning and underrated trail routes within the park. That’s not to mention that it has one of the prettiest lakes, albeit a bit windy.

You may catch glimpses of wildlife such as bighorn sheep and even bear scat along this trail, which is reported by many who have completed it as a Glacier National Park ‘must do’.

Dogs aren’t allowed on this trail, although apparently, horses are judging by all the reports of horse poop, which you might expect.

9. The Trail of the Cedars

trail of the cedars
Image: Curt Wohleber

The Trail of the Cedars is a much shorter and accessible route that spans a 0.9-mile loop near Lake McDonald.

This hike is generally reported as easy and takes an average of around 20 minutes to complete. The trail runs through another well-visited area of the park which is mostly forest known for backpacking, birding, and camping, so you can expect to encounter a few others along the way.

Much of the route runs through the forest and hikers should again be on the lookout for horse poop along the way. This is a short walk amongst some beautiful wide cedars and some huge trees surrounded by other local flora.

Hikers also encounter a little stream with pretty little rainbow pebbles, and sometime after that, there is an overlook to a river followed by views of the mountains and valley.

Cracker Lake at the end is another stunning-looking lake with water so blue you’ll have to look twice to believe it. The trail is not too crowded and unlike many of the others in the park, this one has adequate shade and cover along the way. The best times to use the trail are reportedly from April through October.

This area is fortunate enough to have been fire-free for hundreds of years, and this has resulted in the underbrush being a lot denser than in other regions of the park.

The boardwalk is flat and serves as a great stop-off for anyone not wanting that much more incline. This loop can easily be completed as part of the Avalanche Lake Hike, another rather easy hike ideal for families.

10. Redrock Falls via Swiftcurrent Pass

This route covers a 3.6-mile out-and-back trail generally considered an easy hike and takes on average just over an hour or so to complete.

This is yet another Glacier Park trail also populated by birders and anglers, so the likelihood of encountering a few other walkers is high.

The trail is very steady in terms of both distance and elevation gains. There are frequent moose sightings along this trail, and the well-traveled route also features some beautiful falls. The scenery around the trail is breath-taking the entire way, and you may even catch a few glimpses of bears on the distant hills

The best times to visit this trail are March through October, and sorry, the dogs will have to sit this one out.

11. The Upper McDonald Creek Trail

upper mcdonald creek trail
Image: GlacierNPS

The Upper McDonald Creek Trail is a 5.5-mile out-and-back route in the vicinity of the incredibly scenic Lake McDonald. The trail is generally reported as easy and takes around two hours to complete on average.

This is another well-worn and populated trail also used by birders and horseback riders. It is best used from April through October, and again no dogs are allowed on the trail which tends to be the norm in this vicinity due to the various wildlife species.

12. The Garden Wall Trail

This 14.9-mile out-and-back trail is near West Glacier and features some unique and impressive terrain. The route is quite challenging and takes an average of 8 hours to complete in all.

That 0.8-mile stretch to the glacier is something of an intensely steep incline, but the payoff by way of the incredible views is well worth it. It can get quite cold up in the nether regions so it is logical to bring plenty of supplies for what is basically an expert hike.

You might want to check the operation of the shuttles within the park before setting off on this hike unless you have it in mind to do an out-and-back hike.

The route is popular for backpacking, and also gets used by others who are camping and hiking. That said at certain times of the day you can most definitely enjoy some quiet moments

The best times to visit this trail are April through October, and the no dogs rule still applies on this one.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a compiled list of the places you can go hiking, visit the National Park Service website for additional information such as updates and trail status. 

Besides that, make sure you plan properly, stick to the trail, make a list of things to pack for the trail, learn about safety in case of a campfire, do not feed animals, and do not litter – ensure proper disposal of waste is done as you explore this amazing National Park.

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About The Author

Jason Gass

Jason Gass is a Colorado based freelance writer and blogger whose goal is to share a good cup of coffee and great stories around a campfire with close friends. When he’s not working, he spends most of his time traveling, searching for the best breweries, and road-tripping in his teardrop trailer with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

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