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Your Flexible Glacier National Park 7-Day Itinerary

Glacier National Park features one million acres of stunning alpine landscape. Since its establishment in 1910, the park has attracted travelers from all over the world. Seven days in Glacier National Park is plenty of time to see the most iconic natural landmarks and explore areas off the beaten track.

With a time frame in mind, we have constructed a thorough, yet flexible, Glacier National Park 7-day itinerary for you to get the most out of your visit.

Your Glacier National Park 7-Day Itinerary

glacier national park

Accommodation

Staying inside Glacier National Park completes the experience of immersing yourself in one of America’s most famous landscapes. If you’d like to stay in the park, there are several official park lodges to choose from:

West Side

Lake McDonald

East Side

Given that the official park lodges are so popular, they tend to fill up extremely quickly, especially during the busy summer months between June and August. Be sure to reserve your booking 13 months in advance, when reservations open.

For a more affordable alternative that still gives you an authentic Glacier National Park experience, you might also like to stay at one of the in-park campgrounds, which operate on both a reservations basis and a first-come-first-served basis.

Additionally, you can also choose to stay in one of the gateway communities outside the park entrances. Accommodation here tends to be more affordable and less crowded.

You can follow this itinerary regardless of where you’re staying. However, we recommend basing yourself on the eastern side of the park to decrease travel time to and from most destinations.

The campgrounds we recommend include St. Mary Campground, Rising Sun Campground, and Many Glacier Campground

Day 1

Morning: Lake McDonald

lake mcdonald

The first day of your Glacier National Park trip will mostly be spent at Lake McDonald, located in the southwestern area of the park. The lake is the largest in the park and tends to attract large crowds, particularly at the height of summer.

Our itinerary begins in West Glacier, which is less than 15 minutes away from Lake McDonald. Take the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which will eventually take you all the way to St. Mary on the other side of the park, from just outside the park entrance.

Depending on the weather, we suggest partaking in some kayaking or canoeing at the lake, or even renting a boat. You can also swim at the lake, although you might find that the water is too cold to be enjoyable. Take your time on and around the water and have a picnic lunch by the shore.

In the afternoon, you can explore the hiking trails in the area. In the Lake McDonald Valley, you’ll find 12 trails in total. There are easy to difficult trails of varying lengths and elevation gains, so pick one (or a few) that interest you.

The top trail that we recommend in the area also happens to be one of the shortest and easiest: The Trail of the Cedars.

Accessible from the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area, the Trail of the Cedars features a boardwalk that meanders through towering ancient cedar trees. It’s appropriate for hikers of all ages and abilities and boasts some of the most unique views in the park.

Alternatively, you can omit to spend any time on the water and choose a longer trail that will allow you to spend the whole day hiking. The perfect trail for a day of hiking is the Lake McDonald Western Shore Trail, which takes most travelers around five hours to finish. The trail is relatively easy and offers spectacular views.

After spending the afternoon around Lake McDonald, make your way along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to St. Mary, where you can have dinner in the St. Mary Village.

It takes around two hours to get from Lake McDonald to St. Mary, so you can time your exact schedule according to what time you’d like to arrive in St. Mary.

Evening: Wild Goose Island Overlook

wild goose island overlook

Approximately 10 minutes from the St. Mary Visitor Center, along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll come to one of the park’s prettiest destinations.

You’ll recognize the Wild Goose Island Overlook from photos: the small island lies in the heart of St. Mary Lake, against a backdrop of mountain peaks.

We recommend visiting the overlook after dinner, close to sunset, which can be as late as 10 p.m. in July. The sunset amplifies what is already a mesmerizing view of the island. This is the perfect way to end your first day in the park.

Day 2

Morning: Grinnell Glacier or Iceberg Lake Hike

iceberg lake hike
Image: Timothy K Hamilton

The Many Glacier area is one of the quieter areas of the park but is just as beautiful with its horizons of unspoiled alpine scenery. You can spend your entire day here, starting with a hike in the morning.

There are two extremely popular hiking options in the Many Glacier area: Iceberg Lake and Grinnell Glacier. Both take most park guests about four hours to complete, so if you really wanted to, you could take on both for a full day of hiking. Alternatively, hike one and then spend the other half of your day relaxing in the area.

Both trails will give you sublime views over the area. Iceberg Lake is slightly shorter and easier, but with Grinnell Glacier, you have the option of reducing your hiking time by taking a boat tour from the Many Glacier Hotel as part of the trek.

Either trail may be closed when you arrive due to bear activity, so you might not get a say in which trail you take after all. The good news is both feature wonderful views and will be guaranteed to please.

Afternoon: The rest of Many Glacier

the rest of many glacier

After your hike, stop for lunch at the Many Glacier Hotel, where you’ll find an assortment of eateries. Overlooking Swiftcurrent Lake, the hotel is a popular destination thanks to its relaxing porch observation deck.

If the Many Glacier Hotel is too crowded, you can also kick back and enjoy the atmosphere at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

How you spend the rest of the afternoon in Many Glacier is up to you. There are boat tours available of both Swiftcurrent and Grinnell Lakes, which you can book through the Glacier Park Boat Company. You might also like to take a walk by the water or have a picnic lunch along the shore.

There are several opportunities in Many Glacier to spot wildlife, including at Fishercap Lake, which tends to attract moose early in the morning or around dusk.

Redrock Lake and Bullhead Lake are other areas where you might see moose, while Many Glacier Road along Lake Sherburne is the best place to go for bear-viewing, and Grinnell Glacier and Ptarmigan Tunnel are great for spotting mountain goats.

The park rules indicate that you should never approach or feed any wildlife that you see. An alternative to wildlife-viewing for animal lovers is a horseback riding tour with Swan Mountain Outfitters.

Day 3

Morning: Logan Pass

logan pass

No trip to Glacier National Park is complete without visiting Logan Pass. This is the highest point on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and provides sensational views of Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, Bearhat Mountain, Mount Oberlin, and Reynolds Mountain from its place along the Continental Divide.

The first thing to know about Logan Pass is that it’s one of the busiest destinations in the park. In order to secure a place in the parking lot, be sure to arrive before 8 a.m. After about 8:30 a.m., the parking lot fills up and it’s not unheard of for parking rangers to start turning away cars. Otherwise, you could be waiting up to 45 minutes for a spot.

If you’d prefer not to drive to Logan Pass, you can opt to park in the St. Mary Visitor Center and then take a shuttle to the Logan Pass Visitor Center, which is around an hour away. Keep in mind that the last shuttle to depart Logan Pass for St. Mary leaves at 5 p.m.

When you arrive at Logan Pass, check out the Visitor Center, where you’ll find a variety of hiking trails. The day-long Highline Trail is one of the most unmissable in the park, but we’ve left that for later in your itinerary. For today, when you’ll have just the morning at Logan Pass, we recommend taking the stunning Hidden Lake Trail.

The trail takes most hikers around three hours. Along the way, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas of flower-filled meadows. When you arrive at Hidden Lake, you can also go fishing for cutthroat trout.

Afternoon: St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls

st mary falls

In the afternoon, the itinerary will take you to St. Mary and Virginia Falls, which are located on the eastern side of the park.

The trailhead that will take you to both falls is located close to the St. Mary Falls Shuttle Stop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is around 10 miles to the west of the St. Mary Entrance Station.

Again the parking can be challenging at this tricky destination, and you might be waiting around half an hour for a spot.

The first stop on the hike is the St. Mary River, which will bring you to St. Mary Falls. Take a few minutes to rest here before continuing on the trail. You’ll pass two unnamed waterfalls as you walk along Virginia Creek before you finally arrive at the roaring Virginia Falls.

Most hikers relish the spray from the falls when it’s hot. Remember to take care around the base of the falls, as the rocks here can be slippery.

Day 4

Waterton Lakes National Park

waterton lakes national park

With seven full days in Glacier National Park, you have enough time to visit Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada for a day, which is a major privilege! Located in Southern Alberta on the boundary of Glacier, Waterton is famous for its picturesque chain lakes.

Waterton is only an hour’s drive from St. Mary Village. You can get there via the Chief Mountain International Highway. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from the Goat Haunt Ranger Station in Glacier National Park. This will take you across Upper Waterton Lake and straight to the Waterton townsite.

As History Fangirl points out, there are no public buses or shuttles in the national park, so having your own car will be the best way to get around. You could also get around via bicycle, as Waterton is a relatively small park at only 195 square miles.

We recommend beginning your day in Waterton at Red Rock Canyon, which you can access via the Red Rock Canyon Parkway. This is one of the most popular destinations in the park and is usually crowded, especially during the summer. Arriving early will increase your chances of finding a parking spot.

The canyon is around a 25-minute drive from the townsite. You’ll find a trail running along the rim of the canyon, which offers several access points that allow you to enter the cool water below.

From here, you can begin hiking the trail to Blakiston Falls, which takes around an hour to complete. Along with the thundering waterfall, you’ll get to see stunning views of wildflowers on the way.

There are a few restaurants in the Waterton townsite where you can stop for lunch. Otherwise, you can bring your own packed lunch to eat in one of the many picnic areas of the park.

Your next stop is Driftwood Beach, which is just a few minutes from the townsite. The beach is located on the north shore of Upper Water Lake and is covered in driftwood blown by the natural breeze.

From the beach, you’ll get a scenic view of the iconic Prince of Wales hotel. If you’d prefer to take the afternoon easy, you can head to the hotel for afternoon tea.

Otherwise, begin the Bear’s Hump Trail hike, which provides some of the best views in the park. You can access the trailhead from a parking lot across the road from the Prince of Wales Hotel. Most hikers can reach the summit in half an hour, however, the hike is known to be strenuous.

After the hike, make your way to Cameron Lake via the Akamina Parkway, which should take about 30 minutes. The alpine lake offers the chance for canoeing and kayaking, as well as mesmerizing views and Instagram-worthy photos. You can paddle a full circuit of the lake in around one and a half hours.

Grab some dinner in the Waterton townsite, which has a range of cuisines and dining establishments available, before making your way back to Glacier.

Day 5

Highline Trail Loop

highline trail loop

The Highline Trail is arguably Glacier’s best hike. At 11.8 miles and 1950 feet of elevation gain, this one-way trail can be quite challenging. But it boasts world-famous views of the surrounding mountain scenery from the summit, which makes the effort worth it!

You can reach the trail by returning to Logan Pass, where you’ll have the best chance of getting a parking space by arriving before 8:00 a.m.

The trailhead begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center, and the trail extends to the Loop, which is a bend in the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the east of the McDonald Lodge. If you don’t want to battle the crowds at Logan Pass, you can park at the Loop and then take the free shuttle to Logan Pass.

On average, it takes between six and seven hours to complete the hike, so we’ve allowed all day for it on this itinerary. Hikers are advised to bring lots of snacks, water, and sun protection with them, as few resources are available on the trail, which runs along the Continental Divide.

It’s also important to bring bear spray with you, as the last stretch of the trail passes through grizzly habitat. Where possible, travel in groups, make noise as you hike, and check with park rangers about recent animal sightings.

One thing to note about the Highline Trail is that hikers are required to pass a steep ledge around a quarter of a mile from the trailhead. The ledge is only six to eight feet across and drops 100 feet below, which can cause anxiety for those with a fear of heights.

However, there is a handrail along this short section of the tail. We recommend pushing past the fear if you can, as the spectacular views are truly amazing.

As part of the Highline Trail, you’ll be able to complete the Garden Wall Trail at around seven miles into the hike. The Garden Wall Trail boasts 900 feet of elevation gain and brings even more impressive views of Grinnell Glacier.

Day 6

Morning: Polebridge and Bowman Lake

polebridge

Since you have seven days in Glacier National Park, it’s worth trekking to the northwest area to see the off-the-grid community of Polebridge, home to the famous Polebridge Mercantile.

The store is over 100 years old and remains an important pit-stop for park guests. We recommend grabbing some food and making up a picnic to enjoy later in the day.

It takes around two hours and 20 minutes to get to Polebridge from St. Mary. After you’ve bought some goods for lunch (plus a sweet treat to have on the go) at the Mercantile, you can take some photos at the iconic Northern Lights Saloon.

Then head to the idyllic Bowman Lake, where the calm water is perfect for taking a dip (if it’s not too cold!). Set up a picnic by the shore and enjoy the tranquil vibe at the lake. Boating and fishing are also available at the lake.

If you’re in the mood for walking, the Akokala Lake Trail, which departs from the Bowman Campground, is a wonderful short and easy day hike that will allow you to explore the area.

Afternoon: Whitefish Ski Resort

whitefish ski resort

For an adventure-filled afternoon, head to the Whitefish Ski Resort, which will take around an hour and 40 minutes from Bowman Lake.

Contrary to popular belief, the resort is just as much fun in summer! There’s an aerial adventure park, zip lining, alpine slides, mountain biking, summer tubing, and scenic lift rides to enjoy. This is a particularly great destination if you’re traveling with kids.

Different activities require different tickets, so check the website for the correct admission prices.

Day 7

Two Medicine

two medicine

The ideal way to end a trip to Glacier National Park is with a visit to the remote Two Medicine area. Tucked away in the southeastern section of the park, Two Medicine is around 40 minutes from St. Mary.

St. Mary typically receives less rain than other areas of the park, which means it can look considerably different. There are fewer areas of the thick forest here; instead, there are more grassy spaces.

Definitely make time for a picnic lunch, as there are a few picnic areas to choose from. You’ll also find a gift shop and a campground in Two Medicine, plus opportunities for recreation at Two Medicine Lake.

The lake is around two miles long and is home to a healthy population of brook and rainbow trout. Along with fishing, you are welcome to swim in the lake but be warned that the waters get extremely cold.

Additionally, there are a few hiking trails in the area. The Dawson/Pitamakan Pass Loop extends for 17 miles and will take you all day, but it also offers once-in-a-lifetime views.

Otherwise, there are several shorter hikes available, including Running Eagle Falls and the Upper Two Medicine Lake Trail. Keep an eye out for animals on the trails, as mountain goats and bighorn sheep are common in the area.

Conclusion

Seven days in Glacier National Park is all you need to have the adventure of a lifetime. Explore the park’s main sights, hike the best trails, and strike the perfect balance between fun and serenity with this adaptable itinerary.

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