If you’ve dreamed of seeing fields of wildflowers and dramatic waterfalls, bighorn sheep and mountain goats dancing across a craggy landscape, or the alpenglow of the setting sun, then you're in for an adventure at Glacier National Park. With more than 700 miles of trails, there's something for everyone here, whether you’re an expert backcountry trekker or a beginner looking for a short hike to a point of interest.
To get started, make sure you stop in the visitor’s center before you head out on a path to learn about current bear sightings, trail closures, or hazards that you should be aware of. Rangers can let you know what the best hikes are for your interests and abilities, ensuring that you’ll have the best time possible while out exploring Glacier’s forests, alpine meadows, and lakes. Also, check the Trail Status Reports for up-to-date information on snow and water hazards, inclement weather, animal activity, and campground closures.
Keep reading to get a detailed description of the park’s best hikes.
One of the most popular destinations in Glacier National Park is the Lake McDonald area, where you’ll find nearly two dozen hiking trails comprised of various lengths. Many of these connect with other trails, enabling you to hike a longer distance.
Among this area's top hikes is Apgar Lookout, a 3.6-mile, one-way trail with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet. Located one half-mile north of the West Entrance, you’ll continue for 1.5 miles beyond Quarter Circle Bridge to find the trailhead. The trail offers wonderful views and a great workout with a decent pay off.
Lake McDonald West Shore
Another great hike—and one that is mostly level—is to follow the Lake McDonald West Shore trail. You'll hike for 7.4 miles, one-way, beginning 0.2 miles north of the Fish Creek Campground. If you want, you can add on an additional 1.1 miles and hike the Rocky Point trail, which has a relaxed 85-foot elevation gain.
Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake
For an easy, wheelchair-accessible trail, venture out on the 0.7-mile Trail of the Cedars loop path. Not only will you see towering western hemlocks and red cedars, you'll also cross a footbridge overlooking the lower Avalanche Gorge. The trailhead begins at the shaded Avalanche Picnic Area, perfect for resting before or after your hike. More intrepid hikers should continue on to Avalanche Lake, a 2.3-mile (one-way) rugged trail with 500 feet of elevation gain.
Grinnell Glacier Trail
Despite its popularity, you’ll find plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the trail without too many other people. You’ll see the trailhead to this 10.3-mile hike clearly marked off of Many Glacier Road. To shorten the experience to 7 miles, you’ll need to take a boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. For the longer route, you’ll follow the north shores of the lakes for the first 2 miles before the route begins to climb. You’ll love the views of Grinnell Falls, Angel Wing, Mt. Gould, the Continental Divide, and, of course, Grinnell Lake. While there are multiple entry points, Many Glacier Hotel is a great place to start for its ample parking and access to concession boats (for a fee).
Travel tip: Book a hotel at or near Many Glacier, and start your hike just as the sun begins to rise, casting crimson light on the rocky mountains and a brilliant glow on the glassy lakes.
Swiftcurrent Nature Trail
The first section of the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail, past the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead, is wheelchair accessible, making it a great choice for families and persons with disabilities. Starting at Many Glacier Hotel, the 2.3-mile loop trail around Swiftcurrent Lake offers wildlife viewing and photography opportunities that are not to be missed. It’s also worth noting that the kayaking on Swiftcurrent Lake is incredible; rent a watercraft at Many Glacier Hotel and travel over the channel to Lake Josephine for impressive views of Mount Gould.
Begin your hike at the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead, near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. You’ll hike through pine forests, rising in elevation steadily, before enjoying views of Mt. Grinnell, Swiftcurrent mountain, and Mt. Wilbur. At about 2.5 miles in, you’ll reach the Ptarmigan Falls overlook. From here you can continue on to Iceberg Lake or Ptarmigan Tunnel.
Bowman Lake to Quartz Lake Loop
Bowman Lake is a great place to enjoy day hiking with pristine mountain and lake views. This is a less visited area of the park, which means you’ll enjoy the scenery and quiet as you explore. Begin your 12.8-mile adventure at Bowman Lake Beach and follow the shoreline on the West Lakes Trail for 0.5 miles until you see the split—this is where the loop beings. A 1,500-foot climb will reward you with views of all three Quartz lakes: Quartz Lake, Middle Quartz Lake, and Lower Quarts Lake. Afterwards, you’ll cross a rugged wooden footbridge and make your way back to Bowman Lake.
Baring, St. Mary and Virginia Falls
This 5.4-mile out-and-back hike will take you near three of Glacier’s most impressive waterfalls. Begin at the Sunrift Gorge parking area, where you’ll find the Baring Falls trailhead. Take a breath at Baring Falls and then continue along St. Mary Lake. You’ll reach a junction and continue toward St. Mary Falls, where you’ll cross a footbridge over the St. Mary River. Continue on 0.8 miles to reach Virginia Falls. There are a few short and easy trails you can take from here to enjoy multiple vantage points. Begin this trail early to avoid crowds. Parking is limited, so it might be best to use the Glacier transit system.
This trail is arguably the most popular in the park. Start as early as possible to find parking and to avoid crowds. Depart from Logan Pass and hike for 7.6 miles to the Granite Park Chalet, a historic lodge built in 1914. You’ll follow the Continental Divide and enjoy views of glacial valleys and high alpine terrain. Those afraid of heights may want to reconsider, as parts of this trail include narrow ledge hiking.
It’s worth including Grinnell Glacier Overlook in your adventure, where mountain goats are a common sight. If you decide to descend the steep 4.2 additional miles down the Loop Trail to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you can take the free shuttle back to Logan’s Pass. Otherwise, you’ll have to hike back the way you came.
Upper Two Medicine Lake
This 5-mile scenic trail really showcases Glacier’s beauty, in a wonderful area of the park that isn't heavily visited. What makes it so unique is that you’ll walk past berry bushes, ferns, and fields of wildflowers. You’ll also have the opportunity to spot moose, though do exercise caution and keep your distance!
Begin your hike at either the North Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine Campground or the South Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine Lake. Another option is to take a boat (for a fee) across Two Medicine Lake and begin on the other side. You’ll reach the North Shore Trail, which connects to Dawson Pass Trail. Continue on and cross a creek to reach an optional short hike to see Twin Falls.