15 Best Hiking Trails in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is known for its scenic hiking trails. Jaw-dropping overlooks, cascading waterfalls, and thousands of colorful wildflowers are just a few of the things visitors can experience in this incredible park.
From short, family-friendly hikes to multi-day backpacking adventures these are the best hiking trails in Glacier National Park.
Most Scenic Hikes
Chances are good that you’ll recognize pictures from one of these iconic trails.
- Highline Trail has a variety of narrow ledges, colorful wildflowers, and spectacular mountains. It’s not for those with a fear of heights!
- Grinnell Glacier Overlook a quick detour from the Highline Trail–check out the bird’s eye view of Grinnell Glacier!
- Avalanche Lake: picturesque hike that passes through an old-growth hemlock forest.
When tourists think of hiking in Glacier National Park, the Highline Trail comes to mind.
This hike has it all: narrow ledges at dizzying heights, thousands of mountainside wildflowers, glacial overlooks, and wildlife galore.
This trail is a point-to-point hike that extends about 12 miles from the Logan Pass Parking Lot to “The Loop” on Going-to-the-Sun road.
Most people hike the path one direction and then ride the free shuttle back to their car.
Even though the hike is long, it’s rated moderate and goes by quickly. It is not recommended for small children, or travelers with a fear of heights.
Grinnell Glacier Overlook
The hike to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook is best done as a detour from the Highline Trail. It adds about 1.6 miles to the hike.
On this trail, you get all of the fantastic views that the Highline Trail has to offer. Plus, you get a bonus birds-eye view from 1,000 feet above Grinnell Glacier.
The overlook is located at the peak of the continental divide; and gives you commanding views of several mountains including The Salamander, Allen Mountain, Angel Wing, and Mount Gould.
Throughout this hike, tourists are guaranteed to see some wildlife; and the views cannot be beat.
The hike to Avalanche Lake takes you through some of the most scenic sections of Glacier National Park before commencing at a gorgeous lake right at the base of Bearhat Mountain.
The route begins on Trail of the Cedars which is one of the best short hikes in the park. It weaves through a breathtaking hemlock and red cedar forest on a raised boardwalk.
From there, you’ll cross one of the most picturesque waterfalls in Glacier.
Avalanche Lake has a small beach area with several benches to rest and enjoy the icy cold water. The entire route takes about 2.5 hours to complete and stretches almost 6 miles.
Best Easy Hikes
If you’re looking for an easy and family-friendly hike, then don’t miss these short and easy hike in the St Mary Valley.
- Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is the most popular and scenic short trail in all of Glacier.
- Trail of the Cedars is a short and flat, wheel-chair accessible hike through the forest.
- Sun Point Nature Trail is a short and easy hike–perfect for kids!
Hidden Lake Overlook
The Hidden Lake Overlook trail is one of the shortest easy hikes in Glacier. It’s only 2.7 miles round trip and has 540 feet of elevation gain. It’s also one of the most popular hikes in the park so you can expect some big crowds along the way!
Fortunately the path is wide, relatively flat, and well-maintained. The trail begins right behind the Logan Pass Visitor Center and starts with paved surface which quickly turns into a raised boardwalk.
The boardwalk trail keeps your feet out of the mud and snow during the melting season. And in the spring, the whole area becomes a colorful field of wildflowers. The Hidden Lake Overlook trail is often referred to as the Hidden Lake Nature Trail for this reason.
Views from the path are breathtaking throughout the entire hike. The trail leads through exposed alpine meadows before concluding at the overlook right in front of Bearhat Mountain.
It’s common to spot bighorn sheep and mountain goats along the trail which makes the hike that much more special. Tourists are also gifted with spectacular views of Mount Cannon, Gunsight Mountain, and Sperry Glacier along the way.
Trail of the Cedars
There are only two wheel-chair accessible hikes in Glacier National Park, and Trail of the Cedars is one of them. This gorgeous, 1-mile hike is conveniently located right on Going-to-the-Sun road.
Throughout the hike, visitors will weave through old-growth cedars as well as a variety of cottonwood and pine trees. The route is heavily trafficked, and one of the most popular hikes in the park.
Trail of the Cedars is the perfect family-friendly hike for visitors with small children. Serious hikers can use this route to continue on to the Avalanche Lake Trail which is significantly more strenuous.
Sun Point Nature Trail
The Sun Point Nature Trail is an out and back hike that’s only 1.7 miles round-trip and has just 200 feet of elevation gain. The path is flat and well-maintained so it’s easy to traverse.
Bring your kids and it can be completed in as little as 30 minutes!
During the hike you walk by St. Mary Lake and get unobstructed views of the surrounding mountains. There are bathrooms located at the end of the hike, and a quick detour will lead you to Baring Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Glacier National Park.
Best Waterfall Hikes
If you want to see waterfalls, than look no further than St Mary Valley. Three of the best waterfalls in Glacier National Park can can all be visited within a few miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Pack up your waterproof boots and hit the trail! You won’t be disappointed.
- Baring Falls is the shortest and easiest hike, perfect for small children.
- St. Mary Falls is a gorgeous tiered waterfall which dips below an iconic footbridge.
- Virginia Falls is the largest and most photographed waterfall in the park. You can get right up close to the water, and it’s on the same trail as St Mary Falls.
Read our full list of 13 best waterfall hikes in Glacier National Park
The Baring Falls trail is only 1.9 miles roundtrip and mostly flat which makes it the perfect destination for families with small children.
The easy hike only takes about 45 minutes to complete so you can do it at any time of day. Begin at the Sunrift Gorge Trailhead and hike along the Siyeh Pass Trail. From there, take a right towards Sun Point. At the end, you’ll pass over Baring Creek and arrive at the falls.
Baring Falls is a gorgeous, 25-foot waterfall which flows directly into St Mary Lake.
St Mary Falls
The hike to St Mary Falls is 1.7 miles long and rated easy. It begins at the St. Mary Falls Shuttle Stop.
Along the way, spectacular views of Dusty Star Mountain, Reynolds Mountain, and the Heavy Runner Mountains will surround you on all sides.
One of the highlights of the trail is hiking alongside the St Mary River. The trail concludes at a footbridge that crosses over the river and gives you a picture-perfect view of the falls.
St Mary Falls cascades 35 feet down over 3 separate tiers of rock. The footbridge is the perfect place to grab a photo and relax along the riverbank.
If you have the energy to continue hiking, Virginia Falls is only 0.9 miles further and it’s one of the most impressive waterfalls in the park.
One of the most gorgeous waterfalls in all of Glacier National Park is Virginia Falls. The impressive waterfall drops 50 feet straight downward. And the base is easily accessible so you can get right up close to the water.
The best part about hiking to Virginia Falls is that you get to see three other impressive waterfalls along the way including St Mary Falls.
The trail has a slight rise, gaining 525 feet of elevation throughout the entire hike. Nevertheless, it’s rated easy and you can complete the whole thing in about 90 minutes.
Best Long Hikes
If you want to avoid the crowds, enjoy some solitude, and don’t mind the challenge of a strenuous hike, there is an endless supply of long hiking trails and backpacking routes in Glacier National Park.
If you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, and excellent alternative to the Highline Trail in St Mary Valley is the Siyeh Pass Trail. The hike begins on “the loop” at Going-to-the-Sun road and concludes at St Mary Lake where you can grab a ride back to the start.
It’s 9.7 miles point-to-point and typically takes hikers about 5 hours to complete.
The hike begins in a forested area before passing by meadows and climbing up glacier-carved trails above treeline. It can get windy near the summit, but the views are worth it. Several small waterfalls and boulder fields can be seen along the way.
For outstanding views with minimal tourists, head to Piegan Pass. It’s a point-to-point hike that goes 12.4 miles one direction.
The trail takes you through a variety of landscapes which starts in a spruce forest, before quickly rising above treeline. Overall, you’ll climb 1800 feet in elevation. It’s common to see grizzly bears and mountain goats along the way.
The hike concludes at Swiftcurrent Lake where you can grab a snack or spend the night at the Many Glacier Hotel.
The hike to Iceberg Lake begins at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Hikers will follow the Ptarmigan trail for the first section of the route and split off right before reaching the Ptarmigan Tunnel.
Iceberg Lake is one of the most picturesque alpine lakes in the park. The mountains surrounding the lake are covered in snowfields, and wildflowers colorize the meadows surrounding the lake.
The hike typically takes about 4 hours to complete and it’s rated moderate.
Another hike that begins at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn is the trail to Ptarmagan Tunnel. Most hikers prefer to hike to Iceberg Lake so this is a great alternative if you want to disperse from the crowds.
Be aware, the Ptarmigan Tunnel hike is hard! But the incredible views are worth it.
The highlight of the hike is emerging from the tunnel’s south entrance where you get a unique view of the glacial-carved valley between Ptarmigan Wall and Crowfeet Mountain.
Located in the Many Glacier section of the park, the hike to Craker Lake offers outstanding views of Mt. Siyeh and Allen Mountain. The lake itself is a beautiful turquoise color which really stands out among its surroundings. Visitors say that the lake is so blue it looks fake.
Hikers will want to set aside about 5 hours to complete this trip. There are several tight twists and turns along the way. This trail is also a popular horseback riding route.
An outstanding long hike in the Two Medicine area is the trail to Pitamakan Pass. The route circles around rising wolf mountain and offers outstanding views of several different lakes.
Many backpackers will choose to pair this hike with the Dawson Pass trail to create a 15-mile loop.
Glacier National Park Hiking Trail Maps
The most popular hikes in Glacier are well-marked and easy to follow. But if you’re really serious about hiking, you should absolutely purchase a detailed map of all the hikes in Glacier National Park.
The National Geographic version is extremely detailed and includes typography, campgrounds, and fishing locations. It is a necessary tool for anyone backpacking in the park.
Additionally, there are several hiking maps which cover each specific area of the park. You can download the area-specific Glacier National Park hiking maps here:
- Lake McDonald hiking map (download pdf)
- St Mary and Logan Pass hiking map (download pdf)
- Many Glacier hiking map (download pdf)
- Two Medicine hiking map (download pdf)
The Best Time To Go Hiking
Glacier National Park is unique because the high elevation means you have an extremely limited season for visiting.
May through October is generally when the roads are clear and you can make your way to the trails. However, snowmelt can continue to linger into June and even July on certain trails.
The best months to go hiking in Glacier National Park are July-September. This will give you the best opportunity to hike on ice-free trails and enjoy the wildflowers.
Getting To The Hiking Trails In Glacier National Park
In recent years, the park has become exceedingly popular and it’s nearly impossible to find parking during the day. We highly recommend taking the free shuttle bus to the trailheads. The shuttle runs from July 1 through labor day in September.
Can I take my dog on the hikes in Glacier National Park?
Pets are not allowed on any of the trails within Glacier National Park. It’s best to keep them at a dog boarding facility while visiting the area. If your dog needs some exercise, you can walk them along the paved McDonald Creek bike path near Apgar Village.
Is it safe to hike alone in Glacier National Park?
Hiking alone can be dangerous, especially in a place like Glacier National Park which is home to many wild animals and rapidly changing weather conditions. We recommend waiting at the trailhead for nearby hikers to show up. If you must hike alone, carefully study the trail maps, pack bear spray, and make lots of noise while hiking.
Are there any hikes in Glacier National Park that don’t require backcountry permits?
Yes, most of the day-hikes in the park do not require a permit. However, if you plan to stay overnight or camp, you need to secure a backcountry permit before setting off on your hike.
Are there any easy hikes in Glacier National Park for beginners?
Yes, there is a large variety of beginner-friendly trails in Glacier National Park. A few of our favorites include the Hidden Lake Overlook, Trail of the Cedars, and Sun Point Nature Trail.
What are the best kid-friendly hikes in Glacier?
Families with small children can enjoy hiking through the Trail of the Cedars, Sun Point Nature Trail, and to the Hidden Lake Overlook in Glacier National Park. These hikes are fairly easy and very safe for kids. Be sure to pack snacks, plenty of water, and a first aid kit when you go!
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