With more than 1 million acres begging to be explored, finding the best hike in Glacier National Park can feel overwhelming. We love hiking in Glacier National Park and have visited it many time throughout our 7 years of full-time RVing. And the one thing we can be sure about is that just because the hike in Glacier draws the biggest crowd, doesn’t mean it’s the best hike in Glacier.
From easy strolls under towering cedar trees to standing on rocky summits looking down on Grinnel Glacier, hiking in Glacier National Park is something you will never forget.
In this blog, I’m going to help you decide which is the best hike in Glacier National Park for you. Glacier National Park is really spread out and getting from one area to another takes a long time. Plus, a lot of these hikes require having an entrance permit during the summer.
I’ve broken up the hikes into five main areas:
- Going-to-the-Sun-Road corridor from West Glacier to Logan Pass (which is the most popular area)
- Going-to-the-Sun-Road corridor from Logan Pass to St Mary’s Lake
- Many Glacier
- Two Medicine
In this blog, we are covering the majority of hikes in Glacier National Park in all three areas. To make it simpler to decide which hike in Glacier National Park is best for you, I’ve also divided them up by the best easy, moderate, and strenuous hike in each of the areas.
Vehicle reservations are required to get into Glacier National Park for most of the summer. This is why waiting to Visit Glacier in September can be one of the best times to explore Glacier. If you aren’t able to get a reservations for the Going-to-the-Sun road, there are a lot of great hikes near Glacier National Park in the Big Fork, Whitefish, and Kalispell area .
If you don’t have a permit, you can still access some of these hikes if you enter before 6am or after 3pm. Remember that sunset in Glacier is around 10pm in June and July so even if the gate closed at 6pm, you could still squeeze in some of these hikes.
Yes, you need vehicle reservations if you want to drive on the Going-to-the-Sun road. Vehicle resrvations are required from all 3 access points: West entrance, St Marys, and Camas. Resservations are also needed to visit the North Fork area, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine.
No. One ticket per vehicle.
No. Permits for Going-to-the-Sun road are only required from May 27 through September 10. All roads into Glacier require reservations from July 1 through September 10.
Recreation.gov charges a $2 nonrefundable service fee. Pro Tip: create an account on recreation.gov and log in before trying to get your ticket promptly at 8am.
3 days for Going-to-the-Sun road. 1 day for all other areas.
Yes. You can buy a $35 vehicle pass, which is good for seven days or show a valid Interagency Annual/Lifetime Pass, which is the best deal if you plan on visiting more national parks within the year, or you can get a Glacier National Park Annual Pass if you plan on visiting just Glacier for more than a week.
Nope. You can use your campground or lodging reservation for entry in lieu of a $2 ticket.
Yes, but the exact details are still up in the air.
As of 2023, yes you need reservations for Many Glacier and Two Medicine between July 1 and September 10.
A percentage of reservations become available 120 days in advance with a block system. The remaining percentage of vehicle reservations will be released on a rolling 24-hour in-advance basis at 8 am. Get more details by reading our simple guide to Glacier reservations.
Grinnell Glacier, Highline Trail, and Avalanche Lake.
Typically we do these moderate and strenuous types of hikes at a pace of 2 miles per hour uphill and about 2.5 miles per hour downhill.
When choosing which hikes are best for you, keep in mind that traffic and parking can be difficult in the summer. You’ll want to get to trailheads early (like right at sunrise if you can) or very late in the day. Just remember to have a headlamp with you.
Also, if you are visiting Glacier National Park in a tent or RV, check out our blog Tips for Camping in Glacier. It also has helpful tips for navigating the Going-to-the-Sun road and using the shuttle.
Don’t have time to read this all now? Save it for later! or Download our Glacier, Yellowstone, & Grand Teton Guide.
Table of Contents
Guide to the Best Hikes in Glacier National Park near Lake McDonald (West Glacier to Trail of the Cedars)
When planning your hikes, keep in mind that the Going-to-the-Sun road typically doesn’t open until the 2nd or 3rd week of June and sometimes not until mid-July.
Best Easy Hikes
Trail of the Cedars .(9 mile loop, flat) is a very popular hike in Glacier and if it is all you have time for or the ability to hike, it is great. But there are much better easy hikes in Glacier with way less crowds.
McDonald Creek trail (5.6 miles rt, 278′ gain) or Johns Lake Loop (1.9 mile loop, flat) both start from the east end of Lake McDonald and go past McDonald falls. There’s also a trail from Lake McDonald Lodge that is about .8 miles one way that accesses these trails. These are also great trails for snowshoeing in the winter.
Best Moderate Hikes
Avalanche Lake (5.9 miles rt, 757′ gain) starts on Trail of the Cedars and continues on until it dead ends in this glorious cirque of glacier-capped mountains. It is one of my favorites, however, the crowds can take away from the enjoyment of it. Try to do this one very early or late in the day during the peak summer.
Apgar Lookout (7.1 miles rt, 1860′ gain) can get crowded in the summer but not as much as the hikes by Avalanche Lake and Logan Pass and provides nice views into Glacier. The trailhead for this hike is just past the West Glacier entrance station. Go left on Quarter Circle Bridge Rd. It’s another good snowshoeing hike in the winter if you are looking for a workout.
Best Strenuous Hikes
From Lake MacDonald Lodge there are a few options if you are looking for a hard day hike. I haven’t done these yet but have been wanting to hike to Sperry Chalet (13.6 miles rt, 3500′ gain) however, I’ve heard that the views aren’t as amazing due to the forest burns from a few years ago, however, if you do Comeau Pass via Sperry Lake (16.5 miles, 4900′ gain) it’s supposed to be worth the effort and steepness of the first 6+ miles. A lot of people hike this from the Gunsight side, which I did include below.
From Lake McDonald lodge you can also do Mount Brown Lookout (10 miles rt, 4200′ gain). It’s challenging but provides incredible views of Glacier.
Best Hikes in Glacier National Park between The Loop and Logan Pass
Reminder: The hikes in this part of Glacier National Park will require a permit from May 27 to September 11. This is why waiting to Visit Glacier in September can be one of the best times to explore Glacier.
Best Easy Hikes
Hidden Lake Overlook (2.9 miles rt, 567′ gain) is very popular hike that starts from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. It is gorgeous and worth the small effort to get here.
Best Moderate Hikes
If you want a little longer of a hike, you can go past the overlook and all the way down to Hidden Lake (5.3 miles rt, 1374′ gain) however, there are better moderate hikes in Glacier in my opinion and I’d just do the overlook and make time for another part of Glacier.
Also from Logan Pass you can hike up to the top of Mount Oberlin (3.5 miles rt, 1500′ gain) and get great views of Glacier National Park.
Best Strenuous Hikes
Okay, the most popular strenuous trail here is The Highline Trail aka Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet (14.9 miles, 2578′ gain). I highly recommend adding in the Grinnell Overlook aka Garden Wall. If you do it only adds .8 each way but about 900′ elevation gain.
You can also hike this one way from Logan Pass to The Loop which would include The Garden Wall, Granite Park Chalet, and Granite Park aka The Loop Trail. Altogether this is a 14.2 miles with 5177′ elevation loss because Logan’s Pass is significantly higher elevation than The Loop.
The Highline Trail is very crowded in the summer but the views are amazing and worth the effort! One thing to note though is that there are some ledges on this hike and I’ve heard some moms say it was too nerve racking for them to do with their kiddos. I felt fine on it, but my kids are pretty calm and wouldn’t run by ledges or drop offs.
You can also get to the overlook without hiking the area with ledges by starting at The Loop and hiking Granite Park to the Grinnell Overlook (11.4 miles rt, 3700′ gain) but it is more of a workout.
If you don’t want to deal with traffic up at Logan Pass, you can hike from Granite Park Trail (8.1 miles, 2600′ gain) from The Loop you to The Granite Park Chalet.
Once you reach Granite Park Chalet, you have the option to continue your hike up to Swiftcurrent Mountain (which adds 2 miles each way and another 1400′ of elevation gain) This is a big workout with steady climbing the entire 6 miles!
Best Hikes in Glacier National Park from Logan Pass to St Mary’s Lake
As you descend from Logan Pass towards the east side of Glacier National Park there are a few really amazing strenuous hikes you can do. Once you reach Saint Mary Lake, then you can find a few nice and easy hikes.
Best Easy Hikes
The most popular easy hike in this area is St Mary & Virginal Falls (2.9 miles rt, 450′ gain). There’s also a super easy Sun Point Nature Trail (1.7 miles, 200′ gain). Near Jackson glacier overlook is another easy hike, Deadwood Falls (2.9 miles rt, 626′ gain).
Best Moderate Hikes
I think Gunsight Lake (12.9 miles rt, 1742′ gain) is a happy in-between from the waterfall and nature trail type strolls listed above and the hard strenuous peak bagging listed below. We did this hike with a family who hadn’t hiked in a while, and had never hiked 12 miles, and they loved it. It’s long but the climbing is pretty gradual.
You could instead hike Jackson Glacier (15.4 miles, 2400′ gain) from the same trailhead if you want a little harder hike.
Pro Tip: If it is after May 27th BUT Logan Pass is still closed, you don’t need an entrance ticket to get these trailheads.
Another moderate hike in this area is Florence Falls (9.2 miles rt, 1174′ gain).
Best Strenuous Hike
One option is to do Gunsight Lake Trail and add on Lake Ellen Wilson but it adds almost 5 miles each way and 3000′ elevation gain.
There are 3 great Point to Point hikes that start near Siyeh Bend. The only problem is that then you have to deal with shuttling cars. For Siyeh Pass it wouldn’t be hard but for Piegan it is a long drive to Many Glacier and back.
Siyeh Pass (9.7 miles point to point, 2234′ gain), which starts at Piegan Pass Trailhead and heads up over the pass and down to Lake Mary.
Piegan Pass (12.4 miles rt, 2000′ gain) which also starts at Piegan Pass Trailhead and heads north towards Many Glacier, ending at the Many Glacier Lodge.
Another option is to head southwest over Gunsight Pass to Lake McDonald Lodge (18.8 miles rt, 3700′ gain). You can add a side trip to Sperry Glacier to make it 26 miles in all.
If you don’t want to deal with shuttling cars, you can start at the Piegan Pass Trailhead and hike to Grinnell Lake and Lake Josephine (21.9 miles rt, 4450′ gain).
Best Hikes in Glacier National Park in Many Glacier
I can’t believe how many years it took us to get up to Many Glacier. This is a must see area of Glacier National Park and if you only have one day it is going to be hard to choose which hike to do because all the moderate to strenuous ones are AMAZING!
Best Easy Hike
If you are looking for easy hikes, there’s the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail which goes around the lake, Swiftcurrent Pass Loop 1.1 miles, or Redrock Falls via Swiftcurrent Pass (3.6 miles rt).
On your way into Many Glacier you can stop to hike Apikuni Falls 1.8 mi, 587′ or go for a really hard hike to the peak of Apukini Mountain (6.4 miles rt, 4100′ gain). Yeah, ones a leisurely stroll and the other is a quad burner/knee destroyer!
Best Moderate Hikes
If you’ve hike to Grinnell Glacier you now have the hard decision between Iceberg Lake Trail (9.3 miles rt, 1450′ gain) and Cracker Lake (12 miles rt, 1650′ gain). The lakes are both incredible with Iceberg having the most blue water you can imagine and Cracker the most gorgeous sea foam green water.
Iceberg starts from Swiftcurrent Trailhead, which is across from the campground, and is typically more crowded and I think has better views of the mountains going up.
Ptarmigan Tunnel (10.6 miles, 2375′ gain) is a great moderate to strenuous hike could be combined with Iceberg Lake (14.5 miles rt with both), if you are up to doing a longer day hike.
Cracker Lake Trail starts near the Lodge and is a less exciting hike up but that water!! As Tati said, “It’s the most beautiful lake she’s ever seen.” And she’s seen a lot of lakes in the world!
And if you have a lot of time and have already checked off Iceberg and Cracker, then check out Bullhead Lake (6.9 miles rt, 450′ gain) or Grinnell Lake (7.1 miles, gain).
Best Strenuous Hikes
Grinnell Glacier Trail (11.2 miles, 2181′ gain) was the first hike we ever did in glacier and in some ways probably ruined us for anything else in Glacier National Park. Grinnell Glacier is a must see, however, if you did The Garden Wall to the Overlook already, then I would recommend Iceberg or Cracker before this trail.
Another challenging hike in Many Glacier is Swiftcurrent Pass to Swiftcurrent Mountain (15.9 miles rt, 3766′). This hike goes past Bullhead Lake.
Best Hikes in Glacier National Park in Two Medicine
Two Medicine is just north of East Glacier and has a general store, boat ramp, boat tours, and campground. there are boat tours Sinopah on the lake. You can also take the boat in the morning to start your hike and save some mileage.
Best Easy Hike
Paradise Point Trail (1.4 miles rt, 160′), Appistoki Falls (1.2 miles rt, 160′ gain), and Running Eagles Falls (.6 mile loop, flat) are all easy strolls.
There are also easy hikes along both shorelines, South Shore Trail that you can hike as little or all 3.8 miles (670′ gain) of it. Or, loop the entire lake, which is just under 10 miles.
Best Easy & Moderate Hikes From The Two Medicine Lake West End Boat Dock:
If you pay to take the boat across Two Medicine Lake you can make hikes which would normally be hard, much easier. For the hikes below, I’ve calculated the miles based on taking the boat both ways. If you just get the return boat it is an additional 3.3 miles hiking out. You can buy roundtrip boat tickets online beforehand, which are $17.50 for adults and $8.75 for children 4-12. For just return tickets prices are $8.75 for adults and $4.50 for children and are available from the main dock.
Your options for hikes from the west end of Two Medicine Lake include Twin Falls Trail (1.9 miles rt, 111′ gain), Upper Two Medicine Lake (4.2 miles, 350′ gain), Dawson Pass to No Name Lake (4.6 miles rt, 2,450′ gain), or Cobalt Lake (10.6 miles rt, 1551′ gain).
Best Moderate Hikes From East End of Two Medicine Lake
On the east end of the lake, by where the campground is located, you have the option of hiking Scenic Point (6.2 miles rt, 2,350′ gain), Old Man Lake via Pitamakan Pass (12.9 miles rt, 2000′ gain), or Rockwell Falls (6.6, 400′ gain). You can also add Aster Park Overlook to the Rockwell Falls (9 miles rt, 1000′ gain).
Best Strenuous Hike
For a really amazing day hike, take the boat across and hike to Cobalt Lake and to Upper Two Medicine Lake. If you do this with out the boat it would be a 22.9 miles loop with 3421′ gain, but with the boat it is only about 15 miles.
Dawson Pass & Pitamakan Pass (18.8 miles rt, 3779′ gain) is another great day hike in Two Medicine that I am so excited to do this summer!
Best Hikes in Glacier National Park near Polebridge
The Polebridge area is on the far west side of Glacier National Park. You enter through West Glacier and when you get to the Apgar visitor center, you go left and drive about an hour. Most of the hikes start from Bowman’s Lake which has a campground and picnic area.
This isn’t a very popular area so you don’t have to worry about crowds, and there’s a reason it isn’t as popular. While the area is pretty, the hikes aren’t as jaw dropping as other parts of Glacier. The two hikes I recommend are Quartz Lake Loop (12.7 miles, 2600′ gain) or Numa Ridge (11.6 miles, 3000′ gain).
A Few More Best Hikes in or near Glacier National Park
I’ll be covering Backpacking in Glacier National Park in another blog but I do have my eye on the 43 mile, 5500′ elevation gain leg burner, Bowman Lake to Upper Waterton Lake. I have yet to explore the Waterton Lake area but if you head that far north, check out the easy Rainbow Falls Trail (1.9 miles rt) or Goat Haunt Lookout (2 miles rt)
For moderate hikes there is the Lake Francis Trail (16.9 miles, 2358′ gain) or Boulder Pass to Lake Janet (8 miles rt, 1082′ gain). And if you are looking for hard day hikes or epic backpacking, take a look at Boulder Pass from Waterton Lake to Kintla Lake (29.3 miles rt, 4616′ gain) or Waterton Valley to Stoney Indian Pass (26.8 miles rt, 5472′ gain).
Another nice hikes to do along Highway 2 is Firebrand Pass (10.7 miles rt, 2200′ gain), which starts at False Summit.
I hope this helps you plan the perfect Glacier National Park trip. If you have questions please drop them in the comments and check out all our other Glacier and Montana blogs for more tips and inspiration.