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If you’re planning a trip to visit Glacier, then you need to read our blog about the best hikes in Glacier National Park. We have visited over 47 U.S. National Parks, and Glacier is definitely one of our favorites! We’d say it’s safe to assume that if you’re reading this blog, then you enjoy hiking. Glacier has some of the most breathtaking hiking scenery we’ve ever seen!

Not only do we share the best hikes, but we also talk about when to visit, how to visit, and other must-know tips for visiting Glacier. Keep reading to learn everything you need to go before hiking in Glacier National Park!

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Where is Glacier National Park?

Glacier National Park is located in the northwest corner of Montana on the border of Canada. It is home to over a million acres, 26 glaciers, and 700 miles of hiking trails. In our opinion, it’s one of the best National Parks in the U.S. and should be on everyone’s bucket list!

There are three main areas of the park: Going-to-the-Sun Road (includes Lake McDonald, Saint Mary’s Glacier, Logan Pass, Apgar Village, and more), Many Glacier, and Two Medicine. The Going-to-the-Sun Road area tends to be the most crowded and popular. But every area of Glacier National Park is absolutely beautiful!

If you’re planning on flying into Montana, we recommend flying into Kalispell and driving into the park from there. It’s the closest and largest town to West Glacier. Kalispell is a great place to make your home base while hiking in Glacier National Park. Unless, of course, you’re camping, then we definitely recommend camping inside the Park. During our trip, we camped at three different campgrounds: Fish Creek Campground, Avalanche Campground, and Many Glacier Campground.

When to Hike in Glacier National Park

The best season to hike in Glacier National Park is, by far, the summer. More specifically, early June to late September. That is when most of the hiking trails, restaurants, and areas of the park are open and the most accessible.

Glacier gets a lot of snow during the winter months, so it can take time for the snow to melt, especially at higher elevations. If you plan to visit at the beginning or end of the hiking season, be prepared for possible snow. Be sure to always check for the most updated trail conditions before hiking!

Wondering want to wear or what gear to bring to go hiking in Glacier National Park? Check out our must-have summer hiking gear here!

Watch our hiking adventures in Glacier on our YouTube video below! Just be sure to change the video settings to the highest quality 4K setting before watching. :)

Must-Know Tips to Hike in Glacier National Park

Vehicle Reservations

During the summer, you need vehicle entry reservations for both the Going-to-the-Sun Road and Many Glacier areas (and North Fork). Only ONE reservation is needed per vehicle (not per person). You still need to pay for entrance into the park in addition to the vehicle reservation ($2/vehicle).

For 2024, a vehicle reservation is required to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road beyond the Apgar Village area starting on May 24th and going through September 8th, 2024, daily from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For Many Glacier, a vehicle reservation is required at the entrance station from July 1st through September 8th, daily from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. If you enter before 6:00 am or after 3:00 pm, no reservation is needed.

If you’ve visited in previous years, be aware that a few things are changing for 2024. Vehicle reservations will now be for one day only rather than three days. In addition, there’s no vehicle reservation needed if you enter on the east side of the park (beyond Rising Sun).

The only reason you wouldn’t need a vehicle reservation is if you have a campground reservation or lodging booked with that the specified reservation areas, you can use proof of your reservation for entry in lieu of a vehicle reservation. For example, if you have a reservation at Many Glacier campground, you don’t need a vehicle reservation to get into Many Glacier for those days.

You can learn more about the timed entry reservations on the NPS website here and secure your reservation here!

Avoiding the Crowds

It’s no surprise that Glacier National Park gets extremely BUSY during the summer. Everyone wants to see those beautiful landscapes and iconic views! Parking can be a nightmare, and overall congestion in the park can take hours. If you want to avoid the crowds as much as possible, then you definitely need to start your day early!

We recommend getting to your trailhead around 6:00 am to find parking and start hiking to avoid crowds. During our visit in early September, the parking lots were almost full by then. On the popular trails, there was still a decent number of people who started hiking at the same time as us (around 6:30 am). But it was nothing to the crowds we experienced on our way back down in the late morning/ early afternoon!

Another way you can avoid the crowds is by hiking one of the less popular trails! With over 700 miles of hiking trails, there’s lots of other options besides the iconic Grinnell Glacier and Highline trails.

If you are flexible with your travel dates and don’t mind a little (potential) snow or closures, visit during the shoulder season (mid to late September and early June) to avoid the crowds in Glacier National Park. It’s typically a little cheaper, too!

Overall, you need to accept that you will probably experience the effects of the crowds at some point in your day. Be patient and try to have a positive attitude, even if you’re stuck in traffic you have beautiful views!

Safety in Grizzly Country

Glacier National Park is in grizzly bear country, so it’s very important that you are bear-aware and know what you should (and shouldn’t) do if you encounter a grizzly bear.

As a general rule of thumb, here are a few bear safety tips:

  • Maintain a minimum of 100 yards (300 ft) at all times if you encounter a bear
  • Hike in groups and be sure always to be talking/making noise (but in a respectful way to other hikers)
  • Carry bear spray with you at all times in an accessible place (ie. belt strap)
  • Always be aware of your surroundings and be on the lookout for bears
  • Secure all food, garbage, and scented items

But if you want to learn more about bear safety, you can read more details here on the NPS website.

grinnell glacier one of the best hikes in glacier national park

Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Now, let’s talk about the best hikes in Glacier National Park! When it comes to choosing the right trail for you, you’ll want to take into consideration the length and difficulty of the trail. Everyone has a different skill level and comfortability hiking, so we tried to include different hikes in Glacier National Park for each skill level!

Before you go hiking in Glacier, always research the current trail conditions and bring the proper hiking gear with you (ie. water, snacks, raincoat, first aid kit, etc.) As we mentioned above, the park can get VERY crowded, so be sure to keep all those tips in mind too!

hidden lake one of the best trails in glacier national park

Hidden Lake Trail

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: 2.6 miles 

Elevation Gain: 1,375 ft

Alltrails link

Hidden Lake Trail is located at the top of Logan Pass. The trail starts on a wooden boardwalk across an alpine meadow with 360-degree views. It’s common to see mountain goats, marmots, and even bears or wolverines here.

If you don’t want to hike all the way down to the lake (the most difficult section of the trail), then you can hike to the overlook. The Hidden Lake Overlook trail is only 2.9 miles and 575 ft of elevation gain. This is one of the most popular hiking trails in Glacier so be prepared to expect crowds, even in the early mornings.

standing at avalanche lake one of the best hikes in glacier national park

Avalanche Lake

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: 5.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 757 ft

Alltrails link

The hike Avalanche Lake is a beautiful trail through a beautiful forest of cedars. The view doesn’t fully open up until you arrive at Avalanche Lake. Many of the hikes in Glacier are fully exposed (no tree coverage), so this is a nice change of scenery. Avalanche is a great place to swim if it’s warm enough for you to want to get in. Keep in mind the lake is created from snow melt and ice from Sperry Glacier, so the water is quite cold!

Just like any other hiking trail in Glacier, we recommend getting there early in the morning to avoid crowds!

Photo Credit: Alltrails

St. Mary Falls & Virginia Falls

Going-to-the-Sun RoadSt. Mary Glacier

Difficulty: Easy

Mileage: 5.4 miles (3.8 miles for just St. Mary Falls)

Elevation Gain: 452 ft

Alltrails link

This hike is perfect for those who enjoy hiking to waterfall views! Both St. Mary and Virginia are stunning, multi-tier waterfalls. On your hike to the falls, you’ll pass a section of burned trees from the 2015 Reynolds Creek Fire.

We didn’t hike this trail because we ran out of time on our trip. There are so many amazing hiking trails in Glacier, but never enough time!

Photo Credit: Alltrails

Highline Trail

Going-to-the-Sun Road

Difficulty: Hard

Mileage: 14.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,621 ft

Alltrails link

Highline Trail is definitely one of the most iconic hikes in Glacier National Park! After hiking it ourselves, we can understand why. There are breathtaking views starting from the parking lot (Logan Pass). We stopped so many times just to soak in the views and take photos!

Beware, there’s a very exposed section of the trail with a steep drop-off on one side. It’s towards the beginning (see the photos below), but that’s probably the worst section on the trail. There is a wire you can hold onto that helps people who have a fear of heights (like me, Sydney!). It only becomes a bigger issue when the trail is super crowded and you are constantly having to pass people.

Depending on your preference, there is an option to hike a different way down (pretty steep switchbacks) from Granite Park Chalet and take a free shuttle bus back to the Logan Pass Parking lot instead of hiking the entire way back. Just be sure to check the shuttle schedule before leaving so you can time it correctly!

If you don’t want to hike the entire trail to the Granite Park Chalet or Grinnell Glacier Overlook, that is more than okay! In fact, most people only hike the first few miles before turning around. The views are stunning throughout the entire trail! We hiked to Haystack Butte before turning around.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Iceberg Lake

Many Glacier

Difficulty: Moderate

Mileage: 9.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,459 ft

Alltrails link

Iceberg Lake’s trailhead begins behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. It’s located in an area that tends to have high grizzly bear activity and can be closed due to that. Be sure to read about bear safety tips, always carry bear spray, and check with a ranger about current openings.

Sadly, we didn’t hike this trail either, but it’s very high on our list for next time! We’ve heard it’s similar views to the Grinnell Glacier trail, which you can read more about below.

grinnell glacier one of the best hikes in glacier national park

Grinnell Glacier

Many Glacier

Difficulty: Hard

Mileage: 11 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,175 ft

Alltrails link

Grinnell Glacier Trail is one of our favorite hikes (and the most popular!) in Glacier National Park. Grinnell Glacier is not the biggest glacier in the park, but it’s definitely the most famous! It’s similar to Highline Trail in that it has beautiful views the entire time. A challenging trail but very worth it for these views!

During the hike, you pass many alpine lakes, wildflowers, mountain views, waterfalls, and, of course, the glacier at the end. You even hike “under”/next to a small waterfall. It’s refreshing to walk by and get sprayed by the mist! The entire trail is exposed so plan accordingly depending on the weather (ie. raincoat, sunscreen). As always, we recommend starting early (just after sunrise) to avoid the crowds.

If you don’t want to hike the entire mileage from the trailhead, there’s actually a way to cut off some mileage! You can take a boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine to cut off about 3.4 miles from the total mileage. The boats are operated by Glacier Park Boat Company, and you need to book your tickets in advance. The main downside to taking a scenic boat ride and saving some hiking miles is that you’ll definitely be hiking with a bigger crowd.

Are you trying to visit all the National Parks like us? Check out our Guide to Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska!

If you’re new here, it’s nice to meet you – we’re Sydney and Caleb!

We share our wildly adventurous life to help you plan your next adventure! Whether that’s hiking in America’s National Parks or checking another country off your bucket list. We hope that by sharing our experiences in an authentic way, you can live a wildly adventurous life, too!

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