Hiking in Glacier National Park is a hiker’s dream. The park is a land of towering mountain peaks and brightly-colored jewel-like alpine lakes. There are 734 miles of Glacier National Park hiking trails to explore!
Including Glacier National Park trails to hidden lakes, waterfalls, scenic overlooks and mountain tops, here are the Glacier National Park best hikes.
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Before we look at the ten best Glacier National Park hikes, let’s go over a few tips for hiking Glacier National Park.
- As with most national parks these days, Glacier National Park gets crowded. Hit the trails early to beat the crowds.
- Some of these hikes are off the Going to The Sun Road. There is a reservation system for the road this summer. Read my Guide to the Going to The Sun Ticketed Entry System here for the full lowdown.
- Take plenty of water and snacks. If you need a water bottle, I love the Hydroflasks (get one here on Amazon).
- Make sure you have everything you need. Check my Day Hike Packing List to make sure you don’t end up on a hike without the essentials. This includes a sun hat and sunscreen. If you’re hiking with a baby, you can carry them in a baby hiking carrier.
- Don’t rely on cell service; it is very patchy in the park. Download or have a printed Glacier National Park hiking map. National Geographic has a set of topographic trail maps you can buy here.
- Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes. The terrain is often uneven and solid hiking shoes/ boots make a huge difference. If you need to get some, be sure to read my Guide to the Best Hiking Shoes/ Boots.
- Take binoculars. I always take binoculars when I’m hiking. You never know when you’ll see birds, animals or geographic features in the distance that are interesting to see in more detail. I think they’re so important that I wrote a Guide to Finding the Best Binoculars For the Money. Be sure to check it out.
- This is grizzly/ brown bear country. Always take bear spray or a bear whistle with you when hiking in Glacier National Park. Get some bear spray here if you need some.
Essential Hiking Gear
Before you set out on these Glacier National Park hikes, you will want to make sure you have the right gear.
- Day Hike Essentials (Packing List)
- Best Hiking Shoes / Boots (Reviews and Recommendations)
- Best Hiking Sandals (Reviews and Recommendations)
- Best Winter Hiking Boots for Men (Reviews and Recommendations)
- Best Winter Hiking Boots for Women (Reviews and Recommendations)
- Best Baby Hiking Backpack Carrier (Reviews and Recommendations)
- Best Backpack Carrier to Take Your Dog Hiking (Reviews and Recommendations)
The Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
With the help of fellow travel experts, I have compiled a hand-curated list of the best hikes Glacier National Park has to offer. These include the best easy hikes in Glacier National Park, as well as the best moderate hikes in Glacier National Park, and even a couple of more difficult hikes thrown in for those up for the challenge.
Highline Trail, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 11.8 miles one-way
Trailhead: Highline Trail parking lot, Logan Pass
The Highline Trail is the most famous and popular Glacier National Park trail, and for good reason.
For over 11 miles, this trail snakes along the park’s exposed “Garden Wall.” And while 11 miles makes for a full day of hiking, the trail itself is not terribly strenuous. From the parking lot, it’s downhill most of the time to the trail’s end at the Loop parking lot, with only a few uphill sections along the way.
There’s no better way to see Glacier’s wide array of wildlife, alpine flowers, and snow-covered peaks than the Highline. Glacier National Park is on full display!
- Bring LOTS of water. The entire trail is exposed and there’s no freshwater along the way. The Granite Park chalet does have water for sale, but it’s 7 miles from the trailhead at Logan Pass.
- Dress in layers – the morning may start cool, but it can get very hot by midday.
- During the first mile, the trail hugs a cliff wall high above the Going-to-the-Sun Road. There’s a railing in the wall for you to hold on to. If you’re afraid of heights, it might be intimidating, but it’s also one of the coolest sections of the trail.
- Around the 7-mile mark, there’s a short offshoot that goes to the Salamander Glacier and Grinnell Glacier. It’s VERY STRENUOUS but worth it.
- The trail has the best views in Glacier National Park the entire 11 miles.
Recommended by Maggie McKneely from Pink Caddy Travelogue
Avalanche Lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 5.9 miles
Trailhead: The trailhead shares a parking lot with the Trail of the Cedars
The hike to Avalanche Lake is one of the best trails in Glacier National Park and one of the most popular things to do in Glacier National Park. With an elevation gain of over 750 feet, it’s a moderate trail with views worth every single step!
Hiking the Avalanche Trail (Glacier National Park) starts at the Trail of the Cedars. A nice, flat boardwalk takes you through tall cedar trees and to an unbelievable mossy stream.
Past this scene is the trailhead to continue onto Avalanche Lake. The trail to the lake from this point is mostly uphill. Watch for tree roots and an uneven path most of the way to the lake.
Avalanche Lake is a gorgeous lake with a beautiful backdrop. Across the lake are snow capped mountains and beautiful waterfalls cascading from the peaks. A tranquil setting and a perfect spot to rest for a while. Grab a seat on one of the many fallen logs to soak in the views completely.
Because it is one of the top hikes Glacier National Park, the parking lot for the Avalanche hike fills up very quickly. Aim to get to the trailhead early – by 7:00am during peak summer hours in order to find a parking spot. Alternatively, you can try to come in the early afternoon, after the early morning hikers have returned to their vehicles and left.
- Moderate hike with views worth the effort
- Various mountain and stream views from the trail
- Picturesque lake with gorgeous mountain views
Recommended by Nikki from She Saves She Travels
Hidden Lake Overlook, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 1.5 miles
Trailhead: Logan Pass Visitors Center Hanging Garden Trailhead
One of the most popular destinations in the park, the first half of the Glacier National Park Hidden Lake trail is a moderately easy 1.5 miles to the lake overlook (arguably the best view in Glacier National Park). It’s a combination of paved path, boardwalk, and dirt walkway, often with snow lingering into summer months.
Clements Mountain and Bearhat Mountain make a striking backdrop, and close encounters with wildlife are common. Look for marmots, ram goats, and white mountain goats. Just be sure to give them plenty of space, even if they seem friendly. Grizzly bears have also been spotted around the lake.
The second, more strenuous, half of the trail takes you down to the lake via switchbacks. See hike description below for the remainder of the trail down to Hidden Lake.
- This trail is completely exposed to the elements at a high elevation, so pack accordingly for sun and wind.
- To avoid crowds, try to visit Hidden Lake first thing in the morning.
- Frequently wildlife spotting
- With spectacular views all along the way – and especially from the overlook – this is the best short hike in Glacier National Park
Recommended by Michelle C from IntentionalTravelers.com
Hidden Lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 3 miles
Trailhead: Logan Pass Visitors Center Hanging Garden Trailhead
While Hidden Lake Overlook is easily one of the most popular best short hikes in Glacier National Park (and possibly in all of Montana), it’s actually not the best part of this hike. Going all the way down to the glacially-carved lake provides spectacular close-up views and better chances of seeing wildlife, not to mention an opportunity to get away from the crowds at the overlook.
Hidden Lake is just another 1.35 miles beyond the overlook — the overlook is exactly halfway between the start of the trailhead and the lake.
While this portion of the trail isn’t particularly difficult, it is rather steep. Hikers descend 770 feet and there are some switchbacks to navigate closer to the bottom.
The trail ends at the northwest end of the lake, and there are a couple of pit toilets here. Feel free to walk around the lake and find a secluded spot for lunch.
Although the Hidden Lake hike is one of the best day hikes in Glacier National Park, the overlook-to-lake portion of this trail frequently closes for bear activity. Be extremely cautious and pay careful attention as you hike.
Arrive extremely early or late in the day to avoid the bulk of the crowds.
- Never-ending views of Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain
- Trout fishing in Hidden Lake is excellent. Bring fly fishing gear and try to catch dinner!
Recommended by Taryn from Chasing Trail
Medicine Grizzly Lake, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 12.4 miles round trip
Trailhead: Pitamakan Pass Trailhead, parking lot at end of Cut Bank Road. The road starts outside the park about 11 miles south of St. Marys on Hwy 89.
Trails can often be crowed when you hike Glacier National Park. If you prefer a little more isolation, get away from the crowds by hiking to remote Medicine Grizzly Lake. Because the elevation gain is only 625 feet, this is a great way to get into Glacier’s backcountry without climbing pains.
From the trail, the distant mountains are gorgeous. In the Southeastern range you can see Mad Wolf Mountain and Bad Marriage Mountain. You’ll follow Cut Bank Creek, moving between forested trails and meadows paths.
The open meadows are full of bear grass and huckleberries. In summer they will be filled with wildflowers. The willows along the creek are prime for moose and deer. The grasses are sometimes shoulder high so you should be extra bear aware.
Just before you arrive at your destination you will be treated to a large beautiful meadow where wildlife are often seen. Medicine Grizzly Lake sits in a bowl surrounded by mountain peaks including Triple Divide Peak and Razoredge Mountain. You’ll find waterfalls cascading down the walls.
For a great lunch spot, follow the edge of the lake to the sand bar where you can stretch out and take in the view.
- Carry bear spray, grizzlies are common
- Start early by camping in the primitive Cut Bank Campground.
- Wildlife is abundant along creek
- The large meadow just before Grizzly Lake is filled with wildflowers in summer
- The best photo is from Sand Bar at the head of the lake
Recommended by Brad Stork from Walking The Parks
The Loop Trail, Glacier National Park
(also known as Grinnell Overlook via Granite Park Trail)
Trail Length: 11.4 miles out-and-back
Trailhead: The Loop, a hairpin turn along the Going-to-the-Sun Road
If you’re looking for some of the best hikes to do along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, The Loop Trail should definitely be at the top of your list.
This trail follows switchbacks from the Loop parking lot, all the way to the Granite Park Chalet, some 2,600 feet above your initial starting point. While the uphill climb feels relentless at times, the views are spectacular every step of the way.
Once you make the climb up to the Chalet, a historic lodge built in 1915, you’ll have panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains.
From here, be sure to make the additional climb to Grinnell Glacier Overlook. The ascent is brutal- gaining about 1,000 feet in under a mile- but the views at the top are sensational.
Make sure to get here early. This one of the most popular Glacier National Park day hikes and the parking spots at the Loop parking lot are extremely limited, so being one of the first ones here will help guarantee you a spot.
- 360-degree vistas of rolling fields of wildflowers and snow capped peaks from the Granite Park Chalet (and added bonus- the Chalet usually sells drinks and snacks in the summer!)
- Looking north at the Grinnell Glacier overlook- you’ll be able to see a series of jewel-colored alpine lakes and on a clear day, all the way to Canada!
Recommended by Jessica from Uprooted Traveler
Virginia Falls, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 2.9 miles
Trailhead: The trailhead is a small parking lot just off the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Virginia Falls hike in Glacier National Park is a scenic hike with excellent views of several waterfalls.
Starting from the parking lot, the trail immediately descends into the forest. About halfway to Virginia Falls you’ll see St. Mary Falls.
This bright turquoise waterfall is a rapidly flowing fall that’s worth a brief stop. A bridge goes right over the falls, and there’s plenty of spots to stop and grab a photo.
The hike to this point is one of the most popular easy hikes in Glacier National Park, so it draws a lot of visitors and the trail may get crowded. Get an early start to avoid overcrowding.
St. Mary Falls is a beautiful Glacier National Park waterfall, but the hike gets even better.
After leaving St. Mary Falls, the trail gets slightly steeper on the way to Virginia Falls. You’ll pass the lower falls, but be sure to keep going until you see a bridge on the left of the trail and a sign directing you to the right for the overlook to Virginia Falls.
You’ll hear the roar of the falls and see a large cloud of mist from the falls. You can hike all the way up to the base of the falls, but be warned – the water is very cold!
A perfect spot for a snack or picnic in Glacier National Park, Virginia Falls is a scenic setting and one of the best waterfalls in Glacier National Park.
- Kick off your hiking boots or bring water shoes (find some water shoes here if you need to get some) enjoy the refreshing alpine water on a hot day. Back at the bridge, cross over and there’s a small pool that’s accessible to dip your feet in the water.
- Frequently wildlife spotting
- Spectacular views all along the way
Recommended by Nikki from She Saves She Travels
Bowman Lake, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 26 miles (if you do the full trail out and back) – but you can hike part of the trail for a shorter (and easier) hike
Trailhead: Bowman Lake Campground.
If you’re looking to do one of the best hikes in west Glacier National Park, then this is the hike to do. Allow a full day for an adventurous, quiet hike along pristine Bowman Lake, located in the northwestern section of Glacier National Park.
Head seven miles northeast of sweet Polebridge on a bumpy, unpaved road to discover Glacier’s Bowman Lake. Here, you’re not far from the Canadian border and you’ll be exploring an area many folks don’t take the time to see. You can easily spend an entire week on Glacier’s west side.
Park your car near the Bowman Lake Campground and follow signage to the lake. Tantalizing views of the lake pull you along the short path through the pine trees. Skipping stones, picnicking and paddling along Bowman Lakes is a spectacular treat.
Right at Bowman Lake you can hop on the hiking trail that follows the left side shore headed northwest through lush forest. Don’t forget your bear spray (get some bear spray here if you need some).
Bowman Lake Trail (Glacier National Park) is an out and back trail with hardly any elevation change until well after you pass the lake. So you can hike for as long or as little as you like, depending on your group’s likes and abilities.
Hike more than 6.5 miles along the shore until you hit a fantastic backcountry campground along a rocky beach at the far end of Bowman Lake. Hiking further is when the trail becomes difficult as the challenging elevation begins towards Brown Pass. One way, you can hike this trail 13 miles before turning around.
To reach Bowman Lake from the Apgar Visitor Center near Glacier’s west entrance, drive north along Camas Road for nearly 12 miles to North Fork Road. Drive along the North Fork Flathead River to Polebridge, and then take Bowman Lake Road. The 32-mile trip to Bowman Lake will take 1 hour and 20 minutes, so make a day out of it, or better yet, stay at the Bowman Lake Campground (they are first come first served) and enjoy the lake more after day trippers are gone.
You can easily hike part of this trail (it starts right beside the long lake), but plan accordingly by carrying enough water, snacks, and layers.
- Beautiful lake
Recommended by Tanya Raedeke from Rad Family Travel
Grinnell Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 10.6 miles out and back (without ferry ride) or 7.6 miles out and back (with ferry ride)
Grinnell Glacier Trailhead: Many Glacier Trailhead
The hike to Grinnell Glacier is one of the top hikes in Glacier National Park. It’s an out and back trail that winds past three alpine lakes and gains 1,600 feet of elevation ending high in the mountains at Grinnell Glacier.
The majority of the hike is along steep cliff edges and is filled with incredible alpine views of the Rocky Mountains, glacier-fed lakes, multiple snow caps and glaciers, and wildflower prairies.
To cut some time and mileage off the hike, hikers can opt to take the ferry across both Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine or hike around both lakes – both options are absolutely beautiful!
Bring plenty of layers! Although it may be hot at the trailhead, the temperature and weather at Grinnell Glacier can be drastically colder and even have snow. Sometimes there can be a 20-30 degree difference at the top! Make sure you’re prepared for all different types of weather.
- Panoramic overlooks of the mountains, valleys, and three alpine lakes
- Views of multiple glaciers along the hike
- Wildlife sightings of bighorn sheep, mountain goats, grizzly bears, and other animals!
Recommended by Stephanie from Travanie Travels
Otokomi Lake, Glacier National Park
Trail Length: 11 miles out and back (5.5 miles each way)
Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Trailhead: Rising Sun Trailhead in East Glacier
The hike to Lake Otokomi is located directly off of the Going-to-the-Sun Road on the eastern half of Glacier National Park.
Even though it’s easily accessible in one of the most popular areas of the park, it is not one of the park’s most popular hikes which makes it a perfect option for those wishing to get a little off the beaten path.
The hike to Otokomi Lake is moderately difficult and winds through a variety of different landscapes including post-fire re-growth, dense forest, and past plenty of waterfalls and streams.
The reward at the end of the hike is Lake Otokomi – a beautiful turquoise blue glacier-fed lake that is filled with beautiful red rocks and wild trout.
Make a full day trip out of this hike by bringing a few extra fun items with you like fishing gear, picnic supplies, hammocks, or a frisbee to hang out/entertain yourself with when you arrive at Lake Otokomi.
- Hiking through diverse Rocky Mountain landscapes
- Watching wild trout swim in the crystal clear water of Lake Otokomi
- Experiencing low hiker traffic and potentially having the whole place to yourself
Recommended by Stephanie from Travanie Travels
Do you have any other favorite hikes in Glacier National Park? I’d love to hear about them. Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know.
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James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents. He has visited all of the main national parks in the United States, as well as many national monuments and state parks.
He has rafted through the Grand Canyon; rappelled down slot canyons near Zion and Arches; hiked among the hoodoos in Bryce and the enormous trees in Sequoia; admired the waterfalls in Yosemite and the colored hot springs in Yellowstone; seen moose in Grand Tetons and seals in the Channel Islands, and much more.
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