We’ve met a lot of people who are on vacation in Glacier National Park, and across the board everyone is looking for the best short hikes to do. Short hikes are perfect for a half day adventure or as a little something to do on rest days in between bigger hikes. So today I’ve compiled the 3 best short hikes in Glacier that will hopefully help you plan your trip. All three hikes are good for children, and the Trail of the Cedars at the Avalanche Lake trailhead is wheelchair accessible as well.
While there are some other great short hikes in Glacier, they’re all off the beaten path and could mean hours of driving out of your way, so I haven’t included them here. Each of these 3 hikes begins from the Going to the Sun Road which is the main route through Glacier. I’m listing them here in the order they come on your journey through the Going to the Sun Road, starting from the west entrance of the park.
If you enter the park through the west entrance, the first of the 3 hikes you’ll come to is Avalanche Lake, (see below photo). The Avalanche Lake trail starts with the Trail of the Cedars which is a 1 mile boardwalk and paved trail that as you might have guessed winds it’s way through the cedars. About 1/2 mile in, you get to see Avalanche Gorge (see above photo) which is really beautiful all season long.
From there the Avalanche Trail takes off and you hike along the creek and through sun dappled woods for another 2 miles until you reach the lake. The Avalanche Lake hike is 5 miles roundtrip with around 500 feet of elevation gain. There are a few benches at the lake where you can sit and enjoy your lunch.
This photo of Avalanche Lake was taken in May, and by mid-June to July the snow has almost always disappeared. I’ve been to Avalanche Lake more times than I can count, and I’ve always enjoyed the trip no matter what the season is!
The 2nd of the 3 hikes you’ll come to is Hidden Lake Overlook which takes off from the Logan’s Pass visitor’s center. It’s about 2.7 miles roundtrip with 540 feet of elevation gain. I’ve also been on this hike more times than I can count in all seasons, and it’s unbelievable every time! The pictures here with the snow were taken in September of last year when we had an early snow storm, and the final 2 photos of Hidden Lake with no snow were taken in October with the wonderful late fall color.
This hike is also one of my favorites to do as soon as they open the road (which is usually the end of June to early July). You’ll find several feet of snow still on the ground so be prepared if you’re coming early in the season. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen slipping around on the snow packed trail in flip flops, and while you’d always want to see the view on your vacation, it might be a little more comfortable with real trail worthy footwear.
From this hike, you’ll have wonderful views looking out towards the St. Mary’s valley with miles of peaks everywhere you look!
This view of Hidden Lake is from a climber’s trail that’s described in the Climbing Glacier book that you can find in any of the gift shops. There’s no actual climbing involved to get to this vantage point, but it does add a bit of mileage, and it probably isn’t suitable for small children.
If you want to make more of a day of your hike to Hidden Lake, you can continue down the trail that will lead you right down to the waters edge.
The last of the 3 hikes is St. Mary and Virginia Falls which roundtrip is 3.6 miles with a 525 feet elevation gain. We did this trail in early July of this year and it was a great half day hike with little waterfalls all the way up the trail, and the 2 major waterfalls as well! St. Mary’s falls is pictured above and Virginia Falls is pictured below.
Each of these hikes is great in their own way and worth doing depending on what area you’re in at the time. Overall I’d have to give first place to Hidden Lake Overlook for the sheer amount of amazing views, it’s really just views all the way there and all the way back!
I’ve written a full post for each one of these hikes if you’re interested in a few more details as well as more photos!