Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

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Get inspired with the top 25 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park, along with lists breaking down each region of the park to make your trip simpler. You’ll find our personal notes from over 50 years combined experience in Glacier, along with our favorite hikes as well. There’s also resources for the shortest hikes, tips for visiting Glacier National Park, and a guide for Going to the Sun Road as well. So no matter what region of Glacier you’re in, you’ll have a list of all the best hikes to do in that area plus, the mileage and elevation gain.

The blog authors, Tyler & Kari, standing on a rock in front of Grinnell Glacier meltwater in Glacier National Park.
Meltwater at Grinnell Glacier

We’ve been hiking in Glacier National Park a lot… and by that I mean we have 50+ years combined experience which sounds crazy. But we’re locals to Glacier, so we hike every single year as much as possible. And now today we’re giving you a breakdown of all the best hikes, which region they’re in, and tips for how to plan the best trip to Glacier.

You’ll find a wide variety of hikes in Glacier from short to long, with everything from glacially colored lakes and waterfalls, to sweeping mountain views. Glacier National Park is spread out in 4 main regions, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. You’ll find all the hikes are categorized with all the options along Going to the Sun Road (west & east sides), Many Glacier, East Glacier & Two Medicine, and the Polebridge area.

It’s super important to pick hikes in the same area before moving to another region. Otherwise you’ll spend your whole vacation driving around, and Glacier is way to crowded to waste all your time sitting in traffic.

Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park, a deep blue lake filled with icebergs set in a grand mountain cirque.
Iceberg Lake as seen from above on the climbing trail.

Let’s get started with the top 25 listed below with the things you’ll see on each hike. Every hike listed here is ‘technically’ a day hike. However some of them are long, clocking in at 18-19 miles.

I’ve linked each one in the regional sections that I’ve written about so you can go deeper, and learn more about each one to see if it might be a good fit for you. But I’ve also listed out the basic mileage and elevation gain for a quick glance in the regional sections below.

Top 25 Hikes in Glacier National Park

  1. Grinnell Glacier – views of 3 lakes, grand mountain vistas, ending at the meltwater below Grinnell Glacier.
  2. Iceberg Lake – gorgeous turquoise lake in a spectacular mountain cirque, can be combined with Ptarmigan Tunnel for a hard/long day.
  3. Hidden Lake – a Glacier classic through alpine meadows to an overlook of the stunning lake.
  4. Highline Trail – non-stop views, can be combined to add the Grinnell Glacier Overlook & Granite Park Chalet as a through hike.
  5. Cracker Lake – incredible glacially colored lake with beautiful mountain views.
  6. Siyeh Pass – 3 glaciers can be seen if you pay close attention, wildflowers, mountain pass views.
  7. Piegan Pass – 1 glacier sighting, lots of incredible mountain views, quieter hike.
  8. Avalanche Lake – a Glacier classic including Avalanche Gorge and the beautiful lake with short mileage.
  9. Ptarmigan Tunnel – featuring a lake, incredible mountain views, & a glacier about 1/4 mile down after the tunnel.
  10. Scenic Point – great views in Two Medicine & one of the shorter hikes in the area.
  11. Otokomi Lake – mountain and creek views on the hike, incredible blue water and red rock at the lake, quieter.
  12. Sun Point – can be combined with Baring Falls, St. Mary & Virginia Falls – stunning viewpoint for a 10 minute walk.
  13. St. Mary & Virginia Falls – another short Glacier classic to 2 different and beautiful waterfalls.
  14. Gunsight Lake – often overlooked but very pretty glacially colored lake with lots of trail views as well, quieter.
  15. Sperry Chalet – treed trail turns into stunning mountain views around a backcountry chalet you can stay in with reservations.
  16. Dawson to Pitamakan Pass Loop – absolutely worth the long day for all stunning pass views, and lake views as well.
  17. Two Medicine Pass – also worth the long day, you get to see Rockwell Falls and Cobalt Lake along this route too.
  18. Fishercap Lake, Redrock Lake, and Red Rock Falls – really beautiful short hike with swimming holes.
  19. Swiftcurrent Lookout – shares the same trail as #18 – worth the distance if you can for 360º views and a glacier from the top.
  20. McDonald Creek Trail / John’s Lake Loop – great short hike with glacially colored water running over the rocks + waterfalls.
  21. Mount Brown – treed trail leading to incredible views at the top, generally quieter.
  22. Snyder Lake – also a treed trail, but beautiful lake, and much quieter then most trails.
  23. Scalplock Lookout – treed trail with a few views, incredible scenery from the top – perfect if you’re traveling to East Glacier.
  24. Apgar Lookout – can be done in a half day with nice views overlooking Lake McDonald, usually open early & late in the season.
  25. Rockwell Falls – easier hike with a beautiful waterfall, can add on Aster Falls, or go further to Cobalt Lake & Two Medicine Pass.

It’s hard to pick a top favorite, but Grinnell Glacier is probably the most bang for your buck if you’re short on time. It’s also one of the easiest ways to see a glacier up close. Iceberg Lake combined with Ptarmigan Tunnel is another favorite of ours if you’re up for a long day.

And the Highline Trail can’t be beat with stunning peaks everywhere and non-stop new views all day long. You also get to stop at a backcountry chalet, and you can do the Grinnell Glacier Overlook on this trail as well. So rather than just choose 1, those would be my top 4!

Avalanche Lake and Hidden Lake are beautiful Glacier classics. But they are best hiked early or later in the day to avoid too many crowds. Sun Point is incredible for a 10 minute walk, and can be combined with Baring Falls, St. Mary’s Falls, and all the way to Virginia Falls for a stunning hike.

Scenic Point in Two Medicine is always a favorite, and Dawson Pass to Pitamakan Pass is worth the super long day if you’re up for the mileage.

Siyeh Pass and Piegan Pass see a bit less traffic, but they’re both stunning. Especially if you can hike Siyeh as a through hike and take the shuttle back to your vehicle. Check the shuttle stops first though because they don’t always stop at Sun Rift Gorge where the Siyeh Pass Trail comes out. Siyeh Pass also takes you past 3 glaciers as well.

Man with an orange backpack sitting on a large rock overlooking Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park.
Hidden Lake at Logan’s Pass in early July.

Hikes that start from Going to the Sun Road (listed West Glacier to St. Mary)

  • Apgar Lookout – 7.1 miles & 1,845′ elevation
  • Sperry Chalet – 12.3 miles & 3,360 elevation
  • Synder Lake – 8.7 miles roundtrip & 2,045′ elevation
  • Mount Brown – 10.1 miles roundtrip & 4,250′ elevation
  • John’s Lake Loop / McDonald Creek Trail – 1.9 miles & 187′ elevation
  • Avalanche Lake & the Trail of the Cedars – 5 miles roundtrip & 730′ elevation
  • The Loop to Granite Park Chalet – 8.4 miles roundtrip & 2,450 elevation
  • Highline Trail – 11.6 miles one way through Granite Chalet & 1,950′ elevation -can add the Grinnell Glacier Overlook and hike out through Granite Chalet taking a shuttle back to Logan’s Pass.
  • Hidden Lake Overlook – 2.7 miles roundtrip & 540′ elevation – starts from the Logan Pass Visitor Center and is a Glacier classic.
  • Siyeh Pass – 9.7 point to point & 2,234′ elevation – trailhead starts from Siyeh Bend
  • Piegan Pass – 9.2 miles roundtrip & 1,850′ elevation – trailhead also begins at Siyeh Bend
  • Gunsight Lake – 12.6 miles roundtrip & 1,500′ elevation – can be combined with Gunsight Pass to Lake Ellen Wilson and through Sperry Chalet for a very long day.
  • St. Mary & Virginia Falls – 3.6 miles & 525′ elevation
  • Sun Point Nature TrailDistance – 1.8 miles one way from Sun Point to Sunrift Gorge – Elevation Gain – 213′
  • Otokomi Lake – 10.4 miles roundtrip & 1,800′ elevation

Favorite Hikes from Going to the Sun Road

Our favorites from this region are Avalanche Lake, the Highline Trail with the Grinnell Overlook and ending at the Loop. Both Siyeh & Piegan Passes, along with Sun Point Nature Trail to Virginia Falls and back.

Siyeh Pass is particularly beautiful leading you through Preston Park which is filled with wildflowers in July and you’ll see 3 glaciers as well. Otokomi and Gunsight Lake tend to be quieter and very scenic too. Hidden Lake is a classic, but so busy you might not enjoy it, circumstances depending. I recommend hiking it early or late if possible.

Glacier National Park now has a reservation system for both Going to the Sun Road and for the North Fork region. You can find everything you need to know about how to get a reservation plus exceptions with my Going to the Sun Road Guide.

Man with an orange backpack standing in a large rock overlooking St Mary's Lake from Sun Point.
Lookout at Sun Point.

Hikes in the Many Glacier region

  • Grinnell Glacier – 11.2 miles & 2,181′ elevation – can take off 3.4 miles with 2 boat shuttles.
  • Iceberg Lake – 10 miles & 1,275′ elevation gain
  • Ptarmigan Tunnel – 10.7 miles & 2,700′ elevation (can be combined with Iceberg Lake for a total of 15 miles)
  • Cracker Lake – 12.6 miles roundtrip & 1,400′ elevation
  • Swiftcurrent Lookout – 14.2 miles roundtrip & 2,400′ elevation – can also be hike from the Highline Trail or Granite Park Chalet.
  • Red Rock Falls – part of the Swiftcurrent Lookout trail but much shorter and family friendly. You hike past Fishercap and Redrock Lakes before coming to the redrock falls, 4.2 miles and 285′ elevation gain roundtrip. Continue on to Bullhead Lake to extend your hike adding 3 more miles.

I always feel you can’t go wrong in the Many Glacier region, everything is stunning. Cracker Lake, Swiftcurrent Pass, and Ptarmigan Tunnel tend to be a bit quieter. But Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake are worth it for the stunning views.

St. Mary's Falls, a glacially colored waterfall over red rock with trees around it.
St. Mary’s Falls

Hikes in the Two Medicine region

  • Scenic PointElevation gain: 2,300′ Mileage: 8 miles roundtrip.
  • Upper Two Medicine Lake (can be combined with a boat ride to reduce mileage) 4.8 miles roundtrip & 350′ elevation gain.
  • Rockwell FallsElevation gain: 375′ – Mileage: 7 miles roundtrip
  • Cobalt LakeElevation gain: 1,450′ – Mileage: 11.2 miles roundtrip
  • Two Medicine PassElevation Gain: 2,400′ – Mileage: 9.9 miles one way can be reduced to 6.7 miles with a boat ride.
  • Dawson Pitamakin Pass Loop TrailElevation: 3,641′ according to AllTrails. Distance: 17.5 miles roundtrip, minus 3 miles with a boat ride.
  • Running Eagle Falls – 0.6 miles & 15′ elevation gain, not as impressive later in the summer when the water isn’t running hard.
  • Aster Falls – 2.8 miles roundtrip & 320′ elevation gain, family friendly small waterfall on the way to Rockwell Falls.
  • Triple Divide Pass – (in Cut Bank) 14.6 miles roundtrip & 2,400′ elevation gain.
  • Medicine Grizzly Lake (Cut Bank) 12.4 miles roundtrip & 625′ elevation gain.

Tips for Two Medicine

We love Two Medicine because it’s a bit quieter than the rest of Glacier. However since the reservation system, it’s gotten busier and the parking fills usually before 8am. This means you probably want to stay in the area to get an early start. Two Medicine is about 2 hour from Kalispell, so driving back and forth isn’t the greatest idea if you can avoid it.

There’s a campground that fills quickly in the park. But there’s also the Red Eagle tribal campground at the entrance road to Two Medicine that we usually stay in when we can get a spot because it doesn’t fill as fast as the park campground. The park campground fills super fast because it’s on the shores of the lake, and central to all the hiking. But the Red Eagle campground is on the river, close to the park entrance, and we’ve enjoyed the views and fishing in the evening.

A green hillside with snowy white beargrass flowers and mountains in the distance.
Siyeh Pass Trail

Hikes between Essex and East Glacier

  • Scalplock LookoutElevation: 3,225′ – Mileage: 9.2 miles roundtrip – Trailhead – Walton Ranger Station
  • Firebrand Pass – Elevation: 1950′ Mileage: 10 miles roundtrip – Trailhead – mile marker 203 on US HWY 2

There’s also hiking available in the Great Bear Wilderness on this stretch of highway, but be prepared to need GPS navigation, and fortitude to get to your destination on these minimally maintained trails.

Mountain views from Piegan Pass with a man standing in a field of rocks overlooking the view.
Piegan Pass Trail

North Fork trails

  • Akokala Lake Trail
  • Bowman Lake Trail
  • Boulder Pass Trail
  • Numa Ridge Lookout
  • Quartz Lake Loop

We don’t spend time in this region and the hikes aren’t as scenic. But my mom has hiked them all and would rate them as moderately beautiful in comparison to the views in the rest of the park. Bowman Lake is incredible and definitely worth the view if you’re in the area. The North Fork region of the park also requires a reservation now to enter. You can read all about the Glacier National Park reservation system with my Going to the Sun Road Guide.

Top 10 easy hikes for families or short day hikes

  1. Avalanche Lake – about 5 miles roundtrip.
  2. Trail of the Cedars which will take you to Avalanche Gorge in 1 mile and very little elevation gain..
  3. Hidden Lake Overlook – a boardwalk trail to start preserving the stunning alpine meadows, transitioning to a real trail to see the incredible stunning lake.
  4. St Mary & Virginia Falls – moderate for smaller children, but doable.
  5. Baring Falls – starts at Sunrift Gorge and is 0.6 miles out and back and 250′ elevation gain.
  6. Sun Point – this ultimate super easy ‘hike’ or 10 minute walk from the parking lot to a stunning overlook. Can be combined with Baring Falls or all the way to Virginia Falls for a longer hike. Sun Point is a great place for a picnic lunch.
  7. Red Rock Falls – takes you past Fishercap Lake and Red Rock Lake to end at the falls with some swimming holes if you look around a bit. It’s 3.6 miles and 100′ elevation gain.
  8. McDonald Creek Trail – part of the John’s Lake Loop Trail and can be as long as you’d like or up to 5.6 miles with very little elevation. If you park for the Dancing Cascade waterfall pullout on Going to the Sun Road, there’s a bridge across the creek and you can walk the most scenic part of it out and back from there.
  9. Rockwell Falls – is in Two Medicine and so pretty. It’s on the longer side for kids, but can be combined with a boat ride across the lake to save some mileage.
  10. Grinnell Lake – is longer at 6.8 miles but almost no elevation at just 60′ and can be combined with a boat ride on Swiftcurrent from the lodge to save mileage.
Man with an orange backpack sitting on a log overlooking the turquoise waters of Gunsight Lake with mountains in the distance.
Gunsight Lake

Tips to have the best hike in Glacier National Park

  1. Trail etiquette – downhill hikers yield to uphill and it’s an unwritten rule to yield to backpackers because they’re just working extra hard! Always yield to horses and get off the trail until they pass. Bring your patience to the popular more crowded trails, and just go with the flow. Take turns helping others get pictures, and just enjoy the crowds. Or hike on the more remote trails for a bit more solitude.
  2. Parking – is always a problem in Glacier so get started early. It also never hurts to have a backup plan if you can’t get parking, just head to another less popular hike.
  3. Wildlife – is best enjoyed from a very large distance! Don’t get close, (best to stay several hundred yards away) because it’s not safe for you, and not safe for them when they get too used to people. It’s recommended to carry bear spray when hiking in Glacier. And it’s best to learn how to use it before there’s a potential situation. Bear spray is to be used in emergencies to be sprayed at the bear, it’s not something you apply topically. Bear spray is very powerful and Glacier is windy pretty much everyday, so be careful should you ever have to use it. I have been downwind of someone else spraying twice now. And it takes your breath away even at a great distance along with red watery eyes for a day or two. Basically it’s very serious! Beyond black bears and grizzly bears, there are moose, big horn sheep, mountain goats and all sorts of abundant wildlife that you’ll need to be on the lookout for.
  4. Be prepared – bring layers, first aid, and plenty of water along with enough food to get your through whatever hike you choose. Sunscreen or layers are a must for long days and you don’t want to run out of water! There’s plenty of lists online for what to pack, but this is just a short list to get you started.
  5. Best time to visit – is between early July and mid-September so you’ll have the best chance of the Going to the Sun Road being open. You may also still run into snow on a number of trails well into July. And early snows sometimes come in the 1st half of September in the higher elevations. If you do come in the winter months, you can read all about what’s available in my Winter in Glacier National Park.

For all my best tips, check out my Top 10 Tips for visiting Glacier National Park

Man sitting outside the lookout hut from Swiftcurrent Lookout with a glacier in the distance.
Swiftcurrent Lookout

Final Tips

There’s so much to see in Glacier National Park, I recommend picking a few hikes and just see what you can. Also it helps to choose easy days to follow after any longer or harder trails.

We always pick a very short trail or some sort of swimming day after we’ve had a long hiking day. This way you don’t feel so tired and rushed on your vacation. I also recommend trying to stay in the different areas so you’re not constantly driving.

For instance if you want to hike in Many Glacier, try to find lodging or camping in that area around Babb. This will save you 2-3 hours of driving one way. And if you don’t have a Going to the Sun Road reservation it can easily take well over 3 hours to get from Kalispell or Whitefish to Many Glacier.

Take a quick look at Google Maps and add lots more time for traffic once you select your hikes. You don’t want to loose half your trip sitting in traffic!

Large waterfall over dark brown rocks with trees around it and a man in an orange backpack standing at the top of the falls.
Rockwell Falls

FAQ’s

What’s the best time to visit Glacier National Park?

Mid-July through mid-September is the best weather and Going to the Sun Road is usually fully open during this time. You’ll see wildflowers right through July, sometimes with a few in August.

What is the best hiking trail in Glacier National Park?

I would say either Grinnell Glacier or the Highline Trail. Grinnell Glacier takes you past 3 lakes and up to the meltwater below the glacier and is stunning every step of the way. The Highline Trail leads you from Logan’s Pass visitors center all the way along the Garden Wall with non-stop ever changing views all day long. You can also make it a through hike going through Granite Park Chalet and ending at the loop. Then take the shuttle back to the pass. I also recommend adding on the Grinnell Glacier Overlook if you can.

Women in a teal coat standing on the hut on Scalplock Lookout looking out at the snowy mountains.
Scalplock Lookout in late October

More about Glacier National Park to help you plan your trip

  1. Top 10 Tips for Visiting Glacier National Park
  2. Going to the Sun Road Guide
  3. Top 3 Short Hikes in Glacier National Park
  4. Winter in Glacier National Park
  5. Every hike we’ve written about in Glacier National Park

I hope this list of the Best Hikes in Glacier National Park helps you plan your trip! And if you have any questions be sure to drop me a line below, I’d love to hear from you.

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