Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

The 13 Best Hikes In Glacier National Park

One of the most famous and popular national parks in existence, Glacier National Parks in Montana offers a very wide array of different hiking opportunities.

In addition to terrific hiking trails, Glacier National Park will also treat you to majestic views and scenery from snow capped mountains, glaciers, and fresh blue lakes.

There are also many different kinds of hikes in Glacier National Park as well, ranging from short hikes that are only a couple of miles and at low elevations of around four hundred feet, to much longer hikes of up to nearly twenty miles and reaching elevations of over two thousand feet.

In other words, some of these hikes will only take a couple hours of your time, while others will require up to a day if not longer.  Some will be steep with high elevation gains, while others will be relatively flat with no steepness at all.  Others will have vast meadows filled with wildflowers, while others will be more densely wooded.  Some trails will be very narrow, while others will be much more wide.

So, What Are The Best Hikes?

Here are the best hikes in Glacier National Park, presented in alphabetical order:

1. Dawson Pass

Dawson Pass is a much longer hike than you may be used to as it measures up to fifteen miles long.  However, your efforts into making the hike will certainly be well worth it, as the hike will take you up to Oldman Lake for some truly amazon views.  That’s also not to mention that the hike will take you past Pitamakan Pass, which has a number of truly beautiful waterfalls as well.

2. Grinnell Glacier

Grinnell Glacier is without question one of the most iconic places in Glacier National Parks.  The hike will take you through cliffs, meadows, and many lakes en route to the end of the trail, where you will get to see a glacier up close.

It should also be noted that while the first half of this hike is well suited for beginners, the second half is definitely more difficult and more of an intermediate level.  This is because the second half of the hike consists of a lot of slopes and is significantly steeper.

The overall length of this hike is around seven miles, with an elevation gain of sixteen hundred feet.  At one quarter of a mile before the glacier itself, there is a picnic area for you to have lunch as well.

3. Highline Trail

Similar to the Grinnell Glacier trail, the Highline Trail is around seven miles in length, although the elevation gain is much lower at eight hundred and twenty five feet.  There are bathrooms located at the Visitor Center before you set off on the trail itself.

The Highline itself is a trail that beings at Logan Pass and then follows the Continental Divide, before ending at the Goat Haunt.  If you make Haystack Butte your primary destination with this hike, it will be a good intermediate hike with around three miles of total walking distance.

Something else worth of note about the Highline Trail as well is the very wide variety and number of wildlife that you can expect to encounter.  For example, Mountain Goats are very common on the trail and furthermore are used to being seen by people, and won’t run away or flee or hide when spotted.  You just want to be careful that you don’t get to close to the goats, so give them a wide berth.

One more thing worth of note is that Glacier National Parks offers a group day hike each Tuesday from July through September, if that’s something that you would be interested in.

4. Iceberg Lake

The Iceberg Lake hike is a ten mile long hike with a nearly thirteen hundred foot elevation gain.  It begins either from the Many Glacier Hotel or behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, which is where the majority of people begin the hike.

You should be forewarned that the first one hundred miles of this hike is very steep, and while the rest of the hike is certainly less steep, you’re still going to be headed uphill virtually the whole time.

That being said, it will definitely be worth it once you arrive at Iceberg Lake, which rests within a basis surrounded by steep cliffs and with numerous beautiful scenic vistas along the way.

One more thing about this hike is that bears are sometimes spotted from the trail, so be sure to proceed with caution.

5. Medicine Grizzly Lake

This is a nearly thirteen mile roundtrip hike with just a six hundred and twenty five foot elevation gang.  The trailhead for Medicine Grizzle Lake is the Cutbank Valley Trail, which is one of the most seldom visited trails in Glacier National Park for the simple fact that few people know anything about it.

As a result, if you want a hike where you are less likely to encounter other hikers, this will definitely be the best hike for you.  There are numerous meadows off the sides of the trail that are filled up with wildflowers from June to July.

One thing about this hike is that bears are a much larger presence here (likely due to the lesser presence of humans), and sometimes (especially during the summer) the trail will be closed off by the authorities.

6. No Name Lake

No Name Lake is a much shorter hike at around five miles in total roundtrip and a just over nine hundred foot elevation gain.  The hike officially begins either at the boat dock at Two Medicine Lake, or at the Two Medicine campground in Prey lake.

This is a very woodsy trail that will lead you through dense wooded areas, and it alternates between elevation gain and loss in route to the No Name Lake.  The lake itself has a very large and vertical cliff called Mt. Helen on one side and more forest on the other.

As a backcountry campsite, few people travel to No Name Lake, and so you can expect to run into a far lesser number of fellow hikers.

7. Piegan Pass

If you like wildflowers, then Piegan Pass will need to be the very first hike that you take when you visit Glacier National Park.  This is a nearly ten mile roundtrip hike with a nearly nineteen hundred foot elevation gang.

It begins at a creek along a shaded forest, that continues that way for several miles.  But the more elevation you gain in the hike, the more meadows and less trees you will encounter, which is where the wildflowers will be blooming and in their prime in the month of July.

When the trail splits, you’ll find yourself on a much easier hike leading you through a meadow field to the Jackson Glacier Basin.

8. Pitamakan Pass Trail

Pitamakan Pass Trail is a truly beautiful trail that will lead you over the ridge of the Rising Wolf Mountain and then pass a waterfall at Sky Lake, before finally leading you to Oldman Lake.

This trail receives a lot of snow throughout the year, and is therefore only accessible in July and August.  In fact, depending on the amount of snow, the trail will only be accessible during August in some years.

Overall, this trail is seventeen and a half miles roundtrip, and you’ll make a three thousand foot elevation gain.  One more thing worth of note is that this is a very narrow trail, so you need to be careful and your progress may be slow (this is definitely an all day hike).

9. Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail

The Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail is truly one of the best all weather hikes in Glacier National Park.  In fact, one end of the trail will seem like an entirely different world to you in contrast to the the other end of the trail.

One of the most noteworthy things about this hike is a two hundred and forty foot tunnel, in addition to big meadows, dense woods, and an abundance of wildlife.  The tunnel was built for horses in the early part of the 20th century, and contain a number of ridge edges and slopes.  The trail gets a lot steeper as it goes on, so this is an intermediate to expert level hike to be sure.

That being said, the remaining one and a half miles before you reach the actual Ptarmigan Lake is much less steep and easier to walk, so it will be a big relief and easier going before you reach your final destination.

10. Rockwell Falls

Rockwell Falls is a shorter seven mile round trip hike with just four hundred feet of elevation gain.  This hike takes you through a beautiful Two Medicine Valley that is one of the least crowded valleys in terms of other hikers for the eastern side of Glacier National Park.

There are numerous woods and meadows on this hike, with a beautiful waterfall towards the end that will serve as your reward.

11. Siyeh Pass Hike

Siyeh Pass Hike is a nearly nine mile roundtrip hike that begins in a wood and takes you through and around numerous peaks.  As you can probably imagine, this is a much steeper hike, especially after two and a half miles of walking when you reach Preston Park.

After taking in all of the beautiful scenery, you’ll be descending over three thousand feet for around five and a half miles before you end up at Sunrift Gorge.   

12. Snyder Lakes

Snyder Lake is an eight mile round trip hike with a two thousand feet elevation gain.  The trailhead officially begins at Lake McDonald Lodge Parking Lot, which is also commonly known as the Sperry Chalet Trail.

Overall, this is a very wooded hike with occasional open views of the mountain side once you get closer to the Snyder Lakes themselves.  The first part of this trail is also usually very crowded, but as it goes on there are less and less hikers, especially once you turn off of the main trail (which most people don’t do).

13. Swift Current Pass Hike

Last but most certainly not least is Swiftcurrent Pass Hike, which is one of the most difficult hikes in Glacier National Park, but also one of the most rewarding thanks to the truly incredibly scenery.

On this hike, you will pass by no less than three hikes as well as a waterfall in the middle of a vast meadow.  Towards the end, you’ll also get to see a truly stunning vista of Granite Park.

Total length of this hike is around fourteen miles round trip.  Wildlife are in great abundance of this hike, and moose in particular are very commonly spotted near Fishercap Lake off the side of the trail.

Conclusion

As you can hopefully tell by now, there are no shortage of great hikes for you to embark on when you visit Glacier National Parks. The hikes vary greatly in terms of length and intensity, but something that they don’t vary at all in is the truly scenic and majestic views that you will get to experience on each of them.

Some of the hikes are also very popular and may be crowded with fellow hikers, while others won’t be crowded at all and you may encounter nobody.

Just remember to take the proper safety precautions as well, as bears and mountain lions are in no shortage at Glacier National Parks.  It may be a wise idea to research or consult with the authorities on the best safety measures to take before you embark on the trip.

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