15 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is a hiker’s paradise, with more than 700 miles (1,130 km) of trails. Find your perfect trail with this roundup of the best hikes in Glacier National Park for families, day hikers, and serious trekkers.

Note: Summer shuttles accommodate point-to-point hiking on Going-to-the-Sun Road and in Waterton.

clouds over Grinnell Lake
View of Grinnell Lake from the Grinnell Glacier Trail. Photo © Jean Marie Biele.

Best Family-Friendly Hikes (Under 5 mi/8 km)

Grinnell Lake

A scenic boat ride across two lakes whittles this hike down to 2 miles (3.2 km) to see the turquoise lake fed by a giant waterfall. Kids love the swinging bridge and wading in the frigid lake.

Red Rock Canyon and Blakiston Falls

In Waterton, loop 0.6-mile (1-km) around a colorful red-rock gorge with places to reach the waterfall splashing at its lower end. Extend the adventure 1.2 miles (1.9 km) round-trip to see Blakiston Falls.

Hidden Lake Overlook

Stand atop the Continental Divide at Hidden Lake Overlook on this 2.6-mile (4.2-km) round-trip adventure from Logan Pass, where you might spot baby mountain goats.

St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls

This 3.4-mile (5.5-km) trail takes in two waterfalls. One gushes through a rocky slot while the other sprays in a veil.

wooded hiking trail in glacier national park
Hiking to Avalanche Lake via the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake Trail. Photo © Chris Labasco/Dreamstime.

Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake

A 1-mile (0.6-km) trail tours an accessible boardwalk, bridges, and hard surface through ancient cedars that look like a gnome-land. Families can add on a 3.8-mile (6.1-km) round-trip walk up to a pretty subalpine lake fed by several waterfalls.

Best Day Hikes (5-10 mi/8-16.1 km)

Scenic Point

Switchbacks ascend a rocky slope with sparse vegetation to crest a windswept knoll. Views plummet down to Two Medicine Lake and shoot miles across the plains on this 5.8-mile (9.3-km) round-trip trail.

Grinnell Glacier

A boat ride clips mileage off the route to Grinnell Glacier, dropping it down to 7.8 miles (12.6 km) round-trip. It’s the shortest route to see a glacier up close.

Piegan Pass

An 8.8-mile (14.2-km) round-trip trail climbs through forest and wildflower meadows to crest through a talus basin to a pass tucked under the Continental Divide.

Siyeh Pass

From Siyeh Bend on Going-to-the-Sun Road, this point-to-point trail circles 10 miles (16.1 km) around Going-to-the-Sun Mountain. View colorful wildflowers in Preston Park en route and two glaciers.

Iceberg Lake

A 10.4-mile (16.7-km) round-trip trail terminates at a lake where you can swim with icebergs in August.

Butt-Kickers (Over 10 mi/16.1 km)

Highline Trail and Granite Park Chalet

Beginning at Logan Pass, the stunning 11.4-mile (18.3-km) point-to-point walk tiptoes along the Continental Divide to historic Granite Park Chalet before dropping to The Loop. Hikers often see mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bears, or wolverines.

Ptarmigan Tunnel

An 11.4-mile (18.3-km) round-trip trail climbs past Ptarmigan Lake to switchback up to a hiker-and-horse tunnel cut through an arête to look down on Elizabeth Lake.

view from inside a tunnel looking out at the landscape of glacier national park
Ptarmigan Tunnel. Photo © Kelly Vandellen/Dreamstime.

Carthew Pass

In Waterton, an 11.2-mile (18-km) point-to-point trail climbs from Cameron Lake over windy Carthew Pass to drop past Alderson Lake before reaching the Waterton Townsite.

Crypt Lake

In Waterton, a boat ride and switchbacks ascend to a ladder, tunnel, and cliff walk to reach a hanging valley containing an idyllic lake on this 10.8-mile (17.4-km) round-trip hike that includes multiple dramatic waterfalls.

Dawson-Pitamakin Loop

Starting or finishing with a boat ride at Two Medicine, this 15.3-mile (24.6-km) loop crosses three passes on a narrow top-of-the-world trek through bighorn sheep summering range.

What You Need to Know

Trail Status

Conditions on Glacier’s trails vary significantly depending on the season, elevation, recent severe weather, and bear closures. Swinging and plank bridges across rivers and creeks are installed in late May-June. Some years, bridges are installed and then removed a few weeks later to wait for rivers swollen with runoff to subside. Most years, higher passes are snowbound until mid-July. Steep snowfields often inhibit hiking on the Highline Trail until mid-July or so. Ptarmigan Tunnel’s doors are usually open mid-July-early October. Several backcountry campsites are snowbound until August. To find out about trail conditions before hiking, stop at ranger stations or visitors centers for updates or consult trail status reports June-September on the park’s website. Bear or fire closures are also listed online.

blue skies over a hiking trail on the side of a mountain in glacier national park
Highline Trail. Photo © Cory St. Clair/Dreamstime.

Trail Signage

All park trailheads and junctions have excellent signage. Be prepared to convert kilometers to miles in your head to understand distances. Some signs show both kilometers and miles, others simply kilometers. This is, after all, the International Peace Park, and kilometers are more international. In Waterton, all trail sign distances use kilometers. Pull out your math skills: To convert kilometers to miles, multiply the kilometers listed by 0.6 (example: 3 km x 0.6 = 1.8 miles). To convert miles to kilometers, multiply the miles by 1.6 (example: 2 miles x 1.6 = 3.2 km). These calculations are simple, easy approximations for the trail. For more precise conversions, multiply by 0.62 to convert kilometers to miles; to convert miles to kilometers, multiply by 1.61. Some hikers enjoy kilometers: the number is always higher, so the accomplishment feels greater.

Trailheads may also display yellow warning or orange closure signs to alert hikers to bear or mountain lion activity. Obey the closures! They can mean an animal is guarding prey.
Heavily trampled areas may have a footprint with a red slash in fragile alpine meadows and areas of abuse replanted with native vegetation. It means “don’t walk here.”

Guided Hikes

National Park Service naturalists guide free hikes during summer in Glacier and snowshoe excursions in winter. Consult schedules in the park newspaper or online or in visitors centers. Parks Canada naturalists guide free summer hikes in Waterton; find current schedules in the visitors center or online. Naturalists from both parks lead the International Peace Park Hike twice weekly in July-August.

One company in Glacier and one company in Waterton provide guide services, with reservations required. Glacier Guides (406/387-5555 or 800/521-7238) leads day hikes, chalet overnights, and backpacking trips. Waterton Outdoor Adventures (The Tamarack, 214 Mount View Rd., 403/859-2379) leads day hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park.

map of hikes in st. mary and many glacier
St. Mary and Many Glacier Hikes

For more maps of hikes in Glacier, visit our Montana maps page.

Becky Lomax

About the Author

As a professional travel writer, Andrew Hempstead spends as much time as possible on the road, traveling incognito, experiencing the many and varied delights of each destination just as his readers do. He looks forward to spending every second summer at home in the Canadian Rockies, traveling mountain highways and hiking trails, exploring new places, and updating old favorites.

Since the early 1990s, Andrew has authored and updated more than 60 guidebooks, and supplied content for regional and national clients like Expedia and KLM. His photography has appeared in a wide variety of media, ranging from international golf magazines to a Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum.
Andrew and his wife, Dianne, own Summerthought Publishing, a Canadian regional publisher of nonfiction books. He is a member of The Diners Club World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. Andrew has also spoken on travel writing to a national audience and has contributed to a university-level travel writing textbook. He and his family live in Banff, Alberta.

Becky Lomax was three years old when her parents first took her to stay with friends who worked as rangers at Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park. During college, Becky worked two summers in the historic Glacier Park Lodge, an easy hop to Two Medicine. She spent her days off hiking, backpacking, and climbing throughout the park.

After teaching high school writing and speech outside Seattle, she and her husband moved to Whitefish for quick access to Glacier. She worked in the park for a decade as a hiking and backpacking guide, leading many first-time visitors to Gunsight Pass, Fifty Mountain, and Iceberg Lake. She also served on staff at Granite Park Chalet, spotting wolverines and bagging nearby peaks in her off time.

Today, Becky maintains her strong link with Glacier by using her full-time writing career as an excuse to keep hiking in the park. In magazine stories, she lauds the park’s trails, historic lodges, scenic drives, wildlife, and wildflowers. She tags along with biologists in the field to radio-collar bighorn sheep and grizzly bears. She also treks annually to Grinnell Glacier to write about how climate change is melting the park’s ice fields.

Becky serves as the western writer for On the Snow, a website that provides snow reports for ski resorts. She also writes stories for regional newspapers and national magazines such as Smithsonian and Backpacker, and is the author of the bestselling Moon USA National Parks.

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