The Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

The beginning of the Piegan Pass and Siyeh Pass Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
The beginning of the Piegan Pass and Siyeh Pass Trail

Perhaps one of the most beautiful national parks in the contiguous US, Glacier National Park is also very remote.  That means you might have some trouble finding lodging or a campsite, but if you can get that under control, you’re in for a real treat of views of misty waterfalls, soaring mountain peaks, lovely lakes, and of course glaciers.

Views back toward Mt. Reynolds and Logan Pass from the Highline Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
Views back toward Mt. Reynolds and Logan Pass from the Highline Trail

While you’re in the park, driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a must!  Besides being a white-knuckle experience (I’ve done it – yikes!) the views make it one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever been on.  There are also multiple trails that depart from various small parking lots along the road – but it’s busy enough that most lots are full by 8am or 10am and the shuttle service is less than adequate.  So here’s my advice: If you’re hiking from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, get to the trailhead early!  (You’ll also want to arrive early at the other trailheads – especially the ones up by Many Glacier – but 10am may still find a few open parking spots, at least during the summer months.)

Baby mountain goat along the Hidden Lake Trail
Baby mountain goat along the Hidden Lake Trail

But without further ado, here are my favorite 15 hikes in Glacier National Park… from most scenic to definitely worth hiking too!

The Best Day Hikes in Glacier National Park

Views toward the Ice Wall from the Swiftcurrent Lookout, Glacier National Park, Montana
Views toward the Ice Wall from the Swiftcurrent Lookout

1. Swiftcurrent Lookout.  If you’re surprised that the Highline Trail didn’t make the top of the top of the list, think of this this way: From the Swiftcurrent Lookout, you get to see everything you’d see from the Highline Trail, plus much of the rest of Glacier National Park.  Add to this a very scenic trail up to the lookout, and it’s an easy favorite!  17.6 miles from Many Glacier.

The Highline Trail near Haystack Pass
The Highline Trail near Haystack Pass

2. Highline Trail.  Known as one of the most-photographed, most-scenic trails in the US National Parks, the Highline Trail packs a punch when it comes to views.  It also packs a memorable punch when it comes to the three-foot-wide cliff sections… with no railings.  But you’ll forget the discomfort as soon as you see the fabulous views along the trail.  7.6+ miles out & back or shuttle from Logan Pass.

Views of Hidden Lake from the Ryenolds Mountain Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
Views of Hidden Lake from the Ryenolds Mountain Trail

3. Reynolds Mountain Trail.  It’s not signed, but the Reynolds Mountain Trail has jaw-dropping views of Hidden Lake and the Twin Lakes and St. Mary valleys.  You can even glimpse the Sperry Glacier if you know where to look. 7.2 miles out & back from Logan Pass.

Upper Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Upper Grinnell Lake. PC hikinginglacier.com

4. Grinnell Glacier.  I’ve never actually taken this trail (we’ll blame trail closures on that one), but I’ve watched people climb the trail and I’ve seen the pictures and it’s got to have fantastic views.  Icebergs in the lake, stunning views back down into the valley, a real glacier – what’s not to love?  7.2 miles out & back from Many Glacier.

Hiking along Bullhead Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Hiking along Bullhead Lake

5. Bullhead Lake & the Swiftcurrent Amphitheater.  This will be the easiest 8 miles you’ve ever hiked in Glacier.  Because instead of heading up a mountain, the trail wanders through the peaceful valley with views of the mountains.  Views over Bullhead Lake are great, but it’s the Amphitheater a short distance further up the path that took my breath away.  All those cliffs, glaciers, wildflowers, and the waterfall – gorgeous! 8.6 miles out & back from Many Glacier.

Siyeh Pass Trail above Preston Park, Glacier National Park, Montana
Siyeh Pass Trail above Preston Park

6. Siyeh Pass.  The great thing about Siyeh Pass is that you get fantastic views into places that aren’t normally seen from other trails in the park.  Once you get across the shallow creek crossing, you’re in for a treat (and a steep climb) in the way of views, including Mt. Reynolds and the Piegan Glacier.  10.0 miles out & back from the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Grinnell Falls over Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Grinnell Falls over Grinnell Lake

7. Josephine & Grinnell Lakes.  Most people take the shuttle ferry across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes before hiking to Grinnell Lake.  All I can say is that they miss out on some truly fantastic trail views and pay a lot in the bargain.  Mt. Grinnell features, but the other mountains are almost as majestic.  Whether you take the ferry or not, you still get the “fun” of the swinging bridge and great views over Grinnell Lake and to Grinnell Falls at the end of the hike.  8.2 miles out & back from Many Glacier.

Views from near the Ptarmigan Tunnel, Glacier National Park, Montana
Views from near the Ptarmigan Tunnel. PC hikinginglacier.com

8. Ptarmigan Tunnel.  This was another hike I missed out on because it was closed.  But I’ve seen the pictures, and I’d do it in a heartbeat.  The tunnel at the top makes the trail unique.  10.7 miles out & back from Many Glacier.

Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Iceberg Lake

9. Iceberg Lake.  The icebergs are the allure of Iceberg Lake, but the views of the Ice Wall make for a pretty good reason to hike the trail.  Combined, it’s a hike you won’t soon forget. 10.1 miles out & back from Many Glacier.

Cracker Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Cracker Lake

10. Cracker Lake.  Many hikers complain about the long forest section on this trail, but I found it peaceful and the views (when you finally get out of the trees) to be great.  Or maybe I just loved the turquoise lake below the cliffs and the abundant summer wildflowers.  12.2-14.2 miles out & back from Many Glacier.

Views from Piegan Pass. PC Jeff Doran.  Glacier National Park, Montana
Views from Piegan Pass. PC hikinginglacier.com

11. Piegan Pass.  Views of glaciers and peaks make this trail a popular route for those who’ve done many of the more famous trails in Glacier National Park.  Especially charming is the view of the back of the Garden Wall. 9.2 miles out & back.  Note: You can also hike to Piegan Pass from Many Glacier (13 miles RT).

Red Rock Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana
Red Rock Falls

12. Red Rock Falls.  If you’re looking for a short hike, the Red Rock Falls Trail offers some options for scenery.  You can stop at Fishercap Lake, the trail takes you to the shore of Redcap Lake, and it finally deposits you near Red Rock Falls.  Over the lakes, the views of the mountains are fantastic, and the falls are a glorious, roaring torrent over (you guessed it) red rocks.  4 miles out & back from Many Glacier.

Virginia Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana
Virginia Falls. PC hikinginglacier.com

13. St. Mary’s Falls, Virginia Falls, & Baring Falls.  Glacier’s weather isn’t always the greatest, so I’d recommend this trail on one of the more rainy days.  (After all, waterfalls are usually best in the rain!)  You can make the trail shorter by visiting some of the falls individually.  5.2 mile shuttle or 5.6 mile loop along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Early morning views of Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Early morning views of Hidden Lake

14. Hidden Lake Overlook.  The views from Hidden Lake Overlook are almost as iconic as from the Highline Trail.  But the sheer volume of crowds on the trail makes it very unappealing.  I recommend an early-morning trek on this one.  You can also continue down to the lake if the trail isn’t closed for grizzly bears.  3 miles out & back from Logan Pass.

Bowman Lake from the Numa Lookout Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
Bowman Lake from the Numa Lookout Trail

15. Numa Lookout.  Feeling the strain of the crowds?  Head up to Bowman Lake to hike up to the Numa Lookout.  Chances are you’ll see a few people, but not very many.  Views are quiet and peaceful over Bowman Lake and to nearby mountains.  11.5 miles out & back from Bowman Lake.

Fees

$35/vehicle, valid 7 consecutive days; $20/vehicle for people entering on foot or by bicycle, valid 7 consecutive days; $30/motorcycle, valid 7 consecutive days.  You can likely purchase your pass online before you arrive at recreation.gov.

Glacier National Park Annual Passes and National Parks & Recreation Passes also accepted.

Along the trail to Bullhead Lake

Lodging

In terms of lodging and camping, your best bet is outside of the park if you can’t snag reservations.  Even those services are limited, though, so get a campsite if you can before 4pm and hang onto the one you get!

Paintbrush flowers near Cracker Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
Paintbrush flowers near Cracker Lake

Services

St. Mary and West Glacier both offer gas and other services (lodging, food, etc.).  Babb has a few services (I hear the steaks at the restaurant are fabulous), but not many.  Visitor centers are scattered throughout the park; see a park map for details.

Jammer Tour cars on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana
Jammer Tour cars on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

Other activities

You may want to take a guided tour in Glacier National Park.  Equestrian rides depart throughout the day from the Swiftcurrent Inn in Many Glacier and from the Park Café in St. Mary.  You can also take a Jammer Tour in an old-fashioned touring car (made by Ford, by the way) or rent a canoe at Lake McDonald.  The boat tours across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes are always popular, whether you’re hiking or not.

Zoom map in to browse individual hikes around Glacier National Park

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I happen to know the author of this book (we met over a mutual respect for each other’s hiking websites), and so I know this is a fantastic guide to Glacier National Park!  It covers nearly 70 hikes, from short strolls to multi-day adventures, and is a great resource when planning a trip to Glacier.