If you’ve ever wanted to see wildflower fields and stunning waterfalls, bighorn sheep and mountain goats dancing across a rugged landscape, or the alpenglow of the setting sun, Glacier National Park is the place to go. There’s something for everyone here, whether you’re an expert backcountry trekker or a novice looking for a quick trip to a site of interest, with over 700 miles of trails.
To begin, make a point of stopping in the visitor’s center before heading out on a trail to discover current bear sightings, trail closures, or hazards to be mindful of. Rangers can recommend the finest treks for your interests and skills, ensuring that you have a great time while experiencing Glacier’s forests, alpine meadows, and lakes. Also, keep an eye on the Trail Status Reports for the most up-to-date information on snow and water hazards, bad weather, animal activity, and campground closures.
Continue reading to learn more about the park’s top hikes.
1. Apgar Lookout
The Lake McDonald area of Glacier National Park is one of the park’s most popular destinations, with almost two dozen hiking paths of various lengths. Many of these paths connect to other trails, allowing you to trek further.
Apgar Lookout, a 3.6-mile one-way trek with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet, is one of the best walks in the area. The trailhead is half a mile north of the West Entrance and 1.5 km beyond Quarter Circle Bridge. The trail provides beautiful vistas as well as a good workout with a reasonable payoff.
2. Lake McDonald West Shore
The Lake McDonald West Shore route is another excellent hike that is mostly flat. You’ll start 0.2 miles north of the Fish Creek Campground and hike for 7.4 kilometers one way. You can extend your trek by 1.1 miles by hiking the Rocky Point trail, which has a gentle 85-foot elevation rise.
3. Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake
The 0.7-mile Trail of the Cedars circular circuit offers a simple, wheelchair-accessible trail. You’ll cross a footbridge that overlooks the lower Avalanche Gorge as well as witness towering western hemlocks and red cedars. The walk begins at the Avalanche Picnic Area, which is shady and ideal for relaxing before or after your hike. Avalanche Lake, a 2.3-mile (one-way) rocky trek with 500 feet of elevation increase, is recommended for more adventurous hikers.
4. Grinnell Glacier Trail
Notwithstanding the prominence, there is plenty of room to stretch out and explore the trail without being crowded. Off of Many Glacier Road, the trailhead for this 10.3-mile hike is indicated. You’ll need to take a boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine to cut the journey down to 7 kilometers. For the first 2 miles of the lengthier route, you’ll skirt the north beaches of the lakes before beginning to ascend. Grinnell Falls, Angel Wing, Mt. Gould, the Continental Divide, and, of course, Grinnell Lake are all worth seeing. While there are several entry locations, the Many Glacier Hotel is a good place to start because it has plenty of parking and concession boat access (for a fee).
5. Swiftcurrent Nature Trail
The Swiftcurrent Nature Trail is wheelchair accessible after passing the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead, making it ideal for families and people with disabilities. The 2.3-mile circular walk surrounding Swiftcurrent Lake, which begins at the Many Glacier Hotel, provides excellent animal watching and photography opportunities. Rent a boat from Many Glacier Hotel and go over the canal to Lake Josephine for spectacular views of Mount Gould.
6. Ptarmigan Falls
Start your hike beside the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn at the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead. You’ll climb through pine trees as you gradually gain altitude before taking in the vistas of Mt. Grinnell, Swiftcurrent Mountain, and Mt. Wilbur. The Ptarmigan Falls overlook can be found around 2.5 miles in. You can continue to Iceberg Lake or Ptarmigan Tunnel from here.
7. Bowman Lake to Quartz Lake Loop
Bowman Lake is a beautiful spot for day hiking with stunning views of the mountains and lake. Because this part of the park is less visited, you’ll get to appreciate the landscape and peace as you explore. Begin your 12.8-mile journey at Bowman Lake Beach and follow the West Lakes Trail down the beach for 0.5 miles until you reach the split—this is where the loop begins. Views of all three Quartz lakes are available after a 1,500-foot climb: Quartz Lake, Middle Quartz Lake, and Lower Quartz Lake. After that, you’ll return to Bowman Lake by crossing a rocky wooden footbridge.