17 Breathtaking Hikes In Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park has over seven hundred miles of hiking trails that travel through some of the country’s most beautiful scenery. With so many trails to choose from, how do you pick which hikes to add to your itinerary? To help you plan your trip, this article narrows down the seventeen best hikes in Glacier National Park.
To make things even easier for you, this list of the best hikes has been broken up by the different sections of the park the hikes are located in. You’ll find top-rated hikes in West Glacier, the best hiking trails along Going-To-The-Sun Road, best hikes in Many Glacier, and the best hikes in Two Medicine.
Each trail listed will cover all of the basic information such as distance and elevation gain, as well as a detailed trail description so that you know what to expect on your hike. With this information you can determine which hike is best for you depending on not only your fitness level, but how much time you have on your itinerary, and what kind of features you are looking for in your hike, for example, waterfalls, glaciers, alpine meadows, etc.
Glacier National Park requires all visitors to have a reservation to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road from May 27 to September 11, 2022. Read this guide to Going-To-The-Sun Road for more information.
Planning a trip to Glacier National Park? Don’t miss these helpful posts!
• 15 Best Things To Do In Glacier National Park
• 12 Very Special Things To Do In Many Glacier
• How To Hike To Iceberg Lake
Essential Information For Hiking In Glacier National Park
- Arrive at the trailhead early. Many of the hikes on this list are on popular trails therefore parking lots at trailheads fill up quickly. To guarantee yourself a parking spot, be sure start your hike early in the morning, preferably before 8am.
- Most trails can only be hiked from June to September. Due to long winters, many of the hiking trails in Glacier National Park can only be hiked from June through September. In addition, Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed seasonally from October to July which means the trails located along this stretch are inaccessible during this time. Check the GNP website for road updates.
- Always check trail status before hiking in Glacier National Park. Be sure to check trail status for any closures due to forest fires or bear activity. You can check at visitor centers located in the park, by asking a ranger, or see trail updates on Glacier National Park’s website.
Best Hikes In Glacier National Park
Here are the best hikes in Glacier National Park. It will be hard to visit all of the different sections of the park on an itinerary of less than three days. We recommend choosing one or two areas in the park to focus your attention on and choosing hikes based on where you plan to visit. Be sure to factor in drive time to trailheads and time spent waiting for a parking spot to your hiking itinerary.
Best Hikes In West Glacier
West Glacier is the closest part of the park to Kalispell. It is also where most visitors enter Glacier National Park. The following hikes are recommended for visitors staying in the West Glacier area.
Trail Of The Cedars
- Distance: 1.4 mile loop
- Elevation Gain: None
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: 30 Minutes
- Trailhead: Avalanche Creek Picnic Area
Who Is This Hike For? This hike is perfect for beginner hikers, and for visitors who are short on time that would still like to stretch their legs on a short hiking trail. Trail Of The Cedars is wheelchair accessible and stroller-friendly too.
Trail Description: Trail Of The Cedars begins across the road from the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area off Going-To-The-Sun Road (about 5.5 miles from Lake McDonald Lodge). This hiking trail is actually part of the Avalanche Lake hiking trail so you can complete both hikes in one trip if desired.
The trail is a loop hike so you can begin in whichever direction you prefer. One half of this hiking trail travels across a raised boardwalk while the other half of the trail is on compact dirt.
Along this trail, visitors will hike through an ancient forest full of towering western red cedars and western hemlock trees, some of which are over five hundred years old. Since Glacier National Park sits on the eastern edge of the maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest, this forest also marks the eastern limits for this species of trees.
Travel Tip: This is a popular hiking trail and the parking can be an issue during peak travel season. Either start your hike very early in the morning or plan to hike around lunch time or late afternoon.
- Distance: 4.6 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: 500 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time: 2.5 hours
- Trailhead: Avalanche Creek Picnic Area
- See trail details here
Who Is This Hike For: This hike is suitable for all levels of hikers from beginner to advanced. It is a great hike for beginners looking to test themselves on slightly longer hikes with minimal elevation gain. If you’re looking for a hike that leads to a beautiful destination that won’t be an all day affair, this is it!
Trail Description: The Avalanche Lake hiking trail begins across the road from the Avalanche Creek Picnic Area off Going-To-The-Sun Road (about 5.5 miles from Lake McDonald Lodge). This hiking trail starts out on the Trail Of The Cedars so you can complete both hikes in one trip if desired.
Trail Of The Cedars is a loop hike so you can begin in whichever direction you prefer. One half of this hiking trail travels across a raised boardwalk while the other half of the trail is on compact dirt.
No matter which direction you decide to start your hike, you will first walk through an ancient forest of western red cedars and western hemlock trees, some of which are over five hundred years old.
Once you get half way on the Trail Of The Cedars you will see a sign that points out the official start of the trail to Avalanche Lake. From this point you will start to slowly gain elevation, however there is never any part of this trail that would be considered steep.
The majority of this hike is through forest until the very end of the hike when the trail emerges at Avalanche Lake. Once you reach Avalanche Lake you will be impressed not only by the lake’s stunning emerald color, but also by the towering mountains and cliffs that provide an impressive backdrop.
During spring and summer, you will most likely see several waterfalls that plummet from the clifftops into the valley where Avalanche Lake lies. It looks just like a scene from Hawaii!
Travel Tip: The parking lot for the Avalanche Lake Trailhead fills up early morning usually by around 7am or 8am. Be prepared to drive around the parking lot multiples times as you wait for other hikers to leave. Alternatively, you can hike this trail around lunch time or later in the afternoon when crowds start to die down.
Upper McDonald Creek Trail
- Distance: 5.3 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: 210 feet
- Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
- Time: 2 hours
- Trailhead: Upper McDonald Creek Trailhead
Who Is This Hike For? This trail is for hikers looking to take on a half day hiking trail in the Lake McDonald Valley but don’t wish to drive up too far along the Going-To-The-Sun Road. It is the perfect hike for those who are looking for a peaceful escape from other crowded popular hiking trails.
Trail Description: The hike along the Upper McDonald Creek Trail begins from the Upper McDonald Creek Trailhead. To find this trailhead, drive along Going-To-The-Sun Road for about 1.5 miles until you reach the turn off for North Lake McDonald Road which will be on your left side. The trailhead parking lot can accommodate several vehicles. Hikers can also park at the pull-off near the bridge over McDonald Creek, or in the large lot located at the junction of North Lake McDonald Road and the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
This hike begins by traveling along a gravel footpath through a dense, lush and green, old-growth forest like those typical of the Pacific Northwest.
The first point of interest on this hike is McDonald Falls. If you’re hiking this trail during the spring, keep an eye out for harlequin ducks here. Although they spend most of their lives along the rocky coastal waters of North America, these small sea ducks migrate inland during the spring to breed and raise their young along turbulent freshwater streams.
Continue along the Upper McDonald Creek Trail until you reach a large wetland area alongside an oxbow bend on McDonald Creek. This is prime moose habitat so keep your eyes peeled! You’re more likely to see moose here if you are hiking early in the morning or late afternoon but during the day is also possible too.
From the wetland area the trail moves away from the creek and through another dense forest for about a mile before running parallel to the creek once again. The trail then continues for a short distance beyond this point until reaching a boulder field that stands a few feet above the creek. This marks the end of the trail. Looking upstream, you will see Mount Cannon (8, 952 feet) rising above the valley floor.
Be sure to stop an soak in the tranquil setting. If you brought a packed lunch, this is a great spot to rest and enjoy it.
McDonald Creek is a great trail to hike in the offseason when most trails are closed due to snow. Winter hikers can walk along the frozen-over creek and explore off the beaten path.
Best Hikes Along Going-To-The-Sun Road
Going-To-The-Sun Road connects West Glacier with the east side of the park at St. Mary. This breathtaking drive travels for fifty miles leading motorists from one spectacular viewpoint to another, over and over again.
Along this scenic drive are some of the park’s most popular hiking trails which include the iconic Highline Trail and the trail to Hidden Lake Overlook. Here are the best hikes along Going-To-The-Sun Road.
Hidden Lake Overlook
- Distance: 2.8 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: 460 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time: 1-2 hours
- Trailhead: Logan Pass Visitor Center
Who Is This Hike For? This hike is great for all levels of hikers and the perfect introduction to Glacier National Park’s extraordinary alpine scenery. For an easy hike, end the trail at the Hidden Lake Overlook. For a longer hike, continue down to Hidden Lake’s shoreline.
Trail Description: This trail begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Climb a stairway that starts behind the visitor center and at the top of the stairs keep an eye out for the Hanging Gardens Trailhead.
The paved trail will take you through a beautiful alpine meadow carpeted in wildflowers known as the Hanging Gardens. This trail is exposed with no shade so it can be hot or very windy at times. After the paved trail, a raised boardwalk will appear which is very helpful in the spring when there is still a lot of snow or slush on the ground.
The trail begins as a paved surface, but soon turns into a raised boardwalk after only a short distance. At this elevation snow tends to linger around well into the summer. The boardwalk helps to keep hikers above the snow, slush, mud and rivulets. Once the snow melts, however, the Hanging Gardens becomes an incredibly beautiful carpet of wildflowers.
As you hike towards Hidden Lake, you’ll see Clements Mountain (8,760 feet) standing directly in front of you. After half a mile, you’ll walk up a series of steps. Now you will head in a different direction towards famous Bearhat Mountain. Mt Reynolds and Heavy Runner Mountain will appear on your left-hand side as you ascend the top of the pass.
Continue up and over the pass until you reach the Hidden Lake Overlook at just over one mile from the visitor center. Now, Hidden Lake will be shimmering below while impressive Bearhat Mountain (8,684 feet) towers behind. From up here you can see many other peaks as well as Sperry Glacier.
Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots, and even wolverines are common in this area so be on the lookout. A grizzly bear could also make an appearance which is why you should carry bear spray even on the most popular trails.
Once you are done admiring the lake, head back to the trailhead the way you came.
For adventurous hikers, proceed down the southern slopes of Clements Mountain until you reach Hidden Lake’s shoreline. The trail down is very steep dropping nearly 770 feet along a series of switchbacks. At approximately 2.7 miles in, you’ll finally reach the northwest corner of Hidden Lake. There are several secluded beach areas along the shores of the lake which are perfect for picnicking. Now for the steep climb back up!!!
- Distance: 11.8 miles (one-way)
- Elevation Gain: 1,950 feet
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Time: 8 hours
- Trailhead: Logan Pass Visitor Center
- Read more about the Highline Trail here
Who Is This Hike For? This hike is best suited for advanced hikers who aren’t afraid of long day hikes. If you only have one or two days in Glacier National Park, this is the hiking trail you should put at the top of your bucket list! Beginner hikers who are not comfortable taking on long day hikes can choose to hike part of the trail.
Trail Description: Begin the Highline Trail at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. After walking through an alpine meadow, the trail begins to travel beneath the peaks of the Garden Wall along a slightly terrifying ledge that has been carved into a cliff wall.
This ledge is only six feet wide and has very steep drop-offs but fortunately there are ropes tethered to the rock wall to help with your balance. From here on out, you’ll enjoy phenomenal views for the next seven miles. Expect stunning valley views, pretty alpine meadows, and towering peaks in every direction.
More than likely you’ll come across bighorn sheep and mountain goats on this trail while hiking. We happened upon a lone bighorn sheep on a very narrow section of the trail and had a hard time moving out of his way. Eventually the sheep decided to climb above us.
At 3.6 miles, hikers will reach Haystack Pass. This is where some hikers will turn back. From here the trail starts to descend very gradually. Follow the trail and at 7.6 miles you’ll reach the Granite Park Chalet. The Granite Park Chalet was built in 1914 by the Great Northern Railway in order to provide comfortable backcountry accommodation inside Glacier National Park. Be sure to stop and check it out before taking on the last stretch of the Highline.
From now on, the trail continues down a brutal descent where you’re legs and feet are likely to become very tired. Don’t give up because in a few, not so short miles, you will have completed one of the incredible hiking trails in the United States.
Since this is a one way hike, you’ll need to either catch a shuttle bus back to Logan Pass or… hike back the way you came! Hopefully not the latter. We almost missed the last bus back down to Apgar Village Campground where we were camping and planned to hitchhike back. You can read more about that here.
Want to know more about hiking the Highline Trail? Check out this post that covers all the details and necessary information on hiking the Highline Trail.
Granite Park Chalet Via The Loop
- Distance: 8.4 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: 2,450 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous
- Length of Time: 5-6 hours
- Trailhead: The Loop
Who Is This Hike For? This hike is a shorter alternative to hiking the Highline Trail. The trail is quite steep though so you should be physically fit and prepared for some elevation gain.
Trail Description: This hike begins from The Loop, which is a sharp bend in the Going-To-The-Sun Road on the west side of Glacier National Park. The trailhead is located thirteen miles from the Lake McDonald Lodge. Although the trail is officially known as the Granite Park Trail, many visitors often refer to it as the Loop Trail.
Begin the trail by crossing a footbridge and immediately ascending the side of a forested mountain. Over the course of the next three and a half miles, you’ll climb 2,400 feet to reach the Chalet. This is a very steep stretch that seems to go on forever.
On the way up, be sure to stop and turn around to see the views. You will be able to see McDonald Creek below in the Lake McDonald Valley, as well as massive Heavens Peak which towers 8,987 feet high.
At 4.2 miles, you’ll arrive at the Highline Trail junction. Proceed straight ahead towards the Fifty Mountain Backcountry Campground which will lead you to Granite Park Chalet.
Granite Park Chalet was built between 1914 and 1915 by the Great Northern Railway to provide backcountry accommodation inside Glacier National Park. This rustic lodge which was the last of the nine chalets built by the railroad company, and one of the only two back country chalets that have survived, is now listed as a National Historic Landmark.
The lodge is basically like a hostel for hikers. There are twelve guestrooms each with six bunks. However, there are no amenities such as electricity but there is running water.
Travel Tip: For a unique experience, book a stay at the Granite Park Chalet which will allow you to stay overnight in Glacier’s beautiful backcountry without having to completely rough it. Note though that accommodation here books out a year in advance so you will need to plan well in advance.
- Distance: 9 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: 2,090 feet
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Time: 5 hours
- Trailhead: Siyeh Bend Trailhead
Who Is This Hike For? This hike is best for intermediate to experienced hikers who are looking for a challenging trail minus the crowds. On this hike you can expect to see mountains, wonderful alpine meadows, glaciers, and even waterfalls if you decide to take on the (one way) loop trip to Sunrift Gorge. It is an out and back trail, however it can be hiked in one direction like the Highline Trail but you will need to take the park shuttle bus back to your starting point or arrange for cars at each end of the trail.
Trail Description: The hike to Siyeh Pass begins from the Siyeh Bend Trailhead which is located two miles east of Logan Pass on the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
The first two hundred yards of the Siyeh Bend Trail travels alongside Siyeh Creek, before making a sharp right turn into the forest. At roughly one mile in from the trailhead, hikers will arrive at the Piegan Pass Trail junction. A turn to the right leads down to the Jackson Glacier Overlook. To continue on towards Siyeh Pass, hikers should turn left here.
The hike will now pass through a dense forest of spruce-fir trees. The forest begins to thin out though as you approach the Siyeh Pass Trail junction, located about 2.7 miles in from the trailhead. A turn towards the left at this junction will lead hikers up to Piegan Pass. For those wishing to continue on towards Siyeh Pass you should turn right onto the Siyeh Pass Trail.
Not too far from the junction, you’ll reach Preston Park, a glacier carved valley known for its incredibly beautiful alpine meadows full of colorful wildflowers. These meadows are simply spectacular and one of the highlights of the Siyeh Pass Trail. You should know that bears are frequently seen up in these meadows so you do need to be loud while you travel through this section, and be on alert.
If you want to shorten your hike, Preston Park is a good place to turn around. Otherwise, continue your hike to Siyeh Pass which should be visible at this point. On your way, you’ll see Matahpi Peak (9,365ft) on your right, and Mount Siyeh (10,014ft) to the left. Siyeh Pass sits between the two mountains. Also visible is Piegan Mountain towards the east, and the pyramid-shaped Heavy Runner Mountain to the southwest.
At 3.5 miles into the hike, the trail will cross Siyeh Creek. This is when the hike gets very tough. You will now need to climb 700 feet along a series of switchbacks to the final destination. The pass saddle represents the end of this hike. From here, you’ll enjoy wonderful views of the east side of the pass as well as fantastic views of 8,826 foot tall Goat Mountain.
You can now either head back the way you came to finish off your hike, or continue along the Siyeh Pass Trail as it ascends 200 feet up the northeastern slopes of Matahpi Peak. This trail crests at 8,100 feet and is one of the highest maintained hiking trails in Glacier National Park. Now you’ll see wonderful views of the Baring Creek Valley from this vantage point.
Travel Tip: Another option you have once you reach Siyeh Pass, is to continue down the Siyeh Pass Trail for another 5.6 miles through the Baring Creek Valley to Sunrift Gorge where you can then take a park shuttle bus back to the Siyeh Pass Trailhead.
Note that continuing this hike down the other side of Siyeh Pass involves hiking down a series of very steep, and seemingly endless switchbacks. These switchbacks drop almost 1,450 feet in roughly 2.5 miles. It won’t be until 7.3 miles into the hike when the switchbacks end. However, along the way are some amazing view of Sexton Glacier along the way which will distract you from the tiring trail.
Unfortunately, there are several other switchbacks further on that you’ll need to hike down before nearing the end of the trail. Very close to the end of the hike you will have great views of St. Mary Lake. There are also a few waterfalls that you’ll have to look forward to as well.
St Mary & Virginia Falls
- Distance: 3.6 miles
- Elevation Gain: 525 feet
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Trailhead: St. Mary Falls Trailhead
Who Is This Hike For? This trail is perfect for hikers looking for a nice and easy trail along Going-To-The-Sun Road. The hike visits two of the most spectacular and photogenic waterfalls in Glacier National Park. Enjoy incredible mountain views along the first stretch of the trail before reaching the two, multi-tiered cascades that plummet into pools of aqua-green water.
Trail Description: The hike to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls begins at the St. Mary Falls Shuttle Stop which is located on the Going-To-The-Sun Road, about ten miles west of the St. Mary park entrance.
From the shuttle stop, you’ll start out on the St. Mary Falls Cutoff Trail. As you descend towards St. Mary Falls you’ll pass through an area that was burned during the Reynolds Creek Fire of 2015. At roughly one-quarter of a mile from the shuttle stop hikers will arrive at the Piegan Pass Trail junction. You should turn right here, and then proceed for a very short distance to reach another junction. The Piegan Pass Trail continues up the hill towards the right. To visit St. Mary Falls, you should veer left onto the St. Mary Lake Trail at this juncture.
Soon you’ll reach the St. Mary River where you can hear the thunderous sounds of the waterfall. Follow the sounds for 0.4 miles until you arrive at St. Mary Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Glacier National Park.
St. Mary Falls drops thirty-five feet in three separate tiers, but the two largest tiers are the most photogenic. A smaller waterfall can be found below the footbridge. Stop here for photos and enjoy the cool breeze coming down from the narrow gorge before continuing onto Virginia Falls.
After St. Mary Falls, the trail ascends along the west side of Virginia Creek. You will pass two other unnamed waterfalls that are well worth a quick stop to see. The first of the unnamed falls is quite impressive as it cascades down four separate tiers.
Continue along St. Mary Trail until you reach another junction where you will need to take a right at a fork in the trail. In a few short steps you’ll reach Virginia Falls.
Virginia Falls is also a spectacular multi-tiered waterfall with the main fall dropping about fifty feet. Feel free to get up close with the base of the waterfall for some fun photos and to feel the spray of the falls on your face. On a hot summer day, this blast of cool water is a nice relief from the heat of the day.
Best Hiking Trails In Many Glacier
Many Glacier is one of the best hiking regions in Glacier National Park. Some of the park’s most iconic hikes can be found in Many Glacier such as the hike to Grinnell Glacier and the hike to Iceberg Lake. There are several short and easy hikes here too if you’re looking for beginner and family-friendly trails.
Below is a guide to the top hikes in Many Glacier. You can also see this guide to the best hiking trails in Many Glacier if you want to learn more about other hikes in this section of the park.
Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail Loop
- Distance: 2.7 miles (loop)
- Elevation Gain: flat
- Difficulty: Easy
- Time: 1-2 hours
- Trailhead: Many Glacier Hotel or Grinnell Glacier Trailhead
Who Is This Hike For? This hike is perfect for beginner hikers, for families with young children, and anyone looking for a short and easy trail.
Trail Description: The Swiftcurrent Nature Trail is an easy hiking trail in Many Glacier that loops around Swiftcurrent Lake. Along the trail are stunning lake and mountain views including views of Grinnell Point (7,600ft) and Mount Wilbur (9,321ft).
Begin this hike at either the Many Glacier Hotel or at the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead. You can complete the loop in whichever direction you prefer. The first quarter mile past the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead is wheelchair accessible.
I recommend beginning this hike at the Many Glacier Hotel as there is more parking space here. Starting from the Many Glacier Hotel, you’ll travel through a pleasant forested area with lodgepole pine, spruce, fir and aspen trees. From this side of the lake are peek-a-boo mountain views and access to small beach areas beside the lake which are perfect for picnicking and relaxing.
The trail then crosses a footbridge over Swiftcurrent Creek which is a good spot to stop and look for moose in the nearby wetland areas. A little further on, there is a boat dock. Be sure to stop and see the views of the Many Glacier Hotel from the dock.
Continue through a forested area where you will need to be on the lookout for bears. Eventually you’ll reach the far end of the lake where there are some small sandy beaches, this is a good spot to go for a swim if you like. If not continue back to the Many Glacier Hotel where this hike ends.
- Distance: 10.6 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Time: 5-7 hours
- Trailhead: Many Glacier Hotel
Who Is This Hike For? This hiking trail is perfect for intermediate to advanced hikers who only have one day to spend in Many Glacier and want to see alpine lakes, alpine meadows, mountains, and glaciers. Basically, everything that Glacier National Park is best known for! Beginner hikers can also complete this hike with a little perseverance.
Trail Description: The hike to Grinnell Glacier is one of the best rated hiking trails in Glacier National Park. If you are a hiker, this trail definitely needs to be ticked off your hiking bucket list! It is the only hike in the park that allows you to see glaciers up close.
Begin the trail at either the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead or at the Many Glacier Hotel. The first two miles travels alongside Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, climbing in elevation only slightly. Once you get about halfway up Lake Josephine, the trail begins to ascend steeply leading to some spectacular viewpoints that overlook the Grinnell Valley and Grinnell Lake.
Along this stretch of the hiking trail you are likely to come across grizzly bears, mountain goats, and Bighorn sheep. Be on the lookout here.
Continue the hike until you reach your final destination, Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier. No doubt you’ll be awestruck by the beauty of Upper Grinnell Lake, Grinnell Glacier, and the Garden Wall which soars behind the lake and glacier.
Travel Tip: There is an alternative way to reach Grinnell Glacier, which involves taking the tour boat (operated by Glacier Park Boat Company) across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. This will reduce your mileage by about 1.7 miles, however note that you won’t skip any of the elevation gains.
- Distance: 9.6 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time: 5-7 hours
- Trailhead: Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead
- See trail details here
Who Is This Hike For: This hike is great for intermediate to advance hikers who have two days to spend in Many Glacier and have already completed the bucket list hike to Grinnell Glacier and are looking for another stunning lake to visit. It’s also a great hike if you would prefer to avoid the busier hike to Grinnell Glacier as this trail is a smidgen less trafficked.
Trail Description: The Iceberg Lake hiking trail is easily one of the best hikes you can do in Glacier National Park. This hiking trail ascends an incredibly scenic valley before reaching a magical turquoise-colored lake that will take your breathe away.
Begin the hike to Iceberg Lake at the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead which is located behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. The first section of the Iceberg Lake trail is incredible. It passes through open terrain that offers spectacular views of the surrounding peaks which include Mount Grinnell (8,851ft), Swiftcurrent Mountain (8,436ft), and Mount Wilbur (9,321ft) before heading into a heavily forested area.
The first 2.7 miles of the trail is shared with the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail up until Ptarmigan Falls where there is a trail junction. Continuing on from Ptarmigan Falls, the trail travels through a forested area before emerging from the canopy of the trees. This is when you’ll get your first glimpse of the steep cirque that towers above Iceberg Lake.
The Iceberg Lake Trail now travels briefly through a picturesque alpine meadow filled with colorful wildflowers before coming to an end at the shores of Iceberg Lake. Iceberg Lake, which is nestled under a lofty steep-sided rock wall, has teal-colored water so vivid, it almost seems unbelievable. In a park filled with stunning lakes, this lake is most certainly one of the best!
Early in the season, Iceberg Lake will often have chunks of ice floating in the water which is really cool to see and photograph. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can take a dip in the lake’s chilly waters.
- Distance: 13 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: 1,900 feet
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Length of Time: 7-9 hours
- Trailhead: Many Glacier Hotel
Who Is This Hike For? The hike to Cracker Lake is best suited towards experienced hikers who are comfortable taking on longer day hikes. If you’ve been to Glacier National Park before and looking for new territory to explore because you’ve completed all of the other popular trails, or would prefer to hike a challenging trail minus the crowds, this is the hike for you!
Trail Description: The hike to Cracker Lake is one of the most under-rated hiking trails in Glacier National Park. Although this hike requires a full day commitment, the effort is well worth it once you reach the beautiful Cracker Lake which is truly a hidden gem in Many Glacier.
The trailhead for the hike to Cracker Lake begins at Many Glacier Hotel’s parking lot. There is a sign to point you in the right direction. Once you are on the trail, you’ll travel through a narrow path through the woods that wraps around the edge of Sherburne Lake. At about one mile in, you will emerge from the thick forest into the Cracker Flats area where you can enjoy outstanding views of Sherburne Lake.
After the flats area, the trail goes back into the forest where there are a few creek crossings over wooden bridges. The trail then begins to slowly climb up several switchbacks before ascending a ridge where you can see two creeks flowing; Canyon Creek on the left, and Allen Creek on the right.
At about three miles in, the trail emerges from the forest again but not for long. It goes back into the forest for what seems like a very long time. The next time the trail emerges from the forest will be at about 4.5 miles in from the trailhead. Now you’ll be travelling through open terrain with views of Mount Siyeh (10,014ft) and Allen Mountain (9,376ft) directly in front of you.
Finally you will reach the north end of Cracker Lake at about 5.8 miles in. There is no doubt you’ll be awestruck by the lake’s unbelievable turquoise color. Magnificent mountains stand imposingly behind the lake adding to the captivating scenery.
Although you could finish your hike here at the Cracker Lake Overlook, continue another half mile to a rocky outcrop for the best views of Cracker Lake. Do you still have energy left? Continue hiking towards the old Cracker Lake Mine Site which was established in 1897 after copper was discovered on the south shore of the lake. Although entering the old mine is forbidden, hikers can explore abandoned machinery and mine tailings. Be careful though as there could be toxic material around.
Beyond the mine, the Cracker Lake Trail ends near the lake’s shoreline at the far end of the lake. Here you’ll find a backcountry campground that has three campsites. If you do want to overnight camp, you’ll need to get a backcountry permit first.
Please be aware that this trail doesn’t see as many hikers as other trails in the park and as a result, there is a lot of wildlife in the area. Expect to see moose, pika, and marmots. This area also has a reputation for frequent bear sightings so be extra careful. The lack of hikers in large numbers mean that you could easily startle a bear if it doesn’t hear you coming so be sure to make a lot of noise as you hike. And always carry bear spray!
Travel Tip: The Cracker Lake Trail is shared with horses from the concessioners corral at Many Glacier. For an alternative way to reach and see Cracker Lake, book a guided horseback ride to Cracker Lake with Many Glacier Trail Rides.
Best Hiking Trails In Two Medicine
Two Medicine is the least visited section of Glacier National Park, therefore you can expect the hiking trails here to be much less crowded. There are several great hikes here, both beginner-friendly and geared towards experienced hikers looking for longer day hikes. Here are the top-rated hiking trails in Two Medicine.
Running Eagle Falls
- Distance: 0.6 miles (return)
- Elevation Gain: Flat
- Difficulty: Easy
- Length of Time: 30 minutes
- Trailhead: Running Eagle Falls Trailhead
Who Is This Hike For? This hike is perfect for visitors looking for an easy and relaxing hiking trail in the Two Medicine area. If you love waterfalls, you’ll enjoy this trail!
Trail Description: This hike begins at the Running Eagle Falls Trailhead which is located about one mile in from the Two Medicine entrance. The trail is wide and travels through the forest but only briefly before coming out at large river bed. You’ll cross a footbridge here that overlooks Running Eagle Falls. You can choose to hike closer to the waterfall by crossing the footbridge and scrambling up a few rocks alongside the river to get a better view of the falls.
The waterfall was named after a female warrior leader of the Blackfeet Nation in the early 1700s who experienced a four-day vision quest in the mountains high above the falls. Running Eagle led many highly successful raids and was the only woman in the Blackfeet tribe ever to do so, or to be given a man’s name.
Towering behind Running Eagle Falls is Rising Wolf Mountain (9,513ft), the highest mountain in the Two Medicine area. This mountain was named after the first white man to live with the Blackfeet Indians.
- Distance: 17.4 miles loop (6.5 miles one way to Dawson Pass)
- Elevation Gain: 2,968 feet
- Difficulty: Strenuous
- Length of Time: 10-12 hours
- Trailhead: Two Medicine Lake
Who Is This Hike For? This trail is perfect for experienced hikers looking for a challenging day hike. The trail traverses two stunning valleys and two passes along the Continental Divide. Expect to see beautiful alpine meadows sprinkled with pretty wildflowers, and some great wildlife viewing opportunities. S
Trail Description: This loop hike starts out traveling alongside the north shore of Two Medicine Lake. You can also choose to take a boat ride to the other side of the lake to start out the hike. Either way, you’ll enjoy terrific view of the peaks surrounding the Two Medicine Valley.
Once you reach the other side of Two Medicine Lake, you will begin to ascend scenic Bighorn Basin to Dawson Pass, along the way are incredible views of the Lewis Range. Eventually, you’ll come to Pitamakan Overlook where the trail then loops around the north side of Mount Morgan, before dropping to Pitamakan Pass.
From Pitamakan Pass, the trail drops down to Dry Fork Valley, circles around the east side of Rising Wolf Mountain, and then returns back to the North Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine.
Travel Tip: Turn this long day hike into an overnight backpacking trip to allow more time to soak in the wonderful scenery. There are backcountry campsites located around No Name Lake and Old Man Lake. Be sure to get a permit first.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hiking In Glacier National Park
What is the best hike in Glacier National Park?
The best hike in Glacier National Park is the Highline Trail. On the Highline Trail you’ll see all of the park’s highlights including wildflower-filled alpine meadows, shimmering lakes, glistening glaciers, towering peaks, and wildlife galore!
How do you prepare for hiking in Glacier National Park?
Prepare for hiking in Glacier National Park by planning your hiking itinerary in advance, knowing the trail information for the hikes you want to do, staying updated with the weather and any trail closures, by carrying all the day hiking essentials, and most importantly, becoming familiar with bear safety rules.
When is the best time to hike in Glacier National Park?
The best time to hike in Glacier National Park is from the beginning of August until the end of September. Here is a brief overview to hiking in Glacier National Park throughout its peak seasons.
- Early in the season from May to June, hiking trails at lower elevations are muddy and wet while trails at higher elevations are still under snow.
- In July, the Going-To-The-Sun Road opens and trails at Logan Pass become accessible, but still may be under snow near the beginning of the month.
- August offers warm days and snow-free trails, however chances of thunderstorms do increase. This is the park’s busiest month so you can expect hiking trails to be very crowded.
- September brings cooler weather and less crowded hiking trails, but snow storms become likely later in the month. Also be aware that bears are most active at this time of year, foraging for up to twenty hours a day.
Are You Looking For More Information For Your Trip To Glacier National Park?
• See our complete guide to visiting Glacier National Park here.
Read More On Glacier National Park
- 15 Unforgettable Things To Do In Glacier National Park
- How To Hike To Iceberg Lake
- 12 Best Things To Do In Many Glacier
- Hiking To Avalanche Lake In Glacier National Park
Pin For Later!