Located in Montana, Glacier National Park offers many great hiking experiences. The park is full of amazing natural wonders of fresh blue lakes, imposing mountains and awe-inspiring glaciers. With more than 700 miles of both short hikes and extended backpacking trails it's easy to find one you'll love. Here are my picks for the 9 best Glacier National Park hikes.
Glacier National Park Hikes
Thinking of doing some Glacier National Park hikes? Pick up the complete guide to hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks on Amazon.
Did you know Glacier National Park in the United States is connected to Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park? The two parks are known as the International Peace Park
Hiking Glacier National Park
Before you start your hike, plan for a safe hiking experience. Stop at the park's visitors center to get all the information you need, recommendations from the guides, and any special warnings. Plus, don't forget to let someone know where you are going. Be sure to have enough water, food and supplies should anything happen. (Note from Dave and Deb: We always carry a basic first aid kit when hiking.) But most importantly, bring a sense of adventure and have fun when you try one of these amazing hikes.
1. Ptarmigan Tunnel
The Ptarmigan Tunnel is a full day Glacier National Park hike. This is an incredible trail, because when you come out at the other side of the tunnel, you feel like you've walked into another world. When passing through this 240-foot tunnel, you hike through big meadows filled with wildlife as well as a dense forest. Keep in mind that this tunnel was built for horses during the 1930s and it's full of various slopes and edge ridges. After you pass the Ptarmigan Falls, the trail gets a lot steeper, so be prepared for some tough hiking during this section. It then continues for about 1.6 miles to Ptarmigan Lake, where you can relax and admire some of the most beautiful scenery in the area.
Total Distance: 10.7 miles. Be prepared for a long day.
2. Swiftcurrent Pass
This is a difficult Glacier National Park hike but it's worth it for the great scenery. This hike passes by three lakes and a spectacular waterfall in the middle of plantations. Throughout your hike, you may spy some of the most rare and colourful birds throughout the six lakes. You will also see the gorgeous Granite Park. In fact, during this hike, you can get some of the most incredible images of the blue lake and the surrounding mountains. If you like, stop at the Fishercap Lake, where you might see moose in the mornings or early in the evening.
Length: Round Trip 14.2 miles
Warning. When hiking Glacier National Park: Be aware of bears and cougars (mountain lions) and use proper safety precautions. Hiking in groups or pairs lowers risk, making noise and don't leave any food out to attraction animals.
3. Iceberg Lake
This is one of the most popular hiking experiences in Montana's Glacier National Park. It also gives you the opportunity to see icebergs floating in an alpine lake. When you hike here you pass through many open areas along the way that give you outstanding vistas of the peaceful mountains around you.
Length: 9.7 miles
4. Cracker Lake
Cracker Lake is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The amazing color of the lake is a crystal clear aqua blue and makes all the scenery around you even more wonderful.
Length: 12.6 miles
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5. Pitamakan Pass Trail
This peaceful trail goes over the ridge of Rising Wolf Mountain, passes a waterfall from Sky Lake, and ends up at Oldman Lake. From there the trail switchbacks up to Pitamakan Pass. Keep in mind though that due to the snow, this won't likely be passable until late July or even August. Here you can climb up the high hills, then drop back down, nearly 3,000 feet. You also have to hike a very narrow trail so be prepared.
Length: 17.6 miles – long and full day
6. Grinnell Glacier
This hike takes you to one of the most iconic glaciers of the park. You pass various lakes, amazing meadows and stunning cliffs along the way. The first half of the hike is easier than the second half. It then becomes more difficult as it rises steeply with several slopes. But it is worth it as you can see some amazing vistas over the Grinnell Falls, Angel Wing and Grinnell Lake. The hiking path is well maintained and you may encounter wildlife sightings along the way.
7. Siyeh Pass
This trail hike begins in a forest and takes you to various peaks. Hike the rocky slopes and then go down through more meadows to the Sunrift Gorge. Follow the trail through the trees for about 2.5 miles and then head up to Preston Park. Be sure to take a bit of time to admire the beautiful scenery all around you before you descend over 3,000 feet for the next 5.4 miles where you will end up at the Sunrift Gorge.
Length: 8.9 miles
8. Two Medicine Area
Located on the north part of the city of East Glacier, this incredible area offers more jaw dropping scenery and a some great hiking. The trails are more peaceful than the ones at the starting point (located near the Many Glacier hotel). It's a good Glacier National Park hike if you are a beginner. You can also take a wooden boat tour in this area and you can find some of fantastic camping. At roughly 1.5 miles you emerge from the forest to be greeted by lush meadows and other vegetation. During your hike, you will pass through a large open meadow and open terrain with colourful wild flowers. If you wish, you can spend the night camping here.
Length: 6.2 miles
9. Dawson Pass
Hiking the 15-mile Dawson Pass takes you up to amazing views of the Oldman Lake. This trail crosses the Dawson and Pitamakan passes taking you through peaceful scenes and waterfalls along the way. If you want to shave some time off your hike you can take the shuttle boat across Two Medicine Lake.
Check out our layering tips for cold weather hiking and adventure.
And there you have it, my favourite 9 Glacier National Park hikes. Remember, you don't have to finish any of these hikes as there is always an opportunity to turn around. Give yourself enough time when hiking to make it back before the sun goes down and don't hike beyond your limits. Glacier National Park has hikes for everyone, so be smart and hike within your capabilities. Start small and have fun!
About the Author: Julie is the founder of Outdoorzer, where she and her associates blog about camping and hiking tips, recipes, and gear reviews. Outdoorzer is a website for those who love the fresh air outdoors – It’s the best gift Mother Nature gives us! Say ‘Hi’ to Julie on Twitter.