Top 5 Hikes in Glacier National Park

Top 5 Hikes in Glacier National Park: The Best Trails for Your Bucket List

Julia Montana Leave a Comment

Glacier National Park is one of my favorite National Parks within the United States.  It offers so many opportunities to enjoy the lakes, mountains, glaciers, wildlife, and more that can be found in abundance within its boundaries.  One of the best ways to experience the park is to hit the many hiking trails to get away from the crowds and into the wilderness to explore its true natural beauty. These top 5 hikes in Glacier National Park offer just that.

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The Best 5 Hiking Trails in Glacier National Park


I’ve carefully compiled this list after spending five days in the park, talking to other travelers and the rangers, and hiking everything I could possibly hike. I would classify this short list of the top 5 hikes in Glacier National Park as “can’t miss” experiences. See for yourself!

Stunning mountain, forest, and waterfall views from Virginia Falls, one of the top hikes in Glacier National Park
Views headed back from Virginia Falls

1.  Highline Trail / Granite Park Chalet

The Highline Trail is one of the most well-known hikes in Glacier National Park, and it is for a good reason! There are a few routes you can take, but generally you will want to park and start your hike at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. In prime season, get there early to snag a parking spot!

The Highline Trail at the Garden Wall with the hand railings bolted to the mountainside
The Garden Wall Hand Cables

Highline Trail to Loop Trail Details

This one way trail features stunning scenery from the Logan Pass Visitor Center to the Granite Park Chalet.

While the hike starts fairly flat, just a quarter mile in you’ll get to the Garden Wall. Here you’ll find a hand cable bolted to the mountainside to help you shimmy along a shelf that is only a few feet wide. This part of the hike will pass quickly, and it is the only drop-off that steep right next to the hiking trail. If you are scared of heights, please consider if you will be able to get past this part before starting the trail!

Once past the Garden Wall, you’ll continue on a meandering hike with panoramic views to the Granite Park Chalet. With this route, at the Chalet you will descend endless switchbacks with limited scenery to get to the Loop Shuttle Stop. From there, catch the free Glacier National Park shuttle back up to your car at Logan Pass.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Type of Trail: Point to Point
  • Distance: 11.8 miles one-way + shuttle ride back to the Trailhead
  • Elevation Gain: 2,137 feet
  • Trailhead: Across the road from the Logan Pass Visitor Center at the Continental Divide sign
  • Trail End Point: The Loop Shuttle Stop
Views of the trees and mountains while hiking the Highline Trail
Hiking the Highline Trail

Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet Trail Details

This out and back trail will take you from the Logan Pass Visitor Center across the Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet, and back. It is a little longer than taking the Loop Trail option, but you do not need to then wait on a shuttle to get back to your car. It will still take you past the narrow Garden Wall section, twice.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Distance: 14.9 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 2,578 feet
  • Trailhead: Across the road from the Logan Pass Visitor Center at the Continental Divide sign
Panoramic views from the top hike in Glacier National Park, the Highline Trail
Panoramic Views from the Highline Trail

Optional Add-On: Grinnell Glacier Overlook

The Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail juts off of the Highline trail as you are closing in on Granite Park Chalet. The trail itself is only about 0.6 miles long one-way, but it climbs almost 1,000 feet in that distance. It is very challenging, but it also offers amazing views that are totally worth the blood, sweat, and cursing that it takes to get there! Just take your time and as many breaks as necessary to get to the top.

Highline Trail to Loop Trail including Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 13 miles one-way + a shuttle ride back to the trailhead

Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet Trail including Grinnell Glacier Overlook: 16.1 miles round-trip

Me just taking a moment to enjoy the stellar views of the mountains and lakes from Grinnell Glacier Overlook
The View from Grinnell Glacier Overlook

2.  Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Trail

The Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint hike makes the drive to the Many Glacier portion of Glacier National Park worthwhile. One of the reasons this hike is so popular are the stunning panoramic views you’ll have most of the way. Turquoise lakes, exotic wild animals, waterfalls, mountains – it has a little bit of everything!

Panoramic views of mountains and lakes along the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Trail
The Panoramic Views Hiking the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Trail

Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Trail Details

The beginning of the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint trail is pretty flat and leads you past Lake Josephine, a beautiful glacier fed lake. From Lake Josephine, you’ll be headed uphill slowly to Grinnell Glacier and its fabulous glacier fed lakes.

And, the end point of the hike, where you’ll turn around, is the beautiful Upper Grinnell Lake – one of the lakes you can see from the Grinnell Glacier Overlook trail on the Highline Trail.

  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Distance: 10.2 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
  • Trailhead: The Grinnell Glacier Trailhead is found in the Many Glacier area on the Continental Divide Trail, the road that connects Many Glacier Hotel with Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and the Many Glacier Campground
Arriving at Upper Grinnell Lake from the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Trail
Arriving at the Upper Grinnell Lake

3.  Saint Mary Falls & Virginia Falls Trail

This quick and easy hike will take you to one, or two, beautiful waterfalls. If you’re only up for a quick, short, fairly flat hike, you can make the trek to Saint Mary Falls. Or, if you want to add on a bit of distance and some easy elevation gain, you can hike to Saint Mary Falls and then continue on to Virginia Falls. The waterfalls and ease of the hike make it a must for all visitors, no matter their hiking level.

Views of Glacier National Park while hiking to Virginia Falls
Views on the way to Saint Mary Falls

Saint Mary Falls Trail Details

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Distance: 1.6 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 58 feet
  • Trailhead: Saint Mary Falls Shuttle Stop
The stunning waterfalls at Saint Mary Falls
Saint Mary Falls

Virginia Falls Trail Details

The Virginia Falls Trail will take you directly past Saint Mary Falls. It does include more elevation gain than the hike to Saint Mary Falls, but it is still very easy as hiking goes.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Distance: 2.9 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 452 feet
  • Trailhead: Saint Mary Falls Shuttle Stop
Posing with Virginia Falls after hiking my way there, past St Mary Falls
Virginia Falls

4.  Avalanche Lake Trail

Avalanche Lake was the first hike I did in Glacier National Park, and it was a great introduction to the sheer beauty the park holds. It is a moderate hike that can be done in combination with another easy hike or two as you explore Glacier National Park.

Hiking through Hemlock forest on the Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park
The Avalanche Lake Trail through the Forest

Avalanche Lake Trail Details

The Avalanche Lake trail features a gradual climb through cedars and hemlock forest. You’ll be hiking along a roaring stream with some stunning views, and as a bonus, much of this hike is shaded by the trees. At the top of the hike, you’ll reach Avalanche Lake. It is a glacial melt lake fed by waterfalls and is a truly stunning and rewarding sight.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Distance: 5.8 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 757 feet
  • Trailhead: Located at the same place as the Trail of the Cedars. There is some limited parking available here, or you can take the park shuttle to the trailhead.
Arriving at Avalanche Lake after hiking Avalanche Lake Trail
Avalanche Lake

5.  Hidden Lake Overlook / Hidden Lake Trail

Rounding out the top 5 hikes in Glacier National Park is Hidden Lake. There are two sights to see here, Hidden Lake Overlook and Hidden Lake. These two moderate hikes offer you the opportunity to see some great mountain scenery, mountain goats and other wildlife, as well as snow and even wildflowers. They are suitable even if you are a beginner hiker.

Hidden Lake Overlook Trail Details

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Distance: 2.9 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 567 feet
  • Trailhead: Located at Logan Pass right behind the Visitor Center. Parking can be challenging – get there early!

Hidden Lake Trail Details

The Hidden Lake Trail follows the Hidden Lake Overview trail and then continues on down to the lake.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Distance: 5.3 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,374 feet
  • Trailhead: The Hidden Lake Trail shares the trailhead of the Hidden Lake Overview Trail above
The View from Hidden Lake Overlook in Glacier National Park
The View from the Hidden Lake Overlook

Honorable Mention: Iceberg Lake Trail

Unfortunately, when I was at Glacier National Park, the Iceberg Lake trail was closed for high bear activity. This is pretty typical, so I hope you have better luck than I did! I am including it as an honorable mention as I believe it has full potential to be one of the top 5 hikes in Glacier National Park, but I have not had the opportunity to hike it myself.

Iceberg Lake Trail Details

Located in the Many Glacier section of Glacier National Park, the trailhead is located right behind Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. Overall the trail is a moderate hike. You’ll face one steep stretch near the beginning that is 0.1 miles of climbing 250 ft. Otherwise you will encounter mostly open terrain with panoramic views. It’s supposed to be stunning.

Why is it called Iceberg Lake? At the end of the trail you’ll find Iceberg Lake, which is named for the icebergs that float in the lake year round. The lake sits in the shadow of Mount Wilbur and therefore gets very little sun keeping the water cold enough for the icebergs to remain.

  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Type of Trail: Out and back
  • Distance: 9.3 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 1,450 feet
  • Trailhead: Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead, right behind Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

Recommendations for Hiking in Glacier National Park


If you have the time, I highly recommend you hike all top 5 hikes in Glacier National Park plus Iceberg Lake, if it’s open. To prepare for your hikes and long days in the park, here are some tips to make it a wonderful (and safe) trip.

Best Time of Year to Hike in Glacier National Park

Because of its northern location, visiting Glacier National Park in the summer is critical if you have plans to hike Glacier National Park. The Going-to-the-Sun Road that runs through the park and is the best way to get around and tends to open in late June or early July and remains open through typically the third Monday in October. Plan your trip to Glacier National Park between these times to optimize your hiking opportunities!

Learn about the Best Places to Stay for Glacier National Park!

What To Carry with You When Hiking

Due to the remote location and the length of some of the hikes, you’ll need to take a daypack with you filled with a few necessities when hiking in Glacier National Park.

  • Water: Take at least 2 liters with you at all times. On some of the trails you will pass waterfalls or streams where you can refill your bottle, but do not depend upon this.
  • Snacks: Take some snacks with you, particularly for the longer hikes. I recommend protein bars, nuts, sandwiches, etc.
  • Bear spray: Glacier National Park has very active grizzly bears. Better safe than sorry…
  • Sunscreen: Many of the hikes do not provide sun cover.
  • Phone / Camera: It is gorgeous! Take something to take pictures with.
  • Park map / Downloaded map: Just in case you have questions as you hike about distances or where you are. It is always wise to carry a map. I’m a big fan of downloading maps from the app: Maps.me
  • Trekking poles: If you have bad knees, you may want to take trekking poles for all of the elevation changes.
Spotting mountain goats on the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Trail
Wildlife Sighting on the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Trail

What to Wear When Hiking in Glacier National Park

Obviously, what you wear will depend on the season. That being said, Glacier National Park also offers a variety of elevation. Dress in layers to be prepared for anything. Also, make sure to check the weather ahead of time to know if you need rain gear!

  • Layers: Wear layers to help you adjust to the weather based on altitude and time of day.
Views of Grinnell Glacier Lake from the Grinnell Glacier Overlook
Views from the Grinnell Glacier Overlook

What to Pack in Your Car for Hiking Trips in Glacier National Park

If you are driving into Glacier National Park, you have the advantage of having extra space in your car! For me, I was on a cross country road trip to visit and hike as many National Parks as possible, so I kept a few key resources in my car:

  • Extra Water: Days can be long, hiking can be tiring, or worse case, what if you get stuck somewhere? Pack extra water. You can either throw in a case of water or use refillable water bottles, like Nalgene bottles.
  • Electrolytes: I blame my previous triathlete days for worrying about electrolytes, but I always keep some Nuun tablets handy to help replenish all of the things that I sweat out during my hikes.
  • Food: I recommend stashing some protein bars in your car, along with peanut butter, jelly, and bread, and maybe some apples. It works really well in a pinch, especially when you get back to the car wiped from hiking. Just make yourself a sandwich and have something to drink before carrying on.
  • Protein powder and shaker: Perhaps one of the weirder things to keep in your car, but protein power makes a great option for a quick pick-me-up after a long hike. Mix it with some water and you’re ready to hit the road again!
  • A small cooler, napkins and utensils (1 fork, knife, and spoon): Be ready for anything!

Learn about driving from Denver to Glacier National Park, including 10+ places to stop and explore!

The mountains and blue lake found at the end of Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake

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5 Can't Miss Hikes in Glacier National Park
Can't Miss Hikes in Glacier National Park
Top 5 Hikes in Glacier National Park

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