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The Most Epic Hikes in Glacier National Park

Hiking in Glacier National Park is one the most incredible experiences you can have. The views are unparalleled, the wildlife is everywhere, and the glacial lakes are insane! I am going to tell you all of my favorite trails here in the park, but before I do, here are a few things you need to know!

Hiking in Glacier can be intimidating. A lot of the trails are very long, and in the park no matter where you hike, you are in grizzly bear country. Always carry bear spray and know how to use it. When you hike, especially when hiking alone, try to make some noise so you don’t startle any bears you cross. And if a bear does charge you, stand your ground and use your bear spray. Never run from a grizzly bear!

When you are in the park, please be responsible with your food. When you aren’t actively cooking or eating, store all food in a hard sided vehicle or bear box. The park recently had to put down a grizzly bear because campers left food out on their table and the bear got aggressive towards other campers over its new food source. A fed bear is a dead bear, and we don’t ever want those!!

Also, when hiking, download trail maps and use caution as there is little to no cell service in the park. Most trails are busy enough that you will encounter at least one other hiker, but still be on your toes. Permits are required for backpacking. For more information about GNP as a whole, as well as the reservation system, check out my guide here.

And as always, remember to follow all Leave No Trace Principles when hiking. Glacier is one of the most spectacular natural places I have ever seen, so let’s keep it that way! Click here for more information.

As promised, here are some of my favorite hikes in the park! I will list them starting with the shorter, easier hikes and ending with the longer, harder hikes.

Fishercap Lake: This one is barely even a hike, but I had to include it! This one takes about 0.2 miles each way from the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot along the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail. You will veer off the trail on a small footpath down to the shores. Why is this place so special? There are moose everywhere around here, and in the evenings you will frequently see moose in the lake! Look at this cutie we saw (from way over 25 yards away of course).

Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake: This is one of the most popular hikes in the park, located just past Lake McDonald in west Glacier, so parking here is tough! I recommend getting here early, and if you don’t find a spot, circle a few times. People come and go from here frequently so you can get lucky! Avalanche Lake is 5.9 miles out and back with 757 feet of elevation gain.

Hidden Lakes Overlook: This trail (pictured above) is 2.7 miles out and back with 551 feet of elevation gain or you can continue to Hidden Lake for 5.1 miles, 1338 feet elevation gain (closed at time of writing for bear activity). This hike takes you through beautiful alpine meadows to a gorgeous overlook of Hidden Lake. Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears frequent here so keep an eye out!

Apikuni Falls: This one is short (1.8 miles out and back) but gains 600 feet of elevation in that time (pictured). The falls are beautiful and grizzly bears frequent here, so be ready!

Saint Mary and Virginia Falls: 3.1 miles, 452 feet elevation gain, this trail takes you to two beautiful waterfalls along the shore of Saint Mary Lake. The first waterfall has a gorgeous pool that you can jump into or swim in! And keep an eye out on the shores of Saint Mary Lake as moose often feed in the lake in the afternoons and evenings.

Iceberg Lake: 9.6 miles, 1459 feet of elevation gain. This trail is beautiful nearly the whole way! You gain elevation quickly to give you views of the mountains and glaciers surrounding you, and the lake is absolutely gorgeous! This one is more popular than Cracker Lake, so you will see more people but overall we didn’t find the trail too challenging considering the length of it!

Highline Trail: 11.8 mile point to point and descends almost 3,000 vertical feet. This is one of the most iconic trails in GNP! This hike is most frequently done as a point to point trail, starting at Logan Pass and ending at The Loop. From The Loop you will wait to catch a shuttle back to your car at Logan Pass. But one thing to consider if you take this option is that the shuttles here are very small, so you may be waiting a long time for a shuttle that has room for you!

The views are incredible, and you can even add on to go to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook (but this makes this hike INTENSE and approximately 15 miles). We had already hiked to the Hidden Lakes Overlook, so we only did part of this trail. We went approximately 3 miles into the trail and turned around and still had a wonderful experience! The first part of the trail from Logan Pass is the part with the ropes, so you can still get that experience without doing the entire trail.

Grinnell Glacier: 10 miles, 2047 feet vertical gain. This was probably the busiest trail we encountered in the park. Located in the Many Glacier corridor, the parking lot for this trail was completely full by 6:30 am, so if you plan to do this one, start early! The trail gives you insane views, an overlook of Grinnell Lake, and the glacier itself is beautiful! Very cold and windy at the top, so pack layers and plenty of water as this one is mainly in the sun.

Pro tip: Keep an eye out for moose feeding along the shores of Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes, especially if you go early in the morning! Look at the cutie we saw!

There is an option to take the shuttle boats across Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes to subtract 3.4 miles, but this will add a lot of time and put you on the trail during a busier time as well since the earliest shuttle boat isn’t until 8:30am. And these boats sell out far in advance. Click here for more information on the boat shuttles.

Cracker Lake: 12.8 miles out and back with just over 1700 feet of elevation gain, this trail is definitely not for the faint of heart! Before our trip, this trail had been closed for over a month due to an aggressive mama grizzly bear camped out at the lake. But on the last day of our trip the trail opened, so of course I did it! A few things to know if you think you want to do this one:

First, the initial 1.4 miles of this trail is along a horse trail and there is A LOT of horse poop to dodge. Honestly it was terrible and definitely made the start and end not very pleasant. Next, this trail has frequent bear activity and closure. Because it was closed for so long, the trail was super overgrown and I was basically bushwhacking half the time. This one is less popular than other hikes in the area, which is great because you see less people, but I recommend it only for more experienced hikers and those who feel comfortable trail finding as needed.

However, the lake is the bluest blue I have ever seen and definitely worth the trek! There is a backcountry campsite along the shores as well that I would love to go back and experience.

If the hikes above don’t appeal to you, here are some more options:

Family Friendly: Walk around Two Medicine Lake or Swiftcurrent Lake

Other Intense options: Hike the Grinnell Glacier Overlook from the Loop (11.4 miles with 3750 feet of elevation gain oof), Grinnell Lake (6.9 miles out and back with 465 feet elevation gain)

This is just a start to all the amazing trails found in this incredible national park! If you have any trails I should add to my itinerary for next time, drop ideas in the comments below. As always, happy adventures fam!

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