Glacier National Park Hiking

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Glacier National Park Hiking Glacier National Park has some of the best hiking opportunities found anywhere in the world. Here you can find pristine alpine lakes set against majestic mountain peaks. Bears, goats, and more share this part of the world with you, along with: waterfalls, wildflowers, Glaciers, and over 700 miles of well maintained trails. Indeed Glacier is a backpacker´s dream come true.

The main hiking season generally runs from July through mid October. Trails can be restricted by snow outside of this time.

In May and June then trails are usually dry of snow at lower elevations but can have four feet or more of snow at higher elevations. Trail passes are typically the last places to open up. However, the snowpack at these passes is normally stiff and easy to walk on. Crampons and/or an ice axe are highly recommended.
 
The best scenic hikes in Glacier are generally the ones that take you the highest. And for that then there are no better starting points then Logan Pass & Many Glacier. A couple of trails even connect the two areas allowing you to hike back and forth.

Popular Glacier hiking trails in this area include:

1. Hidden Lake
2. Grinnell Glacier
3. Iceberg Lake
4. Highline Trail
5. Swiftcurrent Lookout
6. Piegan Pass
7. Ptmarmigan Tunnel
8. Cracker Lake
Map of Glacier Hiking Trails - Logan Pass & Many Glacier
 
Map of Glacier Hiking Trails for the Two Medicine area The southeast area of the park has some of the best hiking opportunities. Two Medicine area features the best loop in the park: the Dawson/Pitamakin Loop. This is an 18 mile loop which starts and ends at Two Medicine Campground. Strong hikers will have no problems making the stretch in one day and the trail between the two passes provides some of the best scenery to be enjoyed anywhere.

You can also find good off-trail hiking along the southeast side of the park. The ridge tops in this area are generally easy to hike and provide terrific views. These same ridges are also some of the first high places to lose their snow and as a result make an excellent late spring/early summer hiking opportunity.

Popular Glacier hiking places in the Two Medicine area:

1. Dawson/Pitamakin Loop
2. Two Medicine Pass
3. Triple Divide Pass
4. Scenic Point
 
The Lake McDonald area features trails mostly covered in lush forests. This can be an interesting area to explore as it is quite different then the open landscape found on the east side of the park. However, the area is mostly lacking in big alpine views. For that reason then it is not as favored by most hikers.

There a number of short trails in the Lake McDonald area which make excellent day hikes. The most popular being the three mile trail leading to Avalanche Lake. This is an easy trail with a beautiful destination featuring an alpine lake with a number of cascading waterfalls plunging from the mountains.

You can also hike up to Sperry Glacier. But most people elect to start the hike from the east side of the park and descend down into Lake McDonald. This saves a long climb up through covered forest with limited views.

The North Fork area features one of the great hiking destinations in the park. However, what keeps it from ranking at the top with Many Glacier, Logan Pass, and Two Medicine is that in order to reach the best of the North Fork then you have to hike in forested lowlands for on average around 10 miles before you reach the areas with big views. Once you get into the alpine setting of the North Fork then you can see why many hikers feel it offers the best scenery and trails in the park. It´s just a lot of work to get there.

Most North Fork hikers want to get to the stretch from Brown Pass to Boulder Pass. This is where the views are really fantastic! You can take your pick on how to get here. Hikers seem split between hiking from the Kintla Lake side or the Bowman Lake side. Another option is to approach from the east. I once started in Many Glacier and hiked all the way across - it was 83 miles with added diversions along the way. 
 
Also found in the North Fork is the Logging Lake Trail which leads to Grace Lake and provides a great alpine setting and campground. This is a long trail mostly covered in forest. But it is open to travel earlier in the year. There are a lot of bears in this area so keep Pepper Spray handy and make a lot of noise. I have been bluff charged on this trail while wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts and armed with a can a of mosquito repellent (it was a really hot Spring day and I forgot the Bear Spray).

If you want the ultimate off trail adventure in the park then try to explore the east side of the Livingston Range. This is only for very experienced hikers. It takes about 4-6 days to explore. There will be a lot of bushwacking and the area is full of bears.

The Belly River flows out of the northeast portion of the park eventually emptying into the Arctic Ocean. This area features a lot of big lakes and open grasslands. You can hike the trails earlier in the year making it a popular late spring/early summer spot. However, the views are not as nice because the trails are lower in elevation. The main trail eventually leads to Stony Indian Pass and near here then the views are really amazing with big waterfalls and Glacier´s biggest mountain looming above (Mount Cleveland 10,461 feet). However, because Stony Indian Pass is such a trek to get to then it does not rank as high on the list of best places to see in the park. 

The Goat Haunt area can be reached from the Belly River drainage, the North Fork area, or most commonly by boat from Canada. The area is a popular spot for short day hikes because most of the hikers venture here from Canada. Moose are commonly spotted in the water at Kootenai Lakes. Beware: there is an amazing amount of mosquitos here.

There exists one area in the park where you can hike and camp anywhere you want. This is referred to as the Nyack/Coal Creek Camping Zone. I have never been. Everyone I know that has been there has said it´s not very nice with other areas of Glacier easily being much better with nicer views and so on.

Highly recommended hiking trips:


Top trail of less than 6 miles round trip: Logan Pass to Hidden Lake
Second Place: Avalanche Lake

Top trail of less than 12 miles round trip: Iceberg Lake from Many Glacier
Second Place: Garden Wall to the Loop
Third Place: Grinnell Glacier

Top trail of less than 20 miles round trip: Dawson/Pitamakan Pass Loop from Two Medicine
Second Place: Logan Pass to Many Glacier via Garden Wall & Swiftcurrent trails


Favorite mountain to climb: Reynolds
Second place: Bishops Cap

Favorite lookout in the park: Swiftcurrent
Second place: Huckleberry

Favorite campsite: Hole in the Wall
Second place: Granite Park

Favorite stretch of trail: Brown Pass to Boulder Pass
Second place: Dawson Pass to Pitamakin Pass

Favorite off-trail hike: Cheney Glacier Basin
Second place: Floral Park to Sperry Glacier

 

 
 
Glacier Pictures Did you know?
From 1910 to 1914 Louis Hill and the Great Northern Railway commissioned construction of nine chalet groups, Glacier Park Hotel, Many Glacier Hotel and Prince of Wales Hotel.
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