The Dawson Pitamakan Loop is one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park

Must-Do Glacier National Park Hikes: Ranked Easiest to Hardest

Remote hiking trail in Glacier National Park, along the Cobalt Lake Trail.
Hiking Trail in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of the most majestic looking national parks in the United States. Towering snowcapped mountain peaks, deep valleys filled with turquoise-hued, glacier-fed lakes, and an abundance of wildlife make this a hiker’s dream destination!

Plus, hiking is the best way to explore Glacier National Park since there aren’t that many roads going through the park.

We’ll get to our top 10 hikes we recommend in a minute, but first, let’s cover what to bring on a hike in Glacier National Park. 

You are completely surrounded by nature and wildlife in Glacier National Park and some of these trails aren’t very busy, meaning it’s important to be prepared for your hike. 

Hikers on the Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park
Hikers on the Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park

What to Bring On Your Hike in Glacier National Park


Bring plenty of water for your hike. While Glacier National Park is known for its lakes and waterfalls where you could potentially use a LifeStraw if you were in dire need of water, some trails go for miles before you come to a water source. > I love this hydraulic pack since it makes staying hydrated while hiking so much easier. 

Bear Spray

Besides water, this is probably the most important thing to have with you when hiking in Glacier National Park. Glacier is prime grizzly bear country and your best defense if you come face to face with one is bear spray.

—> I currently am carrying this brand of Bear Spray around with me on hikes, but there are several on the market plus places to rent some near Glacier; I wrote a whole post about bear spray here

Dress in Layers

The weather can change quickly and dramatically in Glacier National Park. Be prepared on your hike with water-resistant top layers that you can take on or off depending on the temperature. Your base layers should also be moisture-wicking.

—> I prefer this brand for base layers.

Avalanche Kit

If you’ll be hiking when there’s still snow around you on the trail, bring an avalanche kit like this one with you and make sure you study what to do and how to use it if you’re stuck in an avalanche before leaving for your Glacier National Park trip. 

Proper Hiking Shoes and Socks

You can of course wear your old sneakers and crew socks hiking, but I don’t recommend it in Glacier. The hikes can be long so you’ll want to avoid blisters. Plus, there are steep drops on some trails and rocky inclines, meaning you want hiking shoes or boots with excellent traction that won’t easily skid or slide.

—> REI is my go-to place for hiking shoes. The stores even have mock rocks you can “hike” up to ensure the fit and stability. If you don’t live close to an REI, they also are easy to order from online and have an excellent return policy. And invest in some good-quality hiking socks! 

One more thing

Pack out everything you bring with you. Ensure you don’t leave behind any food, wrappers, or toilet paper. Don’t feed the animals; try not to do it even inadvertently by leaving food pieces behind. This is part of the “Leave No Trace” philosophy, which you should follow when hiking in Glacier National Park. You can learn more about “Leave No Trace” here. 

The Best Hikes in Glacier from Easy to Hard

View along the Cobalt Lake Hiking Trail

Alright, now for the fun part — the best hikes to do while exploring Glacier National Park!

We’ve listed our top 12 picks for the best hikes in Glacier National Park from easiest to hardest.

Of course, how easy or hard a hike is depends on your ability and fitness level plus how adept you are at long hikes or steep ones. Generally speaking though, these are in the order of how most people view the difficulty level. 

Trail of Cedars 

Distance: 1 mile
Difficulty: Easy and Wheelchair-Accessible
Nearest Entrance: West Glacier
Nearest Shuttle Stop: Avalanche Creek

This is an accessible trail with no steps and which is paved or on a raised wooden platform, making this an easy trail for those in wheelchairs or who have trouble walking over uneven surfaces. 

It’s a simply lovely trail surrounded by towering old cedar trees and with a rushing creek going under the wooden pathway in places. It’s right by the Avalanche Lake parking lot. It is a loop trail, though along the trail you’ll have the option to break-off from it and connect with the Avalanch Lake trail.

Avalanche Lake

Distance (there and back): 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy, though long with some gradual inclines
Nearest Entrance: West Glacier
Nearest Shuttle Stop: Avalanche Creek

From the Trail of Cedars, you can begin the hike to Avalanche Lake, an impressive lake with a rocky shore and gleaming, waterfall laden mountains behind it. It’s probably a little tougher than the next two hikes we’ll be talking about because of its length and incline in parts, but since it is still pretty easy and connects with Trail of Cedars, we’re going to talk about it next.

In addition to being one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park, Avalanche Lake is also one of the most popular. So get there early in the morning if you want to beat the crowds.

I really love the Avalanche Lake hike. The scenery is constantly changing as you go from water views to thick forests to openings where you’ll see mountain peaks all the way to the actual lake itself. 

The hike is uphill on the way to the lake, but is gradual enough that you get lots of breaks from the incline and so it’s pretty easy on your knees on the way back down. I’ve done this hike with a 2-year-old (who spent a lot of the time in our hiking carrier) and a 5-year-old so I can definitely attest it is doable for kids. 

Read More:
Tips for Visiting Glacier National Park with Kids

Hidden Lake Overlook Trail

Distance (there and back): 2.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Nearest Entrance: St. Mary
Nearest Shuttle Stop: Logan Pass

This is a short, easy hike that takes you to a breathtakingly beautiful scenic vista of Hidden Lake. The start of the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is right by the Logan Pass parking lot. It is paved part of the way and fairly flat before becoming much steeper on  your way down to the overlook (and is quite a hike back up). 

On the way there you’ll pass incredible scenery with mountain peaks jutting up in the distance on every side of you while an expanse of open space around the trail makes it easy to see lurking animals. Bighorn sheep and mountain goats are common animals to spot on this hike. 

At the overlook, take time to read the informational boards to learn more about what you’re seeing.

If you have the energy and time and want to get a closer look at the lake, there’s a trail leading down to it from the overlook that is 1.2 miles, but it’s quite steep with many switchbacks and an elevation drop of 770 feet that you’ll have to climb back up to get back to the parking lot.

But if you’re up for a more moderately strenuous hike, then it’s worth it for the close-up view of the lake and the fact that you’ll be leaving some of the crowds behind on the overlook platform. 

St. Mary and Virginia Falls

Distance: 3.6 Miles
Difficulty: Easy
Nearest Entrance: St. Mary 
Nearest Shuttle Stop: St. Mary Falls

This hike is also pretty easy and good for families hiking with kids in Glacier. Plus you get to see two beautiful waterfalls. The trailhead is near the St. Mary Falls shuttle stop. From there, it’s an easy hike to St. Mary Falls, a 35-foot waterfall that is separated into three different smaller falls going down the side of a rock wall. 

As you continue your hike, you’ll come to a couple more waterfalls, but unless you find yourself wowed by them, chances are it’s not Virginia Falls yet.

You’ll come to Virginia Falls after about a mile and three-quarters of your journey. Virginia Falls is known for its impressive drop of 50 feet and is a must-see sight in Glacier National Park.

Fishercap Lake to Redrock Falls

Distance: 4.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Nearest Entrance: St. Mary
Nearest Shuttle Stop: St. Mary’s Visitor Center followed by hiker shuttle to Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

Another great hike for families — or anyone who likes an easier hike and the opportunity to see moose!) is the Fishercap Lake – Redrock Falls hike.

This hike consists of a scenic, mostly flat trail leading to the lake and then onto lovely Redrock Falls. Plus, as mentioned earlier, moose are often spotted near or even in Fishercap Lake, making it a potentially memorable wildlife hike. 

The trailhead for the Fishercap – Redrock Falls hike is by the parking area for Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. 

Highline Trail 

Distance: 11.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate (though may be mentally difficult for those scared of heights)
Nearest Entrance: St. Mary
Nearest Shuttle Stop: Logan Pass

The Highline Trail is one of the most famous hikes in Glacier National Park. It goes along the Garden Wall, aka the Continental Divide.

It’s a jaw-droppingly gorgeous hike, but your stomach might drop, too, when you get to the infamous Highline Trail ledge, a part of the trail that is less than a mile from the trailhead and is just six to eight feet wide. This might not seem a big deal except for the fact that on one side of the trail is a sheer cliff drop that goes down over 100 feet.

If you’re scared of heights, take comfort that this gravity-defying portion of the trail only lasts for about one-third of a mile and it also has a cable running along the wall side of the ledge that you can hold onto.

Also, don’t panic if you see mountain goats ambling by you on the trail. They’re frequently spotted along Highline Trail and are pretty oblivious to all the hikers; just hug the wall side of the cliff and wait for them to pass. 

If you’re up for it, take a detour along the Garden Wall Trail, a steep and rewarding there-and-back path that juts off from the Highline Trail shortly before you hit the 7-mile marker.

The Garden Wall Trail takes you to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook straddling the top of the Continental Divide. There, you’ll be privy to an incredible viewpoint for seeing both the Grinnell Glacier and Salamander Glacier. 

After the ledge, the rest of the hike will probably seem easy, though long, with beautiful mountain views, wildflower-strewn valleys, and epic views. There is also a portion of the trail toward the end where you’ll see the lasting effects of the 2003 Trapper Creek fire and the regrowth already occurring. 

Grinnell Glacier Hike

Distance: 11 Miles
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
Nearest Entrance: St. Mary
Nearest Shuttle Stop: St. Mary Visitor Center (and then take the Hiker shuttle to Many Glacier)

Grinnell Glacier is arguably the most famous glacier in the park, and the only way to see it is via a hike. Start the hike to Grinnell Glacier from Many Glacier Lodge around Swiftcurrent Lake.

Once you’ve gotten to the other side of the lake, follow the signs to Grinnell Lake. It’s a gorgeous, turquoise-hued lake and from its shores you can see Salamander Glacier.

If this view is enough for you, then great! Take a pic and head back to the rustic loveliness of Many Glacier Lodge. However, if you long to see Grinnell Glacier up close, then you need to follow the trail to Grinnell Glacier and not Grinnell Lake. 

From Grinnell Lake it’s another few miles to Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnell Lake. Be aware you’ll have to navigate across a narrow trail alongside steep drops for part of the trail. It’s worth it though for the views you’ll have at the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint. 

Both Grinnell Lake and Upper Grinnell Lake have an incredible turquoise hue from the glacial water dripping into it from Grinnell Glacier. These lakes make for an awe-inspiring view and photo op. 

If you want to cut a few miles off your hike, you can also take the boat tour from Many Glacier Lodge across Swiftcurrent Lake and Josephine Lake, which typically run each day during the summer months (weather permitting).

Once you’ve reached the other side you can do a guided hike (or do it on your own and hike back to Many Glacier Lodge at the end) to Grinnell Glacier. These guided boat tours typically fill up in advance so be sure to reserve your spot early.

Cobalt Lake

Distance: 11 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Nearest Entrance: Two Medicine Entrance
Nearest Shuttle Stop: Two Medicine Lake

At just over 11 miles and a bit over 1,400 feet in elevation gain, the out-and-back Cobalt Lake trail makes a great day hike that is challenging in parts, but isn’t overly strenuous.

With the trailhead at the south end of Two Medicine Lake, the trail goes over a suspension bridge; through beautiful forests and meadows filled with wildflowers; and past beaver ponds, mountain views, and waterfalls.

The trail get steeper past the falls, but the effort is worth it to reach the crystal clear Cobalt Lake.

The lake provides a perfect resting spot for a snack or swim before heading back down the trail or continuing past the lake to Two Medicine Pass.

While the Cobalt Lake trail doesn’t usually make the lists of the most popular hikes in Glacier National Park, being lesser known means you get to enjoy gorgeous park views and a clear mountain lake without the crowds.

Travel Montana Now team member, Jackie, did this off-the-beaten-path hike a couple years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, giving Cobalt Lake a spot on our best hiking trails in Glacier National Park list.

Siyeh Pass Trail

Distance: 9.7 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Nearest Entrance: St. Mary
Nearest Shuttle Stop: Siyeh Bend

You’ll feel like you’ve hiked to the top of the world as you traverse the Siyeh Pass Trail. The trailheaad begins a couple miles east of Logan Pass at the Siyeh Bend Trailhead.

You’ll make your way past wildflowers and through forests until you reach Preston Park, a fantastically impressive glacier carved valley. From there, you’ll embark along the switchbacks as you head up Mahtapi Peak to the top of the pass.

Once at the top, take a well-deserved break at the vantage point and stare out at the Baring Creek Valley below.

Ptarmigan Tunnel Hike

Distance: 10.7 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Nearest Park Entrance: St. Mary
Nearest Shuttle Stop: St. Mary’s Visitor Center followed by hiker shuttle to Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

This is a unique trail in Glacier National Park since you get to go through an actual tunnel. The 250-foot tunnel was blasted through Ptarmigan Wall in the 1930s.

The massive Ptarmigan Wall is a huge rock structure created by glacier activity eons ago, as the glaciers carved two separate valleys on either side of the tunnel. In one of these valleys you’ll see the glistening drainage from the Belly River.

These two valleys are incredible to behold from the high-up vantage point of each entrance to the tunnel. And walking through the tunnel is pretty cool, too! While there are retaining walls on the side of the trail by the tunnel, be aware that there is a steep cliff. 

The Ptarmigan Tunnel hike begins by Swiftcurrent Motel and it’s several miles until you reach the tunnel. 

Iceberg Lake Trail

Distance: 9.3 Miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Nearest Entrance: 
Nearest Shuttle Stop: St. Mary’s Visitor Center followed by hiker shuttle to Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

The Iceberg Lake Trail is a popular Glacier National Park hike due to the incredibly scenic lake you’ll see at the end of the trail. Plus, bear and moose are frequently spotted along Iceberg Lake trail. 

There is a bit of an incline at the beginning of the hike, but then it is mostly flat. You’ll enjoy views of mountain tops and meadows plus a waterfall, before coming to the breathtakingly stunning glacial blue lake. 

This hike will take you right to the rocky shores of Iceberg Lake, a beautiful place for a break and photo op. 

Pitamakan – Dawson Loop

Distance: 18 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Nearest Entrance: Two Medicine
Nearest Shuttle Stop: Two Medicine

The Dawson/Pitamakan Trail Loop offers some of the most breathtaking vistas in Glacier National Park.

From valleys and peaks to meadows of wildflowers and crystal clear alpine lakes, this loop packs in the scenery over a strenuous 18+ miles that includes a section along the Continental Divide.

We like that with this hike you can start in either direction you want, depending on which pass you prefer to hit first.

Also, if an 18-mile hike is too long for you, there is the option of planning head and taking the ferry across Two Medicine Lake at the start (Dawson Pass first) or end (Pitamakan Pass first) of your hike to shave off a few miles.

The trailhead is found by Two Medicine Campground. During the loop hike, you’ll cross two mountain passes (Dawson and Pitamakan Passes), awarding your efforts with amazing views in all directions.

You’ll most likely run into other people on this hike, but it’s not one of Glacier’s busiest trails. Jackie loved that it gave her and her hiking partners ample time to soak in the views and grandeur without the crowds.

The Dawson/Pitamakan Trail makes for a long day-hike, but this Montana hidden gem will no doubt leave you feeling accomplished and in awe of the beauty of Glacier National Park.

Read More:
Ultimate Guide for Lodging in Glacier National Park
Top Things to Do in Glacier National Park

More Tips for Hiking in Glacier National Park

Check in with the park rangers in the visitor centers in the morning. Trails sometimes will be suddenly closed due to bear activity or weather conditions.

In addition, the visitor center can provide tips for the hike based on current conditions in the park and possibly give you some info about the trail you didn’t know about. 

Get to trails early (like, probably before 8am if not earlier early) if you don’t want to have to stress about finding parking by the busier trailheads.

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of parking, the shuttles are a good option for getting around the park for hikers. Also, if you don’t mind doing hikes later in the day, some of the trail parking lots clear out in late afternoon after the morning hikers have left.

Another good tip is to follow Glacier National Park on Twitter to get live updates on parking lots and which are full; however, this will likely only help you on your way to the park as once you’re in the park, service will be spotty or non-existent. But following the account for the week or two leading up to your trip can give you a good idea of traffic and parking patterns for when you get there. 

Last but certainly not least: always be bear aware and use best practices for hiking in grizzly country:

  • Hike in groups
  • Make noise, especially before going around any blind curves or corners in the trail
  • Don’t jog or run on trails since you don’t want to startle a bear
  • If you see a bear in the distance, keep at least 100 yards away from it (getting any closer than that is actually prohibited by the park)
  • Keep snacks or any food sealed in containers to minimize smell and don’t leave any food behind
  • ALWAYS bring bear spray

Hope you enjoy your time hiking the majestic trails of Glacier National Park!

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Glacier National Park is a hiker's paradise. Here are the best hikes in Glacier National Park picked by locals, plus hiking tips for Glacier.

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