We talk about Glacier National Park over here a lot. It’s one of our favorite destinations. If you want to get a feel for the park, have amazing views, and miss the busiest season of the year, we suggest you plan a visit for late June. If you’ll be disappointed not to complete some of the iconic high mountain hikes, you’ll need to plan ahead and book a visit (up to or over a year in advance) for late July or August.
Here is a suggested itinerary for the hiker who is spending five days in Glacier, not including travel. If you’re traveling for a week only, this is the trip for you as it gives you a travel day on the front and back end.
We suggest you spend two nights in West Glacier and three nights in St. Mary’s Village. You’ll hear us say this a lot but we mean it a lot—hike early! Getting a head start for the day will make your time on the trails more enjoyable. And as a bonus, you’ll always have time for a leisurely ice cream break in the afternoon. We’ll give you one or two hike suggestions per day but you can always ask at ranger stations or browse our other round-up posts for additional suggestions.
Day One: Start with the Avalanche Lake Trail. This 4-6 mile hike is a great entrance to the park. The terrain is not too steep and you get a taste of giant trees, lots of moss, and a glacial lake with mountain back-drop. After your hike, you’ll probably want to continue your drive along Going to the Sun Road. Take your time leisurely exploring lookouts and views. If you can snag parking at Logan Pass, you can hike up to Hidden Lake Overlook (pack poles or ice spikes if you are hiking this before July to make the snowy trail easier to manage). Don’t worry about driving over all the way to the East Side of the park as you’ll be doing that on Day 3. Stop by a ranger station or local vendor to get a can of bear spray if you don’t already have one.
Day Two: Start with a climb up Apgar Lookout Trail. This trail is a nice moderate distance. The climb is steep but manageable and the hike doesn’t require much driving from West Glacier lodging. For those of you who want to drive further or check out an off-the-beaten-path area, try the Quartz Lake Loop starting near Bowman Lake. If you missed it on Day 1, the ice cream shop in Apgar Village is delightful.
Day Three: You’re headed to the east side today! Drive up and over Going to the Sun Road. If you haven’t done the Hidden Lake Overlook hike, start with that. Feel free to stop wherever you want today as enjoying the Going to the Sun Road is your primary mission. We recommend stopping toward the east side by St. Mary and Virginia Falls. It’s a 3.5-4 mile out and back hike up to Virginia Falls but a very worthwhile one. There are other short hikes along the road to stretch your legs and get a taste of the Glacier wilderness. That evening, you might consider taking a stroll around the Beaver Pond Loop.
Day Four: Drive down to Two Medicine. There are hikes of all distances in the area but if you are looking to make a day of it, we recommend making the long loop around Two Medicine & out to Upper Two Medicine Lake. Don’t forget the short out and back to Trick Falls.
Day Five: In many ways, we’ve saved the best for last as you’ll spend this day in the Many Glacier region. There are two highly recommended hikes in the region: Grinnell Glacier (or Grinnell Lake overlook if you are visiting in June/early July) and Iceberg Lake. Avid hikers who are ready for long days can manage both hikes. Other hikers may want to choose just one. (You can always hike Iceberg Lake and then take the flatter and shorter loop around Swiftcurrent Lake instead of going all the way up to the Glacier Lake overlook.)
The one thing we can guarantee is that if you visit Glacier, you are going to want to come back! Make this a re-con trip to start to get to know your way around the park. Then, you’ll have a better sense of what you want to do the next time!