Yes, this blog is primarily about Yellowstone National Park. However, I recently visited Glacier National Park (a few hour’s drive from Yellowstone). As such, I was tempted to share a post on my best hikes in Glacier National Park and the best scenic hikes in Glacier National Park.
Like Yellowstone, Glacier National Park is an expansive park covering over 1 million acres of land. It would take all summer to hike the nearly the hundred trails throughout the park. Unfortunately, my visit was only for one week, but I did make the most of it.
In my opinion, the best hikes in Glacier National Park are Grinnel Glacier and the Highline Trail. Read on to learn more about some of these most scenic hikes throughout Glacier, the best hikes for wildlife viewing, and more!
Best Scenic Hikes in Glacier National Park
Montana is beautiful and there are a number of scenic hikes throughout Glacier National Park. During my time in the park, I hand selected a few after some research. No doubt, I was pleased with my selections and anyone visiting will enjoy these hikes too. Below, find my favorite and best scenic hikes in Glacier National Park.
Grinnell Glacier Trail (Best Scenic Hike in Glacier National Park)
Grinnell Glacier is an absolute gem. In my opinion, this is the best scenic hike in Glacier National Park. Before sharing more on the scenery, find some quick hike details below:
11.2 mile trail out and back
Strenuous at times (2,000+ feet of elevation gain)
While not a particularly easy hike to reach the summit, Grinnell Glacier is absolutely worth it. With that being said, Grinnell offers great scenery and views during the early parts of the hike as well if you are unable to reach the peak.
To begin, Grinnell trail starts at the Many Glacier Hotel. This in itself, offers great views of the lake and mountains in the distance. From here, the hike meanders along a trail beside two beautiful lakes. Note that you can chop two miles off this hike each way if you book a ticket with the Glacier Boat Company.
After getting past the lakes, the climb slowly starts to gain elevation. As you gain elevation, the 3rd lake comes into view. This lake is a stunning glacier lake with gorgeous blue hued waters. The view is incredible, and this lake remains in view for the rest of the hike!
As you continue your way winding up the mountain, you are greeted with other natural features that once again lend this hike the title as beset scenic hike in Glacier National Park. One feature is a very cool weeping wall that you must hike under.
As you continue onward a bit, another feature is an amazing waterfall that comes into view.
The scenery on this hike really doesn’t quit! If that’s not enough, the final strenuous leg to the peak reveals the gem of this hike – Grinnell Glacier. While some fog rolled in while I was there, we were still able to capture a small iceberg 🙂
Don’t worry, I’ll reveal more photos of this glacier in my next hike. However, turn around and you can see an amazing view of all three lakes and into the valley below!
As such, Grinnell Glacier Trail rightfully earns its place as the most scenic hike in Glacier National Park!
Highline Trail (Runner Up for Best Scenic Hike in Glacier National Park)
In a close second, I vote the Highline Trail as the 2nd best scenic hike in Glacier National Park. The views on this trail are basically nonstop from start to finish. The quick details for this scenic Glacier hike are found below:
11.8 mile through hike with different start + end points
Moderate. Nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain but at a mild incline over a long distance
The 2nd best scenic hike in Glacier National Park, Highline Trail begins at Logan Pass off the Going to the Sun Road. Pro Tip: Arrive at or before sunrise in order to ensure a parking spot in the lot at Logan Pass.
Driving along the Going to the Sun Road is amazing. On this hike, you have the opportunity to hike the trail above the Going to the Sun Road. It’s literally so cool! At the beginning of the hike, you will be greeted with expansive views of the park and the road below. In fact, the early stage of the hike involves a ledge just above the road. It’s a little precarious if you are afraid of heights but the views of the road are unbeatable.
After this first section of the hike, the trail opens up to follow a ridgeline for several miles with nonstop views of mountain peaks and valleys across the park. The scenery here is fantastic.
Continuing on, 6.8 miles in you will reach an optional trail up to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. This is the most strenuous part of the hike but by the most rewarding 0.8 miles you can climb. At the top, you are rewarded with amazing views of Grinnell Glacier on the other side. In fact, this view is above the best scenic hike in Glacier National Park that I wrote about above.
Afterwards, return to the split in the trail. From here you have the option to return to Logan Pass or continue on to the Granite Park Chalet. The Granite Park Chalet is neat Swiss looking cabin that also has scenic views of Swiss looking alps!
Finally, conclude your hike by taking the Sun Road trail to the end point. This is a 4 mile downhill trots through the woods. Upon completion, catch the park shuttle back to Logan Pass.
In summary, this is one of the best scenic hikes in Glacier National Park and not to be missed.
Other Scenic Hikes in Glacier National Park
For those looking for other hikes outside of my top two, don’t worry. There are plenty of scenic hikes in Glacier National Park. A few more of my favorites that deserve honorable mention are listed below.
Iceberg Lake – 9.6 mile out and back hike to a gorgeous emerald lake with steep cliff walls and of course icebergs in the lake! As long as it’s not too late in summer, you have a good chance at seeing icebergs.
Cracker Lake – 12.5 mile out and back hike to another amazing glacier lake. Cracker Lake has an amazing mint green color that is a perfect reflecting pool for the 3,000 foot cliffs around it.
Gunsight Pass – 19.9 mile through hike starting at Jackson Glacier Overlook and ending at Lake McDonald. This is a long hike but you have very scenic views of forests, avalanche chutes and of course, Gunsight Lake.
In conclusion Glacier is chalk full of scenic hikes. In my opinion, the best hike in East Glacier National Park is Grinnell Glacier while the best hike in West Glacier National Park is the Highline Trail.
Check here for a comprehensive guide to hikes in Glacier National Park.
Best Wildlife Viewing in Glacier National Park
Glacier is not only blessed with scenic hikes but also excellent wildlife viewing. Some of my best wildlife viewing trails are listed below. Coincidentally, two of them are also listed in my best scenic hikes in Glacier National Park.
Goat Lick – This isn’t so much a hike as you can pull over on the side of the road just past Essex. From here, you can walk on a bridge for the easiest and most consistent mountain goat viewing in all of Glacier National Park.
Grinnell Glacier – Besides the great views, this hike is also blessed with some of the best wildlife viewing in Glacier National Park. At the beginning of the hike, start early and walk around the south shore of Lake Josephine. You have an excellent chance of spotting moose like this one.
Continue on and you are likely to run into mountain goats, rams, and even bears!
Highline Trail – Similarly, awesome wildlife viewing in Glacier National Park is found along this trail. When you are high up in the ridgeline of the mountains like this, you are almost guaranteed to see mountain goats are rams. I saw several packs of rams in a single day when I did this hike!
I also saw a bear in a close encounter. Be sure to be bear aware out there!
In summary, wildlife viewing in Glacier National Park is awesome. If you prefer to see bison, check the best places to see bison in Yellowstone National Park.
Best Camping Near Glacier Park Montana
In this section, I’ll help you choose a camp spot. If you are looking to camp in the park, St Mary’s Campground is a great campsite to bring your own tent. Hotel options include the Many Glacier Hotel – which also places you in an exquisite location of the park.
However, staying just outside of the park is not a bad choice either. I stayed at Under Canvas Glacier, only 10 minutes from the West Glacier entrance. It’s glamping at it’s finest with comfortable tent accommodations – check it out!
Concluding Thoughts on Hiking in Glacier
In summary, Glacier National Park is a gem. Checkout Highline Trail or Grinnell Glacier (or both) and you will have accomplished the best scenic hikes in Glacier National Park!
For other national parks, check out my hidden gems in Yellowstone here.