Some of the best mountain hiking in the world is to be found in Glacier National Park. The park has nearly 700 miles of hiking trails zigzagging in every direction across one million acres filled with mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and tons of wildlife. The best part about Glacier is that it often gets overlooked by tourists. This park is huge, has more views and wildlife than Yosemite and Yellowstone combined, yet has roughly half the amount of visitors each year. With just under two millions visitors, it always surprised us how seldom we encountered other people while hiking during our six month stay at the park, and we hiked a lot. Together we conquered over 35 hikes and have painstakingly narrowed down our list to the five best hikes in Glacier National Park.
Taking from its name this lake is filled with icebergs. No matter what time of summer you go, there will always be ice floating around. It is one of the more popular hikes in the park, but fear not. This path is so long we only periodically saw other hikers, even though the parking lot was full.
Distance: 9.4 miles round-trip
Duration: 4.5 hours
Elevation gain: 1,200 feet
Why we love it: On a hot day after hiking 4.5 miles, nothing refreshes the body more than a nice quick cool-off in Iceberg lake. It’s cold, it hurts, you might get sick but hell, cold baths are great for the circulation.
Two Medicine and Upper Two Medicine
Considered to be the resting place of numerous Native American gods, Two Medicine is absolutely one of our favorite places in the world. If gods do exist, then they definitely live here. Two crystal clear lakes, surrounded by three perfectly formed mountains, lined with thick subalpine fir forests, and dotted with waterfalls, this hike has everything a day hiker would want or need.
Distance: 10 miles round-trip
Duration: 5 hours
Elevation gain: 350 feet
Why we love it: Does the description not satisfy? We did this hike in the early season while Upper Two Medicine Lake was still frozen over and half the path connecting Lower Two Medicine lake and Upper Two Medicine was flooded. It was probably more strenuous that way, but amazing nonetheless.
Is it okay to say that this hike kicked our asses? It is tough! Just look at the elevation gain. This hike traverses across a scree slope with about 50 cut-backs. Just when you think you’re done, wrong! At least the views from the hike are absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately we didn’t have any more breath to be taken. Think you can do this hike no problem? Try taking the back way, starting at East Glacier Lodge and hiking through the forest before beginning the unholy ascent. We tried it. Less cut-backs, more straight up and down climbing. It’s no joke.
Distance: 6.2 miles round-trip
Duration: 3 hours – ish
Elevation gain: 2,350 feet
Why we love it: The views. Enough said. The hike is hard with huge rewards. In one direction there’s the perfection that is the Crown of the Rockies. On the other, the endless big sky of Montana. Words aren’t enough.
Grinnell Glacier is the most accessible glacier in the whole park. The hike is super easy and the end result is the ability to actually check out one of the last remaining glaciers in the area.
Distance: 11 miles round-trip
Duration: 6 hours
Elevation gain: 1,600 feet
Why we love it: It’s no secret that the glaciers of the world are starting to disappear. In the last 100 years the count of glaciers located in Glacier National Park have dropped from over 150 to only 25 active glaciers. Scientists believe, with current temperatures all the glaciers within the park will be gone by 2030. Grinnell being the most accessible, is for many probably the last chance to actually get up close and personal with one of these monolithic hunks of ice.
In 1932 the United States and Canada established the world’s first peace park, The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. It celebrates the longest undefended border in the world and has a span of 5,525 miles. Why is this significant? Well, technically this hike isn’t in “Glacier National Park” but actually located in Canadian but it was too good not to include.
Distance: 1.7 Miles round-trip
Duration: 1.25 hrs
Elevation gain: 550 feet
Why we love it: Maybe this is considered dangerous, or just plain stupid, but we love this hike because of it’s clear-cut trails that can be navigated in the dark. We started this trail shortly before dusk and reached the top right as the setting sun was hitting the mountain tops. We stayed and enjoyed the views well into the night, watching the moon peek up over the mountains. Getting down was a breeze without a flashlight. Just watch out for bears! Whenever hiking at night in this region one should take extra precaution. Make sure you know the guidelines for making yourself known to any hungry or disgruntled bears in the area.