Glacier National Park is home to over 130 alpine lakes, about 700 miles of trails over two mountain ranges, not to mention thousands of flora and fauna species. Glacier National Park reopens for hikers in late May or early June. However, some trails on higher elevations remain under snow until mid-July. Wildflowers on alpine meadows bloom from late June through July, and this is the best time to hike Glacier National Park. By early September, snow appears on some high elevation trails, and by the end of October, the park's hiking season is over. The majority of the park's visitors opt for at least one hike in the park during their stay. The most popular areas include Lake McDonald, Many Glacier, St. Mary & Logan Pass, North Fork, and Two Medicine Valley. Some of the best hikes in the park are described below.
The area around Many Glacier, Lake St. Mary, and Logan Pass is a premier hiking destination in the park. It boasts dozens of stunning trails. Grinnell Glacier Trail is one of them. A 5.3-mile (8.5-km) trail with elevation gain of 1,600 ft (488 m) starts at the trailhead, past the turn-off for the Many Glacier Hotel. This trail features Swiftcurrent Lake, Lake Josephine, Grinnell Falls, Angel Wing, Mt. Gould, the Continental Divide, and finally Grinnell Lake and glaciers. It is recommended to take shuttle boats across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine at the dock next to Many Glacier Hotel in order to have the complete experience.
One of the most famous hikes in Glacier National Park, Highline Trail, starts at the trailhead near the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot. This 7.2-mile (11.5-km) hike features Grinnell Glacier Overlook, Granite Park Chalet, and Garden Wall, a steep alpine area lushly covered in wildflowers and shrubs. The challenging trail with an elevation gain of 624 ft (190 m) has many descents and ascents as well as series of switchbacks when approaching Haystack Pass.
Trail of the Cedars
Lake McDonald area is another excellent hiking destination. If you can do just one hike, head to Avalanche Lake. This is a 5.9-mile (9.5- km) trail of moderate difficulty, which can be accessed via the Trail of the Cedars. The Trail of the Cedar itself is a comfortable 0.6-mile boardwalk, which is partly paved and surrounded by majestic 80-feet cedar trees.
North Fork area boasts a spectacular trail to Bowman and Quartz lakes. A 6.7-mile (10-km) Bowman Lake Trail begins at the northeast corner of the Bowman Lake Campground and ends near Brown Pass and Continental Divide. Another scenic trail goes from Bowman Lake to Quartz Lake. This is a 12.8 mile (20-km) loop trail traversing the forest. The trailhead is located on the southern part of Bowman Lake beach. Hikers will be rewarded with stunning views of not just one but three Quartz Lakes!
Located in the southeastern part of Glacier National Park, Two Medicine Valley was a significant park's landmark in the early 20th century. Two Medicine Lake is surrounded by a network of hiking trails that provide stunning views of Sinopah Mountain and Rising Wolf Mountain dominating over the area. The most popular trails include a 4-mi (6-km) Upper Two Medicine Lake Hike and a 7-mi (11-km) hike around the lake.
Dowson Pass Hike is rather challenging, but hikers are rewarded with magnificent views. The 13-mile (20-km) trail lies on the Continental Divide with fantastic views of the scenic Big Horn Basin and the Lewis Range. No less stunning is the panorama of Two Medicine Lake, alpine meadows, and wildlife. You can also hike to Pitamakan Pass and Firebrand Pass.
No matter what time you choose for a hiking adventure in Glacier National Park, it's going to be a fantastic experience. To get more insights into the local geography and history, you can opt for a guided tour with park rangers. Also, mind that July and August could be rather crowded in the park, so plan to arrive at trailheads early and use the park's shuttle system instead of your own car.