Dramatic peaks rise steeply above pristine alpine lakes and meadows in Glacier National Park, one of Montana’s most spectacular wilderness locations. Here, you can walk along exposed cliffs or wander through the woods to high-elevation waterfalls. As you plan day hikes in the area, check out these fantastic trails — many are situated within easy driving distance from most Glacier National Park vacation rentals.
1. Highline Trail
Easily the most spectacular hike in Glacier National Park, the Highline Trail is a must-see for serious trekkers. To complete the full 11.4-mile unpaved trail, leave your car at the Loop Trailhead and take the shuttle up to the trailhead at Logan Pass. From there, the trail traverses cliffs, winds through meadows, and offers remarkable views of the McDonald Creek valley. After approximately 7 to 9 hours, the trail ends at the Loop. As you pack for the hike, bring warm layers to combat the wind, along with plenty of food and drinking water; surface water in the park is not always safe to drink. Older kids may be able to manage the trip, as long as they are cautious and not afraid of heights.
2. Hidden Lake Overlook
Take in classic Glacier vistas on the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, which is a great option for kids and families. This stunning trail follows a wildflower-laden valley to the overlook, which sits above Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain. For the first 1/2 mile from the trailhead at the Logan Pass Visitor Center, the route features a paved path and a boardwalk; after that, expect firm-packed dirt. At just 2.8 miles round-trip, this easy trail takes about 2 to 3 hours. The high altitude sun and wind can be dehydrating, so take water and move at a comfortable pace.
3. Grinnell Glacier Trail
Look out over one of the park’s many glaciers from the Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint, which sits 5.3 miles from the parking area at the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead. Allow between 6 and 9 hours for the full 10.6-mile hike, which gains 1,600 feet of elevation on the way out. As you climb, the trail offers fantastic views of lakes and rocky cliffs. Most of the route consists of packed dirt, which is doable for teenagers and older kids, but be aware that several sections run along exposed cliff faces. Bring your camera to capture the incredible views at the end of the trail, and pack in your own water and snacks.
4. Granite Park Chalet
Nestled at the top of a ridge overlooking Glacier’s rugged peaks, the Granite Park Chalet offers some of the most beautiful views in the park. Keep the vistas in mind as you climb the dirt trail more than 2,200 feet from the parking lot at the Loop Trailhead, through pine forests and past the enormous Heavens Peak. At the top, grab a bottle of water from the chalet’s concession stand and relax on the grounds before starting your descent. The kid-friendly, out-and-back hike is 8.4 miles long and takes about 6 hours to complete.
5. Running Eagle Falls Nature Trail
When you want a quick, beautiful hike with small children, the Running Eagle Falls Nature Trail is the perfect choice; this easy hike is just 0.6 miles round-trip and takes less than an hour to complete. At the end of the hard-packed, wheelchair-accessible trail, a waterfall thunders into a clear pool surrounded by tall pines. The trailhead and parking area sit a short drive west of the Two Medicine entrance station. Water is not available on the trail, so it’s important to bring your own on hot summer afternoons.
6. Avalanche Lake
Visit one of Glacier’s many high-altitude lakes on the Avalanche Lake Trail, which starts from Trail of the Cedars Trailhead. The dirt path ascends gently through the trees, passing over the postcard-perfect Avalanche Gorge, and emerges suddenly on the shores of the crystal-clear Avalanche Lake. Kick back on the rocky beach to enjoy the views of the sheer cliffs, or make your way around the lake. The kid-friendly hike is 4.6 miles one way, and takes about 3 to 4 hours round-trip; bring water to stay hydrated after the 500-foot elevation change.
7. St. Mary Falls
Spend an hour or two hiking through the forest on the 1.6-mile St. Mary Falls Trail. The dirt path ends at the multi-tiered St. Mary Falls, which cascades dramatically into a pool at the base of sheer rock cliffs. Load your backpack with drinking water at the St. Mary Falls Trailhead; if you can’t find a parking spot, park at Sun Point or Rising Sun and take the free shuttle. Fun and great for kids, this route makes the perfect afternoon adventure from vacation rentals near St. Mary Lake.
8. Iceberg Lake
Gaze over icebergs as they float in sparkling green water in the shadow of 2,000-foot stone cliffs at Iceberg Lake, one of the most popular spots in Glacier National Park. Start at the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, which offers overflow parking. As you hike, look over the forests to Mount Grinnell, and keep an eye out for grizzly bears in the Many Glacier area. The dirt trail ascends 1,200 feet, so pack water and plan to spend about 6 to 8 hours hiking the 9.6 miles out and back. Experienced young hikers should be able to handle the trail, as long as they are educated about bear safety.
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