Mother nature sure painted a gorgeous landscape at Glacier National Park! You’ll pinch yourself wondering how a place this beautiful even exists. But how do you even begin to plan your time here?
Whether you have 1 day or 7 days, this Glacier National Park itinerary will help you plan to make the most of your time in this magical place.
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Glacier National Park in northern Montana is known as the crown of the continent for it’s majestic mountains, alpine lakes and some of the most stunning views in all of the United States. This itinerary covers a few of the most popular hikes plus road-side attractions, must-see overlooks and more!
One of the park’s most impressive features is the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is covered in this guide. And if you’re ready to immerse yourself in the park, be sure to check out the best hikes in Glacier National Park.
How many days in Glacier National Park?
First, let’s cover this ever-popular question: how many days in Glacier National Park?
A minimum of 3 days is suggested for this park. The more, the better! If you can plan your trip for 7 days, that would allow you time to see the highlights across the park, including the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas.
How to use this Glacier National Park Itinerary
This guide covers a full 7 days in Glacier National Park. It’s organized so that you can make the most of your time during each day, visiting sights and trails around the same area throughout the day. But if your trip is shorter, select the activities you desire most from this itinerary.
Days 1 – 5 cover the west side of the park and the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The 6th is for exploring the Many Glacier area. Day 7 covers the Two Medicine section of the park. This robust plan will allow you to see the highlights all over the park.
If you have one week in Glacier National Park, I’d recommend staying near the west entrance for the first 4 days of your vacation. Then transfer to accommodations near the east side for the last 3 days of the trip. Driving through and around the park can take 1.5-3 hours, depending on traffic.
Alright, let’s get to it!
Glacier National Park itinerary – day 1
Yay!! You’ve made it to the park. Eeeek I’m so excited for you. This is going to be unbelievable!
First stop – Avalanche Lake
Starting your trip off with a bang – Avalanche Lake is a must-see in the park. Located near the west entrance and with a longer season than most hikes, the trail to Avalanche Lake is one of the most popular spots in the park. It’s stunning, to say the least!
Because of it’s popularity, get to the hiking trail super early in the morning before the parking lot fills up. Or you could go a bit later in the day hoping to snag a parking spot from someone who’s already hiked and left the trail. But for the purposes of this itinerary, let’s assume you can get there early. (Early in peak summer season is by 7 or 7:30am.)
Avalanche Lake Trail is 5.9 miles and rated as moderate. I hiked it with a 4 and 7-year old, so it’s definitely doable for most people. There are a few hills but nothing too difficult. On the way to the trail be sure to stop by this stunning stream that’s actually part of the Trail of the Cedars, connected to Avalanche Trail. It’s breathtaking!
The hike could take you 2-3 hours, depending on how much time you spend at the lake. There are plenty of fallen logs to grab a seat to rest once you get there. Pack a light snack or picnic and soak in the views!
My family packed our water shoes and a light towel and swapped out our shoes to cool off in the lake. There’s just something about dipping your toes in alpine lakes that connects you with nature on the deepest level! And if you’re traveling to Glacier National Park in the summer, it’s a great, refreshing way to cool off.
Be sure to carry your bear spray on this hike (and any others within the park). The mosquitos can also be intense in the forested area, so be prepared for that too.
Sacred Dancing Cascade
Just down the road from Avalanche Lake, north of Lake McDonald, is the Sacred Dancing Cascade pull-off. This is a fun spot to hop out of your car and check out the river and falls.
If you’re up for a light hike, you can walk the trails near and along the river. There’s plenty over overlooks peeking through the trees. Just be sure to reapply the bug spray for this hike – the mosquitos are thick in this area!
Next up: Apgar village
After a fun hike, you’ll want to relax a bit. Spend the afternoon at Apgar Village! This fun spot inside the park has a few cabins and accommodations for vacationers. But even more so, it’s a great spot to grab some food! Try the sandwiches and ice cream at Eddies Cafe & Gifts. Yum!
Or walk around the village and shop for souvenirs. There’s a very picturesque doc right off the main street in the village that sits on Lake McDonald. During peak season, the Apgar Amphitheater holds weddings and other events. Or set up for an epic sunset right along the lake!
After the village, if you have more time in your day you can spend it on Lake McDonald. Although we’ll have more on that the 4th day in this Glacier National Park itinerary.
Otherwise head back to your accommodations for the evening – you’ve got a big day tomorrow that starts early!
Day 2 of this Glacier National Park itinerary
This is one of my favorite days in the park! Spend some time along one of the most scenic drives in the country. I would recommend to pack a cooler with a lunch for this day as there’s very little food options. Oh, and don’t forget plenty of water.
Let’s do this!
Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park
Driving this road is a spectacular experience. If you have one week in Glacier National Park, you’ll want to drive the road multiple days in order to see the most scenic landscapes and roadside attractions. For day 2 in the park, we’ll just be doing a portion of the road, but don’t fret, there’s plenty to see and much more another day!
Entering at the west entrance of the park, drive past the visitor center, Lake McDonald and Avalanche Lake before the road starts to climb.
Just a quick note: only smaller vehicles can access the narrow road. No RV’s!
I highly recommend to drive straight through to the Logan Pass Visitor Center and hit the sights on the way back. Parking fills up early and you’ll want to get an early start. Aim to be at the visitor center by 8:00 am in the summer in order to ensure you get a parking spot.
The views are absolutely stunning and if you get motion sickness, be sure to take your remedy before hitting the road! It will be tempting to stop for photos, but trust me when I say resist – you want to get a parking spot at the top.
Why am I saying to get to the visitor center? To do this….
Hike to Hidden Lake
One of the best hikes in all of Glacier National Park, the hike to Hidden Lake is simply incredible! It’s a moderate hike at 2.6 miles to the scenic overlook. Hiking all the way to the lake nearly doubles that distance at 5 miles. While I’d highly recommend the hike all the way to the lake, if you’re not up for it the overlook also has fantastic views!
This hike can be difficult if there’s a lot of snow. At over 7,000 feet in elevation, it’s one of the highest points in the park – at least that’s easily accessible. I’d highly recommend good hiking shoes with traction and hiking poles. These are the hiking boots I wore in the park and the trekking poles I hike with.
We saw many people slipping and sliding on this trail. It was a lot of fun hiking in July through the snow, but it is tricky!
The lake itself is gorgeous! Pack a snack and enjoy the view.
This trail is known for wildlife – we saw a ton of mountain goats. Many of them on and near the trail, and even more within sight at various times. The cute little marmots were fun to watch too. Just don’t feed the wildlife! Pack out what you pack in, as part of the Leave No Trace principles. And remember to give wildlife plenty of space.
Back at the Logan Pass Visitor Center, you can shop for souvenirs, use the restrooms or talk with park rangers about other trails and helpful tips while in the park.
But before you leave, make sure to check out the Continental Divide. Kids get a kick out of it (and adults too!) Knowing that on one side of the divide the water heads west, and on the other the water heads east. So cool!
Next, let’s explore the road back to the west entrance.
More sights along the Going-to-the-Sun Road
Leaving the Logan Pass Visitor Center, the first thing you’ll want to do is stop at the lookout just slightly down the hill, at the turnout called Big Ben. It has some of the best views of the Going-to-the-Sun Road!
As a display of just how massive this park is…see the line towards the right on the photo above? That’s the road! Seeing that thin stripe amongst these majestic mountain peaks helps put the size of this park in perspective.
Heading further down the road, you’ll get to the Weeping Wall Falls. It’s a wide waterfall that you can feel from the car – especially on the passenger side. Surprise riders by getting them drenched! The waterfall is gushing in the spring and early summer and by fall is typically dried up.
A couple more scenic stops are the Bird Woman Falls and the West Tunnel. Both offer chances to get out of your vehicle and grab photos. The tunnel even has 2 lookouts built inside along with a sidewalk so you can explore a bit. So fun!
As you make your way down the mountain, take time to marvel at these sights. It’s such a beautiful reminder of the special place you’re in.
Next, head back to your accommodations – time to rest for a fun day tomorrow.
Day 3 of this Glacier National Park itinerary
Strap your hiking boots back on, because this day is going to be an intense one – especially if you love hiking! Alternatively, you could venture on the edge of the park for some white water rafting…keep reading for details.
Hike the Highline Trail
One of the best and most popular hikes in the park is the Highline Trail. With jaw-dropping views, you won’t want to miss it!
The absolute best way to hike the Highline Trail is to park at The Loop and take a shuttle up to Logan Pass Visitor Center where the trail begins. However, with ever-changing shuttle schedules through the park, you’ll want to check Glacier’s Shuttle System to see if that’s an option for your visit to the park.
This is the ideal scenario because the 10-mile Highline Trail from Logan Pass to The Loop is mostly downhill with stunning views of the park. Some of the trial runs directly above the Going-to-the-Sun Road, so you can imagine the sights!
Alternatively, you can hike the trail from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet and back, which is just under 15 miles. However, the views from the Highline Trail are so spectacular, you could walk 2-3 miles in to absorb the views and then turn around and hike back.
Quick note: the Highline Trail has about 1/2 mile where the trail is 6-8 feet wide, with a 100 foot plus drop-off immediately beside the trial. The park service has installed a rope if needed, however most hikers just stay towards the mountain side and are fine. So beware if you have a fear of heights.
Alternative: White water rafting
If you’re not up for more hiking, an alternative for this day is a white-water rafting adventure. With the gorgeous scenery and plethora of rivers and streams in the area, it’s a dream destination for white water rafting!
The best white water rafting tour is a half day tour and is perfect for beginners with class 2 and 3 rapids. You’ll leave from West Glacier and raft along the Middle Fork Flathead River. You’ll see the southwestern side of Glacier National Park, with unique views of the park that can only be seen on the river!
Book it now: white water rafting tour in Glacier National Park. Just like most other activities in the park, these tours fill up quickly!
See the Milky Way in this Dark Sky Park
If you’ve got great weather, this is one of the BEST national parks to see the stars. Designated a Dark Sky Park, Glacier National Park is high enough in elevation to see the magnificent Milky Way quite clearly.
The best way to experience this Dark Sky Park is to stay in the park until it’s completely dark. An ideal location for stargazing is to see it from the Logan Pass Visitor Center because the dramatic mountain tops create an amazing sight against the starlit sky.
However you can also hang out at the Apgar Visitor Center, St. Mary Visitor Center or even right off the road at the edge of Lake McDonald for stargazing. Just be extra cautious of wildlife in the dark!
Fun fact: Glacier National Park and it’s sister park, Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada were the first international park to receive the designation by the International Dark Sky Association.
If you’re traveling in the peak of summer, beware the sun sets quite late with it’s northern location, making ideal stargazing extremely late, so plan accordingly! This Glacier National Park itinerary has stargazing a late night, in anticipation of a slower day tomorrow.
Day 4 itinerary for Glacier National Park
The 4th day in the park, the pace is bit slower for a little relaxing day. You deserve it after hiking the last couple of days!
Have a slow morning or enjoy a late breakfast at West Glacier, near the west park entrance. Famous for it’s glass-like appearance and rocks that are so colorful they look like nature’s skittles, Lake McDonald is a year-round joy in Glacier National Park.
Closer to Apgar Village you’ll be able to rent gear to explore the lake, like kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, etc. Then grab your water shoes and hit the beach at Lake McDonald!
However if you drive further into the park to the north, you’ll find more secluded, rocky beaches to enjoy the lake. There are various pull-off and a few parking spots.
Pro tip: if you want a more secluded spot, look for the pull-offs with room for just a few cars. Find the shore then walk for a bit to get space to yourself!
There were definitely a fallen log or two in most areas to sit on. However we would have been much more comfortable if we would have packed foldable camping chairs. We typically have collapsible folding chairs on beach vacations, and while this isn’t a typical beach getaway, they would have been helpful.
Pack a cooler with lunch or a heavy snack and enjoy the afternoon at Lake McDonald.
Some of my family’s favorite moments were spent on the shores of Lake McDonald. Skipping rocks on the completely reflective lake and watching my kids play while hearing a bald eagle flap it’s wings directly over head.
Lake McDonald is certainly a special place!
Huckleberry Ice Cream
While visiting Glacier National Park, you absolutely must try the huckleberry ice cream! Northern Montana is the spot to try huckleberry anything. From jam to pie, ice cream, coffee, beer…you’re sure to find something you like!
Right outside of the west entrance is West Glacier Mercantile, and it serves phenomenal huckleberry ice cream. Surely you can find it in nearby Hungry Horse and Columbia Falls, too. This is a sweet treat and perfect for a day that you’re just relaxing at Glacier NP, instead of crazy intense hiking or lots of driving.
Rest up for tomorrow -it’s going to be action-packed!
This is the point in this Glacier National Park itinerary that I’d suggest an accommodation change if you’re planning to stay on the west side of the park. The last 3 days of this plan are spent exploring the eastern side and it would be much more convenient to stay closer to the areas you’re exploring so you have less drive time.
Glacier National Park itinerary – day 5
The 5th day is back to adventuring! Lace up your hiking boots and pack your water shoes, this is a super fun day at Glacier National Park!
Saint Mary Lake
If your accommodations are closer to the east entrance, take that into the park. Otherwise enter through the west entrance and drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road and soak in the sights all the way to Saint Mary Lake.
A beautiful spot for a quick hike right off the parking lot is Sun Point. It’s a short .4 miles from the parking lot and easy. You’ll get 360-degree views of the park from there and it’s a phenomenal sight! The bright teal water combined with the beautiful trees in this area are absolutely stunning.
Quick stop at Sunrift Gorge
While in the Saint Mary Lake area, check out Sunrift Gorge. It’s located right off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, so it’s easy to spot. Sunrift Gorge is a cool view of a stream cutting through rock. The water is turquoise and fast-moving, so it’s fun to hear it echo through the rocky area.
The water in Sunrift Gorge is actually Baring Creek, which eventually drain to Saint Mary Lake. By the way – when we hung out at the lake we saw the stream connecting and it was frigid cold as it entered the lake – even in the peak of summer!
Anyway, although Sunrift Gorge is right off the road, be sure to pack your bear spray. There’s trails nearby and the area is full of huckleberries, which bears love!
Hike to Virginia Falls
One of the most popular waterfalls in Glacier National Park, Virginia Falls is another must-see! There’s actually multiple ways to access this waterfall. One of them is by hiking past St. Mary Falls, which is a bonus on the way to the taller, more majestic Virginia Falls.
The full trail is 3.6 miles and rated as moderate, it’s one of the longer trails on this Glacier National Park itinerary but it’s not too difficult. And the views are worth every single step!
Start at the parking lot and heading to St. Mary Falls, it’s a relatively flat terrain. This waterfall is an incredible color of turquoise – you truly won’t believe your eyes! Take a bit of time here to rest and grab some photos before continuing to Virginia Falls.
The climb becomes steeper, although not too intense on the way to one of the park’s largest waterfalls – Virginia Falls. As you near the top, you’ll be able to hear the gushing falls from the distance. Walk all the way to the base of the falls for refreshing mist and fun photos.
There’s quite a few rocky steps almost intended by mother nature yourself to sit an enjoy this luscious waterfall. It’s a beautiful experience and one you won’t want to miss!
Perhaps even more fun is the pool at the base of the falls. Swap out your hiking shoes for water shoes and take a dip in the water. We saw people full on swimming, although with the very cold water temperature, I wouldn’t recommend it! My kids enjoyed the water for at least 30 minutes though, finding fun rocks and venturing about.
There is a pit toilet right outside of the base of the falls, which is more than nothing when nature calls. 🙂
See Jackson Glacier
Fun fact: Although it’s name indicates you will see glaciers everywhere, that’s not the case!
When Glacier National Park was established in 1910, there were over 100 glaciers. By 1966, only 35 glaciers remained. Fast forward to 2015 when only 26 meet the criteria to be designated as active glaciers.
Jackson Glacier is one of the only glaciers in the park that’s easy and accessible to see. There’s an overlook from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, or you can take the 10 mile hike from the overlook to the glacier.
Another accessible glacier is Grinnell Glacier on the east side of Glacier National Park. We’ll get to that on day 6 of this itinerary.
Picnic at Lunch Creek
The perfect spot for a picnic in the park is Lunch Creek. Located just east of the Continental Divide, Lunch Creek is a beautiful waterfall nestled right along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Find a parking spot and picnic table to enjoy a spot to sit and give your legs a rest. Have some good food and enjoy the company you’re with while being surrounded by one of the best national parks in all of the USA!
If you’re up for a quick walk, check out Lunch Creek Falls a bit closer. There’s a trail just to the right of the falls for exploring, although it doesn’t venture far.
This is the last planned stop for the day…and there’s 2 more days left of amazing things to see in the park!
Day 6 – Glacier National Park Itinerary
For the last 2 days of this Glacier National Park itinerary, we’re heading to the lesser popular – but still amazing – areas of the park. Many Glacier is less crowded, the eastern part of the park is a bit more remote. For that reason, I’d recommend staying within the park boundaries at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn or Many Glacier Hotel.
Exploring Grinnell Glacier
One of the most accessible glaciers in the park, Grinnell Glacier is an experience like no other. The entire hike is a difficult one, coming in at 10.6 miles. However, a popular alternative is to take a boat ride across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, which shortens the trail to just under 7 miles. Make sure to reserve your boat ride in advance as they sell out quickly!
This trail is worth the long, strenuous hike! Ask anyone who has completed this trial and they’ll likely tell you it’s one of their favorite trails they’ve ever done. With mind-blowing views almost the entire trail, it’s a picturesque setting unlike any other.
Be sure to pack plenty of protein snacks and water. Good hiking boots and trekking poles are essential on this hike. Don’t forget the sunblock or sun hat, too.
Once you reach the Grinnell Lake Viewpoint, you won’t believe your eyes at how turquoise the water of Upper Grinnell Lake is. It’s truly a spectacular experience, and you can really see Mother Nature at her finest!
See more of Many Glacier
While you’re in the Many Glacier area of the park, be sure to spend some time at Swiftcurrent Lake. You can even hike the 2.7 mile trail around the lake for the best views! The water is crystal clear and with snow-capped mountains creating a scenic backdrop, you’ll once again see why Glacier National Park is the most beautiful in the US.
Redrock Falls is another family-friendly hike at 3.5 miles. The trail is flat and easy, and the falls are absolutely beautiful! And if you’d like another smaller hike to add to your time at the Many Glacier area of the park, another must-see is Fishercap Lake. It’s a smaller lake but worth the 1.6 mile roundtrip hike from the parking lot.
Here’s a map of the Many Glacier area with more hiking inspiration!
Glacier National Park itinerary – 7th day
The last day’s activities are located in the Two Medicine area of the park. You could spend an entire week just exploring the sights, lakes and trails in this area. But since you only have a limited amount of time, this Glacier National Park itinerary just has one day exploring the highlights of this area.
Visit Running Eagle Falls
Just past the Two Medicine entrance to the park is the turn off for Running Eagle Falls. A short walk from the parking lot, Running Eagle Falls is a tricky waterfall. Depending on the time of year and how much water is flowing in the area, this waterfall is tricky. It either flows from the top above the rocks, or it runs right through the middle of the slab rock.
It’s a quick stop during your time in the Two Medicine area of the park.
Hike to Twin Falls in Two Medicine
One of the most popular activities in this part of the park is to catch a boat ride across Two Medicine Lake and take a hike to Twin Falls. It’s a beautiful hike at just 2 miles and being a relatively flat trial, the hike is rated as easy. This is a family-friendly adventure and is accessible for most skill levels.
Bring a heavy snack or a picnic to eat as you enjoy the view of the falls and this gorgeous park!
If you have time, hike about one more mile to Upper Two Medicine Lake, where you’ll get serenity and amazing views! This is definitely one of the lesser-traveled hikes within Glacier National Park, and one worth visiting if you’re up for it. Afterwards, you can hike back down and catch a ride back across the lake.
Be sure to make reservations for the boat ride across the lake, as it does fill up, especially during the peak of summer.
Sinopah Mountain and Two Medicine Lake
The star of this part of the park is Sinopah Mountain and the reflective Two Medicine Lake. If you’re an avid hiker, the Dawson/Pitamakan Pass loop trail is one of the longest trails in the park, and some say if offers some of the best views in Glacier National Park. The trail is intense, to say the least! It comes in at over 17 miles and climbs over 3600 feet in elevation!
If you’re not up for that level of intensity, just enjoy the views of the lake from the shore. It’s an incredible scene and justifies an hour – or more! spent enjoying your last afternoon at Glacier National Park.
What to bring to Glacier National Park
Before this customizable itinerary ends, let’s go over a few of the essentials specific to Glacier National Park. Here’s what you should carry with you, beyond what you may normally bring to a national park.
- Bear spray. This is an absolute must in the park. Every adult hiking should have it easily accessible at all times.
- Bug spray. And lather it on in the summer and fall! Here’s my favorite bug spray that also works as a tick repellent.
- Eco-safe sunscreen. The chemicals in traditional sunblock are damaging to the environment. Here’s my favorite earthy-friendly sunscreen alternative that actually smells great!
- Food and water. Services are extremely limited in the park. Consider packing full meals in coolers or at the very least lots of protein snacks. And more water than you think you’ll need. If you’re traveling in summer, consider fresh mountain water through a Sawyer filter.
- Backpack. I’m absolutely in love with my Osprey Sirrus 24 hiking backpack – perfect for day hikes. You’ll need something to carry all those snacks, water and other hiking essentials.
- Hiking poles. Even for smaller hikes, these hiking poles provide stability. They’re especially handy on trails like Grinnell Glacier and Hidden Lake.
Head here for a complete list on what to pack for a day hike.
Glacier National Park itinerary – that’s a wrap!
Whew! You’re going to have a fabulous time in Glacier National Park! It’s a phenomenal destination with unforgettable sights. Let’s recap this recommended itinerary, in a much more succinct format, shall we?
Avalanche Lake Hike
Sacred Dancing Cascade
Going-to-the-Sun Road sights
Continental Divide and Logan Pass Visitor Center
White water rafting
Huckleberry ice cream
Saint Mary Lake
Picnic at Lunch Creek
Many Glacier sights
Running Eagle Falls
Hike to Twin Falls
Two Medicine Lake
So whether you have 1 day or one week in Glacier National Park, you’ll be able to use this customizable itinerary to plan your perfect vacation to this incredible place!
Check out more Glacier National Park content:
21 Remarkable Things to Do in Glacier National Park
15 Beautiful Waterfalls in Glacier National Park You’ll Want to See
More national park inspiration for another day:
28 Absolutely Best National Parks to Visit in Summer
Arches National Park Hikes: 12 Top-rated Trails You’ll Love
10 Best Hikes in Canyonlands National Park that Promise Incredible Views
11 Spectacular Things to Do in Badlands National Park
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