Glacier National Park Travel Guide

USA  #1 in Best Places to Hike in North America

Best Things To Do in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is known for its many hiking trails, ranging from the easy Trail of the Cedars to the strenuous Grinnell Glacier. Along any path you traverse, you'll likely see stunning alpine scenery punctuated by jagged peaks, alpine meadows and glacial lakes. Speaking of lakes, Glacier National Park boasts more than 700 of them. See a few (including Lake McDonald) on a guided Glacier Park Boat Company tour. Looking for a quick daytrip? Head up north to the world's first International Peace Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site, Waterton Lakes National Park. And when you're in need of park information or ranger-led programs, or just need to access a trailhead, the visitor centers at Apgar and Logan Pass are perfect starting points.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated June 1, 2018

  • #1
    Apgar Nature Center
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    #1 in Glacier National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Housed in a small cabin built in 1929, the Apgar Nature Center sits in a grove of cedar trees and is one of the official park visitor centers. The nature center features interactive activities for kids: children can feel a grizzly bear's fur, listen and identify birds by their "songs" or create their own puppet show. Educational displays detail plants found in the park and teach about the habitats of the vast array of wildlife. Ranger-led talks and other programs are held in the outdoor seating area.

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  • #2
    Lake McDonald
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    #2 in Glacier National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, is the major hub of activity on the west side. Carved out by massive glaciers thousands of years ago, the valley is home to the rustic Lake McDonald Lodge – one of the park's most popular accommodations – and several historic chalets. The area offers an array of activities including bus tours, boat tours, horseback riding, ranger presentations and access to two of the park's popular day hikes, the Avalanche Lake Trail and Trail of the Cedars. The lodge offers numerous dining options in a hunting lodge setting, complete with a roaring fireplace in the lobby. The lodge opens in late May and closes in late September and advance reservations are highly recommended. Tours and activities, as well as the park's free shuttle service, operate on the same schedule. There are also several campgrounds situated around Lake McDonald, as well as the Apgar Visitor Center. Reserve online in advance of your visit.

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  • #3
    Trail of the Cedars
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    #3 in Glacier National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of two wheelchair and stroller accessible trails in the park, Trail of the Cedars is a short loop hike – less than a mile – that begins and ends on Going-to-the-Sun Road, meaning you can hike it in either direction. The hike features a raised boardwalk that passes through a fragrant, old-growth red cedar forest, but the highlight is at the midway point. Here, you'll reach a footbridge over Avalanche Creek with sweeping views of the gorge and a stunning waterfall surrounded by rainbow-colored rocks. The only downside? Since this easy hike is accessible to visitors of all skill levels, parking is often difficult to find during peak season (July to Labor Day). 

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  • #4
    Going-to-the-Sun Road
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    #4 in Glacier National Park
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Going-to-the-Sun Road is a paved, two-lane highway that snakes through Glacier National Park, dividing the park into east and west regions and crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. One of the most spectacular scenic drives in America, this road is both a National Historic Landmark and a Civil Engineering Landmark and passes through almost every type of terrain the park offers, from glacial lakes, waterfalls and cedar forests to alpine peaks. Several viewpoints and pullouts make it easy to stop and take in the view and snap photographs. Though portions of the 52-mile route are open year-round, the alpine sections do close due to snow. Generally, the road is fully open in late June or early July, but check the park website in advance. 

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  • #5
    Logan Pass
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    #5 in Glacier National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The visitor center at Logan Pass is located in the middle of the park off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, less than 20 miles west of the St. Mary visitor center and about 30 miles north of the Apgar Visitor Center. Offering maps and trip-planning information, the center also features exhibits, restrooms, water fountains, a bookstore, ranger-led guided hikes, parking and free shuttle service to the other two visitor centers.

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  • #6
    Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
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    #6 in Glacier National Park
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park partnered to create the world's first International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both parks are biosphere reserves, featuring spectacular scenery and a wide variety of plant and animal species. Although the park has minimal facilities, nearby Waterton Village is a charming small town filled with restaurants, hotels and gift shops. Travelers can also rent bikes and book boat tours in the village.

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  • #7
    Iceberg Lake Trail
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    #7 in Glacier National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Iceberg Lake Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers, who are treated to stunning views of Mount Wilbur, Iceberg Peak and the Continental Divide upon reaching the snow and ice-filled lake. The hike begins behind the cabins at Swiftcurrent Lake and shares the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail for the first few miles, splitting off just past the Ptarmigan Falls. Hikers are rewarded with views of gorgeous alpine meadows in the spring and summer.

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  • #8
    Glacier Park Boat Company Tours
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    #8 in Glacier National Park
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This historic family-owned boat company dates back to 1938, when it became the first tour concession in the park. Its handcrafted wooden boats take visitors on narrated tours of Lake McDonald, St. Mary's Lake at Rising Sun, Two Medicine and Many Glacier. 

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  • #9
    Grinnell Glacier
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    #9 in Glacier National Park
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Named for anthropologist and conservationist George Bird Grinnell, the Grinnell Glacier is one of the most-photographed attractions in the park. The Grinnell Glacier hike is a little more than 10 miles round-trip and, at the viewpoint, reaches 1,600 feet in altitude. Hikers can take a shortcut to the trailhead by using the Glacier Park Boat Company shuttle or catch the trailhead at various points including Logan Pass and the Many Glacier Hotel. If you want to park your car, a free shuttle service runs from all three visitor centers: Apgar, St. Mary and Logan Pass. The early morning boat shuttles from Lake Josephine or Swiftcurrent Lake are popular with hikers, as the boat ride trims several miles off the trail. Reserve a round-trip ticket in advance ($27.50 for adult; $13.75 for children). One-way return-only tickets are available on a space-available basis and can be purchased from the boat captain.

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  • #10
    Highline Trail
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    #10 in Glacier National Park
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the most popular hiking trails in the park – and one of the most strenuous – the Highline Trail follows the Continental Divide and features stunning scenery of glacial valleys, alpine meadows and a famous ledge called the Garden Wall. Here, the trail narrows to just a few feet and the drop-offs are known to terrify those with a fear of heights. The park service has installed a hand cable along this stretch of the ridge for safety. Because the trail is 11 miles round-trip, it's not considered suitable for novice hikers (although there is a short loop to visit only the Garden Wall). The Garden Wall is located a quarter mile from the trailhead for those who prefer the shorter hike.

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