How to Spend a Few Days in Glacier National Park
Glacier is one of those places that can seem overwhelming, at least in my mind, because there can seem like too much to do if you only have a few days to spend. In this post I’ll give you an idea of what you can expect and or plan for on your trip to Glacier if you’ve never been before. Obviously in my mind and most people’s if you’re familiar with the area, hiking is the best way to see the park and some of the best things can only be seen by getting on some of the trails.
Going to the Sun Road
While there’s a numerous entrances into the park, Going to the Sun Road is the primary road that cuts through the park east to west, and does experience seasonal closures during the winter months. However, when most visitors are going in the summer when that shouldn’t be an issue. On your first day in Glacier I would recommend dedicating your whole day to driving the road, and seeing what you can see along the drive. I also suggest hiking Hidden or Gunsight Lake that day because they both are accessed off of that road. It is best if you are planning to hike to get an early start that day because the trailhead to hike Hidden Lake begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center which parking can fill up and make it almost impossible to find a spot by midday in the summer. The trailhead to Gunsight Lake begins a little further toward the east entrance just before the Jackson Glacier Overlook if you’re driving east. Although I didn’t have the chance to make it Gunsight Lake myself, I know it would have been just as beautiful if not more than Hidden Lake which I was able to make it to. Whenever I visit a new place I always do extensive research into where I want to spend my time so I’m very confident without having been that Gunsight would have been amazing. Either way I’d say pick one, and you won’t be disappointed.
Many Glacier Road
After your first day on Going to the Sun Road, Many Glacier Road is where I recommend you focus on spending the majority of your time. Unfortunately the eastern end of the park has smaller towns which means less services and poor cell phone service at least in my experience than the west side, but here is where many of the beautiful day hikes are that I would recommend checking out.
If you are going to pick any one day hike for your time in Glacier pick this one! Cracker Lake will definitely blow your mind if you’ve never been before. Round trip the hike is between 12 - 13 miles from the Cracker Lake Trailhead starting behind the Many Glacier Hotel. If you didn’t know you can actually camp at Cracker Lake to break up the hike into two days. The catch is you need permits which can be very hard to come by if you didn’t plan for it because the park service only issues one walk-in permit a day which needs to be picked up at any back country office the day before. In the summer this one permit will be gone the minute the doors open to the back country office and lines can be competitive outside of the office starting hours before in the middle of the night for just that one permit. I would personally say it’s worth it to try and get the one permit, but that just depends how determined you are to spend the night there.
Grinnell & Iceberg Lake
Unfortunately because of bad weather I didn’t get the chance to hike these two trails, but I would have if the weather didn’t kick us out early. Both hikes are off of the Many Glacier Road. The last one that I also had on my mind if we would have had the time for it would have been Helen Lake, but that would have been after Grinnell and Iceberg for sure. When I visited the trail to the actual Grinnell Glacier was closed, but you could still get to the lake. This might be the same for your visit depending on the time in the season you are there and how fast snowpack has been melting. I was there in the beginning of July, and just because the snowpack in 2019 was so bad I wouldn’t even have had the option to hike there if I was able to do the hike with better weather.
The Highline Trail
When I visited the Highline Trail was also closed because of snow. Overall, visiting Glacier all depends on the amount of time you have to spend, and how much hiking you are willing to do. Only from pictures and my friend’s stories, hiking this trail would be another amazing adventure you should definitely consider. It again begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center so keep that in mind for parking during peak season.
Personally I thought I had the perfect experience doing the hikes I did with only two days in the park. If I were you I would start with my top recommendations on this post and work down making Grinnell, Iceberg, Helen, and the Highline Trail hikes you do if you still have the time for them. I only say if you still have time because I speak so highly of Cracker Lake as one of your firsts. In the end though Glacier is beautiful everywhere so whatever hike you choose will not disappoint, and I’d love to hear personal experiences from anyone who has done some of those trails I wasn’t able to make it on.
There’s obvious mountain safety when it comes to hiking in Glacier even more so when there’s still snow present, but the number one piece of advice I can give is have bear spray and know how to use it. When we hiked Cracker Lake people constantly kept reporting bears sightings to us as they were leaving, and when we were leaving the lake we actually saw a massive grizzly! Fortunately for us he was on the other side of the stream from where the trail is, but that could have very well not have been the case so it’s imperative that you are prepared. You should NEVER attempt any hike in Glacier without bear spray, and don’t take this lightly.
Overall Glacier National Park is a very fun, amazing, and beautiful place that anyone at any age or fitness level can find something to enjoy. All being said, this blog is for information purposes only and I ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY INJURY, LOST INDIVIDUALS, OR LEGAL TROUBLE ENCOUNTERED WHILE FOLLOWING THE INFORMATION POSTED HERE.
As always find the most up to date information and conditions on the official National Park website.