Imagine as your driving up to Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana on a beautiful day, blue skies and no clouds. You get excited just thinking about getting out on the trail. The chance to see spectacular views, gin clear rivers, and walk among the top north American predators is a dream come true. Then as you round the last corner to Logan pass you witness the unthinkable.
The parking lot is full, there are tourists everywhere, you cant even find a place to park. Suddenly your palms start to sweat, you become agitated, you feel a bit dizzy and then it hits you, a full blown panic attack! You can’t believe it, your supposed to be on vacation and here you are just trying to park to get to the trail head. Now what? You just plan a little bit better.
Most of the hikes recommended are day hikes. Some of the tips are to help you avoid the crowds without all of the stress. The number one tip for most of the top hikes in Glacier National Park? Get to the trails heads early to avoid the crowds, especially in July and August!
Driving in from Kalispell, Columbia Falls or Whitefish on the west side to get to “Going to the Sun road” you will likely go into Apgar village. If you want to buy a shot glass, t-shirt or key chain that says “I love Glacier” or you simply love people, pets and lots of traffic, head here anytime of day, anytime of the season.
Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful view’s from McDonald Lake. You can drive past the crowds farther up the lake and can get spectacular view with a bit more peace. This is the busiest place in Glacier and this season will be a mess on the west side. There will be alot more traffic and road construction will test your patience. * Expert tip: Take the side route on the trail of the cedars boardwalk and sit at Avalanche Gorge.
“Going to the Sun road” will lead you to both trails which start at Logan Pass. During the months of July and August you need to arrive early, sunrise if possible. If you get a late start you may want to go to a different area in the park as you will find it almost impossible to park at the top of Logan Pass. Plan your next day better so you can enjoy Logan pass its spectacular and some great hikes start from there. Including Highline and Hidden lake trails. *Expert tip: Do not head up to Logan pass around lunch time or you will be overwhelmed with the crowds.
Take the north fork road towards Pole bridge. These lakes have been discovered and have been getting crowded as well. Coming in from the west entrance the 2 lane dirt road will take up to 2 hours to drive. They are both great places to hit before sunrise, especially if your wanting to canoe, kayak or paddle board. The wind tends to show itself mid day. * Expert tip: Bring a cooler full of goods as there are limited services but Pole bridge mercantile is a great stop.
The two medicine area isn’t has busy as St.Mary and Many Glacier and offers great hiking. The hikes in this area may not be on many radars but they are some of my favorites! This area has it all, especially if your a wildlife photographer and hope to catch the big boys in their own environment. Nothing frustrates a photographer more than thinking someone else got out on the trail before us and this hike is no exception, start early. Its a moderate hike but is simply stunning, especially in the fall. *Expert tip: Spectacular waterfalls await.
Yes, this is truly a beautiful trail and cram packed with the city folks with bear bells strapped to their feet. If you get annoyed from too many people yelling “hey bear” or waiting to pass others on a trail you better hit this trail before day break. This assures that your only seeing the lines of tourists on the way back from the trail.
If you go to early in the season you may not see the icebergs but will see a frozen lake which isn’t as spectacular. As you move past the turn off to Iceberg you will head to Ptarmigan tunnel and enter a huge metal door, as you go through the door and look on the other side to the Belly river area its like the “Gates to Heaven”. *Expert tip: When rounding blind corners pay attention, bears are more than frequent here, wont hurt to talk or sing and solo hiking can be a bit risky!
This is a great hike in the Many Glacier area and yet another popular hike for good reason. The hike will make you work a bit but the rewards are around every corner. You will see magnificent wildflowers in July and August. This trail gives you a chance to see alot of wildlife at a close distance like big horn sheep. The parking lot fills up quick and it can be a bit chaotic so make sure you take your medications if necessary to avoid a panic attack! *Expert Tip: Take your time, you can visibly see 3 glaciers on this trail.
These are just a few hike you may see while you visit Glacier National Park and they are stunning but remember “the early bird gets the worm” especially during July and August. All of the hikes recommended are in bear country so keep your head on your shoulders. If you see a bear with cubs or another wild animal and decide to approach it remember most of the spectators are inadvertently rooting for the bear!
Keep in mind that the best guide experts in Glacier National Park are glacier guides , heck they will even cook dinner for you!
Born and raised in Montana Ted Chase is a life long fly- fisherman and wildlife photographer.
Ted and his wife own the Summit Mountain Lodge on the border of Glacier National Park They provide premier lodging, fine dining and are known for their destination weddings. The lodge offers a great launching point for anyone looking to hike, backpack, fish or search for wildlife around Glacier National Park.