Glacier National Park: 7 Day Adventure

Glacier National Park is located in northern Montana’s Rocky Mountains.  With over 700 miles of hiking trails, you can spend an endless amount of time exploring the park’s gorgeous glacial lakes, lush forests, and majestic mountains.  And if the park’s stunning scenery isn’t enticing enough, there’s not a trail in the park where you are not likely to see moose, grizzly bears, mountain goats, deer, and elk.  In between trying to put a small dent into those 700 miles of trails, the park also offers the perfect chance to add boating, biking, fishing, camping, and even skiing to your adventure list!  This park is easily one of our National Park favorites! Below you will find our 7-day Glacier National Park itinerary to help get your adventure planning started.  Please reach out with any questions!

Entrance Fee:

$35 for a 7-day vehicle pass. 

In addition to a park pass, Glacier National Park also requires a timed entry reservation.

West Glacier- North Fork and Going-to-the-Sun Road require a timed entry reservation from May 26th to Sept 10th, 2023, from 6 am to 3 pm. 

East Glacier- Going-to-the-Sun Road from St. Mary’s, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier require a timed entry reservation from July 1st to Sept 10th, 2023, from 6 am to 3 pm. 

Timed entry reservations for Going-to-the-Sun Road on either side of the park are valid for 3 consecutive days.  Timed entry reservations for North Fork, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier are valid for 1 day. 

Reservations can be found at and are released 4 months in advance.  If you miss the initial release, there is another block of timed entry reservations released at 8 am MST the day prior to the visit date. 

Reservations are $2 and are non-refundable and non-transferable. For more information on the timed entry process, check out this link- Glacier National Park Passes


For this itinerary, I highly recommend staying near West Glacier for days 1-3 and then moving to the east side of Glacier for days 4-7.  If you are staying in a hotel or cabin, plan on arriving in East Glacier the night of day 3.  If you have a trailer or RV, plan on heading to your next campsite on the evening of day 3 or the morning of day 4.  All vehicles on the Going-to-the-Sun Road must be under 21 ft long, 8 ft wide, and 10 ft tall, so those with longer RVs will have to drive the 1.5 hours around the south end of the park to arrive at your east side lodging option.

Lodging options inside the park include:

West- Village Inn Motel, Lake McDonald Lodge, Apgar Village Lodge, and Motel Lake McDonald

East- Rising Sun Motor Inn, Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, and Many Glacier Hotel

The park also has 13 campgrounds.  Bowman Lake, Cut Bank, Kintla Lake, Quartz Creek, and Rising Sun do not take reservations.  Apgar, Avalanche, Fish Creek, Many Glacier, St. Mary, Sprague Creek, and Two Medicine Campgrounds all accept reservations at

On the west side, check out West Glacier, Coram, Hungry Horse, and Columbia Falls for lodging outside the park.  We stayed at Mountain Meadow RV Park & Cabins and loved it (we have a travel trailer).  We were at the park in less than 10 min.  They had full hookups, Wi-Fi, laundry services, fire pits, and picnic tables.  We would absolutely stay there again. 

On the east side, check out East Glacier or Browning.  Options on the park’s east side are limited, so you will want to book early.  We stayed at Glacier Grizzly Resort.  Again, they had full hookups, Wi-Fi, laundry services, fire pits, and picnic tables. And they had unbelievable mountain views 😊 


There are many dining options throughout the park.

Outside the park, the west side of Glacier has significantly more dining options than the east side of Glacier. Personal recommendations- Glacier Tap House & Pizza (west), Twin Sisters Café (east), and Rising Sun Pizza (east). 

Must Know Before You Go:

  • Please consider purchasing all boat shuttle tickets ahead of time.  The Glacier Park Boat Company has shuttles and tours at Lake McDonald, St. Mary, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier.  Your boat ticket will also be your vehicle reservation for that specific day.   
  • Bring lots of layers and rain jackets-even if rain isn’t forecasted.  At the end of June, we had snow, rain, and warm weather, all in just 10 hours😊
  • One of my favorite things about Glacier National Park- ALL the wildlife!  Always carry bear spray with you and know how to safely use it.  Also, please review all other wildlife safety here- Wildlife Safety
  • Weather and wildlife can cause road and trail closures.  Going-to-the-Sun Road is open for the 2023 season but typically closes for winter in Mid-October- depending on the weather.  My best advice is to be flexible.  There is not a trail in the park that is not stunning, so I did my best to provide alternate options below if you have a trail closure on your specific visit date. 
  • Every parking lot is small.  You must be at most trailheads before 8 am to secure a spot.  My best Glacier advice- If you are coming from EST or CST, stay on your home time while in Glacier.  Your 7 am is Glacier’s 5 am, making getting up and out the door/tent a little easier and finding a parking spot ALOT easier😊
  • And as always, please remember to Leave No Trace

Cell Service:

There is no cell service anywhere in the park.  Public Wi-Fi is available at the Apgar Visitor Center and St. Mary Visitor Center. 

7 Day Itinerary

Day 1

(West Glacier- Going the Sun Road)

Apgar Visitor Center- The Apgar Visitor Center is a great place to start your Glacier adventure.  Pick up maps, talk to rangers, and check out the gift shop before jumping on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and heading towards Lake McDonald.  The visitor center is open daily, Mid-May to Mid-October.

Lake McDonald- Boat Tour/Rental- From the Apgar Visitor Center, the Lake McDonald Lodge is about 9 miles northeast on Going-to-the-Sun Road.  You will have beautiful views of Lake McDonald the entire way, and there are several pull-offs if you want to take pictures of the massive lake. 

To access the lake, park in the Lodge lot and walk around or through the Lodge, where you will immediately see the boat dock on the other side.  Getting out on Lake McDonald is the perfect introduction to Glacier National Park.  We rented a motorboat ($30/hr) to explore the lake, but there are also paddleboards ($17/hr), kayaks ($25/hr), and rowboats ($25/hr) available as well.  Boat tours run at 11:00, 1:30, 3:00, 5:30, and 7:00.  If you want to purchase tickets or rentals before arriving, click here- Glacier Park Boat Company.

Lake McDonald Lodge- After exploring the lake, check out the historic lodge.  There are several places on site to grab lunch before heading to the next stop. 

Johns Lake Loop- Parking for the John’s Lake Trail is about 2 miles from the lodge parking lot.  It is a small lot; if there is no parking, drive further and start the trail at the McDonald Falls Lot instead.  This is an easy, 2-mile loop with 200 ft of elevation gain.  It will take you past John’s Lake, McDonald Falls, and Silver Dancing Cascades.  I highly recommend grabbing a picture of the map at the trailhead.  This loop is a combination of trails, and having a map will help you stay on the right path.

Optional Add-on- Walk further along McDonald Creek by following the Upper McDonald Creek Trail north at the footbridge.  Walking the entire length of the creek trail past the footbridge will add another 3 miles to your hike. 

Day 2

(West Glacier- Going the Sun Road/North Fork)

Trail of Cedars/Avalanche Lake- We are starting the day with one of my favorite hikes at Glacier.  Parking is a challenge at the Trail of Cedars, so plan to arrive as early as possible.  Start at the Trail of Cedars trailhead.  It is an easy boardwalk trail with stunning forest views.  At the first trail split, stay to the left to continue the more scenic part of the trail.  Just after the footbridge overlooking Avalanche Gorge, about 0.6 miles from the parking lot, you will see the trailhead for Avalanche Lake on your left. 

The trail up to the lake is easy to follow, and if you walk to the end of the lake, this entire trail, in combo with the Trail of Cedars, is 5.5 miles with approximately 700ft of elevation gain.  In warmer weather, consider bringing your suit and swimming in the gorgeous glacial lake before heading back down.  Just before the lake are pit toilets, if needed. 

North Fork- After your hike to Avalanche Lake, head up to North Fork to spend the rest of the day exploring Kintla and Bowman Lakes.  From the Trail of Cedars, parking lot to the Polebridge Ranger Station is approximately 40 miles.  The scenic drive is a dirt road most of the way, so it will take you over an hour to make the drive. 

Polebridge Mercantile- Just before the Polebridge Ranger Station is Polebridge Mercantile & Bakery, a must-stop when headed up to the North Fork area. It’s also a great place to grab lunch if you haven’t had it yet.  The bakery has sandwiches and pizza, but there is also a food truck and a saloon serving food and drinks.  If you do nothing else, you must head into the bakery for a huckleberry bear claw.  They are SO good.  Also, highly recommend the garlic parmesan pull-apart bread😊 After refueling on all the delicious treats, head past the ranger station and onto Kintla Lake. 

Kintla Lake- Kintla Lake has a 12+ mile lakeshore trail. We walked just a small portion of it and then spent the rest of our time hanging out by the shoreline and skipping rocks before heading to Bowman Lake.  If you are visiting Glacier during July and August, Kintla Lake is the perfect place to escape the crowds.  Having a place so stunning all to ourselves was magical. 

Bowman Lake- Bowman Lake also has a lengthy lakeshore trail at almost 14 miles.  We hiked about 5 miles of it the evening we went.  It was an easy trail with beautiful forest and lake views and we only saw two other groups the entire time we were on the trail.  We had grabbed takeout at Polebridge Mercantile, so we spent the rest of the evening relaxing on the lakeshore, eating dinner, and watching the sunset. 

*If you only have time for one of these lakes, visit Bowman Lake. 

Day 3

(West Glacier- Going the Sun Road)

Today, take your time and drive most of Going-to-the-Sun Road’s 50 miles.  No gas stations are along the 50 miles, so fill up before leaving West Glacier.  Also, if possible, arrive at the gate no later than 7.  It will make finding a spot at overlooks and Logan Pass SO much easier. 

There are SO many overlooks, and they can easily take most of the day.  I left out the last two stops because they can be seen on Day 4 when you are on the east side of Glacier.  Below are a few of the pullouts along the way that should not be missed! Try and stop for most of them in this order on the way to Logan Pass. Most overlooks will be on your right on the way there, making it easier to pull off when heading towards Logan Pass.

  • West Tunnel Overlook
  • The Loop Viewpoint
  • Bird Woman Falls
  • Haystack Falls
  • Weeping Wall
  • Big Bend Viewpoint
  • Triple Arches
  • Oberlin Bend Viewpoint

Logan Pass Visitor Center/Hidden Lake Overlook Trail- The Hidden Lake Overlook Trail begins just behind the Visitor Center.  When we were there at the end of June, it snowed most of our hike, and the trail was very icy.  We would not have made it without our winter gear and spikes.  If you go early in the season, make sure you are prepared.  The weather down by Lake McDonald on the same day and time was in the high 50s and sunny, while the Logan Pass area was in the low 30s with a wind chill in the 20s. 

The Hidden Lake Trail is 3 miles roundtrip with 500 ft of elevation gain.  Much of the trail is boardwalk stairs climbing up the mountainside. The overlook of the lake is stunning, and if the path past the overlook is open (it is often closed for bear activity), you can extend your hike and walk down to the lake.  Walking to the lake will add another 2.8 miles and 700 ft of elevation gain.    

*If the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is closed, consider hiking a portion of the Highline Trail (the entire trail is 11+ miles, one way).  The trailhead is just across Going-to-the-Sun Road from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. 

Lunch Creek Viewpoint- After Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, Lunch Creek is a great place to stop and eat lunch before your final few stops. 

  • East Tunnel Overlook
  • Siyeh Bend

Jackson Glacier Overlook/ Deadwood Falls via Gunsight Pass Trail- The Gunsight Pass Trail starts just to the left of the Jackson Glacier Overlook.  It is 2.3 miles roundtrip with 600+ ft of elevation gain to a beautiful waterfall.  After your hike, head back to west glacier, stopping at any overlooks you may have missed on the way back😊

*If you are staying in a hotel or tent camping, I would bring everything with you on the morning of Day 3 and then head straight to your campsite or hotel on the east side of Glacier after Deadwood Falls.  If you have an RV/Trailer longer than 21 ft, like us, head back to West Glacier and either drive the 1.5 hrs. to East Glacier tonight or wait and go in the morning.  We started the day early (6:30 am) and were back in West Glacier by 4 pm, so we grabbed our trailer and went in the evening.   

Day 4

(East Glacier- Two Medicine)

Sunrise At Two Medicine Lake- If you can get up early enough, sunrise at Two Medicine is spectacular.  The lake is just a few steps from the parking lot, and we had no trouble finding a spot. 

Aster Falls/Paradise Point- After sunrise, we headed out to Aster Falls via the South Shore Trail.  Shortly after the trailhead (0.2 mi.), there will be a side trail to Paradise Point that is 0.8 miles roundtrip, with beautiful views of the lake and mountains.  After checking out Paradise Point, head back to the main trail and continue to Aster Falls.  This trail has gorgeous mountain views the whole way and ends with a spectacular 20 ft waterfall.  Moose also frequent the lakeshore and beaver ponds along the way; hopefully, you are lucky enough to spot one! This entire trail is 3.6 miles with over 300 ft of elevation gain. 

Optional Add-on: After Aster Falls, head just past the falls to the Aster Park Overlook.  Hiking to the overlook will add 1 mile and 500 ft of elevation gain onto your trip.  It is a short but steep hike up to the stunning overlook. 

Twin Falls- You could continue the South Shore Trail and eventually make it to Twin Falls, but we love a good boat ride, so that’s what we did.  Plus, the boat captain gave us so much information about the area and its history on our way across the lake. You do need tickets for the boat shuttle from the Glacier Park Boat Company and the boat dock it right next to the parking lot.  After arriving at the other end of the lake, it’s an easy 2 miles roundtrip to Twin Falls with only about 100 ft of elevation gain. 

Optional Add-on: After Twin Falls, the trail continues to Upper Two Medicine Lake.  Adding Upper Two Medicine Lake onto your hike will add another 2.5 miles and 200 ft of elevation gain.  The last boat shuttle back to the parking lot leaves the dock at 5:15 pm.

Running Eagle Falls- Our last stop is Running Eagle Falls, my second favorite waterfall in Glacier😊 It has its own parking lot on the way out of the Two Medicine Area.  It’s an easy 0.6 miles roundtrip with minimal (<20 ft) elevation gain from the parking lot.  This trail is considered stroller-friendly and wheelchair accessible to the overlook of Running Eagle Falls.  Beyond the footbridge and closer to the waterfall is not.   Running Eagle Falls is a 40 ft waterfall cascading into a 20 ft waterfall, and it is a sight you won’t want to miss!

Day 5

(East Glacier- Many Glacier)

Iceberg Lake- The Iceberg Lake Trailhead can be accessed behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, near the cabins.  There is a small lot near the trailhead; however, you are more likely to find a spot near the Inn.  Food and restrooms are inside the Inn, if needed, before heading out for the day. 

This trail is 10.2 miles roundtrip with 1300 ft of elevation gain.  Truthfully, the most difficult part of the trail is the first 0.5 miles.  The assent becomes significantly more gradual after that.  If you have kids that have been hiking for a while, this is a great longer hike for them.  The trail is easy to follow, with unbelievable views the entire way and probably the most beautiful glacial lake I’ve ever seen at the end.  About 2.5 miles in is Ptarmigan Falls.  It is the perfect spot for a quick rest or snack break and is about halfway to the lake.  Once you arrive at Iceberg Lake, the shoreline can get quite crowded.  Follow the shoreline to your right to find a more isolated spot to enjoy the beauty. 

Out of all the longer hikes in Glacier, this hike is the most doable for most hikers; however, only you can determine what is best for you and your crew. 

Fishercap Lake via Swiftcurrent Pass Loop- If your legs are still working after Iceberg Lake, take a quick walk to Fishercap Lake.  We actually went back to our campsite for a rest, grabbed dinner, and headed back to Fishercap Lake closer to sunset.  It’s a wonderful place to spot moose in the evenings😊

Check out these alternate trails if Iceberg Lake is closed for weather or wildlife. Ironically we ended up at Iceberg Lake because Cracker Lake was closed for bear activity the day we went, so we did Cracker Lake another day. 

  • Cracker Lake- 12.8 miles, 1400 ft of elevation gain, trailhead located next to the Many Glacier Hotel. This is the best option of the three alternates if hiking with kids.
  • Grinnell Glacier Trail- 7.5 miles with boat shuttle, 1800 ft of elevation gain, boat shuttle runs from the Many Glacier Hotel
  • Highline Trail- 11.8 miles with use of park shuttle, trailhead located at Logan Pass Visitor Center

Day 6

(East Glacier- St. Mary)

*To secure a spot in any of the parking lots or pull-offs leading to these falls, plan on being in the park no later than 7 am.*

Baring Falls/St. Mary’s Falls/Virginia Falls- There are several ways to reach these three stunning waterfalls; however, parking at the Sunrift Gorge pull-off is the easiest and most direct route.  This trail is 5.5 miles roundtrip with 400+ feet of elevation gain.    

Start the trail on the north side of Going-to-the-Sun Road, where you will almost immediately come to Sunrift Gorge.  After checking out the gorge, head down the path, passing under the arched bridge.  Baring Falls will be 0.3 miles from the bridge via the Siyeh Pass Trail. When the trail splits at the bottom of the hill, stay right.  After Baring Falls, continue the Piegan Pass Trail for 1.1 miles until the path runs into the St. Mary Falls Trail.  Head left, and St. Mary Falls will be another 0.5 miles down the trail.  Continue past St. Mary Falls for another 0.8 miles until you reach the bottom of Virginia Falls, my favorite waterfall in Glacier.  Head up to the overlook after checking out the base of Virginia Falls.  It is incredible and should not be skipped😊

Next, head back the way you came and check out the last two overlooks on Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

*If you cannot find parking at Sunrift Gorge or a nearby pull-out, consider taking the park shuttle or park in the Sun Point Lot and start the trail from there.  It will add another 0.6 roundtrip onto your hike. 

Sun Point- Sun Point probably has the park’s best views of St. Mary Lake.  The area also has restrooms and picnic tables, making it the ideal spot for lunch.  If you cannot find a parking spot, the Rising Sun picnic area is just a little farther down the road, just past the Wild Goose Island Overlook.  Rising Sun also has a restaurant open for lunch- Two Dog Flats.

Wild Goose Island Overlook- About 3 miles from Sun Point is the Wild Goose Island Overlook. This infamous view is definitely a must-stop😊

St. Mary Visitor Center- On the way out of the park, check out the visitor center.  They have a movie showing, several exhibits worth checking out, and a small gift shop. 

Day 7

(East- Many Glacier)

Today, there are a few options for your last day in Glacier.  Depending on your crew’s skill level and trail status, here are the options. 

Option #1 (Easiest)-

Grinnell Lake/Hidden Falls- Start at the Many Glacier Hotel boat dock.  Take the boat shuttle across Swiftcurrent Lake, where you will then walk 0.2 miles to the Lake Josephine boat dock.  Take the boat across Lake Josephine and follow the signs to Grinnell Lake (NOT Grinnell Glacier).  From the boat dock, this hike is 3 miles roundtrip with 220 feet of elevation gain.   You will be able to see Hidden Falls from the suspension footbridge or the short side trail leading closer to the falls😊

Option #2 (Moderate)-

Grinnell Lake/Hidden Falls- Buy a one-way boat shuttle ticket for the way back.  Start the trail on the south side of the Many Glacier Hotel and take the Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakeshore trails to the Grinnell Lake Trail.  This route is 3.5 miles one-way to Grinnell Lake and then another 1.5 miles back to the Lake Josephine boat dock for approximately 5 miles roundtrip.

Option #3 (Difficult)– 

Grinnell Glacier Trail- I think most people would say this is the most beautiful trail in Glacier, IT IS.  However, it is also one of the more difficult trails.  For this trail, start at the Many Glacier Hotel boat dock.  Take the boat shuttle across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.  Instead of heading towards Grinnell Lake, head right, across the footbridge, to begin the Grinnell Glacier trail.  This route is 7.5 miles roundtrip with over 1800 feet of elevation gain.   This trail is steep, with many switchbacks, and at times, hugs the cliff ledge.  Please use caution and know your crew’s skill level before heading out. 

Also, if you are visiting before mid-July, the trail will likely be only partially open.   It is worth doing, even if it is only partially accessible.  The lake, mountain, and waterfall views are just STUNNING. And it’s the perfect way to end your time at Glacier National Park.   

Hope you have a wonderful adventure!

Looking for another Montana National Park to explore? Check out this 4-day itinerary for Yellowstone National Park!

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Meet the Johnsons

Welcome to Always Exploring! We are the Johnsons. We would love to have you follow along as we explore the world one adventure at a time! Here you will find itineraries to all of our explorations that will hopefully be helpful in your own adventure planning!


One response to “Glacier National Park: 7 Day Adventure”

  1. This is great information a looks like a fabulous adventure!!

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