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Glacier Park Hikes: Our Favorite Short and Easy Hikes in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a hiker’s dream come true. This amazing park provides hikers with an incredible variety of hikes that include the entire range of levels of difficulty, ranging from long, strenuous 6 to 7 day overnight hikes that cross 5 to 6 mountain passes and tens of thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss, to short and easy half mile hikes. Many Glacier Park Hikes are considered world-class, and are among the best hiking opportunities in North America.
This article will focus on the classic Glacier Park hikes that are considered to be short and easy, and do not require a lot of energy. We will share with you our favorite short and easy hikes in Glacier Park that will provide you with outstanding views and scenery without requiring you to hike 20 miles and climb 3,000 feet in vertical elevation.
Get Out Of The Car
One of the most magical things about Glacier National Park is you will literally be surrounded by pristine beauty by only taking about 10 steps off the road…. and that’s a point we want to make before we give you the list of easy Glacier Park hikes. A fair amount of Glacier Park visitors will drive the Going To The Sun Road and enjoy the views and have a great time, but they never get out of their vehicles and get INTO the scenery. By taking just a few steps on an easy trail, you will be surrounded by pristine beauty just as if you hiked for 4 days into the backcountry. So we HIGHLY recommend that if you’re at all physically able, get out of your vehicle and enjoy a short simple Glacier Park hiking experience, even if you only walk 100 yards.
The “Magic” of Glacier National Park
What we often see in Glacier National Park is that the “Glacier Park Magic” creeps into people- of all shapes, sizes and ages, and this “magic” inspires them to start hiking. They are so inspired that they begin walking along the Hidden Lake Trail boardwalk intending to walk just a few hundred yards, and they find themselves a mile and a half up the trail standing on the Hidden Lake Overlook, enjoying probably one of the most incredible views they’ve ever seen in their entire lives. And we’re not kidding about all shapes, sizes and ages. We’ve seen it all at the Hidden Lake Overlook, and it warms our hearts. The “Magic of Glacier Park” is a powerful thing, and once you get out of your car, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
With this being said, below is a list of our ten favorite short and easy Glacier Park hikes:
1. Hidden Lake Overlook
The Hidden Lake Trail begins at the Logan Pass Visitor Center on the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park, and is a short 1.5 mile Glacier Park hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook, and is among some of the some gorgeous scenery on the planet. Much of this trail is a boardwalk, and you can walk as far as you’d like, whether it’s a few hundred yards, or all the way to the Hidden Lake Overlook. The views are magnificent the entire way. This is probably the most popular of the short Glacier Park hikes.
2. Highline Trail (first few miles)
The Highline Trail is without question one of the most popular Glacier Park hikes, and is the gateway (or exit) of many of the remote northern overnight Glacier Park hikes. The Highline Trail is nearly 30 miles long and ends up at Goat Haunt Montana, but what most visitors of Glacier Park do is simply hike up the trail a mile or so to enjoy the amazing views and wildlife, and then simply hike back to where they began, which is Logan Pass along the Going To The Sun Road. A very “thrilling” section of the trail is the “Highline Trail Cliff Walk”, which is found along the first mile of the hike. The trail works its way along the side of a huge cliff, with the Going To The Sun Road hundreds of feet below it. There is a cable to hang on to for those who are a little fearful of heights.
3. Trail of the Cedars
The Trail of the Cedars is located just about 6 miles west of Lake McDonald Lodge along the Going To The Sun Road. This is also a boardwalk, and is less than a mile in length. The entire hike is on flat ground, and you will be surrounded by an old growth cedar, hemlock and black cottonwoods. The trees are enormous, and the entire area reminds us of “Jurassic Park”, because of the moss, ferns and towering giants. At the far end of the boardwalk you will enjoy the famous Avalanche Gorge. If you’re so inspired, you can leave the boardwalk loop and hike to Avalanche Lake. The Trail of the Cedars hike is also one of the most popular of the short Glacier Park hikes.
4. Red Rock Falls
The Glacier Park hike to Red Rock Falls is located in the Many Glacier Area of Glacier National Park. The trailhead is located at the far west side of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot, and is part of the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail. This 1.8 mile section (one way) of this Glacier Park hike is flat as a pancake, and the scenery is breathtaking. Along the way, you will pass by Fisher Cap Lake which is a favorite hang-out for moose, as well as Red Rock Lake. The hike to Red Rock Falls takes you through the middle of the famous Many Glacier Valley, with huge mountains towering above you on both sides of the valley. Red Rock Falls are not huge waterfalls, but are still very scenic, especially with the bright red rocks that form the waterfalls, and is a popular place to enjoy a lunch while the kids play on the red rocks. The hike to Red Rock Falls is definitely among the most popular of the short Glacier Park hikes.
5. Grinnell Lake Trail
The Grinnell Lake Trail is an extremely popular Glacier Park hike and is located in the Many Glacier Area. This is a very flat hike that provides magnificent scenery. You can head out on this hike directly from the front door (facing the lake) of the Many Glacier Hotel, or you can take the popular Many Glacier Boat Tour to shorten your hike. Without the boat the hike to Grinnell Lake is 3.4 miles one way, and if you take the boat your hike is only 0.9 miles (one way) in length. Whichever option you choose, you will be surrounded by incredible scenery the entire way. The hike to Grinnell Lake is unquestionably among the most popular of the short and easy Glacier Park hikes.
6. Swiftcurrent Lake Loop Trail
The Swiftcurrent Lake Loop Trail is another of the popular Glacier Park hikes and is part of the Grinnell Lake Trail Complex, where the trailhead is located at the Many Glacier Hotel, and heads along the southeast short of Swiftcurrent Lake. This trail complex is again very level, and provides wonderful scenery and a host of wildlife viewing opportunities. The Swiftcurrent Lake Loop Trail is shaped in a “figure 8”, where you can either simply follow the shore of Swiftcurrent Lake all the way around, or you can also take the second loop that wraps around Lake Josephine and eventually takes you back to where you started at the Many Glacier Hotel.
7. Sun Point Nature Trail
The Sun Point Nature Trail is located on the east side of the Going To The Sun Road, just about a half mile west of the Wild Goose Island Overlook. This short Glacier Park hike is only about a mile in length (one way), and provides you with stunning views of St. Mary Lake with towering mountains lining the skyline.
8. Trick Falls (Running Eagle Falls)
Located in the Two Medicine Area of Glacier Park, Trick Falls (a.k.a. Running Eagle Falls) is a very short 0.3 mile hike and is very rewarding. Trick Falls is named as such because it is actually two waterfalls in one. There is the taller falls, and directly underneath these falls is a shorter waterfall that pours into the same pool. These amazing falls in the Two Medicine Area of Glacier National Park are best viewed early in the season, during the month of July. The later in the season it becomes, the less dramatic the falls are due to a seasonal decrease in water flow.
9. St. Mary Falls / Virginia Falls
If you like waterfalls, the hike to St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls is definitely the Glacier Park hike for you! The trailhead is located along the east side of the Going To The Sun Road, just west of the Sunrift Gorge Turnout (about 10.5 miles west of St. Mary). This is definitely one of the most popular short Glacier Park hikes, and it provides hikers with not only two major waterfalls, but also many additional incredible cascades and shorter waterfalls along this amazing hike. The hike is 1.8 miles to Virginia Falls, which is the largest of the falls on this hike. St. Mary Falls is the first falls you will encounter, which are 1.2 miles from the trailhead. The first part of the trail has a bit of a grade, but is usually not a problem for most visitors.
10. South (or North) Shore Trail, Two Medicine Lake
Located in the Two Medicine Area, this easy yet scenic hike follows the south shore of Two Medicine Lake. The trailhead is found at the boat dock, and along the way are some ponds providing great moose habitat. This trail actually keeps going to either Two Medicine Pass, or it also loops around Two Medicine Lake to the North Shore Trail, which then eventually takes you back to the Two Medicine parking area (via Pray Lake), however that is close to 7 miles in length. The hike to the west end of Two Medicine Lake is about 3 miles one way, or you can just hike a mile or so. No matter what you choose to do, you’ll enjoy this easy hike. (Equally scenic is the North Shore Trail, whose trailhead is located at the Two Medicine Campground along Pray Lake.)
This wraps up our article on short and easy Glacier Park hikes. Remember, even if you only hike up these trails a few hundred yards, you will be surrounded by pristine beauty, just as if you hiked 20 miles into the backcountry. That’s the wonderful thing about Glacier Park… And as we talked about before, if you get out of your car and take just a few steps on a trail, the “Magic of Glacier Park” will cast it’s spell on you, and who knows where you’ll end up!
For all the details on our favorite Short and Easy Glacier Park Hikes, click here.
For a list of other short and easy Glacier Park hikes that we did not mention in this article, click here.
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