Glacier National Park Hiking Tips: Preparing For Your Multi-Day Glacier Park Hiking Adventure

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Preparing For Your Multi-Day
Glacier National Park Hiking Adventure
Through the years, while hiking in Glacier National Park, we’ve seen a lot.  And having hiking every trail in Glacier Park, and some dozens of times, we’ve seen a lot of situations in the back country with overnight backpackers.  What we mainly see are Glacier National Park visitors thoroughly enjoying their Glacier Park hiking adventure in the remote back country.  These hikers are having the time of their lives and are stunned at the incredible beauty that Glacier Park has to offer.

However, we’ve also seen hikers that “bit off more than they could chew” so-to-speak, and chose a Glacier National Park multi-day hiking trip that was far longer and harder than their physical condition would allow.  This is when a potential nightmare begins….

“The First Mile Smile”
Initially every overnight backpacker in Glacier National Park is eager and has plenty of energy.  We call this the “First Mile Smile”.  No matter what physical condition they are in, when they are standing at the trailhead with their overnight backpacks on, everyone is laughing and smiling and eager to begin their Glacier National Park multi-day hike.

As time goes on, and as the trail miles begin to add up, that’s when the true physical condition of the hiker begins to be revealed.  If a particular hiker thought he or she was in better shape than was actually the case, the only hope is that the hiker did not choose to go on a “marathon multi-day hike”.  Otherwise that hiker is in for a really miserable time during the second half of his or her backpacking trip in Glacier National Park.

Get In Shape
The way to avoid this nightmare is to get yourself in adequate physical condition before you begin your multi-day hike.  Now that sounds like an obvious thing to do, but it’s actually trickier than you might think.

What a lot of Glacier National Park multi-day hiking adventurers do is all winter long they run on the local gym’s treadmill or stair stepper, and get in absolutely incredible cardiovascular shape.  What they don’t do is build the proper muscle strength in their legs, back, shoulders and arms to be able to climb 2,400 vertical feet in 3 miles to get over a pass, and then hike down 1,400 vertical feet to get to the next Glacier Park backcountry campground… And then do something similar the next day, or the next 2 or 3 days… all with a backpack on their back.

And many hikers think weight lifting during the winter months in addition to their cardiovascular training will do the trick.  Well, in most cases it unfortunately does not.  Why do we say this?  Because we’ve tried to do this and it just doesn’t cut it.  It has been our experience that the only truly effective way to physically prepare ourselves for an extended multi-day Glacier National Park hiking trip is to actually hike on some local hiking trails with our overnight packs on, with the same amount of weight that we’ll be carrying during our overnight trip into the backcountry of Glacier National Park.  And of course the steeper the trail, the better.   By actually hiking with an overnight pack on our backs on our local trails, this builds the CORRECT muscles in a way that no other gym machine can accomplish.

Get Your Feet “Trail Ready”
By taking hikes along local trails, this also gets our feet “trail ready”, because they will get used to the “pounding” and the weight on them.  At the same time, our boots and feet are getting to know each other.  And by the way, “hot spots” on a hiker’s feet usually do not show up until they are hiking up a steep grade, where all that weight begins to put pressure on a hiker’s heal.  Without this weight and this incline, the hot spot might not reveal itself.  And we all know what happens with a “hot spot”.   The impending blister that is developing can spell disaster when you’re only halfway through your hiking trip.  We’ve literally seen hikers barely able to walk because their blisters were so bad.

So if a hot spot shows up during your training, do what it takes to get rid of it, whether it’s a different sock or liner, or even different boots. You CANNOT afford to get a blister during your multi-day hike… it will more than likely completely ruin your trip.

The Living Room Test: “That’s Not So Bad”
Often times hikers preparing for their Glacier National Park hiking adventure will load up their pack in their living room prior to leaving for Glacier Park, and walk around the living room, and maybe bounce up and down a few times and say “That’s not so bad” regarding the weight of their pack.  The potential problem arises AFTER you’re tired and worn down.  That is when 1 pound seems to turn into 10 pounds.  The bottom line here is that you need to pack as light as possible, yet still bring the important essentials.  The lighter the better… this can make or break your Glacier Park hiking adventure.

“Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew”
If you don’t take anything from this article than this next Glacier Park hiking tip, then your time spent reading this blog was worth it.  When hikers are looking at the incredible back country trails of Glacier National Park on a map,  it’s easy to get a bit over zealous and plan a hike that is too long.

On the map, those mountain passes are really easy to hike over.  You don’t even get tired.  But in real life, the passes of Glacier National Park can be extremely tiring and can wipe out a hiker’s strength in no time.  It is not uncommon to gain 2,500 vertical feet and lose 1,500 vertical feet in a single day, if not more.  Furthermore, some of the hikes require this type of vertical elevation gain and loss three or four days in a row!  Again, the hike is really easy while looking at a map versus actually doing it.

Therefore, don’t go overboard.  A classic example is on the Stoney Indian Pass Trail.  Often times hikers will look at this hike on the map and notice that instead of ending at Goat Haunt, they could see a lot more country if they instead headed to Fifty Mountain and then hiked south along the Northern Highline Trail to Logan Pass.  This adds over 25 miles to their hike, and they have to first hike out of the Waterton Valley by climbing over 3,480 vertical feet in 3 miles, and that’s just the beginning.

Probably 7 out of 10 times, if you could talk to these Stoney Indian Pass hikers who chose to extend their hike, they would tell you that “Everything was going great until we began heading for Fifty Mountain.”  If they would have simply ended their multi-day hike at Goat Haunt, they would have had nothing but wonderfully positive memories of their Glacier Park hiking adventure.  But instead they ended up so tired and worn out that the experience turned into a negative one.

We’ve seen these unsuspecting hikers coming from Fifty Mountain after they first hiked the Stoney Indian Pass Trail, and they were so exhausted we thought they were going to drop to the ground at any moment.  They were literally taking a step every 20 seconds, and were staring at the ground.  Let’s just say that they were not having a good time.

So the bottom line here is please remember that you don’t get tired looking at a map.  So make sure you are choosing the right Glacier Park hiking trip that best suites you.  And if you’ve been “cooped up” all winter and could only go to the gym, then don’t choose a “marathon hike” because you will more than likely have a negative experience.

Final Thoughts
The bottom line is that Glacier National Park offers some of the best hiking opportunities in the world, and if you prepare yourself physically, and make sure your boots fit properly, and your backpack isn’t too heavy, and you don’t pick a hike that’s too long, then you will have the time of your life and you’ll keep your “First Mile Smile” the entire hike.

For a list of our Favorite Multi-Day Glacier Park Hikes, click here.

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Glacier Park Hikes: A List of Our Favorite Day Hikes

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Glacier Park Hikes: A List Of Our Favorite Day Hikes
Glacier National Park is a hiker’s dream come true.  With over 800 miles of incredible hiking trails located in some of the most beautiful landscape on planet earth, Shannon and I had a really difficult time choosing our 10 favorite day hikes in Glacier Park.  But after careful consideration, below is our list of these amazing Glacier Park hikes that are our personal favorite….  And please keep in mind that this list is not in any particular order….

Grinnell Glacier Trail
The Grinnell Glacier Trail is without question one of the most scenic day hikes in Glacier National Park.  The view the entire hike is jaw-dropping, and very much worth the effort to hike this iconic Glacier Park hike.  Located in the Many Glacier Area, the Grinnell Glacier Trail is a “must do” hike for anyone interested in hiking in Glacier Park.  And by the way, even if the actual Grinnell Glacier is closed due to snow hazards, this hike is still very much worth your time because the views all the way up to the closure are awe-inspiring.

Iceberg Lake Trail
The Iceberg Lake Trail in the Many Glacier Area is yet another iconic, world-class hike in Glacier National Park.  The views the entire way are spectacular, and usually through the end of July and even into August, you’ll get to see icebergs floating on this famous lake.  The Iceberg Lake Trail is without question a “must do” for anyone interested in day hiking in Glacier National Park.

Highline Trail
Yet another world-class Glacier National Park hike is the Highline Trail.  Located at Logan Pass along the Going To The Sun Road, the Highline Trail provides breathtaking vistas as far as the eye can see.  You can hike just a few miles and then turn around, or go all the way to the historic Granite Park Chalet– it’s whatever you’re in the mood for.  The Highline Trail is an extremely popular Glacier Park hike, and is definitely a “must do” for those visitors who want to experience one of the classic Glacier Park Hikes.

Hidden Lake Trail/Overlook
Located on Logan Pass along the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park, the Hidden Lake Trail is among the iconic Glacier National Park hikes that is an absolute “must do” for anyone wanting to witness probably the most gorgeous 1.5 miles they’ve ever seen in their entire lives.  You will be surrounded by towering matterhorns and unbelievable vistas the entire hike.  The Hidden Lake Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier National Park.  And by the way, if you want to see mountain goats up close, this is the hike for you!

Swiftcurrent Pass Trail
The Swiftcurrent Pass Trail begins at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot in the Many Glacier Area of Glacier National Park.  This hike includes Red Rock Falls and many other highlights, including Fisher Cap Lake, Bullhead Lake, Red Rock Lake, Swiftcurrent Headwall and Swiftcurrent Pass.  If you’re in shape and want to go further, you can hike up to the summit of Swiftcurrent Mountain or hike to the Granite Park Chalet- or both!  The Swiftcurrent Pass Trail is a magnificent Glacier Park hike for those who are in fairly good physical condition.  The scenery is absolutely world class the entire way.  And don’t forget that you can go as far as you want… If you just want to get to Red Rock Falls, that’s great.  That section of the trail is very level and pleasant for all levels of hikers.   The Swiftcurrent Pass Trail is without question one of the classic Glacier Park hikes that you really need to experience first hand!

Dawson – Pitamakan Loop
Located in the Two Medicine Area, this 18 mile Dawson-Pitamakan Loop day hike is definitely one of our favorite hikes in Glacier National Park.  The views from this trail very well may be some of the most awe-inspiring of any hiking trail in North America, and we highly recommend it for those of you who are looking for a longer day hike.  During your hike along the Dawson – Pitamakan Loop, you will hike over three mountain passes, and will hike directly on the Continental Divide for several miles.   We love the hike around the Dawson-Pitamakan Loop, and we are confident you will too!  (Please note that you should be in reasonable physical condition to attempt this all-day, fairly strenuous hike.)

Gunsight Pass Trail
The Gunsight Pass Trail is an amazing Glacier Park hike that begins at the Jackson Glacier Overlook along the Going To The Sun Road and ends at Lake McDonald Lodge.  This 20 mile Glacier Park day hike provides incredible diversity as you cross two major mountain passes and some gorgeous lakes including Gunsight Lake and Lake Ellen Wilson.  The scenery along the entire way along the Gunsight Pass Trail is “post card” perfect, and an added treat along this iconic hike is the historic Sperry Chalet, which is located on the last leg of your hike.  We can’t put into words how amazing this hike is, but you really need to be in good physical condition before attempting this Glacier Park hike.  (The Gunsight Pass Trail is also one of the favorite overnight backpacking routes for those who enjoy overnight backpacking in Glacier Park.)

Cracker Lake
The Cracker Lake Trail is located in the Many Glacier Area of Glacier National Park, and is a very worth while day hike.  The turquoise color of Cracker Lake is stunning, and that in itself is worth the effort to see, let along the wonderful scenery that surrounds you the entire way.  Directly above Cracker Lake looms the famous North Face of Mount Siyeh.  This 4,200 foot vertical wall is one of the largest walls in North America.  It’s only been successfully climbed once, and once you get underneath this massive wall, you’ll see why.   The Cracker Lake Trail is very enjoyable… And by the way, don’t worry about the horse trail that you’ll be on for the first several miles… the trail turns into a regular hiker’s trail (thank goodness) the rest of the way to the lake.

Siyeh Pass
We always enjoy the hike to Siyeh Pass in Glacier National Park.  This is definitely one of the classic Glacier Park hikes that provides eye-popping vistas that you’ll never forget.  This famous hike begins at the Siyeh Bend along the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier Park, and ends at the Sunrift Gorge Pullout on the Going To The Sun Road.  The Siyeh Pass Trail one of the higher passes in Glacier National Park, and the view from the pass is spectacular.

Piegan Pass
The Piegan Pass Trail begins at the Siyeh Bend along the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier National Park and either ends the same place you started, or you can hike down to the Many Glacier Hotel once you’ve reached the pass.  We really like this hike and we are always thrilled with the scenery no matter how many times we’ve been on this trail.  The Piegan Pass Trail is definitely one of the top hikes in Glacier National Park, and deserves to be in our “Top Ten List of Day Hikes” in Glacier Park.

An additional favorite of ours:  Sperry Glacier Trail
The Sperry Glacier Trail is one of our personal favorites, and really needs to be mentioned on this page.  This fantastic hike takes you to the foot of the mighty Sperry Glacier, which is one of the largest glaciers in Glacier National Park.  The trailhead is located at Lake McDonald Lodge on the west side of the park.  This can be either a long day hike, or what many visitors do is stay a night at the Sperry Chalet and hike to Sperry Glacier the following day.  The astonishing and diverse landscape along this world-class hike is impossible to put into words- you’ll just have to see it for yourself!  The hike along the Sperry Glacier Trail really should be among the top ten hikes in Glacier National Park– we really love this hike!!!

There you have it…. the list of our ten favorite hikes in Glacier National Park.  But keep in mind, there are many other wonderful day hikes that deserve to be on this list…. maybe we should have picked our “top twenty” hikes in Glacier National Park to be fair to the other classic hikes not mentioned in this article.

For a list and detailed description of all the hikes in Glacier Park, Click Here.

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David and Shannon Biegel, Founders of EnjoyYourParks

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David and Shannon Biegel, Founders of
David Biegel and Shannon Biegel are sixth generation Montanans who have spent their entire lives exploring Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.  As children, their parents would vacation in these parks on a regular basis, and this is where their love for these incredible parks began.  Since then, they have hiked thousands of miles throughout these amazing parks, climbed well over a hundred summits, and have taken well over a million digital images along the way.

While spending time in Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Park, they began to realize that a large number of visitors really didn’t know where to go to see the top attractions and hikes, so in the fall of 2008, David and Shannon Biegel decided to create a national park vacation website that showed visitors exactly where to go, what to do and where to see animals.  They named their website, and have devoted all of their time and effort ever since perfecting and adding to this helpful website. has become one of the most utilized vacation websites for Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park in the world, and the number of people utilizing this helpful website keeps increasing each and every day.  David and Shannon attribute their success to the fact that this is a “labor of love”.  They have a deep passion for showing visitors just how incredible these parks truly are, and by showing them where to go and what to do, these visitors will discover the “magic” of these parks, just as David and Shannon did many years ago with their parents, brothers and sisters.  They truly feel that when people discover the “magic” of these national treasures, this will in turn change their lives forever for the better.

Therefore, this website was created with extreme care, knowledge and experience, rather than something that was thrown together with regurgitated information off the internet by someone who has only spent 2 weeks in the parks, if that.  This care, knowledge and experience is reflected in every page of this 300+ page website, and the visitors of this website are rewarded by knowing exactly where to go, what to do and where to see animals in each of the three parks.

To give you an idea of how much effort and care is involved in building this website, even though they’ve already hiked all of the trails of Glacier National Park throughout the years, David and Shannon re-hiked all 734 miles of the maintained Glacier Park trail system, and photo-documented every step of the way using digital technology.  They also photo-documented many miles of un-maintained trails and seldom used “climber’s trails” during this immense project.  And while hiking all of these trails, they also managed to climb over 100 summits in Glacier National Park, and photographed Glacier Park from a “bird’s eye” view.  The result was that every single trail in Glacier Park, including all of the Glacier Park day hikes and multi-day hikes, are now available at

Click Here for all of the Glacier Park Hikes.

And you will notice as you look through these pages on Glacier Park Hikes that the weather is always nice, with blue skies and good lighting.  That wasn’t just by accident or luck.  If David and Shannon had a cloudy day on either a trail or a summit, they would do it again on a clear day.  And they also determined how to get to certain key points along the trails at the right time of day for the best possible lighting.  This wasn’t easy, and it took many years to accomplish, but the result was very much worth the effort.  And keep in mind that this is just one example of the level of care that David and Shannon Biegel took to create one of the most utilized national park vacation websites in the world for Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park.

So where do they go from here?  David and Shannon feel that they have just begun their pursuit of helping visitors discover these national treasures.  They are constantly adding more helpful pages, and as they are averaging well over 200 days a year in these parks, they are also continuing to photograph these parks in places and ways most people never have the opportunity to pursue.

And since they have spent many years exploring Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, which is located just north of Glacier National Park, and since Waterton Lakes National Park and Glacier National Park are so interconnected, David and Shannon have built an entire section on devoted to Waterton Lakes National Park.

David Biegel is a semi-retired Doctor of Optometry, who along with Shannon is completely devoted to spending as much time in these parks as possible, and taking the rest of their time putting it all together on their website  Both David and Shannon have always had the strong desire to change people’s lives and to make a difference on this earth.  And they strongly feel that by sharing these parks with the world, and by helping people discover the “magic” that awaits them, they are helping change these people’s lives forever for the better.  This is how David and Shannon Biegel are making a difference, and once you visit their website, you’ll agree that their efforts are definitely achieving this goal.

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