Without question, Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana ranks as one of North America’s most amazing places. But with over one million acres of Northern Rocky Mountain paradise to explore, where does one even begin? Taking the time to get off the Going-to-the-Sun Road and hike allows visitors to truly experience the stunning beauty of the park. Here are five short hikes in different areas of the park that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Glacier.
- Avalanche Lake: On the west side of the park, hikers can follow Avalanche Creek for two miles as it cascades through a beautiful forest to Avalanche Lake. This popular trail begins with The Trail of the Cedars, a path through a majestic grove of western red cedars. After a short distance, the trail begins a gradual ascent past the stunning Avalanche Gorge and through the forest to the large, emerald green Avalanche Lake. Parking is limited and often fills up by mid-morning, so I recommend getting an early start or using the park shuttle system.
- Hidden Lake: From the Logan Pass visitor center, follow a heavily traveled path for just over a mile to the Hidden Lake Overlook. The trail passes through wildflower filled meadows with splendid views of the surrounding peaks including Reynolds Mountain and Clements Mountain. From the overlook, hikers can continue a short distance further down to the shores of Hidden Lake. Mountain goats and bighorn sheep often make appearances along this route. Parking tends to fill up early at Logan Pass. The park shuttle system could save you from the headache of trolling around the parking lot to find a spot.
- Virginia Falls: Park at Sun Point and follow this scenic trail along the shores of St. Mary Lake. Baring Falls makes its appearance about one mile up the trail. Continue along the lake shore and through the forest. About 2.5 miles up the trail, St. Mary Falls cuts vigorously through a rock gorge. Cross the bridge and continue along Virginia Creek. After 3 miles, hikers reach Virginia Falls, which is higher and, in my opinion, even more impressive than St. Mary Falls. You can shorten the route to Virginia Falls by starting at the St. Mary Falls trailhead.
- Scenic Point: In the Two Medicine Valley enjoy a short (3.1 miles) but steep hike to Scenic Point. The trail begins with a gradual slope through the forest with a side trip to Appistoki Falls at the half mile mark. From here, the trail begins a steep ascent up the mountain face, gaining almost 2,300 feet in elevation with seventeen switchbacks. Pace yourself and enjoy the gnarled limber pines and sweeping views of the valley as you climb. After about 2.5 miles, the trail reaches a saddle and begins to follow a rocky, open ridgeline to Scenic Point which offers an amazing view of the Two Medicine Valley and lakes to the west and the sweeping plains to the east.
- Red Rock Falls: In the Many Glacier area, hike just under two miles along the aspen lined Swiftcurrent Trail to Red Rock Falls. This trail passes by Fishercap and Red Rock lakes and provides one of the best areas to look for moose in the park. Red Rock Falls cascades over a staircase of red-colored rocks.