Hiking in Glacier is a great national park activity for anyone. Sure, there may be some big hikes with steep climbs, sketchy exposure and high mileage, but there are also plenty of options with a low elevation gain that offer great views.
We pulled together six easy hikes in Glacier National Park—ranging from four to 12 miles round trip—that are good for all skill levels.
The quick bop over to Avalanche won’t spare you the crowds, but it will earn you a worthwhile view on a totally doable trail. Leaving from the Trail of the Cedars Trailhead, the trail meanders up the gorge and next to an open valley (site of a 2011 avalanche), finally arriving at the dramatic Avalanche Lake just over two miles later.
Distance: 4.5 miles return
Elevation gain: 730 ft.
Trailhead: The Avalanche Lake hike starts on the Trail of the Cedars, from the trailhead of the same name, on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Parking is easiest in the Lake McDonald Lodge area, taking the shuttle to Avalanche, or there is some parking available at the trailhead.
Apgar Lookout is an unintimidating uphill hike that ends at a lookout structure with views over West Glacier and Lake McDonald. The beginning of the hike is flat for about two miles and then climbs up but never gets too steep. A few switchbacks later, the trail flattens out through a saddle and arrives at the quaint Apgar Lookout.
Distance: 7.1 miles return
Elevation gain: 1,845 ft. total elevation gain
Trailhead: From the West Glacier entrance station, continue on the road and turn left at the sign for ‘Apgar Lookout’ and take a right at the next junction, followed by a quick left. After almost two miles on a singular dirt road, you’ll arrive at the parking lot for Apgar Lookout.
McDonald Creek has it all to get the whole family on the trail—it’s a quick drive from your West Glacier area lodging, it’s located at one of the first stops in the park—Lake McDonald—and it’s a flat, out-and-back trail.
Distance: 5 miles return
Elevation gain: 213 ft. total elevation gain
Trailhead: On the North side of the N McDonald Creek Road (at the north end of Lake McDonald), approximately 800 ft after the bridge over the creek.
The trail around Bowman Lake is a level trail with a little rolling up and down. You can make it a long day of about 14 miles roundtrip—to the end of the lake and back—or you can hike up just a few miles and turn around. The views of the lake are rewarding from any spot on the trail, so decide your own distance and enjoy this pleasant walk along the water.
Distance: 7 miles to the end of the lake
Elevation gain: minimal elevation gain
Trailhead: Parking for the trail is in the Bowman Lake day use parking area near the lake. You’ll traverse the east shore of Bowman Lake to the trail that runs near the ranger cabin and along the north lake shore.
Twin Falls is your way to get out in the Two Medicine area of Glacier. ‘Two Med’ as locals call it, is often overlooked and therefore much less crowded than other popular hikes. You’ll only gain a few hundred feet of elevation after starting near Two Medicine Campground or you can hike a little further from Two Medicine Lake, an ideal picnic spot for after your hike.
Distance: 4.8 miles return from the North Shore Trailhead
Elevation gain: 115 ft. total elevation gain
Trailhead: As mentioned, you can start at the North or South Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine Lake, or you also have the option to take a shuttle across the lake to significantly reduce the mileage. Two Medicine Lake is accessed from East Glacier, traveling north on MT-49 and turning at the signs for Two Medicine.
The legendary Cracker Lake is worth the longer miles—it’s just over 12 roundtrip—but quite flat after a short climb early in the hike. People of all ages can make the trek to the gloriously azure lake up against dramatic mountains. Allow some extra time and spend the day on this hike to appreciate the scenery and the picturesque water. The trail head is at Many Glacier, so definitely explore the lodge and the lake before leaving the trailhead.
Distance: 12.6 miles return
Elevation gain: 1,400 ft. total elevation gain
Trailhead: The trailhead is behind the Many Glacier lodge, on the east shore of Swiftcurrent Lake.
Let’s get on the trail! Hiking information can be viewed on the National Park Service website where you can also check for trail and road conditions before heading out (this is recommended, since conditions can change quickly in Glacier).