Glacier National Park Itinerary for 3 Days

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Glacier National Park is hands-down our favorite American national park. We visited this park twice for a total of 8 days and loved every minute of it! If you haven’t visited it yet, you should. As simple as that. Here’s a sample Glacier National Park itinerary for you. All of the photos were taken by me during our visits. Yes, it really is that stunning.

Glacier National Park Itinerary

This Glacier National Park itinerary offers  a flexible plan that will take you through the very best the park has to offer in three days and two nights. Is that enough time? Of course not! This park has gorgeous views everywhere you look, so you can easily spend a month here, exploring the trails. But let’s be realistic here. Most people visit Glacier as part of a road trip to the Rockies and can’t afford to spend more than three or four days at the same place.

And what if you manage to squeeze that fourth day out of your trip plan? Awesome! I’ve added a fourth bonus day for you!

And… I’ve put it all into one cool image with lots of eye candy. And when it comes to eye candy, Glacier NP can give you a real sugar rush. See for yourself (and please pin on Pinterest too!) You’ll also find a more detailed text-version further down the post, a map and a picture gallery.

More about this Glacier National Park itinerary

This trip plan takes you from the west side of the park, to the east side. Feel free to reverse the directions according to your road trip needs.

The mileage for all trails shown here is for your total return distance. Please, always check with the rangers before going on the trail to make sure there are no closures or usage limitations.

Where to stay during your Glacier Park trip?

You’ll be starting your journey at the western entrance to the park so there will be many motels and hotels in the nearby towns. Hungry Horse and Columbia Falls are two small towns very near the park. If you can’t find accommodation there, try Whitefish or even Kalispell.

Once you cross the Going To The Sun road, accommodation becomes more expensive, so book in advance if you want to get the cheaper rooms. You can stay either at St. Mary’s Lodge or at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn at Many Glacier. If budget isn’t a problem, you can even stay at the Many Glacier hotel.

And now, finally –

Glacier National Park Itinerary

The Glacier National Park itinerary

And here’s the text version of the Glacier National Park Itinerary!

Day 1 – Crossing the Going To The Sun Road

Enter the Going To The Sun Road from West Glacier.

Stop to see Mcdonald creek at the Mcdonald Falls trailhead.

Hike Trail of The Cedars (1 mile) If you’re a fast hiker, go all the way to Avalanche Lake (4.5 miles)

Get back on the road heading east. Drive slowly and stop en route to take pictures

Stop at Logan Pass Visitor’s Center (register for next day’s hike)

Hike the first 1-2 miles of the Highline Trail

Optional: Hike to St. Mary’s Falls (1.7 miles) or to Virginia Falls (3.6 miles)

Stop at Sunrift Gorge & Wild Goose Island for pictures.

Have dinner at the Snowgoose Grille at  St. Mary’s Lodge

Join a ranger’s evening talk

Day 2 – Hiking The Many Glacier Area

Get an early start! Grab a coffee & pastry at Glacier Perk and head out to Many Glacier.

If you’re not an avid hiker follow this itinerary today –

Take the Grinnell Valley Boat Trip & Hike 3½ to 4 hours, easy 2.5-mile (also available as a ranger-lead hike).

Join a horse-riding trek to Josephine Lake or Cracker Flats (2 hours)

Avid hiker? Choose one of these (both are also available as ranger-lead hikes)

  • The Grinnell Glacier Boat Trip and Hike 8½ hours, strenuous 8-mile (12.9 km)

  • The Iceberg Lake or similar destination) 6-7 hours, moderate 10-mile (16 km)

Enjoy a hearty dinner at Nell’s at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (Many Glacier)

Get huckleberry ice cream at the store for dessert!

Day 3 From Many Glacier to Two Medicine

Join the ranger-lead Morning Nature Stroll at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn

Drive to Two Medicine Lake and stop at Cassidy Curve for pictures of Lake Sherburne

Take the easy trail to the beautiful Running Eagle Falls (0.6 miles)

Hike to Aster Park (ranger-lead on some days) 4 hours, moderate 3.8-mile

Hike to Appistoki Falls (1.3 miles)

From here, you’re on your own! Drive on to your next destination to save on the costs of park accommodation.

Bonus Day

Mister, can you spare a day? If you can add a day to your Glacier National Park itinerary, then use that it to visit the Waterton Lakes region, on the other side of the border.

Here’s your itinerary for this bonus day –

Grab a coffee and pastries at the store at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and head out north.

Enter the park and head north to Red Rock Canyon Parkway trail, hike the trail and continue hiking until you reach Blakiston Falls. (1.9 miles)

Visit Cameron Falls for some awesome pictures.

Have lunch at the Wieners of Waterton

Visit Cameron Lakeshore and if you’re up for it, take the 1.9 miles long trail.

Drive back to the Many Glacier area

Still feel like walking? If it’s not too late, hike to Hidden Falls

Join an evening program with a ranger or enjoy a fancy meal at the Many Glacier hotel (or both!)

What about you?

Have you visited this awesome park yet? If so, let me know what you liked best about it and share your own tips in a comment! If you haven’t visited it yet, would this be something you’d like to do in the future? I love reading your comments (and promise to answer any of them!) and please help me spread the word about Glacier National Park by sharing this post on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

Speaking of Pinterest, I’m going to wrap up this post with a  photo gallery you can pin from –

Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

 

Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

Wild Goose Island views from the Going To The Sun Road. Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

A view of the Going To The Sun Road that takes you across the Rockeis in the most beautiful mountain pass in America! Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

Reflections on Lake Sherburne. Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

Hiking the amazing Highline Trail across the Continental Divide! Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

Glacier National Park in Summer - Glacier National Park Itinerary: A complete and illustrated day-by-day itinerary for visiting the most beautiful national park in the US!

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9 comments

  1. Hi! Can you please offer advice/info. My family is planning to visit GNP in July ’17. The hikes I keep reading about, are they free, do we have to register for them in advance? We will have our own car, and plan to drive East & West on Going To The Sun. I imagine Ranger led hikes may cost & we will need to register. We drove thru Yosemite once & I don’t want to miss these beautiful views, lakes etc Glacier offers.
    Thank you in advance

    Misty Sinclair

    1. I envy you! Glacier is amazing during July! Ranger-led hikes are in fact free of charge. That’s the case in all national parks. The only time you have to pay is if the hike involves a boat ride, like the Grinnell Glacier hike+ Boat Ride. That means the ranger is on the boat there with you, explaining things on the way etc. but you really just pay for the boat ride itself. In 2016 that cost $26 per adult.
      Anything that doesn’t include a boat ride and is just a ranger-led hike is free of charge. For the longer hikes, you may need to make a reservation the day before (you can do that in any of the visitors center or on the phone) but even that is not necessary in most cases. Here’s a link to the park’s brochure of ranger-led activities from the summer of 2016. You’ll get a similar one when you get to the park, or you can check their website around springtime when they’ll probably have the online version of the 2017 brochure. It’s a very helpful guide as it allows you to see what days and times of day the hikes/activities are and for almost all of them, you can just choose to join them on the spot, giving you maximum flexibility.

      Enjoy your trip and let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. We are in Sixties not hikers but relatively flat surface is fine. Does your itinerary require lot of hiking (going up the slope)? How tough is it?

    1. Hi Bankim, the problem with some of the trails is the length, not so much the elevation. Few trails are 100% flat but the ones I mentioned here (other than the ones marked “for hikers” are not very steep. I could do them and I’m anything but an avid hiker. I do use poles and that helps when there’s a short section with some elevation.
      To make sure the trails are a good match for your own personal preferences, you can Google for each trail or even look it up on YouTube. People record their hikes and I often check the movies when I’m not sure whether or not I want to try a specific trail somewhere. Also, don’t forget to talk to the rangers before you go on any of the trails as trail conditions can change and effect your experience. Have fun at Glacier NP!

      1. Thank you Anne. I will check it out on Google or You Tube. What is your opinion about taking Red Bus Tour? We are planning on staying at the Cedar Creek Lodge in Colombia Falls for 3 full days (4 nights).

  3. We will be spending 2 days in Glacier NP this July and the only lodging we could get was in West Glacier. We are planning on driving the GTTSR one of the days we are there but is it too much to drive the whole thing and then back again in the same day? Should we only do part of it then turn around and go back? How many hikes can be done along the GTTSR and still have time to drive back? Which hikes should we do? What are must dos for the 2 days we are there?
    We are not all avid hikers and our pregnant daughter (5 months) and her young family (2 & 4 yr. old) will be with us.
    Thanks for your input.

    1. Sorry about the late reply, Barb! I somehow managed to miss several notifications. I hope this isn’t too late to answer.
      You can certainly travel the GTTSR and back on the same day.
      Some trails along the GTTSR will still have snow/ice on them even in early to mid-July. Hiking with toddlers and your pregnant daughter, you need to get the most recent information from the rangers about trail conditions. Since you’ll be staying in West Glacier, you can hike in that area on the day that you’re not crossing the park on the GTTSR and do the Trail of the Cedars (fully accessible – even for strollers). Then on the GTTSR day, make a few stops along the GTTSR to take in the views and maybe stroll along part of some trails (the ones the rangers recommend). Get to the other side of the park and drive for about half an hour longer to the Mani Glacier area. You can take a break there (they have a couple of restaurant and a little shop with great Huckleberry ice cream!), maybe take the short hike to Fishercap lake to try and see some moose and then head back along the GTTSR to the west. Just make sure you leave the Mani Glacier area early enough so you’ll have plenty of daylight hours to drive back to West Glacier.
      I hope that helps – enjoy your trip! The park is absolutely gorgeous in July!

  4. Hi,

    I was just wondering where the second to last picture was taken?

    I am planning a trip to Waterton Park Alberta, Canada down to Glacier park at the end of May this year for 3-4 days.

    Will it be worth me going down to Glacier national park this early on in the year?

    Thank you for all you help!

    1. Hi Chancey, the second to last picture was taken while hiking the Garden Wall trail. That trail begins at Logan Pass and goes all the way to Mani Glacier. The kids and myself, we just hikes for about a mile along the trail – the fun part where the trail is hugging the mountainside as you can see in the picture – and then went back to Logan Pass. My husband and a friend of ours went on and finished the hike in Mani Glacier.
      Good question about May. The Going To The Sun Road will not be open. Mani Glacier should be open if you’re crossing over from the east. I’m sure many trails will still have snow and ice, so not sure about hiking that time of year but I bet it would be beautiful. I’d definitely go given the chance.

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