The Best of Glacier National Park: 7-Day Itinerary

A view over Two Medicine Lake at Sunrise in Glacier National Park

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Glacier National Park is “The Crown of the Continent” and should be on every hiker’s to-do list. From hiking to scenic driving – there’s something for everyone at every ability level. This 7-day Glacier National Park itinerary lets you experience it all.

I visited Glacier National Park for the first time in September 2019 and I can’t wait to return. I love Glacier National Park so much that I wrote an entire post about when, why, and how you should visit. But for all your detailed-oriented planners, I’ve also put together my ideal itinerary.

Table of Contents

Why You Should Visit

I spent a week in Glacier. I wholeheartedly believe that you need at least a week to see the different areas of the park and truly immerse yourself in Montana’s beauty. But a week in one national park can seem like a lot, right? It definitely did to me, after all, the prior year I visited all 5 Utah national parks in a week. But after spending a week in only Glacier National Park, I’m sold on slowing down and pacing out my national park adventures.

Spending a full week helps to avoid fatigue and burnout by spacing out more strenuous hikes. You’ll have time to relax and watch the sunset over St. Mary Lake instead of rushing to drive to the next campsite or hotel before sundown.

This 7-day Glacier National Park itinerary has all the must-do hikes and stunning photography spots. Plus, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife and learn about the history of the park!

Getting to Glacier National Park

Unless you live somewhat nearby or are road tripping through the region, you’ll be flying to visit Glacier National Park. I recommend flying into Kalispell, Montana (FCA). It’s the closest and saves significant drive time compared to other major airports. Other airports in the region include Missoula or Bozeman.

This itinerary assumes travelers are flying in and out of Kalispell, MT. If you’ll be flying or driving in from the eastern side of the park, modify the itinerary to fit your needs.

Day 1 – Going-to-the-Sun Road

You should aim to arrive in Kalispell in the late morning or early afternoon to give yourself plenty of time to settle in before sunset.

For anyone visiting Glacier National Park, I recommend staying in St. Mary or Babb for all but the last night of your trip. These towns are central to the most popular areas of the park: Logan Pass, St. Mary, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine.

2:00 PM – Super 1 Foods

St. Mary is a tiny town. The closest thing to a grocery store here is a gas station convenience store. You will want to stock up on groceries for the week at the Super 1 Foods in Columbia Falls, Montana.

Pick up supplies for quick breakfasts, trail lunches, simple snacks. I also recommend picking up supplies to make dinners most nights. Quality restaurants are few and far between in the St. Mary area (as is the case for most national park towns). This is why I recommend staying in a place with a kitchen. Plus, you’ll save money by cooking at home!

Purchase ice and either buy or bring your own collapsible cooler bags to keep meats and dairy cold on your drive to St. Mary.

Entrance sign to Glacier National Park at the western entrance

3:00 PM – Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road

Considered one of the best scenic drives in the country, Going-to-the-Sun Road can’t be missed. You literally cannot miss it – it’s the only road through the main section of Glacier National Park.

Enter the park via the West Glacier entrance. Before proceeding onward, stop to stamp your national park passport at the Apgar Visitor Center.

As you make your way across the park to your accommodation in St. Mary, you’ll get your first glimpse of the park. There’s plenty of pull-offs and vantage points along the way, so feel free to stop and take in the views as you go. But don’t worry if you’re running short on time, you’ll be back on Going-to-the-Sun Road many times throughout the week.

Check out Well Planned Journey’s complete guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road for all the don’t-miss stops. The national park service has also published audio and video tours.

4:15 PM – Stop at Lake McDonald Lodge & The Loop

Break up your drive to St. Mary by stretching your legs at Lake McDonald Lodge. The swiss-style lodge is one of the park’s many in-park lodges. No visit to Lake McDonald Lodge is complete without seeing the crystal clear waters from the dock behind the lodge.

The Loop is 30 minutes further along Going-to-the-Sun Road. This area begins the steep and winding section of the road up to Logan Pass Visitor Center, the highest point on Going-to-the-Sun Road. 

At this point in the afternoon, you should be able to find a parking spot, or a pull off, to get out and view the highest peak in the park, Heaven’s Peak. There’s also a restroom here for those of you that have been hydrating to adjust to the higher elevation.

Boats are docked at the Lake McDonald Lodge

6:45 PM – Arrive in St. Mary

Proceed through the Logan Pass section of the park. Since you’ll be back at the Logan Pass Visitor Center later in the week, there’s no need to stop there on your drive across the park.

St. Mary is about an hour from The Loop. Head to your accommodation and check-in before sundown. Don’t forget to unpack your (hopefully still cold!) groceries.

Settle in to your home for the week and make dinner before heading out to see the sunset.

8:30 PM – Sunset at Wild Goose Island Overlook

Depending on when you’re visiting, sunset can be anytime from 8 PM to 10 PM. If you have some time before sunset, I recommend driving the 15 minutes from St. Mary to Wild Goose Island Overlook for sunset. If you don’t have time the first night, check it out on night 2!

Sunset at Wild Goose Island along Going-to-the-Sun Road

Day 2 – Hidden Lake Overlook and Waterfall Hikes

7:00 AM – Hidden Lake Overlook Hike

Most mornings at Glacier will be early departures. Parking can be difficult at many trailheads, so it’s important to arrive early. This is particularly true at Logan Pass Visitor Center.

Try to be out the door by 7 AM to head to Logan Pass Visitor Center for the Hidden Lake Overlook hike. Logan Pass Visitor Center is around 35 minutes from St. Mary.

This out-and-back trail is routinely rated as one of the top hikes in Glacier National Park. It passes through grassy meadows and ends at a vantage point overlooking Hidden Lake. 

You’ll cover 460 feet of elevation over the 1.4 miles out to the overlook, but the way back will be all downhill.

The visitor center will be closed when you arrive in the morning, so stop in after your hike to look around, talk to park rangers, or buy souvenirs.

After checking out the visitor center, head back east on Going-to-the-Sun Road for the second hike of the day – Baring + St. Mary + Virginia Falls.

Sunrise at Hidden Lake Overlook in Glacier National Park

10:30 AM – Baring + St. Mary + Virginia Falls Hike

This trail takes you past 3 of the parks more accessible, and well-known, waterfalls. Parking might be tricky for this hike since you’ll be starting mid-morning, but before early hikers have finished. This is why I recommend parking at Sun Point and including Baring Falls in your hike. 

If you’re lucky enough to find a spot at the St. Mary Falls trailhead or Sunrift Gorge, you can cut distance off your hike and only see St. Mary + Virginia Falls. 

The total out-and-back hike from Sun Point to Virginia Falls is 6.4 miles with 535 feet elevation gain, predominantly in the last stretch from St. Mary to Virginia Falls.

Baring Falls is less crowded and only 0.3 miles from the Sun Point parking lot. The additional stretch from Baring Falls to St. Mary Falls passes through the woods along the shores of St. Mary lake. It’s the perfect place to spot quietly feeding deer and other wildlife.

From St. Mary Falls, it’s about 0.8 miles uphill to Virginia Falls. Stop at the top of Virginia Falls, eat your picnic lunch, and then begin your trek back to the Sun Point parking lot – a little over 3 miles.

St. Mary Falls at sunset in Glacier National Park

2:00 PM – Head Home to Rest and Recuperate

How often can you say you’ve hiked 10 miles by the early afternoon? At this point, you deserve some well-earned relaxation time. 

Take the rest of the afternoon off and make a delicious dinner. You’ll be tired after your first day of hiking as you adjust to jet lag and elevation change. Be sure to hydrate – I’m talking nonstop water drinking in the afternoon to help you recover and prepare for the rest of the week. 

If you skipped the sunset at Wild Goose Island Overlook last night, check it out tonight.

Go to bed early tonight since you will quite literally be up before the crack of dawn tomorrow morning.

Day 3 – Two Medicine and Avalanche Lake Hike

5:00 AM – Sunrise at Two Medicine

Depending on when you’re visiting Glacier, sunrise could be anywhere from 5:30 AM – 7 AM. This means earlier wake-up calls for those visiting in months with earlier sunrises. But the sunrise at Two Medicine Lake is well worth the early morning.

Leave St. Mary around 1.5 hours before sunrise. The drive is a little over an hour and you’ll want some time to spare so you don’t miss first light! Park at the Two Medicine General Store and walk mere steps to the shore of Two Medicine Lake for sunrise viewing.

Orange sunrise over Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park

8:00 AM – Two Medicine Boat Tour

Glacier Park Boat Company has been offering boat tours in the park since 1938. They offer tours on many of the park’s lakes, including Two Medicine Lake. The boat tour is a great way to learn more about the Two Medicine area, one of the lesser-visited areas of the park. 

In the Summer, Glacier Park Boat Company offers Two Medicine Lake tours every hour starting at 8 AM. You can book the tour online in advance to ensure the 8 AM departure time. The 8 AM tour is typically filled with hikers beginning longer backcountry hikes, so you might be some of the only ones doing the round trip boat tour.

After the boat tour, grab a coffee or snack and souvenir shop at the Two Medicine General Store.

While not an official hike, take a walk along the maintained trail that out to Paradise Point, about a half-mile out along the shore of Two Medicine Lake. It’s an easy walk to take in the views of Two Medicine from a different angle.

After Paradise Point, head back to the car and make the return trip to St. Mary for a quick bite to eat before your afternoon hike.

12:30 PM – Avalanche Lake Hike

After eating lunch, it’s time to head back along Going-to-the-Sun Road to the west side of the park to complete the 4.6-mile hike out to Avalanche Lake. If there are any spots you missed on your initial trek across Going-to-the-Sun Road on Day 1, take some time to stop and check out these vantage points.

Afternoon parking at Glacier National Park can be tricky, but this area offers multiple parking options. Search for parking at the Trail of the Cedars trailhead, Avalanche Creek campground (just west of the trailhead), or Avalanche Creek picnic area (across the street from the trailhead).

The first part of this hike follows the Trail of the Cedars loop – a handicap accessible, wooden boardwalk through towering trees. This part of the trail is family-friendly and crowded. Once you make it onto the Avalanche Creek trail (about a third of a mile), crowds will decrease.  

The trail takes you through a forest out to Avalanche Lake. This area of the park is some of the oldest growth in the park, left untouched by recent forest fires. Hike through the shaded forest to Avalanche Lake and sit on the shore for an afternoon snack.

If you have some extra energy, proceed to the far side of the lake for a different vantage point. Afterward, head back to the car the same way you came.

Avalanche Lake in the forefront of avalanche chutes on the mountainside in Glacier National Park

5:00 PM – Dinner in St. Mary

Another day of hiking in the books. Make the 1.5-hour drive back to St. Mary and enjoy the views of Going-to-the-Sun Road along the way. 

Enjoy a home-cooked meal or treat yourself to dinner out in St. Mary. If you’re looking for a slice of Montana’s famous huckleberry pie, I recommend Two Sisters Cafe in Babb. 

After dinner, get some rest, hydrate, and pack your hiking bag for your first strenuous hike of the week.

Day 4 – Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Hike

7:30 AM – Many Glacier Boat Tour

Today you’ll be making the strenuous hike up to Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint. A popular option is to book passage on the Glacier Park Boat Company tour to shorten the hike. Book the 8:30 AM or 9:00 AM Many Glacier boat tour at least 6 weeks in advance as the morning tours fill up quickly. You’ll have to pick your tickets up at will call at the dock behind Many Glacier Hotel the morning of, so I recommend arriving early.

The tour of Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine navigates across the two separate lakes, with a quarter-mile hike between. The best part of this boat tour is the capability to do a split round trip, meaning you can take the boat out first thing in the morning, complete your hike, and use your return trip in the afternoon.

You’ll disembark at the Lake Josephine dock, saving you 1.7 miles each way on your hike to Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint. Although be aware, you don’t cut off any of the elevation gains.

9:45 AM – Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Hike

The climb on this trail is strenuous, gaining 1,600 feet over 3.6 miles. Take at least 2 liters of water per person.

Be prepared to see some of Glacier’s renowned wildlife up close and personal on this hike. I saw a mountain goat, a ram (male bighorn sheep), and a black bear on my trip. Be aware of your surroundings and give any wildlife plenty of space. If you do encounter wildlife, slowly back away and wait for the animal to leave. You should carry bear spray in an easily accessible location, like a waist belt or outer backpack pocket. 

Much of this trail is unshaded, so starting in the morning will keep you from climbing to the viewpoint in the blazing sun. But prepare for a warm hike in the afternoon sun on the way back down.

The viewpoint at the top of this trail holds the bluest waters I’ve ever seen. Reward yourself after a long upward journey by peeling off those merino wool hiking socks and dipping your toes in the near-freezing glacial melt.

Take a picnic break at the viewpoint before heading back down to the dock at Lake Josephine.

Returning to the Many Glacier Hotel

Return to the dock at Lake Josephine to take the 45-minute tour back to the Many Glacier Hotel. While you’re guaranteed a return trip on the boat tour, you may have to wait for space.

Most of the afternoon boat tours are booked by round trip travelers, meaning its unlikely hikers will be getting off at the Lake Josephine dock. You’ll be boarding only if the tour is not already at capacity, meaning you could have to wait. But don’t worry, the area around the dock is shaded and has a shelter with seating. 

Even if you have to wait until 5:15 PM (although this is unlikely), you’re guaranteed a spot on the boat back. Glacier Park Boat Company will continue to run boats until all hikers are ferried back to the hotel. If you’re not back at the dock by 5:15 PM, you’ll need to walk the rest of the way back to the hotel.

Grinnell Lake is turquoise blue on the hike up to Grinnell Glacier

5:00 PM – Dinner at the Ptarmigan Dining Room

Bring a casual t-shirt, pullover, and shoes to change into after your hike. While the Ptarmigan Dining Room is “hiker casual”, you’ll appreciate having clean clothes to change into after a long, strenuous hike. Some deodorant wouldn’t hurt either!

The Ptarmigan Dining Room is Many Glacier Hotel’s main eatery. It doesn’t take reservations or call-ahead, so you’ll need to put your name in on the list to get a spot. Expect to wait around an hour. While you wait, grab a drink from the adjacent Swiss Lounge and gaze out at Swiftcurrent Lake. 

Ptarmigan Dining Room’s menu boasts locally sourced, gourmet cuisine. This will be the best meal you’ll have all week, so now is the time to splurge (financially and calorically!). If you still haven’t gotten your huckleberry fix, try a huckleberry cocktail or dessert.

After dinner, make the 45-minute drive back to St. Mary.

(Optional) 12:00 AM – Stargazing in the Park

Designated as a “dark sky park” by the International Dark Skies Association, you’ll see more stars here than almost anywhere else in the world. If you’re an avid photographer, this could be your chance to capture stunning Milky Way photos.

Even if you’re not a photographer, there’s still a solid chance you’ll be able to spot the Milky Way with your naked eye. If you’re lucky and in Glacier near a new moon, you’re chances are greatly increased. 

Find a spot in the park with minimal light and observe. Drive into the park at least as far at Wild Goose Island Overlook and stop at a pull-off. Turn off your headlights and let your eyes acclimate to the darkness for at least a few minutes. I don’t recommend driving any further than the St. Mary Falls trailhead at night as Going-to-the-Sun Road can be dangerous to drive in the dark.

Be sure to check night sky visibility using the Clear Sky Charts before you set out for the evening.

Day 5 – Waterton, Canada Day Trip

8:00 AM – Drive to Waterton and Purchase Boat Tour Tickets

An hour north of St. Mary, Waterton is a small alpine town perched on Waterton Lake, part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The townsite here is home to many quaint shops and restaurants, making it the perfect day trip on a hiking rest day.

Don’t forget your passport and remove any bear spray or potential weapons from your vehicle as you’ll be going through border control.

Waterton Cruises’ 2-hour scenic boat tour on Waterton Lake is a must-do. You can only buy tickets in person at the marina, so be sure to do this first thing when you arrive in Waterton. The marina is in the townsite, so park here for the duration of your Waterton visit. Book tickets for the 1 PM tour.

10:00 AM – Explore the Townsite and Stop for Lunch

After booking your boat tour tickets, explore the townsite. Take the walking trail along the waterfront, starting near the marina. Once you’ve seen enough of the shoreline, cut across to Waterton Avenue, the main street in Waterton. Window shop and stop in at the small craft shops and galleries along the way.

Before the boat tour, have a quick lunch. There are quite a few restaurants to choose from on the main street in Waterton. I’d recommend 49 Degrees North Pizza, Zum’s Eatery, or Weiners of Waterton (if you’re craving a hot dog!).

12:15 PM – Waterton Cruises Boat Tour

Head back to the marina and line up for the 1 PM boat tour. The tour is conducted on two-story boats, with an open-air deck up top. To experience the beauty of Waterton, guarantee yourself a seat on the top deck by lining up around 45 minutes ahead of the tour start time. But be warned, it will be windy and chilly so bring plenty of layers!

Also, this is the time to use the restroom, as there’s no restroom on board.

This is an informative and immensely scenic tour with the potential for seeing wildlife, like bald eagles. Have your camera and binoculars ready! The tour used to stop and disembark at Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park. Due to challenges with US National Park Service funding, the region is no longer staffed or maintained so the tour can no longer stop at Goat Haunt.

But even from the boat, you can see areas of the Goat Haunt section of Glacier National Park unreachable by any means except backcountry hiking.

A view from above of Waterton Lake in Canada

3:00 PM – Explore Prince of Wales Hotel

Finish your trip to Waterton with a visit to the Prince of Wales Hotel. Park and walk around the inside of the hotel before heading out back for a spectacular view. 

Sitting atop a hill, overlooking Waterton Lake, the Prince of Wales Hotel has a grandeur view of the Canadian Rockies. Take mental and digital photos – you’ll want to remember this view!

Head back to St. Mary when you’re ready. Once you’re back in St. Mary, pack up and prepare to check out of your accommodations. Tomorrow, you’ll be traversing the park to spend one final night in West Glacier after completing the Highline Trail.

Day 6 – Highline Trail Hike

6:45 AM – Highline Trail + Garden Wall Hike

If you haven’t noticed already, this Glacier National Park itinerary is filled with early wake-up calls. It’s critical that you pack the night before to ensure you’re out the door before 7 AM. Parking at the Logan Pass Visitor Center can be challenging and you’ll want to arrive before 7:30 AM to secure a spot for the day.

This one-way trail is often referred to as a sampler of Glacier National Park. With everything from grassy mountainsides to breathtaking vantage points, this trip is a must-do in Glacier. While some hikers prefer to do this hike as an introduction to Glacier, I prefer this hike as the finale. The Highline Trail perfectly ties together everything you’ve seen over the last week.

Start your hike at the trailhead across the street from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. You’ll start the hike by navigating along the rocky cliffside before the trail opens up into grassy terrain.

The Garden Wall Add-On

Just under 6 miles into your hike, you’ll reach the optional Garden Wall add-on. This super-strenuous, 1-mile, straight-uphill trek is the best part of the entire hike. Will you be out of breath and questioning yourself the whole haul up the mountainside? Yes. Is it worth it? 110%. 

The Garden Wall takes you up the side of the mountain range to overlook Grinnell Glacier. As you stand to overlook the turquoise waters, you’re also standing atop the Continental Divide (the part of the Rockies where water that flows down the west side of the mountain ends up in the Pacific Ocean and water that flows down the east side of the mountain ends up in the Atlantic Ocean). In my opinion, the Highline Trail is much less impressive without the Garden Wall add-on.

Aside from the Garden Wall, the elevation change is gentle and isn’t very strenuous for seasoned hikers. The hike-in, hike-out Granite Park Chalet provides a place for a nice snack and restroom break before beginning your downhill trek to The Loop. The downhill portion to The Loop is relatively unshaded due to past forest fires, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Highline Trail Logistics

As this is a one-way hike, you’ll need transportation back from The Loop to your vehicle at Logan Pass Visitor Center. You have a couple of options:

  • Take the free park shuttle. The shuttle operates along Going-to-the-Sun Road and can be very crowded, with only 2-3 open spots by the time it reaches The Loop. Expect to wait for a shuttle with space for you to board. If you’re in a group, have one person board if there isn’t space for the whole group and return to pick everyone else up after retrieving the car from Logan Pass.  Bring plenty of water and snacks to re-fuel while you wait.
  • If you’re traveling in a group with more than one car, the easiest thing to do is park one car at The Loop and one car at Logan Pass. If you’re particularly trusting, you can also arrange to do this with other groups of hikers. 
  • If not everyone in your group is doing the Highline Trail, another easy solution is to arrange for your family or friends to pick you up at The Loop. I’d recommend arranging a pick up for around 8.5 hours after you start the hike. 
A hiker walks along the dirt Highline Trail in a grassy field

4:30 PM – Drive to West Glacier

Say your final goodbyes to Glacier National Park as you make your last trip across Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you’re hungry, make a stop for dinner at one of the restaurants at Lake McDonald Lodge.

Check in to your accommodation in West Glacier, Columbia Falls, or Kalispell. The further west you stay, the closer you’ll be to the airport for your departure tomorrow.

Day 7 – Return Home

If you’re flying to the east coast, you’ll most likely have an early morning flight. Save enough time to return your rental car and bear spray (if you rented at the airport) before boarding your flight. 

If you have an afternoon departure, spend your time checking out shops and restaurants in downtown Whitefish. Or, maybe just sleep in after a strenuous week!

I like to spend time on my return trip reflecting on my favorite parts of the trip, jotting down some notes, and determining what I would have done differently. If you’re a fan of keeping a daily travel journal, I recommend doing this too!

A Quick Recap on the 7-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

This 7-day itinerary allows you to see the highlights of Glacier National Park at a more leisurely pace compared to shortened itineraries, like this 3-day Glacier National Park itinerary.  Each day you’ll explore a new area of the park and come to love all that Glacier has to offer.

Here’s a quick refresher on what you’ll do each day:

  • Day 1 – Going-to-the-Sun Road, Lake McDonald Lodge, Sunset at Wild Goose Island Overlook
  • Day 2 – Hidden Lake Overlook, Baring + St. Mary + Virginia Falls
  • Day 3 – Sunrise at Two Medicine Lake, Two Medicine Boat Tour, Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars
  • Day 4 – Many Glacier Boat Tour, Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Hike, Dinner at Ptarmigan Dining Room, Optional Night Sky Viewing
  • Day 5 – Waterton Day Trip, Waterton Cruises Boat Tour, Explore Prince of Wales Hotel
  • Day 6 – Highline Trail, Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Day 7 – Departure and Reflection, Optional Explore Whitefish or Kalispell

More Tips for Your Trip to Glacier

My goal at Well Planned Journey is to help you plan epic national park adventures with detailed guides and itineraries!

Check out some of my other resources to help you plan your trip to Glacier National Park!

>> More Ideas for Glacier National Park:

>> More National Park Inspiration:

>> Pack the Right gear:

Have questions?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Hi, I’m Julia! I’m a national park lover and avid planner on a mission to visit every U.S. national park. My goal is to empower you to visit America’s national parks by providing super-detailed national park guides and the tools to grow your hiking and camping skillset so you can feel confident outdoors.

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Hi, I’m Julia! I’m on a mission to see every United States national park and I’m happy to have you along for the ride. Here I share super-detailed itineraries and guides to help you plan the national park trip of a lifetime.

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