The Best Glacier National Park Itinerary 7 Days in Paradise

Hidden Lake Overlook hike in Glacier National Park

Crystal blue alpine lakes. Rugged glacially carved valleys. Once-in-a-lifetime hiking trails. It’s easy to see why a Glacier National Park vacation is at the top of every national park bucket list. From hiking to scenic driving – there’s something for everyone at every ability level. This Glacier National Park itinerary 7 days is perfect for those that want to see beyond the highlights.

Spending a week in Glacier National Park allows you to slow down, and immerse yourself in Montana. You’ll avoid the fatigue and burnout from shorter itineraries by spacing out your hikes. You’ll have time to relax and watch the sunset over St. Mary Lake instead of rushing to drive to the next hotel.

This post covers everything you need to know to plan a bucket list trip to Glacier National Park, including:

  • The best time of year to visit Glacier
  • Where to stay in and near the park
  • How to get around the park
  • Best things to do in 7 days with a day-by-day itinerary

Ready to start planning your national park getaway? Let’s dive in!

Glacier National Park Itinerary 7 Days Pinterest Pin

Don’t have time to read now? Share or save this post for later!

Looking for more helpful tips to plan your trip to Glacier National Park? Read these posts!

Planning a trip to Glacier National Park? Download this printable guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road to discover all the 22 best stops (+ a map) along Glacier’s most famous drive!

Best Time to Spend a Week in Glacier National Park

The best time to visit Glacier National Park is from late June to early September. Going-to-the-Sun Road, the best scenic drive in the park, opens in mid-June and remains open until early October. The rest of the year, the road is piled under feet of snow. In the off-season, activities in the park are limited and most amenities are closed.

To allow you to get the most out of your trip to Glacier, it’s best to plan your trip in the summer. But keep in mind, since Glacier has such a narrow tourism season, summer brings crowds. The best way to avoid crowds in Glacier National Park is to start your day early, avoiding the mid-day rush.

Swiftcurrent Pass hike in Glacier National Park

Getting to Glacier National Park

Unless you live within driving distance or are road tripping through the region, the best way to get to Glacier National Park is by flying.

Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) in Kalispell is the closest airport to Glacier National Park. From the airport, you’re roughly 30 minutes to the west entrance of the park.
Other airports in the region include Missoula or Bozeman. These may be good options if you also plan to visit Yellowstone National Park or Grand Teton National Park on your trip.

My favorite way to find cheap flights is by using Skyscanner. This tool allows you to research flights to multiple airports with flexible dates and across all airlines. This ensures you’re able to find the best price! Once you’re ready to book, Skyscanner redirects you to book directly with the airline you choose – it’s super convenient!

> Check flight prices to Glacier National Park now

Big Bend viewpoint along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

Getting Around for 7 Days in Glacier National Park

Driving is the best way to get around Glacier National Park. The national park service operates a shuttle along Going-to-the-Sun Road, but driving will allow you to see all parts of the park on your own schedule.

If you are flying, the best place to rent a car is at the airport in Kalispell. I recommend using rentalcars.com to research rental car pricing and find the best deal.

> Check rental car prices at Glacier National Park here

As I mentioned, Glacier National Park operates a free shuttle service along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The shuttle runs between Apgar Village and St. Mary Visitor Center, crossing through Lake McDonald, Logan Pass, and St. Mary regions. The shuttle can be useful for one-way hikes like the Highline Trail, but isn’t the best as your main method of transportation.

For more information on the free shuttle service, read my detailed guide on planning a trip to Glacier National Park.

Important Tip
Due to the high level of crowds in the summer, parking can be difficult at many of the popular trailheads. If you plan to hike trails starting at Logan Pass Visitor Center, Avalanche Creek, or Many Glacier, I recommend arriving early. Many parking lots will fill by 8 to 9 AM.

Information & Tips for 1 Week in Glacier National Park

In 2021, visiting Glacier National Park requires all visitors to make a reservation to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road. You must book this before arriving to the park – it’s not available on a walk up basis!

Your reservation, or “ticketed entry”, to drive Going-to-the-Sun Road can be made two ways:

  • Book 60 days out. 3/4 of the reservations will be released 60 days in advance. Reservations are released at 8 AM MDT on Recreation.Gov.
  • Book 2 days out. The remaining 1/4 of reservations will be released 2 days in advance. Reservations are released at 8 AM MDT on Recreation.Gov.
Glacier National Park Ticketed Entry Diagram

My detailed guide on driving Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2021 covers this in more detail, including:

  • How the ticketed entry system works for 2021
  • Who needs a ticketed entry reservation (and what lodging/tours exempt you)
  • How to book your reservation

Read that post here: Everything You Need to Know About Going-to-the-Sun Road in 2021

Glacier National Park Entrance Fees

To get into the park, you’ll need to pay an entry fee at the ranger station. This is not included in your ticketed entry reservation for 2021.

You have a few options:

  • 7-Day Glacier National Park Pass
    • Valid for 7 days
    • Best purchased at the Glacier entrance station upon arrival
    • Cost: $35
  • Annual Glacier National Park Pass
    • Valid for 12 months only for Glacier National Park
    • Only makes sense if you plan on visiting Glacier more than once in the next year
    • Best purchased at the Glacier entrance station upon arrival
    • Cost: $70
  • America the Beautiful National Park Pass
    • Best deal if you plan to visit more than 1 national park in the next 12 months
    • Valid for 12 months
    • Admits you to all 63 national parks, plus monuments, historical sites, and more
    • Cost: $80

Click here to buy your America the Beautiful national park pass for only $80

Important Tips for Your 7 Day Itinerary Glacier National Park

Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park
  • Book everything ASAP as both accommodations and tours book up early. Book 13 months out to stay in the park lodges, book 6 months out to stay in the park campgrounds, and book Glacier Park Boat Tours 6 weeks out.
  • Rent bear spray at the airport since it isn’t allowed on planes (even in your checked bag). A booth at the Kalispell airport allows you to rent bear spray for the week and return it before your flight home. If you’re staying in an Airbnb or cabin, check to see if your host provides it for you.
  • Download reservation details and maps offline as cell service is limited in and around the park. I like to save everything in a Google Drive folder and make it available offline.
  • Keep at least 100 yards away from bears and 25 yards away from other wildlife. If you do encounter a bear, remain calm and slowly back away. Be sure to keep your bear spray in an easily accessible location like a belt clip or holster.
  • Check the Glacier National Park website regularly. Conditions can change in a heartbeat. Check the Glacier National Park website regularly for road closures and park conditions.

What to Pack for One Week in Glacier National Park

Beyond just comfortable hiking clothes, be sure to pack these must-have essentials for your trip to Glacier National Park:

Entrance sign at Glacier National Park in Montana

Remember that days in Glacier National Park will start off cool and heat up quickly, so it’s important to dress in layers and wear sunscreen.

Looking for more tips on packing for national park trips?
Check out my guides on must-have hiking gear and the best hiking clothes for women.

Where to Stay Near Glacier National Park

Whether you’re interested in lodges, hotels, or campgrounds, there’s no shortage of places to stay near Glacier National Park. To make the most of your time in the park, I recommend staying in the park or within 30 minutes driving distance.

Keep reading for more on the best places to stay in and near the park.

Glacier Park Lodges

Glacier has 5 national park lodges, more than most national parks. The lodges range from rustic inns to swiss-style chalets. These lodges are in high demand, so plan to book your stay 13 months out when reservations open to get a spot.

Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park

Campgrounds in the Park

For those on a budget, camping in Glacier National Park is a great option. Plus, it puts you close to many of the park’s famous trails. Most of the campgrounds are open from mid-June to early September when the weather is warmest.

Tents in a campsite in Glacier National Park

Glacier offers 13 campgrounds with over 1,000 campsites. Of the 13 campgrounds, only 3 offer advance reservations. These campgrounds can be booked 6 months in advance via Recreation.gov.

The remaining campgrounds in the park are open on a first-come, first served basis. The best first-come, first served campgrounds include Rising Sun, Avalanche, Sprague Creek, and Apgar.

Important Note for 2021
Rising Sun Campground is closed in 2021 due to staffing. Instead, consider staying at one of the other first-come, first served campgrounds mentioned above. You can read more about campground status here.

Staying Outside Glacier National Park

If you aren’t able to secure lodging inside the park, you’ll have plenty of options outside the park. For this 7 day itinerary, I recommend splitting your time between the east side of the park and the west side of the park.

For the best experience, aim to spend:

  • 5 nights in St. Mary or Babb – closer to Many Glacier, St. Mary, and Two Medicine
  • 1 night in West Glacier or Columbia Falls – closer to Lake McDonald and Avalanche Lake
Cottages at Glacier cabins in Glacier National Park
View from the back porch of the Cottages at Glacier

Best Places to Stay in St. Mary or Babb

Best Places to Stay in West Glacier or Columbia Falls

Glacier National Park 7 Day Itinerary

Your week in Glacier National Park will be filled with adventures – from hiking to scenic drives to a trip over the Canadian border. This 7 day itinerary takes you to several regions of the park and includes a few side trips too!

To make the most of this itinerary, I recommend arriving on a morning flight in Kalispell. If you’re traveling from further away or road tripping from another national park, I recommend getting an early start to the day. This will give you plenty of time to settle into Glacier National Park for the week on day one.

Day 1: Going-to-the-Sun Road & Settling In

Since you have a full week in Glacier, you’ll want to spend your first day get oriented and settling in. I recommend staying in St. Mary or Babb for the majority of this itinerary as you’ll be exploring nearby Logan Pass, St. Mary, Many Glacier, and Two Medicine.

If you’re coming from Kalispell, I recommend stocking up on groceries before heading to St. Mary or Babb. The closest thing to a grocery store in St. Mary or Babb is a gas station convenience store. Instead, do your grocery shopping for the week at the Super 1 Foods in Columbia Falls, Montana.

Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road

Views along Going-to-the-Sun Road 2021

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.

Coming from Kalispell, you’ll enter the park from the west entrance. Before crossing Going-to-the-Sun Road, stop to stamp your national park passport at the Apgar Visitor Center.

As you make your way across the park, you’ll get your first glimpse of the signature glacially carved valleys. 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. If you’re running short on time, you’ll be back on Going-to-the-Sun Road many times throughout the week.

I’ve put together a detailed guide with 22 must-see stops along Going-to-the-Sun Road, including the best hikes and turnouts.

Planning a trip to Glacier National Park? Download this printable guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road to discover all the 22 best stops (+ a map) along Glacier’s most famous drive!

Lake McDonald Lodge & The Loop

Lake McDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park

Break up your drive across the park by stretching your legs at Lake McDonald Lodge. The swiss-style lodge is one of the many lodging options in the park. No visit to Lake McDonald 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.

In the late afternoon, you should be able to find a parking spot at The Loop, or a pull off, to get out and view the highest peak in the park, Heaven’s Peak.

Sunset at Wild Goose Island Overlook

Depending on when you’re visiting, sunset can be anytime from 8 PM to 10 PM. If you’re staying in St. Mary or Babb, one of the best places to catch sunset is at Wild Goose Island Overlook. The fading pink and purple light reflects on St. Mary Lake and highlights the tiny island floating in the middle.

Read More: 22 Best Stops Along Going-to-the-Sun Road

Day 2: Hidden Lake Overlook and Going to the Sun Road

Spend your second day in the park acclimating to the elevation and exploring the best views along Glacier’s legendary scenic drive. With the somewhat easy trail to Hidden Lake Overlook, you’ll prepare your body for longer hikes later in the week.

Hidden Lake Overlook Hike

Hidden Lake Overlook hike in Glacier National Park

Parking can be difficult at many trailheads, so it’s important to arrive early. This is particularly true at Logan Pass Visitor Center where the Hidden Lake trail begins.

Aim to arrive at Logan Pass Visitor Center before 8 AM.

This out-and-back trail is routinely rated as one of the top hikes in Glacier National Park. The trail takes you through grassy meadows, known to be a great place to spot wildlife. The hike ends in a spectacular vantage point overlooking Hidden Lake. Hidden Lake Overlook is particularly beautiful in the early morning light. The glassy still waters reflect the surrounding peaks.

In total, the trail is just under 3 miles round trip and covers 460 feet of elevation.
After the hike, stop in to explore the Logan Pass Visitor Center, the highest point along Going-to-the-Sun Road. This is a great spot to talk to park rangers or buy souvenirs, like a national park passport.

Explore More of Going-to-the-Sun Road

After checking out the visitor center, spend the rest of the afternoon exploring any spots you missed on Going-to-the-Sun Road on Day 1. Take your time along the scenic highway, stopping for plenty of photos.

Don’t miss your free, printable guide to the 22 best stops along Going-to-the-Sun (plus a free map!).

Read More: 19 Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

Day 3: Two Medicine and St. Mary Falls

Prepare for an early morning! One of the best ways to seek solitude during the busy summer months is by catching sunrise. On Day 3, you’ll see one of the best sunrises in the park before hiking to see 3 of Glacier’s must-see waterfalls.

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.

Plan to arrive at Two Medicine Lake about 30 minutes before sunrise – you don’t want to miss first light! The shores of the peaceful lake are only steps from the parking lot of Two Medicine General Store. No dreary-eyed morning hike necessary!

Two Medicine Boat Tour

Boat Tour of Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park

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. If you don’t book in advance, you can also purchase walk up tickets morning-of depending on availability.

After the boat tour, grab a coffee or snack at the Two Medicine General Store. If you missed souvenir shopping at the Logan Pass Visitor Center, this is a great place to browse too!

Explore Paradise Point

Paradise Point in Glacier National Park
Pond near the Paradise Point Trail

Take a walk along the trail out to Paradise Point, about a half-mile out along the shore of Two Medicine Lake and out to a small pond behind the lake. After Paradise Point, head back to the car and make the return trip to St. Mary for an afternoon hike.

St. Mary and Virginia Falls Hike

St. Mary Falls in Glacier National Park
St. Mary Falls

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 instead of the St. Mary Falls Trailhead.

By parking at Sun Point, you’ll have a longer hike, but you’ll be able to include another serene waterfall along the way! 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. Most of this elevation gain is 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.

Baring Falls hike in Glacier National Park
Baring Falls

From St. Mary Falls, it’s about 0.8 miles uphill to Virginia Falls. From the Virginia Falls viewpoint, you’re a little over 3 miles back to the Sun Point parking lot.

After a long day of exploring, you can end your day with a slice of Montana’s famous huckleberry pie at Two Sisters Cafe in Babb.

Read More: Ultimate 3-Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Day 4: Grinnell Glacier Hike

Halfway through your trip to Glacier National Park and it’s finally time to see a glacier up close! In my opinion, this is the hardest hike of the week (except for maybe the Highline Trail). Be sure to get an early start, eat a good breakfast, and pack plenty of water!

Many Glacier Boat Tour

Many Glacier Boat Tour on Swiftcurrent Lake in Glacier National Park

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 boat tour crosses both Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, with a quarter-mile hike connecting the lakes. The best part of this boat tour is the capability to do a split round trip. 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 nearly 3.5 miles round trip on your hike to Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint.

Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint Hike

Lower Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park along the Grinnell Glacier Trail
Lower Grinnell Lake

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 on this hike. I saw a mountain goat, a 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 holster.

Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint hike in Glacier National Park

The viewpoint at the top of this trail holds the bluest waters I’ve ever seen. This is about as close as you can get to a glacier in Glacier National Park. From here you can see multiple glaciers, including Salamander and Grinnell!

If you’re feeling brave, you can take a quick dip in the waters of Upper Grinnell Lake. But if you’re like me… maybe just settle for dipping your feet in.

Insider Tip
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, so you will only board if the tour isn’t at capacity. But don’t stress – Glacier Park Boat Company will continue to run boats until all hikers waiting at the dock 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.

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.

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 in Glacier during a new moon, your 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 adjust 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

Waterton is one of the best day trips near Glacier National Park. After all, how often do you get to make a day trip to Canada, eh? You can explore the quaint town and its surrounding park on a boat tour and scenic drive.

Drive to Waterton and Buy Boat Tour Tickets

Highway from Glacier National Park to Waterton, Canada
Highway from Glacier National Park to Waterton, Canada

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. I recommend booking tickets for the 12 PM or 2PM tour, depending on availability.

Explore the Townsite and Stop for Lunch

Waterton Townsite from above

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!).

Waterton Cruises Boat Tour

Waterton Lake Boat Tour in Canada

After lunch, head back to the marina and line up for the 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!

Important Note
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.

Explore Prince of Wales Hotel

Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, Canada

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!

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Glacier National Park

Day 6: Highline Trail Hike

After 5 busy days on the eastern side of Glacier National Park, it’s time to head to the westside. On your trek back across Going-to-the-Sun Road, you’ll stop to hike one of the most popular trails in the park – the Highline Trail.

I recommend spending your last night in Glacier National Park on the west side of the park, ideally in West Glacier or in the park near Lake McDonald.

Highline Trail + Garden Wall Hike

Highline Trail hike in Glacier National Park

If you haven’t noticed already, this Glacier National Park itinerary is filled with early wake-up calls. Parking at the Logan Pass Visitor Center can be challenging and you’ll want to arrive before 8 AM to secure a spot for the day.

This one-way trail is often referred to as a sampler of Glacier National Park. From grassy mountain sides to breathtaking vantage points of the surrounding valleys, the Highline Trail is a must do. 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. From this point, water that flows down the west side of the mountain ends up in the Pacific Ocean. Water that flows down the east side of the mountain ends up in the Atlantic Ocean.

View from Garden Wall Grinnell Glacier Overlook in Glacier National Park

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 most 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 descent to The Loop is unshaded due to past forest fires, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Granite Park Chalet in the distance along the Highline Trail

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
  • Park a car at each end of the trail
  • Arrange a pick up at The Loop if everyone in your group isn’t hiking the trail

For more on the logistics of hiking the Highline Trail, check out this detailed blog post.

After the longest hike of your trip, spend your last night in Glacier on the west side of the park or in West Glacier or Columbia Falls.

Read More: How to Hike the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park

Day 7: Avalanche Lake + Trail of the Cedars Hike

For your last day in the park, I recommend a shorter half-day hike. After hiking to Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars in the morning, you’ll head home.

Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars

Avalanche Lake hike in Glacier National Park

The trail to Avalanche Lake starts across from Avalanche Creek Campground at the Trail of the Cedars Trailhead. I recommend getting an early start, particularly if you have an afternoon flight or are heading off to another destination. Parking at this trailhead tends to be full by 9 AM.

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 usually crowded. Once you make it onto the Avalanche Creek trail (about a third of a mile), crowds will decrease.

Trail of the Cedars

The trail takes you through a forest out to Avalanche Lake. This area 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.

After your hike, it’s time to say your final goodbyes to Glacier National Park after a busy week. If you’re flying, save enough time to return your rental car and bear spray before boarding your flight.

If you aren’t flying out until the next morning, spend your time checking out shops and restaurants in downtown Whitefish.

If You Don’t Have 7 Days to Spend in Glacier National Park

If you don’t have a full week to spend in Glacier National Park, check out these shorter itineraries. These are perfectly paired with trips to other nearby national parks, like Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

Lake McDonald Viewpoint along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park

1-Day Itinerary

  • Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road and hike Hidden Lake Overlook

2-Day Itinerary

  • Day 1: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road and hike Hidden Lake Overlook
  • Day 2: Hike Grinnell Glacier Overlook

3-Day Itinerary

  • Day 1: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road and hike Hidden Lake Overlook
  • Day 2: Hike Grinnell Glacier Overlook
  • Day 3: Hike the Highline Trail

For more on this 3 day itinerary to Glacier National Park, read this detailed blog post on the best things to do in Glacier National Park in 3 days.

4-Day Itinerary

  • Day 1: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Day 2: Hike Hidden Lake Overlook and St. Mary Falls
  • Day 3: Hike Grinnell Glacier Overlook
  • Day 4: Hike the Highline Trail

5-Day Itinerary

  • Day 1: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Day 2: Hike Hidden Lake Overlook and Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Day 3: Hike Grinnell Glacier Overlook
  • Day 4: Two Medicine & St. Mary Falls
  • Day 5: Hike the Highline Trail

6-Day Itinerary

  • Day 1: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Day 2: Hike Hidden Lake Overlook and Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Day 3: Hike Grinnell Glacier Overlook
  • Day 4: Two Medicine & St. Mary Falls
  • Day 5: Hike the Highline Trail
  • Day 6: Hike Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars

Map of the Best Things to Do in Glacier National Park in 7 Days

This interactive map below includes all the points of interest included in this 7 day Glacier National Park itinerary. Simply scroll, click, and zoom to learn more!

FAQs About the Best Way to Spend 7 Days in Glacier National Park

How many days should you spend in Glacier National Park?

First time visitors should spend at least 5 to 7 days in Glacier National Park. This allows you to see beyond the highlights and hike all the popular trails. While you can visit the park in less time, 1 to 3 day trips only allow you to see the quick highlights.

Which is better: Yellowstone or Glacier National Park?

Glacier National Park and Yellowstone are very different parks. Hikers and backpackers will enjoy Glacier National Park’s hiking trails more. Those looking for a more family friendly and accessible park will enjoy exploring Yellowstone more.

How much is the entrance fee to Glacier National Park?

Glacier National Park charges a $35 entry fee for all visitors. This $35 fee covers your entry to Glacier National Park for 7 consecutive days. If you plan to visit multiple national parks in the next 12 months, I recommend the America the Beautiful national park pass for only $80.

Which side of Glacier National Park is best?

The east side of Glacier National Park is home to the most popular hiking trails, including the Highline Trail and Grinnell Glacier. If you enjoy hiking, you will find the east side of the park to be best.

Final Thoughts on Spending This Glacier National Park Itinerary 7 Days of Adventures

You could spend an eternity in Glacier National Park and never get bored. This 7 day itinerary to Glacier National Park takes you to the best sights in the park, from hikes to scenic drives.

This 7 day Glacier National Park itinerary includes:

  • Day 1: Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road, Sunset at Wild Goose Island Overlook
  • Day 2: Hike Hidden Lake Overlook and continue exploring Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • Day 3: Sunrise at Two Medicine Lake, Two Medicine Boat Tour, Hike St. Mary + Virginia Falls
  • Day 4: Hike Grinnell Glacier Overlook, Many Glacier Boat Tour, Dinner at Ptarmigan Dining Room, Stargazing in the park
  • Day 5: Day trip to Waterton, Canada, Waterton Cruises Boat Tour
  • Day 6: Hike the Highline Trail with the Garden Wall Add-On
  • Day 7: Hike Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars

Planning a trip to Glacier National Park? Download this printable guide to Going-to-the-Sun Road to discover all the 22 best stops (+ a map) along Glacier’s most famous drive!

Looking for more helpful tips to plan your trip to Glacier National Park? Read these posts!

Is visiting every USA national park on your bucket list? Check out this guide on the best things to do in all 63 national parks!

Want to share your thoughts, tips, and advice with me and other readers? Have questions about your trip? Head down to the comments section below!

This post may include some affiliate links, where I earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase, all at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products or brands that I use. Any income helps me continue sharing national park tips and itineraries for free.

10 thoughts on “The Best Glacier National Park Itinerary 7 Days in Paradise”

  1. This guide to Glacier National Park is incredibly helpful. You’ve really thought through everything you need to know before planning a trip. Thank you for this helpful resource. Saving this guide for later!

  2. Julia,

    thank you thank you for the very comprehensive guide. Wish I had discovered this when i first started planning. Do you have ant suggestions regarding how to get from the train station at East Glacier to the boat dock at Two Medicine Lake, when the park service is not running shuttles?

  3. Thank you for your tips! This is extremely helpful. I am going with three girls for a week in August. We are looking for longer hikes and a night or two backpacking. Any suggestions? Also, any suggestions on where to rent camping gear? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lauren! Some of my favorite longer hikes in the park are the Highline Trail, Grinnell Glacier, Iceberg Lake, and Ptarmigan Tunnel. For a 1-2 night backpacking trip, I’d recommend breaking up the Dawson-Pitamakan Loop into an overnight trip! For gear rentals, I’d recommend checking out Glacier Guides.

  4. Hi Julia do you know if going to the Sun Road will be open in July or August? Can you drive an RV up there? Do you have to stay in a campground with an RV or can you pull off somewhere for the evening? Thanks Earl

    1. Hi Earl! Going-to-the-Sun will be open in both July and August, but all visitors are required to make a ticketed entry reservation. I have a whole post on that topic for this year 🙂

      As for the RV, they are allowed on certain parts of Going-to-the-Sun Road: between Apgar and Avalanche Creek on the west side and St. Mary to Rising Sun on the east side. Between Avalanche Creek and St. Mary, RVs over 21 feet in length or over 8 feet in width are not allowed due to the windy roads. RV Camping is only allowed is designated campgrounds, not on full offs along the way. Hope that’s helpful!

  5. Fantastic itinerary! Question… Since the east entrance is closed, how would you modify this trip? And anything you’d cut out for a 5-day trip?

    1. Hey Tiffany! If things are similar to how they were in 2020, Going to the Sun Road will be closed east of Logan Pass. I would say spend 2 days hiking in Logan Pass area if open (Highline Trail & Hidden Lake Overlook), 1 day at Bowman Lake (I believe 4WD is required), 1 day around Lake McDonald/Avalanche Creek, and 1 day exploring nearby Whitefish or renting a kayak on Lake McDonald. As far as I know, plans are not absolutely final yet for Summer 2021, so there’s still a chance the east entrance could be open in time for your trip! If it is, I’d spend 1-2 days in Many Glacier, 1 day in St. Mary/Two Medicine, 1 day on the Highline Trail, and 1 day in Lake McDonald/Avalanche Lake area.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.