If hiking and adventuring in beautiful places is on your bucket list, you must plan a trip to Glacier National Park, Montana! Click the seven day adventure itinerary below for a version that you can save and print:

Glacier National Park Itinerary Travel Bucket List Destination Adventure Hiking
Having a solid plan makes your trip efficient.

Contents:

Going-To-The-Sun-Road and Three Falls Trail (Day 1)
East Glacier Hotels
Grinnell Glacier Trail (Day 2)
Many Glacier Hotels
Horseback Riding in Many Glacier and Redrock Falls (Day 3)
Ptarmigan Lake Trail, Iceberg Lake Trail, and Fishercap Lake (Day 4)
Horseback Riding and Kayaking on Lake McDonald (Day 5)
West Glacier Hotels
Whitewater Rafting and the Apgar Lookout Trail (Day 6)
Short Hikes and Return Flight (Day 7)

Day 1

Going-To-The-Sun Road

**Important: if you are planning on visiting Glacier National Park between May 28, 2021 and September 6, 2021, the national park service is now requiring an online reservation for access to the road. Tickets ($2) can be purchased online at recreation.gov and are good for 7 days. However, if you have reservations for lodging inside the park, or you have booked a tour, this can be used to waive the fee.

**The ticket reservation is enforced from 6:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Outside of those hours, the gate is not staffed, and visitors are free to enter the park. The parking lots fill up VERY quickly (typically full by 6:30 AM) — you are better off entering the park before 6:00 AM, even if you did manage to get a ticket reservation. I did not have a ticket and had no issues exploring the park to the fullest simply by starting my days early.

**Also Important: this is bear country. Carrying bear spray is a must. If you fly into Kalispell, Glacier Outfitters is located in the airport and sells or rents bear spray. Otherwise, you can buy it at any convenience store or at the park’s visitor center. My advice: renting is better than buying. At the time of writing this post, a flat rate rental is $28 total (does not matter how many days you are renting). It is $49 to buy bear spray, and it is not allowed on airplanes, cannot be shipped via the postal service, and is illegal in some states (ie. California). Renting is a better option in this situation.

**One last important tip: Going-To-The-Sun Road is narrow and winding in several areas. It is difficult for larger vehicles to navigate this road without encroaching upon the other lane. There are sections of the road that lead to a steep drop off of the edge. For this reason, vehicle restrictions are in place on the 24 mile stretch between the Avalanche Campground and Sun Point. Vehicles cannot exceed 21 feet in length. Keep this is mind when renting your mode of transportation.

Going-To-The-Sun Road is a 50 mile scenic bucket list drive through Glacier National Park. It is the main road that connects each section of the park, and offers many opportunities for hiking and photo-ops along the way. Most of the road is only open during the summer months, usually from late June to early October. Access the road from the West Glacier entrance, or from the east side by St. Mary Lake. If you do not have a ticket (separate from the national park entrance fee), you will have to take a 40+ mile detour. Be sure to secure your reservation in advance, and enjoy the beautiful drive!

Side note: Park rangers enforce the entrance reservation for the road from 6AM to 5PM. Plan on waking up early and entering the park before 6AM. This will not only get around the reservation fee, but also make the most out of your day. Alternatively, you can also return to the park after 5PM and still enjoy plenty of hours of daylight. The sun usually sets well after 9PM during the summer. Get a good hike in, and stick around in the park for an amazing sunset!

bucket list views glaciers
Beautiful views along the Going-To-The-Sun Road scenic drive.

Three Falls Trail

Take the scenic drive from the Kalispell Airport to your destination: St. Mary Lake. St. Mary Lake is the second largest lake in the state of Montana. Because the water is glacier fed, the temperature is frigid. Do not attempt to swim in this lake. The risk of hypothermia is real, and swimming accounts for the most deaths in the park. Although you may not be able to go for a dip, you can still enjoy the scenery of the lake and surrounding waterfalls in the area.

st. mary lake majestic mountains
St. Mary Lake, Glacier National Park

The St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls trail is a short 2.9 mile out and back hike with 452ft elevation gain. After sitting during your entire flight and drive, it is the perfect way to wake your legs up! It is an easy, beautiful hike to kick off your vacation. Also, it will warm your legs up for more difficult hikes over the next few days. Also stop by Baring Falls while you are in the area. It can be accessed from the same parking lot, and is a short, flat 0.7 mile out and back trail to the falls.

waterfall hike solo female traveler
St. Mary Falls
Virginia falls glacier national park Montana don't go chasing waterfalls
Virginia Falls
Baring falls glacier national park Montana don't go chasing waterfalls
Baring Falls

Places to Stay (Day 1)

St. Mary Village
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $110 – $350+ per night
  • Amenities: Restaurant | Bar | Wifi in some public areas | Free Parking on site
Rising Sun Motor Inn
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $179 – $220 per night
  • Amenities: Restaurant | Wifi in some public areas | Free parking on site
Lake McDonald Lodge **This hotel is further out from the target area, but the closest option if the other two are booked
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $115 – $250+ per night
  • Amenities: Restaurant | Bar | Wifi in some public areas | Shared bathroom for some rooms | Free parking on site

Day 2

Boat Tour

The Many Glacier area is arguably the most stunning section of Glacier National Park. It is named appropriately, as “many glaciers” come together in the valley to form a beautiful scene. Because of this, it is the optimal location for hiking and water tours. You can make reservations online with the Glacier Park Boat Company. Catch the boat at the Many Glacier Hotel dock. The boat ride begins on Swiftcurrent Lake and continues on to Lake Josephine.

Grinnell Glacier Trail

At the Lake Josephine dock, you can either stay on the boat to return to the hotel, or you can get off and hike. This is a shortcut to the full Grinnell Glacier trail. Taking the boat cuts about 4 miles off of the full trail. If you want to do the full hike, begin at the Grinnell Glacier trailhead parking lot. The trail is 11.2 miles out and back with a 2,181ft elevation gain. However, if you choose to take the boat to the upper dock, the rest of the trail is about 7.5 miles.

Whatever you choose, reaching the peak of Grinnell Glacier is a must-do bucket list hike! Depending on the month you visit, there is a good chance there will be snow towards the end of the trail. Pack microspikes and hiking poles so you will be well prepared to tackle the terrain. This may be a longer hike than you are used to. But don’t let that discourage you. Slow and steady wins the race. Take breaks often and soak in all of the beauty around you. You can do it. The trail is filled with wildflowers, wildlife, amazing views, and waterfalls. Don’t miss this bucket list adventure!

travel bucket list adventure hike
grinnell lake travel bucket list adventure hike amazing views

Places to Stay (Days 2, 3, and 4)

Many Glacier Hotel
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $210 – $300+ per night
  • Amenities: Restaurant | Bar | Wifi in some public areas | Free Parking on site
Swiftcurrent Motor Inn
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $119 – $200+ per night
  • Amenities: Restaurant | Laundry | Free parking on site | Most rooms have shared bathrooms | No Wifi
Rising Sun Motor Inn **This hotel is further out from the target area, but the closest option if the other two are booked
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $179 – $220 per night
  • Amenities: Restaurant | Wifi in some public areas | Free parking on site

Day 3

Horseback Riding in Many Glacier

After pushing yourself yesterday on a pretty difficult hike, take some time to relax today. Horseback riding is one of the best ways to take in all the sights without having to put in too much effort. Swan Mountain Outfitters offers horseback riding tours at all of the most scenic areas of the park. This way, you can allow your legs to recover, yet still explore all the beauty that Many Glacier has to offer.

Redrock Falls

Once you’ve had some time to relax, go on a short walk to the beautiful Redrock Falls. The trail is good for all skill levels, and is 3.6 miles out and back. Lots of wildlife make their home in this area, so your chances of seeing a bear or moose is high! Be sure to keep your distance. Never approach a wild animal, and always carry your bear spray within reach. Keep it on a belt or attached to a backpack strap. The goal is to never have to use it, but being prepared can save your life.

Redrock Falls via Swiftcurrent Pass

Day 4

Ptarmigan and Iceberg Lake Trails

This is a hike that starts off as a single trail for 2/3 of the way and then splits off into two separate trails. The Ptarmigan Lake Trail is 8.6 miles out and back, with a 1,896ft elevation gain. The bucket list views at the top are worth the work it takes to get there. It’s an uphill climb. Take as many breaks as you need and enjoy the crisp mountain air. This is another trail that is likely to have snow at the top. Come into it prepared with microspikes and hiking poles. As you double back, you will come across a turnoff about 1/3 of the way down. Turn off to explore the Iceberg Lake.

Bucket List Adventure hike Solo Female Traveler
Trail to Iceberg Lake

After several miles of hiking, you may not be in the mood to add to that mileage. However, the Iceberg Lake is worth seeing. It makes the most sense to add just a few extra miles for this little detour, instead of hiking the first 2/3 of the trail again on another day. Push yourself to see that second lake. Then you can draw yourself a nice, well deserved warm bath and relax in your hotel for the evening.

Fishercap Lake

When you have conquered those two hikes, make one last small detour. I know – you’re tired – but I promise Fishercap Lake is right around the corner! Is only 0.6 miles from the start of the trailhead, and takes less than ten minutes to walk there. You won’t be disappointed. You are almost guaranteed to see a moose or other wildlife, as they often swim and feed in this beautiful lake.

wildlife fishercap lake reflections
Fishercap Lake

Day 5

Horseback Riding at Lake McDonald

I know what you may be thinking. “But we already went horseback riding two days ago!” Yes you did, but that was at Many Glacier. Lake McDonald has a whole other feel to it, and it is worth exploring this area as well. Glacier National Park is full of endless beauty, and there is no way you can explore it in its entirety in seven days. However, if you have a solid game plan, you can see and do so much in those seven days. My itineraries are geared toward making the most out of your vacation, and doing it as efficiently as possible. So as your legs are recovering from yesterday, hop on that horse and take in all the beauty that surrounds Lake McDonald!

bucket list adventure lake mcdonald reflections
Crystal clear reflections of the glaciers that surround Lake McDonald

Kayaking on Lake McDonald

While you continue to rest your legs, use this as an opportunity to work another part of your body. Grab a paddle and kayak on the beautiful, clear waters of Lake McDonald. For the ultimate bucket list adventure, time your paddle during sunset. This will create memories that will last a lifetime!

Travel Bucket List Adventure Solo Female Traveler sunset
Lake McDonald at sunset

Places to Stay (Days 5 and 6)

Lake McDonald Lodge
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $115 – $250+ per night
  • Amenities: Restaurant | Bar | Wifi in some public areas | Shared bathroom for some rooms | Free parking on site
Village Inn
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $180 – $200+ per night
  • Amenities: Free Parking on site | No air conditioning | No Wifi | No Telephone | No Television
Cedar Creek Lodge
  • Pricing: Varies depending on date of reservation | $99 – $400+ per night
  • Amenities: Pool | Hot Tub | Wifi | Gym | Laundry | Free parking on site | Business center
  • Extras: Breakfast Included

Day 6

Whitewater Rafting

Calling all adrenaline junkies! Book an exciting whitewater rafting adventure with the Glacier Raft Company. This is the longest-running and most experienced rafting company in the park. Join them for an unforgettable rafting tour on the Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River. They offer half, full, and multi-day options. Although you are nearing the end of your trip, keep the adrenaline rush going! This is definitely one to check off of your bucket list!

whitewater rafting bucket list adventure
Feed the adrenaline junkie in you by booking a whitewater rafting adventure

Apgar Lookout Trail

For one last elevated scenic view, explore the Apgar Lookout Trail while in West Glacier. The trail is 7.1 miles out and back with a 1,860ft elevation gain. It passes through a sea of dead trees from a large fire in 2003 that burned 13% of Glacier National Park. At the top of the trail, you will be rewarded with a full view of Lake McDonald and the surrounding glacier peaks.

bucket list views adventure hike
Views of Lake McDonald from the Apgar Lookout Trail

Day 7

Shorter Hikes

Depending on what time your flight leaves today, you may have time for one or two short hikes in the area. Plan efficiently so you can make the most out of your trip. There are four shorter hikes in West Glacier that are worth checking out if you have time:

  • Trail of the Cedars: 0.9 mile nature walking loop; if you have more time, continue on to Avalanche Lake.
  • Avalanche Lake: 5.9 miles out and back with a 757ft elevation gain. The hike begins at the Trail of the Cedars. Halfway in, you reach a very scenic point – if you are short on time, you can choose to turn around, or you can complete the full hike.
  • Howe Lake Trail: 4.3 miles out and back with a 433ft elevation gain. The trail is a bit overgrown and the scenery is not as spectacular as other hikes in the park, but it’s a nice smaller hike if you are short on time. This passes through a marsh, so be prepared with mosquito spray.
  • Fish Lake: 5.5 miles out and back with a 1,338ft elevation gain. This lake also tends to have a lot of mosquitos, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Of all the trails above, Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake definitely gets my vote! It starts off a little boring, but halfway through you reach the foot of the lake. The trail opens up to scenic views of the lake, waterfalls, and overlooks.

avalanche lake reflections amazing views
Bucket list views at Avalanche Lake
waterfall hike solo female traveler
Waterfall along the Avalanche Lake Trail

Return Flight

Make your way out of Glacier National Park and head to Kalispell for your return flight. Leave with fun experiences, majestic views, and sense of accomplishment for checking several items off of your adventure bucket list!

If you found this itinerary useful, please sign up for my free monthly newsletter below. The newsletter will help you stay updated on the most recent travel tips, recommendations, itineraries, blogs, and resources.

Also, as a bonus you will receive a FREE detailed Thailand Travel Bucket List itinerary to help you plan the adventure of a lifetime!

Check out my other itineraries!

Happy Travels!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.