Glacier National Park – Hiking and Exploring

Glacier National Park – Hiking and Exploring Claimed

1 week | September 2020 | Couples | Hiking

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Trip Overview

Wonderful week of hiking and exploring in Glacier National Park

Full Itinerary

We spent an amazing week with another couple in Glacier National Park, hiking in the mornings and resting/water skiing/paddle boarding on Lake MacDonald in the afternoon. It was a dream week filled with fresh air, exercise, beautiful scenery and vistas as well as relaxation and friends. 


We stayed inside the park so for anyone staying outside the park, leave adequate time to drive and find parking.  Some of our start times may seem rather early but were necessary to ensure parking spaces at trailheads – the park was crowded during our visit due to Covid restrictions and the fact that a lot of the park was closed, only one entrance was open, and the park shuttle buses weren’t running.  You can check webcams and conditions at https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm.


Here I will highlight the hikes and the logistics involved. Please note that we had two vehicles at our disposal, making some hikes possible with a car at the start and at the end, as the shuttles were not running due to Covid. If the shuttles are running, it is possible to do these hikes with one car. Our afternoons were spent lakeside on Lake MacDonald. 


Day 1 Hike: Highline hike from Logan Pass to The Loop, with an offshoot to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook.


Time: 5 Hours. Started hiking at 6:30am and finished at 11:30am. 


Distance: 12 miles, 14.2 including the Overlook offshoot. Elevation gain with Overlook:  approx. 2,000 feet.  Elevation gain without Overlook: approx. 975 feet.


Hike Info: The start of this hike hugs the cliffs and slopes of the Garden Wall. The first 7.6 miles of the trail to the Granite Park Chalet is easy with a gradual elevation climb and offers amazing views at every turn. After the Chalet, the trail drops 2,200 feet in 4 miles to the Loop trailhead. The Overlook trail turns off at 6.9 miles from Logan Pass, about 15 minutes before the Chalet and is a steep (900 ft.) but short climb up (and down). From here, you have amazing views (when it isn’t a white-out) looking toward Many Glacier. The Chalet is available to book rooms (hike or horse in) and does not have a restaurant but at times during the day sells some food items (was closed when we got there). It has a bathroom for hikers to use as well. If you don’t have a second car available you need to do an in and out route, starting either from the Loop (2200 ft elevation gain/8 miles round-trip) or from Logan Pass (14.9 miles RT/1,920 ft elevation gain ). 


Car Logistics: We dropped a car at the Loop parking lot and then drove to the Logan Pass parking lot and parked there to start the hike. At the end, we hopped in the car at the Loop and drove back up the Going to the Sun Road to get the car parked at Logan Pass.


Comments: This is a great hike with amazing views looking out over the Going to the Sun road vista. The route we did is a great first day hike as it has minimal elevation gain in 12 miles and isn’t too difficult (its more difficult if you go the other direction and have a lot of uphill). 



Day 2 Hike: Dragon’s Tail and Oberlin. 


Time: 4 hours. 7am start time (just the 2 guys did this hike on this day)


Distance: 9.4 miles, 2789 elevation gain (I got the indiv. Hike mileage and elevation below from some website – they don’t add up so I don’t knwo what to say! Think its impt to list them separately. 


Note:  These 2 hikes are not on official Glacier National Park trails. 


Hike Info:  Both hikes start at Logan Pass.  For Dragon’s Tail, head up the Hidden Lake Overlake trail which is primarily a boardwalk. Roughly 1.15 miles from the trailhead, an unmarked trail will branch-off to the left – there is a small sign that reads “climbers route”.  The trail is a single track which leads up to an overlook of Hidden Lake – continue to the left to the Dragon’s tail. There is a flat landing pad with great views and the brave can hike further along the tail as nerves allow. 5.4 miles/1190 ft elevation gain


The Oberlin trail starts closer to the Visitor Center.  Go right up the ramp. There may be a rope “blocking” the trail and a sign that states off trail hiking is prohibited – this is there so people don’t wander off the boardwalk and start a walk/hike that they didn’t mean to. There is a single track trail up to a saddle and scree after that point. 3.5 miles RT/1519 elevation gain. 


It was a snowy day at the top (and a beach day at the lake in the afternoon!).


Car Logistics: Started and finished at Logan Pass parking lot. Did the Dragon’s Tail hike first and then added on the Oberlin trail afterwards, which also starts at the parking lot.


Comments: The guys did this hike and then redid it a few days later with both couples. The first trip had limited views due to weather/snow but when we redid it a few days later it was clear and we saw views for miles. 


Day 3 Hike: Siyeh Pass hike. Due to parking/car options, we dropped the guys at Sundrift Gorge, the far end of the hike about 7 miles from Logan Pass, and we backtracked and parked at Siyeh Bend, 2 miles from Logan Pass, and started from there. We met at the top – Siyeh Pass – and all continued back down to the car parked at Siyeh Bend. 


Time: 5 hours. 7:50am start time, 1pm end time. 


Distance: 9 miles, 2000 ft. elevation gain for the out and back group. 11.2 miles for those doing ‘through hike’ (with 3,492 elevation gain).  


Hike Info: For the group that went out and back it starts in forest/meadow area, crossing rivers and beautiful landscapes. When the uphill starts it turns to more rocky/skree type of environment. There are switchbacks that get rather steep up to the summit. And the day we were there is was VERY windy at the summit!!!


Car Logistics:  We dropped the guys at Sundrift Gorge, the far end of the hike about 7 miles from Logan Pass, and we backtracked and parked at Siyeh Bend, 2 miles from Logan Pass. If you have 2 cars, you could park one car at Siyeh Bend and another at Sundrift Gorge . . . . it is an easier hike/less elevation gain by about 1,000 ft to start at Siyeh Bend and end at Sundrift. 


Comments: Liked the variety of terrain – from forest and meadows to rocky windswept vistas. An awesome view at the summit – making all the switchbacks worthwhile, even though the wind picked up made it cold and a bit scary!  We needed hats and gloves!


Day 4 Hike OPTION 1: MacDonald Creek and John’s Lake loop hike 


Time: 2.25 hours, started 9am.


Distance: 5.6 miles


Hike Info: Very flat, easy, pretty walk. Followed the MacDonald Creek trail through the forest alongside the creek for a few miles until it wound away from the river, then turned around and came back. Crossed over the road and entered the John’s Lake loop which is also a beautiful walk through the forest. 


Car Logistics: Can park at the start of the trail, and end there as well – it is a loop.


Comments: A beautiful hike that you can make as long or short as you like. It’s flat and goes through beautiful forest and is easily accessible. Or you can just go down to the river’s edge for a picnic!


Day 4 Hike OPTION 2: Gunsight Pass to Sperry Chalet. 


Time: 6.5 hours, started at 6:30am


Distance: 20.72 miles,  3547 elevation gain


Hike Info: This was the long hike of the week that the guys did! Covered a variety of terrain, including a section of single track along a hillside that had a lot of bear scat/paw prints on it…with nowhere to go either up or down the steep hillside should a bear be around a corner of the trail (be sure to carry bear spray). But all was good and arriving at Sperry Chalet is a well deserved chance to grab a snack. 


Car Logistics: We dropped one car in the  Lake MacDonald Lodge parking lot (waiting for them to use at the end of the hike) and then dropped the hikers at the Jackson Glacier Overlook/Gunsight trailhead about 5 miles East of Logan Pass. 


Comments: A great mid week tough hike to tackle!


Day 5 Hike: Trout Lake 

Time: 3 hours 20 minutes


Distance: 8.5 miles, 3107 elevation gain


Hike Info: It’s an out and back trail that is tougher than it seems! Start via walk up through old burn forest, then down to Trout Lake, and return the same way. It is 2,000 feet up and 1,000 ft down to the lake, and vise versa. 


Car Logistics: Can park at the start of the trail


Comments:  As it’s walking through a burned forest the views are different than many other hikes. On a hot day there is no shade. The lake is beautiful, but be ready for steady climbs each way!


Day 6 Hike: Dragon’s Tail from Logan Pass, with a bit of Oberlin trail at the end.  


Time: 7am start. Approx 3 hour hike


Distance: Approx 6 miles, 8 miles for those who added on Oberlin part at end. 1969 elevation (for those who did bit of Oberlin as well)


Hike Info: Start and end at Logan Pass parking lot. Go up the main walk along the ‘boardwalk’ and then there is a cut off to the left that leads to Dragon’s Tail hike along a single track trail. There is a lot of shale and up towards the top it is on a steep hillside. Terrific views at the top of lakes and ‘big’ vistas. 


Car Logistics: Park at Logan Pass parking lot


Comments:  Great views at the top and no crowds! If you don’t like skree hikes then don’t go all the way to the top, as the last mile or so is all skree trail.




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Author

Time of year

July-Sept

Type of Trip

Adventure/Active, Nature

Duration

1 week

Who Went

Couple, Multi-family, Friends (45-65 yr old)

Accommodation Type

Friends

Budget

$400-$600

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