Day Hikes in Glacier National Park

In 2010, I took my very first two week vacation.  Before then, I had stuck to the standard one week vacation, or long weekends.  I have to say that 2 weeks is exponentially better than 1 week – in one week, work can just pile up waiting for you.  By that 2nd week, stuff moves on, people figure it out, and the world doesn’t end!

I signed up for a trip through the local chapter of the Sierra Club for a week of day-hikes in Glacier National Park.  Others on the trip decided to take Amtrak, but I wanted to take a road trip and spend an extra week exploring the Rocky Mountains.

I set out from Chicago, across Minnesota and North Dakota, and had planned to camp at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  According to most people, “nobody goes there” so I didn’t anticipate a full campground!  As a result, I only got to drive through the park and was really impressed with what I saw!  This is North Dakota?!

Theodore Roosevelt National Park - North Dakota

With a full campground, I drove on into Montana and stopped in Glendive to find an inexpensive hotel that allowed dogs.  Eastern Montana is ranching country, and I took the opportunity to explore some backroads rather than sticking to the interstate.  I didn’t realize that a dotted road on my road atlas would actually be a dirt road, but it was an adventure!

Eastern Montana - this is what a yellow dotted line road is....looked like a shortcut, but took much longer!

I had brought my Miniature Pinscher, Duke, along for the trip, but couldn’t take him to Glacier, so I boarded him in Great Falls, MT and then headed on up to meet the gang in East Glacier.  We would be staying at the Mountain Pine Motel for the week; a really cute, basic little place within walking distance of everything in East Glacier.

The rooms at Mountain Pine Motel - very cute mom and pop kind of place

Our trip leaders had done this trip many times before and had lots of scenic hikes planned for the week, as well as a list of their favorite restaurants!

On the first day, we took the park boat across Two Medicine Lake to hike two trails on the other side –  Upper Two Medicine Lake and No Name Lake.  With clouds hanging over the mountains, it was already a dramatic landscape.  And immediately, we spotted our first black bear on the shores of the lake!

Boarding the boat (Sinopah) across Two Medicine Lake

Upper Two Medicine Lake was very beautiful, but choppy, windy and cold!  After this, we hiked back to the junction and on to No Name Lake.  Then back to the shores to wait for our boat ride back to Two Medicine Lodge.

Upper Two Medicine Lake - it was freezing and windy (notice the choppy water) so we didn't stay long.  I think I was wearing 3 jackets in this picture!

That night, we would have dinner in town at Serrano’s – it opens at 5:00 and people start lining up at this place at 4:00.  The food theme of the week was huckleberry pie, a local specialty!

On Day 2, we would drive across the park and hike the Trail of the Cedars and on to Avalanche Lake.  The Trail of the Cedars was a short, boardwalk trail through what felt like a rainforest – lots of moss and cool cedar trees.  Not at all what I expected to see in Montana!  We then followed Avalanche Creek along up to Avalanche Lake.  I loved the way the creek had eroded all kinds of pools into the rock surrounding the creek.

Avalanche Creek

After lunch at Avalanche Lake and a hike back, we jumped on the famous “Going to the Sun” road.  Such a cool old road with amazing scenery!

Going to the Sun Road

On Day 3, we had planned to hike to Iceberg Lake, but found the trail closed due to bear activity.  Fine by me if we skip that one!  We decided to take the Ice Lake trail instead, but didn’t make it all the way to Ice Lake.  Hiking by a sign like this certainly gives you a heightened sense of awareness for the rest of the day!

Just slightly unnerving for a flatlander used to squirrels and deer on the trails!

This was another trail filled with scenic vistas, and lots of wildlife, including ptarmigans, and thankfully, no bears!  We then headed over to Many Glacier Hotel for some hiking around the hotel and then dinner in the Ptarmigan Dining Room.  After dinner, we were stuck in a “bear jam” on the way back to East Glacier – there was a mama grizzly along the road with her two cubs.

Day 4, we headed over to St Mary’s Lake and hiked from Sun Point to Virginia Falls.

St Mary's Lake from Sun Point

It was a chilly, rainy day but St Mary’s Falls was worth the hike!

St Mary's Falls

On Friday, Day 5, we took a short hike to Running Eagle Falls and then back to Two Medicine Lake for a hike to Aster Falls.  Running Eagle Falls was a cool waterfall that flows through a hole in a rock wall.  I guess at higher water levels it also runs over the top.  The trail to the falls was nice and flat, following a river most of the way.

Running Eagle Falls

On the trail to Aster Falls, we saw a moose off in the distance in a marshy area.  We had a final dinner in town at the Whistle Stop Cafe and early the next morning, I would be headed south to continue on the 2nd week of my trip.

It was a beautiful landscape to leave behind…

Sunrise on the mountains of Glacier

All in all, Glacier National Park did not disappoint – absolutely worth the trouble getting to this remote corner of Monday.  Someday, I hope I can make it back to explore the Canadian side of the park.

For more pictures, click here!


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17 thoughts on “Day Hikes in Glacier National Park

    • I like camping, but not where there are grizzly bears, so I was happy we stayed at the little motel on this trip!

  1. The States are so beautiful. I think more people who live there should take the time to explore it. Why couldn’t you take Duke to Glacier? I’m thinking about getting a dog that will join us on our travels and I’m trying to get a feel for when and where there are road blocks.

    • Dogs are not allowed on most National Park trails in the US. There is almost always National Forest land close by where they are allowed, but Duke was also pretty old by then, so he was comfy at the dog spa for the week 🙂

    • Thanks! Unfortunately, no, I didn’t get any good bear pics. My DSLR was brand new, and I only had the kit lens. As soon as I got home, I ordered a zoom lens for future trips!

  2. What an interesting way to spend your vacation! And how lucky you were to have such a variety of experiences – moose, falls, pies,… 😉

    Happy continued travels!

  3. This is on my list for multi day trekking! The lakes look gorgeous. I hope to still trek there before I leave the U.S. for good 🙂 Awesome tips! Lovely photos!

    • Yes, you should check it out. See if you can find a group to go with, though. Solo hiking is not recommended in grizzly territory, unless you are an experienced backpacker.

  4. Wowwwww!!! I wanted to go to Glacier Natl park before and now you have me commited. How does signing up work through the sierra club? Did you enjoy having your experience through them!??

    • Sierra Club does National trips and trips through local clubs. This trip was with the local club, so I knew everyone already and it was a small group. Sierra Club does attract a certain type, and skews quite a bit older (our leaders were in their 70’s) but I bet REI and similar outfitters also have trips to Glacier. I hope you go!

    • Well, East Glacier is pretty small so there aren’t a ton of options! But yes, it was pretty good. I think in a week we ate at all the restaurants in town (twice at one of them!)

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