For serious hikers, few landscapes are more tempting than the mountains of Glacier National Park. Huge views, steep slopes, shimmering lakes, snowfields, mountain goats among the rocks, and grizzly bears lurking in the forest make trails here nothing short of epic. The challenges and dangers are well worth it to millions of people who take to the trails, but not everyone is up for the park's most incredible treks. The best views are well guarded by miles of rugged ground and hours of leg-burning effort. If you have what it takes, take on one of these adventures--six of Glacier National Park's most epic hikes that can each be done in a day.
This journey begins on Highline Trail, which could be a contender for the park's greatest views on its own, but the scenery gets even better when you climb an additional 1,000 feet up the Garden Wall. As you ascend this rocky slope dotted with greenery and wildflowers, you'll earn bigger and bigger views over Highline Trail and Logan Pass, but at the top of the ridge an entirely new vista awaits. You'll suddenly be standing on the Continental Divide, looking out over more peaks, a glacier, and a string of lakes in the valley far below.
This journey begins as a leisurely stroll beside a stream and still lakes, but after a few miles it suddenly turns upward on a mountainside streaked with waterfalls. Continue climbing and climbing, leaving the lakes far behind, and you'll eventually cross a grass-carpeted pass with a vantage over the other side of the park, with Going-to-the-Sun Road below and Heaven's Peak on the horizon. For bonus trek and a truly breathtaking panorama, huff it up to Swiftcurrent Lookout another 1,200 feet above the pass.
Linking these two high-elevation passes is an unbeatable tour of Glacier's alpine realm. You will travel steep slopes, toothy ridgelines, see gushing streams, blooming flowers, and plenty of wildlife. The route travels between two points on Going-to-the-Sun Road and weaves among towering peaks. It is best done as a one-way hike with a ride on the park's free shuttle.
This windy pass straddles the gap between two of the park's most impressive summits--Gunsight Mountain and Mount Jackson. Standing at the pass, you'll see blue lakes below on either side and rocky peaks above. You are likely to be surrounded by mountain goats but hardly any people because few humans make the long trek to reach this remote corner of the mountain range. The route is rewarding throughout, however, with shady forest, open meadows, lake views, stream crossings, and a possible bonus trip to Florence Falls.
This daunting but doable loop in the Two Medicine area covers 20 miles and more than a mile of total elevation gain. It links two incredible viewpoints, each of the two passes, but it delivers eyefuls the whole way as well as a glimpse into a sparsely traveled region of the park's interior. An easier alternative with some of the same views is the out-and-back hike to Upper Two Medicine Lake, but this route misses the high-elevation vantage that only climbing to the pass can offer.
Perhaps the most unique trail feature in Glacier is Ptarmigan Tunnel, an artificial opening blasted in the rock high on a mountainside. The tunnel travels right through the ridge to the other side and opens up to views over lakes and peaks in the remote northwest corner of the park. En route to reach it, a spur trail leads to Iceberg Lake, famous for giants chunks of the glacier above that fall into the water and float. Studded with waterfalls and wildflowers the whole way, it's a committing but worthwhile hike to link both these highlights in a trip.