Glacier National Park Three-Day Trips

Glacier National Park Three Day TripsYou’re getting excited about heading out to Glacier National Park for that sweet three day/two night backpacking trip and you look at the map and see 734 miles of trail and 65 campsites. What to do?!

Here are a bunch of my picks in video form with me walking you all over the map. There are views, great chance of animal sightings and just all around Glacier goodness. Below the video are all of the trips listed out with distances which I covered. If you think I missed a trip or want to ask about one, comment below! (You may want to click on the video and watch it on youtube in HD so you can see where I’m pointing)

(number after leg is trip length in miles)

Three day backpacking trips in Glacier National Park

Going-to-the-Sun Road region

Gunsight Pass
Jackson Glacier Overlook to Gunsight Lake(6)
to Sperry Campground (7.5)
to Lake McDonald Lodge (6)

Jackson Glacier Overlook to Lake Ellen Wilson (11)
to Sperry Campground (2.5) Day trip up Lincoln Peak and/or Sperry Glacier
to Lake McDonald Lodge (6)

Logan Pass to Granite Park via Highline (~8)
to Many Glacier over Swiftcurrent (~8)
over Piegan Pass to Siyeh Bend (12.5)

Many Glacier

Apikuni Flats to Poia Lake (6.5)
to Elizabeth Lake over Redgap Pass (10)
to Many Glacier through Ptarmigan Tunnel (10.5)

Apikuni Flats to Poia Lake (6.5)
to Gable Creek over Redgap Pass (13.5)
to Chief Mountain trailhead (5.5) (day hike to Bear Mountain Overlook)

Apikuni Flats to Poia Lake (6.5)
to Elizabeth Lake over Redgap Pass (10)
to Chief Mountain trailhead (9)

Belly River

Chief Mountain trailhead to Elizabeth Lake(9)
to Cosley(4) (day hike 3 mile round trip to Bear Mountain point)
to Chief Mountain trailhead (8.5)

Chief Mountain trailhead to Elizabeth Lake (9)
to Mokowanis Lake (9)
to Chief Mountain trailhead (13.5)

Chief Mountain trailhead to Cosley (8.5)
to Stoney Indian Lake (9.5)
to Goat Haunt (7)

Chief Mountain trailhead to Glenns Lake Head (12)
to Kootenai Lakes (10)
to Goat Haunt (3)

Chief Mountain trailhead to Slide Lake(8)
to Cosley Lake (8)
to Chief Mountain trailhead (8.5)

Logan Pass to Granite Park via Highline (~8)
to Fifty Mountain (12)
to Goat Haunt (10)

Goat Haunt to Lake Frances (6)
to Hole-in-the-Wall (4)
to Goat Haunt (10)

Two Medicine

Old Man Lake trailhead to No Name Lake (4.5)
to Morningstar Lake (8.5)
to Cutbank trailhead (6.5)

Old Man Lake trailhead to Old Man Lake (6.5)
to Morningstar Lake (5)
to Cutbank trailhead (6.5)

Old Man Lake trailhead to Old Man Lake (6.5)
to No Name Lake via Pitamakan and Dawson Passes (8)
to Old Man Lake trailhead (4.5)

Old Man Lake trailhead to Morningstar Lake via Pitamakan Pass (11)
to head Red Eagle Lake (13.5)
to Old Ranger Station in St. Mary (8.5)

Cutbank trailhead to Atlantic Creek (4.5)
to head Red Eagle Lake (9.5)
to Old Ranger Station in St. Mary (8.5)

North Fork

Kintla Lake to Upper Kintla (10.5)
to Hole-in-the-Wall (8)
to Goat Haunt (10)

Bowman Lake to Bowman Lake head campground (6.6)
to Hole-in-the-Wall(8.5)
to Goat Haunt (10)

Bowman Lake to Quartz Lake via Cerulean Ridge (6.2)
to Lower Quartz (3)
to Bowman Lake via Quartz Ridge (3)

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35 Responses to Glacier National Park Three-Day Trips

  1. Mark February 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

    Do you have anything that includes Lake Isabel? A few buddies and I are looking for exactly this length of trip! We thought maybe Cobalt Lake to Isabel from Two Med?

    • Jake Bramante March 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

      I hiked from Park Creek to Lake Isabel and that was looooooong, but I loved the hike from Isabel out. It’s 5 miles from Two Medicine to Cobalt Lake and 5.6 more to Lake Isabel with a cool hike up and over Two Medicine Pass. I think any combination there and back would be great! Keep in mind that Cobalt’s campground takes a bit to open up as snow lingers there a bit.

  2. Stef Dreher March 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

    Thanks for putting this up! We are looking to do an early July trip (only time we can go this year) and I have been struggling over books, maps, trail guides etc to try and figure out what backcountry sites would be suitable for that early in the season. Thanks!

    • Jake Bramante March 4, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

      Did you get what you needed from the blog or do you need more info?

  3. Edward June 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm #

    Which one of these do you think would be possible without advanced reservation for August? How would you rank these three day trips? Thanks!

    • Jake Bramante July 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

      I’m not sure which ones would be available honestly. I think any trips that have Stoney Indian, Elizabeth Lake foot, Granite Park, Fifty Mountain, Hole-in-the-Wall and Lake Ellen Wilson, you’ll struggle to get a site in unless you get there super early. Other than that, I think that Two Medicine/Cutbank/St. Mary should be pretty good. Many Glacier and Highline are pretty tough while the Belly (minus Elizabeth Lake) should be okay. I would say that the Highline, Two Medicine and the Belly are probably some of my favorites, so I’ll let you figure it out from there. 😉

  4. Matt May 27, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    Which of these would be doable the first week of July?

  5. Jason Hansen June 27, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    Wow, just WOW I am very very inspired. You wouldn’t happen to have a 4 day segment would you? I am planning an adventure with my last big summer with my oldest son next year. I have been getting the books – getting in shape etc. etc. I am an old army grunt who still likes the outdoors and feel that Glacier would be one hec of an adventure. The challenge I am having is making SURE that there is fly fishing opportunities along the way. I know it’s early for next year but looking to get my map and form submitted timely.

  6. ryan March 28, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    WOW!!! Wish I would have come across this site 2 months ago. Still stuck on the daunting task of what to submit for Permits. This helps immensely! Thank you

  7. Kim April 2, 2015 at 8:11 am #

    Hi, love your website and all the useful information. We are planning a visit to Glacier right after Labor Day this fall. We are putting in for the lottery. Our first trip choice is an in and out from Lake McDonald up to Sperry and Lake Ellen Wilson and back out. But we also want to put in a second option as we know how hard it is to get your first choice. We can’t decide between 1) going from Goat Haunt up towards Hole in the Wall and back out or 2) going in from Chief Mtn. towards Glen Lake and out. Any thoughts? There is so much to see in Glacier but we are limited due to the shuttle system being shut down.

    • Jake Bramante April 2, 2015 at 10:46 am #

      So are you looking for a 3 day/2 night trip then?

      • adkkeg April 2, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

        Hi Jake, 3 nights.

        • Jake Bramante April 14, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

          I’m sooo sorry for not responding! I would try for Hole-in-the-Wall as it’s way more epic.

  8. Stephanie Symms April 18, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    Love this! Being from Texas and not knowing how to do this, what would you suggest? It would need to be a July trip for us. We are planning a 2016 summer trip, to give us time to train with packs. Would like a trip that would not have a lot of snow, and being able to leave after day 3, grab a shuttle back to our car, so we can grab a hotel, restock, and then do another 2-3 day hike elsewhere. Would love any and all suggestions! ssymms@me.com is my email.

    • Jake Bramante April 18, 2015 at 11:06 am #

      Hello Stephanie! I’ve shot you back an email. 😉

  9. Erez April 21, 2015 at 1:12 am #

    Hi Jake,

    Thanks for your wonderful site. We’re planning on visiting Glacier for the first time in July 4th, 2015, so we’d like to book ahead :-). We’re looking for a 2-3 day backpacking trip that will be beautiful, but will most likely also be open that early in the summer. Probably not more than 20 miles total. Any suggestions?

  10. jody June 9, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    Hi Jake,
    So happy to find this site – many thanks.
    My daughter already made a flight reservation so we are committed (before I really knew what was involved.)(son and I live in CO) and I have to get our BP application form in.

    Son, daughter and I want to do a 3 night backpack trip – July 21,22 and 23.
    She’s flying into Glacier Park airport on the 20th. Flies out 24th – early evening.

    Would LOVE any suggestions (I’m feeling overwhelmed by the size and options)
    *prefer a loop *like lakes * passes rather than peaks * daily segments 10 miles or less *hope to get a feel for the area rather than do a macho-push trip

    Many thanks for any advice or recommendations.

    jody

    • hike734 June 12, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

      Don’t worry about trying to get your backcountry permit in as most of the trips are pretty booked for advanced reservation. Watch my Walk-in Backcountry Permits blog as it will give you some advice on how to do that. For three days, one of my favorite recommendations is some combination of the Belly River and Mokowanis River drainages in the far northeast corner of the park. Perhaps hiking into Glenns Lake Foot the first day, then day hiking up to Stoney Indian Pass, spend another night at Glenns, then hike to Helen Lake, then hike out. Something along those lines would be super sweet. I’m a big fan of the “two nights in one place” kind of backpacking so you can explore without tent/stove/fuel/food/sleeping bag/etc. Basically, you’ll need to have a few different options when you go into the backcountry office and you should be fine. Another option would be to start or end in Two Medicine and work your way to No Name Lake, Morningstar Lake, then either head back via Old Man Lake or move camp slightly to Atlantic Creek and then day hike up to Triple Divide Pass. Hope that gets you a bit started.

      • jody June 24, 2015 at 10:11 am #

        Thanks for the note Jake.

        Appreciate the suggestions and the advice not to sweat it as I was getting a bit anxious.
        LOVE the map – lots of work in it that makes it a very helpful tool!

  11. Jeremy June 11, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

    Hey, I was informed of this website and found it to be extremely resourceful. My brother and I planned to do a summer hiking expedition without doing much research and we excitedly booked our vacation and flights. Now, I wished we researched more on best time to go because we will be traveling there late June (24-28th). Seeing that most of the backcountry hiking, passes and high elevation trails are not open until later July and August, I’m hoping you could offer this idiot some ideas for multi-day backcountry hikes for late June. Your input would be valuable and helpful!

    Jeremy

    • hike734 June 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

      I think that you may be in luck this year with the low snowpack. Some places like Hole-in-the-Wall won’t be accessible still as we’re not that ahead of schedule, but I think quite a bit will be open. Are there a few places you had in mind?

      • Jeremy Saling June 12, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

        Thanks for the responses and news! We were looking at several hikes going from Kintla Lake to Brown pass and down to Bowman lake or Kintla to Goat Haunt. The other one we considered is the gunsight pass trails. Then seeing how the pass might be difficult due to snowy condition, it became challenging to find a 30-mile three day hike through Glacier. Any suggestions or what to look for would be helpful.

        • hike734 June 16, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

          I’d look at maybe hiking to Helen Lake the first day, Mokowanis Lake the second day and out through Waterton the last day and shuttle back to Chief Mountain. Remember to bring your passport! The other two options you said you were interested in might just be too snowy like you mentioned. The alternative to my option would be to come out back to Chief Mountain if Stoney Indian Pass was inaccessible. But you could do a little day scramble up there to see what it looked like until the snow was too much.

  12. Frank July 14, 2015 at 4:10 pm #

    Jake: what is the chance of this coming Sunday through next Saturday, getting a 3 or 4 nighter that includes: (REF or REH), to Triple Divide to (ATL or MOR), to (OLD or over Dawson to NON), and finish at TMC?

    • hike734 July 15, 2015 at 7:32 am #

      Hello Frank! Keep checking http://home.nps.gov/applications/glac/bcpermits/bcbull/bcrescgstatus.cfm for what is coming up and available. As of today, the first couple stops look really good. I can’t see past that. Just remember to go in to a backcountry office first thing on Saturday morning if you can to get your permit. Check the availability on Friday night so you know what trips are there still. Also remember that you can do that trip backwards and it is fantastic that way as well!

  13. Jacob and Jamie Bessberger July 29, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

    Hi Jake,

    After having looked around for good info on Glacier for months we finally came across your site. Thank you so much!

    We are going on a 3 or 4 day hike in the second week of August and just wanted your opinion about two or three trips we could make. We especially want your opinion on the ongoing fires and closures in the park. Do you think there is a chance that we won’t be able to make it into the park?

    As for your recommendations, since we will be walking in without a reservation we are looking for two or three options. We are driving in from Seattle so potentially are looking for trails that start from the west. We will try to get the permits very early in the day. We are looking for something quite physically challenging but not technically challenging (no ropes etc.). We would like a route that is diverse and offers significant vertical gain.

    We have seen your recommendations of the Highline, Two Medicine and the Belly to other people. Do any of those routes match our wishes?

    Thanks for the advice.

    Best,
    Jacob and Jamie

    • hike734 July 29, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

      You’ll definitely be able to get into the Park! Number one, even when things were the most “closed” most of the Park was still open.

      In regards to getting a walk-in permit, make sure you watch my video on walk-in permits so that you can give yourself the best possible chance. https://www.hike734.com/educational/walk-in-backcountry-permits-of-glacier-national-park/

      I would strongly consider trying to get a permit that would allow you to get into the Boulder Pass/Hole-in-the-Wall area. I would come in via Bowman Lake as it’s a nicer walk than Kintla (even though the Upper Kintla campground is quite nice). From Boulder Pass, Boulder Peak is a pretty straightforward scramble to a summit. That would be my first recommendation. I would also consider the Belly River area, specifically looking into the Mokowanis Drainage. Stoney Indian Pass is exceptional. I don’t think you’ll have time to do the Northern Circle, even if you got the permits. Honorable mentions would be hiking up to Sperry campground and spending a day going up to the Glacier (maybe summiting Gunsight Mountain), evening climb up to Lincoln Peak, maybe hitting up Lake Ellen Wilson if you are lucky enough to get that with a day stroll up to Gunsight Pass.

      • Jacob and Jamie Bessberger August 5, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

        Hi Jake,

        Thanks so much for the quick and detailed response!

        Since one of us is in the process of getting a green card, we cannot leave the US and enter Canada. Does that eliminate your suggestion of Chief Mountain Customs to Mokowanis Drainage and then Stoney Indian Pass? We would end up at Goat Haunt at have to cross the border right?

        Could you say a little more about the:
        Chief Mountain trailhead to Slide Lake(8)
        to Cosley Lake (8)
        to Chief Mountain trailhead (8.5)
        Would we park our car at Chief Mountain Trailhead? And then walk along the Mountain International Highway until we reach the trail to Slide Lake? Is that easy to find?

        Alternatively, with the current fire situation do you think we could do the:
        Logan Pass to Granite Park via Highline (~8)
        to Many Glacier over Swiftcurrent (~8)
        over Piegan Pass to Siyeh Bend (12.5)
        We have heard that the road between Logan Pass and Siyeh Bend is closed due to the fires. So is that option not possible? How would we get from Siyeh Bend to Logan Pass?

        Thanks again. This is so helpful!
        Jacob and Jamie

        • hike734 August 5, 2015 at 10:00 pm #

          Yes, you would enter Canada at that point after Goat Haunt. Another option would be two days at Cosley. The first day would be getting to camp, the second would be exploring up to Stoney Indian and the last day you could wake up, climb to Bear Mountain Point, break camp and head out.

          Yes, you’d park at the Chief Mountain trailhead. I’d actually first park at the Lee Ridge trailhead, unload everything, then have the driver go down and part the car and walk back so you didn’t have to haul everything…. it’s a pretty short walk. The trailhead is right before the sign that says something like 1/4 mile to customs.

          Yeah, the Logan Pass all the way around to Siyeh Bend won’t work at this time because of the fire. I’d still also have you consider Hole-in-the-Wall/Boulder Pass area. 😉

          • Jacob August 6, 2015 at 9:42 am #

            Hi Jake,

            Thanks for the recs. I think top of our list now is some Belly river combination (depending on availability – maybe Elizabeth, maybe Slide). However, we would like to have multiple options in case we are not able to get reservations in the morning.

            The boulder/hole-in-the-wall option looks good too. To avoid backtracking what do you think about this option?

            Bowman Lake to Hole-in-the-Wall (15)
            to Upper Kintla (8)
            to Kintla Lake (10.5)

            Do you think it’s easy to hitch a ride from Kintla to Bowman afterwards? In the video it sounded like you are not that fond of Kintla. – Should we just backtrack out of Bowman?

            It’s a little frustrating that we are challenged by not being able to enter Canada – and by the fires in the east. We would even consider a 4 day trip if that would allow us to fully enjoy the diversity of the park. What do you think about this idea?:

            Bowman Lake to Lake Francis (~15)
            to Fifty Mountain (~13)
            to Granite Park via Highline (12)
            to Logan Pass (~8)

            Only challenge is then to shuttle back from Logan Pass to whereever we park our car. Do you have a suggestion?

            Sorry for all the questions – it is really hard to do research and figuring out what’s possible.

            Thanks,
            Jacob & Jamie

          • Jamie and Jacob August 7, 2015 at 8:25 am #

            Hi Jake,

            Thanks for the recs. I think top of our list now is some Belly river combination (depending on availability – Cosley, maybe Elizabeth, maybe Slide). However, we would like to have multiple options in case we are not able to get reservations in the morning.

            The boulder/hole-in-the-wall option looks good too. To avoid backtracking what do you think about this option?

            Bowman Lake to Hole-in-the-Wall (15)
            to Upper Kintla (8)
            to Kintla Lake (10.5)

            Do you think it’s easy to hitch a ride from Kintla to Bowman afterwards? In the video it sounded like you are not that fond of Kintla. – Should we just backtrack out of Bowman?

            It’s a little frustrating that we are challenged by not being able to enter Canada – and by the fires in the east. We would even consider a 4 day trip if that would allow us to fully enjoy the diversity of the park. What do you think about this idea?:

            Bowman Lake to Lake Francis (~15)
            to Fifty Mountain (~13)
            to Granite Park via Highline (12)
            to Logan Pass (~8)

            Only challenge is then to shuttle back from Logan Pass to where ever we park our car. Do you have a suggestion?

            Sorry for all the questions – it is really hard to do research and figuring out what’s possible.

            Thanks,
            Jacob & Jamie

  14. Matt Boepple August 9, 2015 at 8:56 am #

    Jake,
    Thanks for your site. Great information. We are heading out there the last week of July/first week of August 2016. Our background: we will have 8-12 backpackers, a few of us have 25 nights plus in each of the last few years in the backcountry (North Carolina, Virginia, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, etc.), the rest will be middle of the road skill level, all of us are in great shape and will have the best light weight gear, and prepared for any weather. We are an adventuresome BSA Troop and are all about “Leave No Trace.” Any suggestions on a four day loop, and then followed by a two day loop (or 5 day and overnighter)? We would like to maximize hikes that have altitude (views), alpine lakes, wildlife, and solitude. But we are not above doing the tourist thing to see something memorable. We like miles and steep climbs. We train on a local mountain out here, the Black Mountain Range, were we get 4,000 feet of elevation gain in 5 miles. A concern, and where I could use some help, is last year in Yellowstone and the Tetons (12 of us), it was hard to get campsites near each other (we had to separate many nights and hike 3-4 miles each way on spurs to get backcountry campsites) so any suggestions would be great.
    Thanks,
    Matt

    • hike734 August 24, 2015 at 10:37 am #

      Yikes! That IS a big group. My guess is that you’ll have to plan on that again if you do epic loops like the Northern Circle. Most campsites are made so that it feels like you’re in the backcountry and not front country camping. If you all want to stay together, I think your best bet would be the Coal/Nyack Loop. It wouldn’t be my first choice for all of the scenic views, but it’s beautiful and great wilderness (of course, the fire in there is currently reshaping it, so it’ll be interesting to see what it ends up looking like). Other options would be starting at Kintla and ending up at Bowman via Boulder Pass or vice versa. Once again, not sure if you would be able to camp together in that scenario. Shuttles are a problem between those two lakes, but with larger groups, you probably will have more than one vehicle to shuttle.

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