3-Day Guide to West Glacier National Park


Bradee Felton

March 11, 2024

Visiting the famous Glacier National Park and looking for the perfect 3-day guide to see the west side of the park properly? Glacier National Park, which is known as being “the crown of the continent”, is one of the most beautiful places in the country. A trip there is absolutely worth planning! While some of the logistics can be a bit confusing, I’m here to help you make sure you show up ready and confident to make the most out of your time there.

First and foremost, Glacier NP is a large, and spread out park with different areas, entrances, and things to see. I will be splitting the GNP series into two blogs – the West Side (this one) and the East Side. The West Side will include the North Fork Area, Lake McDonald Area, and the Going-To-The-Sun Road West of Logan Pass Visitor Center. If you are looking for visuals of the area click on the main header of each section, or check out the National Parks Site linked here for maps divided by area.

You can mix and match any of the hikes in each area, but I will list two options in each  – one for the more easy going adventurer, and one for the challenge seeker.

A few things to note before diving in, there are timed entry reservation systems in certain areas on entrances of the park. The North Fork and Going-To-The-Sun-Road West Entrance being the two covered in this article. For reservation and shuttle information be sure to visit the Glacier National Park Website linked HERE, and to book your vehicle reservations in advance, visit linked HERE. A portion of vehicle reservations will be available 120 days or approximately four months in advance, starting on January 25, 2024, at 8 am MST on a daily rolling basis. Next Day vehicle reservations will be available at 7 pm MDT for next-day entry starting on May 23, 2024 on a daily rolling basis. (Note* if you enter the park prior to 6am or after 3pm, you do not need a timed vehicle reservation.)

Pro tips and things to expect:

-Parking lots fill up QUICKLY – especially Logan Pass Visitor Center so if you want to ensure parking opportunities, try to get there by 8am.

-Trail closures due to wildlife activity in the area happen frequently, so just be prepared with a Plan B option in case the trail you want to do is not available. 

-Be aware and considerate of wildlife – be sure to take bear spray with you, and make noise as you hike. 

-As always, be prepared with the ten essentials – especially proper clothing, sun protection, water, food, and shoes. 

-Expect little to no cell service during your time in the park.

North Fork Area

*Note – there is a timed entry reservation system in this area. See info above. To book your reservation, visit this link. The road into the North Fork area is a gravel road.

Bowman Lake Head (shown below) is a cruisy out and back hike that follows the shoreline of Bowman Lake. If you walk clear to the end, it is about 13.5 miles round trip.

Kintla Lake Head, similar to Bowman Lake Head, this hike also takes you along a lake for a total of 13 miles round trip. The views only get better as you get further along the trail!

Quartz Lake Loop is a challenging 13 mile loop that starts at the head of Bowman Lake and climbs up and over into Quartz Lake and Lower Quartz Lake before circling back to the trailhead. If you love beautiful glacial lakes, this loop is full of them!

Numa Lookout is a great option for a hiker looking for a leg burner and stunning views! It’s a challenging 11.5 mile out and back that treks up a mountain to a fire lookout with 360 degree views of the North Fork area. 

North Fork Itinerary Options:

Ideal active day: Numa Lookout early morning or Quartz Lake Loop, followed by Bowman Lake at sunset

Ideal chill day: Kintla Lake Head leisurely hike during the early day and Bowman Lake at sunset

Lake McDonald Area

Johns Lake Loop is an easy 2 mile family-friendly option. Along the way you’ll cross a crystal clear teal blue creek multiple times with scenic views and a cascading waterfall. It’s a great way to stretch the legs during any kind of adventure day.

Trail of the Cedars + Avalanche Lake (shown below) are popular hikes, but for good reason. The Trail of the Cedars is a short 1 mile well-developed path that circles through old-growth forest. Avalanche Lake trail is an easy out and back trail that is great for families as well. They take off from the same trailhead – you can choose to do both, or if you just want to do the short loop through the cedars you can!

glacier lake with water running into it

Huckleberry Mountain Lookout is another great option for the adventure seeker looking for beautiful views and don’t mind working the legs. Something to prepare for, once mosquitoes hatch in June, the first two miles are buggy so be prepared with bug spray and clothing. After the trail starts to gain elevation and get out of the valley, the mosquitos disappear, but the views definitely open up! At the top, there is a fire lookout and gorgeous 360 degree views.

Lake McDonald Itinerary Options:

Ideal active day: Huckleberry Mountain Lookout early morning, followed by a cooling off in the river with the Johns Lake Loop or swimming/paddle boarding Lake McDonald then an evening hike to Avalanche Lake.

Ideal chill day: Exploring Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake followed by Johns Lake Loop midday for a cool off and chilling at Lake McDonald for sunset.

West Going To The Sun Road/Logan Pass

*Note – there is a timed entry reservation system in this area. See info above. To book your reservation, visit this link

Hidden Lake (shown below) is a popular hike with spectacular views and amazing options for wildlife sightings. It starts at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and follows a wide path up and over into Hidden Lake. There is a beautiful  overlook option a little over a mile in if you aren’t wanting to do the full 5 mile out and back trek to Hidden Lake.

iconic mountain scene in glacier national park

Garden Wall (Grinnell Glacier Overlook) (shown below) is a longer out and back hike option that follows the Highline Trail about 7 miles in before taking a right up to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. In total, the hike is 15 miles with about 3,415ft elevation gain, so be prepared before starting out on this beautiful trek. Another thing to note, there are some narrow cliff-side parts of the trail so use caution along those areas.

blue glacier

Highline Trail Point To Point (shown below) is a great option if you want to experience all the views and keep it under 12 miles with only 1,400 elevation gain. You’ll start by parking at the Logan Pass Visitor Center (go EARLY) and finish at a stop along the Going-To-The-Sun-Road known as “The Loop”. There you will take a shuttle back up to your vehicle at the visitors center. 

beautiful mountain path

Going-To-The-Sun (West) Itinerary Options:

Ideal active day: hitting the Highline Trail point to point EARLY morning (including the Grinnell Glacier Overlook spur trail) then catching the shuttle back to Logan Pass or doing the Garden Wall out and back followed by a hike into Hidden Lake and an afternoon swim before heading into East Glacier or watching the sunset from Logan Pass

Ideal chill day: Driving the Going-To-The-Sun-Road and stopping to enjoy the scenery and pullouts at a leisurely pace followed by a short hike along the Highline Trail as far as you feel like going and a hike to Hidden Lake Overlook. Again – note that Logan Pass parking lot fills quickly.

If you are looking for a way to ensure feeling strong and prepared for any hike you take on, be sure to check out our 1:1 Mountain Metabolic Coaching Program for serious hands-on transformation, or the Fit For Hiking Guides for more of a self-paced approach. Whatever adventures you choose to do in West Glacier, there is truly something for everyone and trust me when I say, there’s jaw dropping views around every corner. Plan ahead, and take time to enjoy everything these vast and wild landscapes have to offer! 

Healthy + Happy Trails,


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