Glacier National Park is Montana’s paradise for outdoor and adventure lovers.
With turquoise mountain lakes, alpine meadows, and shimmering glaciers, it’s no wonder why Glacier is on the top of the bucket lists for travelers. This national park contains over 700 miles of trails for backpacking, cycling, and camping.
Glacier is best known for the Going-to-the-Sun Road and the 25 active glaciers in the area.
If you’ve ever wondered if it is worth the trip, the answer is YES!
Continue reading for the best 3 days in Glacier National Park.
The best times to visit Glacier National Park are from late June to mid-September.
Our journey started from Arizona and we planned on a 6-day trip stopping in Yellowstone for a day and spending 3 days in Glacier.
Allotting 2-3 days in the park is an ideal amount of time for Glacier. This will give you enough time to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road, hike a few trails, and visit Many Glacier or Two Medicine.
We planned on camping with our CVT rooftop tent.
It was unforgettable to stop and camp in the parks, but there are also many great lodging accommodations you can choose from!
Check for current weather conditions on the NPS website
3 Days in Glacier National Park
To enter a National Park, you will need to pay a $35 fee at the entrance. If you plan to visit more than a couple of parks in a year, you can purchase America the Beautiful national parks season pass for $80.
Glacier requires an additional entrance fee for the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The pass is only $2 and is available at 8 am, 2 days before you enter the park. If you aren’t able to get the pass in time, you are still able to enter as long as it’s before 6am.
There are two main entrances to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the East and West entrances.
Other parts of the park can be accessed separately like Many Glacier and Two Medicine.
The most popular entrance is the West entrance since it is the closest to Glacier International Airport.
The airport closest to Glacier National Park is in Kalispell, MT, 12 miles from Whitefish and 30 miles from the West entrance.
There is a free shuttle available along the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Apgar and St. Mary Visitor Centers.
On our trip, we drove up from the East side of Yellowstone, so the closest entrance was at St. Mary (East entrance). We decided to make our first stop at Many Glacier, spending our first night at the Many Glacier Campground.
Then we proceeded to enter the park at the east entrance, stopped at lookout points and hikes as we traveled to Lake McDonald. After that, we exited through the West entrance and drove home.
Based on how you are arriving at Glacier, you can plan your trip going from West to East or East to West.
Where to Stay/Camp
Camping options within the park. Click here to reserve your campsite ahead of time.
Lodging options in and around the park. For more locations click here.
For a complete camping packing list, click here.
When camping for 3 Days in Glacier National Park, it is important to be prepared for the terrain and wildlife.
Along with a camping packing list, we’ve put together an Outdoor Adventure Favorites list with convenient shopping links. It includes items like paddle boards, bear spray and bear bells, and other incredible products that are great for 3 days in Glacier National Park!
Visit the Shop our Favorites page for links, and simply scroll down the page for the Outdoor Adventure Favorites section.
Items can be purchased from Amazon, shipping in as little as a day if you have Prime.
Day 1 (Many Glacier, Divide Creek Campground)
Our first day in Glacier National Park was spent at Many Glacier, located on the upper east side of the park.
We spent the night at Many Glacier Campground and woke up early to start the Grinnell Glacier Trail. Before you start the hike, it is good to check the bulletin boards near the Many Glacier Hotel. There you will find updates on what trails are accessible and if there are any bears active in the area.
When we checked the boards, there were some closures on the trail. Part of the Grinnell Glacier Trail was closed because the ice wasn’t completely melted, so it was dangerous to access the last quarter mile. There were also warnings of a bear frequenting the area.
Be sure to come prepared to hike among wildlife, Montana is known for its flourishing populations of bears, Moose, Mountain Lion, etc.
It may be intimidating, but learning about bear safety when hiking is invaluable. The locals working in the shops and visitor centers will have all the information you need. It is wise to come prepared with a Bear Bell and Bear Spray to protect yourself if needed.
Also, make sure you understand how to use the bear spray before you hit the trails.
We purchased these items before we entered the park because prices can be much more expensive.
Above are links to these products that are the best deals we found on Amazon. They have great ratings and reviews from numerous users. It’s important to have easy access to your bear spray so I advise getting one that comes with a holster and/or strap, that way you can test out what works best for you.
The bear bells aren’t a necessity, however you will need to make sure and make your presence known on the trail by talking or making noise so you don’t startle a bear.
We were excited to see a bear at a very safe distance, across the lake from the trail we were on. When entering nature, we need to respect the animals that call it home and come prepared.
Grinnell Glacier Trail
- 11.2-mile out-and-back trail
- 2,181 ft elevation gain
- Rated hard
- Best times to visit: August through October
- Time to Complete: Average 5 hrs/15 min
Grinnell Glacier Trail is a must-do when visiting Glacier National Park.
The trail is challenging, but it offers incredible views of several glaciers, lakes, wildlife, waterfalls, and serene mountain tops.
There are two different ways to complete this hike.
You can start at Grinnell Glacier Trailhead or take a boat shuttle from the Many Glacier Hotel. The boat will cross Swiftcurrent Lake and then another can take you across Lake Josephine.
By taking the boats you can cut off 3.5 miles from the total hike. This can be very beneficial if you plan multiple hikes for Day 1. You can find pricing and more information on the boats here.
We chose to start the hike at the trailhead and were certainly challenged through the hike, but the extra effort was well worth the experience and views. About a mile after the lake the incline begins to pick up, this is where we saw a moose and bear on the other side of the lake.
We wished we had binoculars to better see them, so I would suggest adding that to your pack.
As you hike higher up you will get incredible views of the surrounding glaciers, spot the turquoise waters of Grinnell Lake, and feel the strength of Grinnell Falls near the trail.
On your way back you can choose to take the trail or take the boat to the start.
Divide Creek Campground
After Grinnell Glacier Trail, we headed out of Many Glacier and found a campsite just outside of the East Entrance.
The Divide Creek Campsite was about 33 minutes from Many Glacier and is a great location for tents, vans, and renting out cabins.
We booked a small campsite for $33 and made a plan to wake up early and enter the park before 6 am since we weren’t able to get the going-to-the-sun road pass in time.
We still had a few hours before sundown, so we decided to use our RinseKit and Pop-Up Pod to freshen up.
You can purchase the Pop-Up Pod on Amazon here, it was really nice to have privacy when showering, and you can use it as a changing room too!
The RinseKit was a recent upgrade to our camping gear, and so worth it!
We have the 1.5-gallon kit, the smallest version, that makes it easily portable. The pressurized kit makes it perfect for showering, rinsing off dirt, and cleaning your dishes after mealtime.
We like to bring extra 5-gallon water jugs to refill the RinseKit whenever needed. You can purchase your own RinseKit here!
After a refreshing shower and dinner, we went to bed to be prepared for an early start.
Day 2 (East Glacier)
It turned out great entering the park so early, and I highly recommend seeing the sunrise on the Going-to-the-Sun road. Absolutely stunning!
This also gave us a head start to find parking at Logan Pass, where you can access Hidden Lake Overlook Trail and the popular Highline Trail.
The parking lot fills up quickly after 7 am, so I HIGHLY recommend getting there early.
Logan Pass- Hidden Lake Overlook
Hidden Lake Overlook Trail
- 2.9-mile out-and-back trail
- 567ft elevation gain
- Rated moderate
- Best times to visit: June through October
- Time to Complete: Average 1 hr/22 min
Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is a beautiful hike that brings you up close to wildflower-filled grasslands, snow-capped mountains, and a stunning lake at the end.
This hike has a wooden path in the beginning that can get icy at times, be sure to wear sturdy shoes with good grip. If the snow is melting, there may be some muddy spots. Halfway through the trail, we were surprised to see a Big Horn Sheep cross the path behind us.
There were several more Big Horn Sheep in the valley as we reached the overlook. Take some time to observe the surrounding area and spot more wildlife activity.
While we were there, the trail from the overlook to the lake was closed because of a bear frequenting the area. After talking with others on the trail, we learned that they spotted the bear just an hour or so before we arrived.
The hike back was a whole new perspective of the trail, with beautiful atmospheric views of the surrounding mountains in Glacier.
Other Great Hiking Options
If you have extra time here are some other GREAT hiking options in the park.
As was mentioned above, the Highline Trail near Logan Pass is another popular hike and is well-known for Mountain Goat and Big Horn Sheep sightings. Other hiking options are below:
- Highline Trail
- Iceberg Lake
- Ptarmigan Tunnel
- Dawson-Pitamakan Loop
- Siyeh Pass
- Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars
- St. Mary and Virginia Falls Trail (Kid-Friendly)
- Trail of the Cedars (Kid-Friendly)
- Redrock Falls via Swiftcurrent Pass (Kid-Friendly)
Apgar or Fish Creek CampGrounds
After a day of hiking and enjoying the beauties within Glacier National Park, make your way down to the West side of the park to camp.
There are options to camp at Apgar or Fish Creek Campground.
We stopped in Apgar and had an awesome meal/drinks at Eddie’s Cafe.
Then we checked Apgar, but it was fully reserved, so we found a site at Fish Creek Campground. Both campsites are located near Lake McDonald and have amazing views of the surrounding area.
Our plan for the morning was to Paddle Board the lake, so it was great to camp so close. To reserve your site, refer to the links at the beginning of the article.
Day 3 (West Glacier)
Paddle Board Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald is a popular destination within Glacier National Park.
It’s easy to see why with crystal clear water, colorful rocks, and dramatic mountains as the backdrop. It’s also Glacier’s largest lake, measuring 10 miles long and 472ft at the deepest! point.
The lake is open year-round and is a great place to paddleboard, kayak, canoe, or simply walk around. Spend time in the refreshingly cool water, take in the scenery, and catch a jaw-dropping sunrise or sunset.*Be sure to wear bug-spray*.
We bought paddle boards on Black Friday from Amazon for this very trip. They were perfect! And ended up costing under $350 for two.
And since they are inflatable paddle boards, they are packed down in size to make them very travel-friendly. I’ve used them several times since this trip, and they are holding up great.
Highly recommend the investment!
Click here for Inflatable Paddle Board
After our relaxing morning on the lake, we explored the surrounding town around West Glacier.
If you have time, you can choose to do another hike in the area! We needed to start our drive back to Arizona, so left for home early that afternoon.
We hope that you enjoy this extensive 3-Day Itinerary to Glacier National Park! If you are interested in more adventures from The ExplorList, check out our other one-of-a-kind destinations here.