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You’ve got your trip planned to Glacier but what to do while you’re there?! I’ve got your back, my adventurous friend. Look no further for the best Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary.
You guys. I am SO excited to share this post with you! Glacier National Park was one of our last stops along our 7 week road trip across the western US and one we anticipated for sooooo long! Luckily, we were not disappointed. Think of the most beautiful Glacier-Freeze-Gatorade blue water and the greenest grass and trees dotted along jagged mountains… and then multiply that beauty by one million. Am I getting my point across?!
If Glacier isn’t on your bucket list, whyyyyyy?! Just add it now. Better yet, book your trip right now (using my guide to planning a Glacier trip!).
Now that you are ready to head to the most beautiful place ever, let’s get to planning! This itinerary is 3-4ish days long, including travel time on the first and last day. It includes a perfect mix of hiking, relaxing, and exploring to get the full Glacier National Park experience!
Keep on reading for all the goodness of this Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary!
Glacier National Park Info
Glacier National Park was founded on May 11, 1910. The park is home to 26 glaciers, abundant wildlife, and rich culture. The surrounding area is also home to the Blackfeet Reservation. Along with Waterton Lakes National Park, Glacier forms the first ever international peace park representing peace and friendship between the US and Canada!
Due to its remote location, it takes a bit of planning to get here and find good accommodations. But it’s so so worth it! In case you missed it, I also shared a HUGE guide to planning a trip to Glacier National Park. Be sure to check that out for all the logistics of when to go, where to stay, and what to do!
HOW LONG TO STAY IN GLACIER
Glacier National Park is HUGE. There are a few different entrances: West Glacier, Many Glacier, St. Mary, and Polebridge. The only two entrances that end up connecting are West Glacier and Many Glacier… and that drive down Going-to-the-Sun Road could take you a few hours (without stops!). The park also has SO MUCH to offer and see. I could easily spend 2 weeks here doing a different hike every day! You can definitely spend as much time as you want in the park, but I would recommend a minimum of 3 days. This will give you time to explore the sights and check out a few hikes, too.
Depending on what time you get to Glacier National Park, you may or may not have time to head into the park. Because of its remote location, it takes a bit of travel time to get here… I would definitely not plan to do anything major today! You will most likely be getting in a bit late. We arrived just before sunset and didn’t want to waste any time getting our first taste of the park.
Drive Going-to-the-Sun Road
If your reservation is good for this day, head straight into the park! The beautiful drive to your lodgings is just a taste of what you’ll see IN the park! Plan to take your time and drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road as the sun starts to set. Even if you don’t get out of your car, you will have a blast! We took this time to stop at pull offs, drive slowly, and enjoy the scenery.
Reservation not letting you in on this day? That’s okay! The reservation is only good until 4 pm, so just scoot in after 4 pm. In the summer, you will still have tons of daylight!
After driving through the park for a bit, head back and grab some dinner. Set up a chair if you’re camping or grab a nice spot outside with a book and a glass of wine… the view is worth it! This remains the best place I’ve ever kicked my feet up to enjoy the view!
Your first full day in Glacier National Park!!! Time to grab your entry pass and hop out of bed! It’s common knowledge that you need to get up very early to beat the crowds when you’re hiking in a national park. However, with the reservation system we didn’t feel the need to rush. Getting up around 8 and to the park around 9 worked well, but you definitely won’t be the only hiker if you go this route. That doesn’t bother us but it depends what you desire 🙂
Hike Avalanche Lake
Avalanche Lake is a rather popular hike that starts from the easy, boardwalk trail of the Cedars(?). From there, it’s an easy to moderate 5.9 mile hike to a beautiful alpine lake. Tip: keep following the lake all the way around to the right to get away from the crowds. This would be a great place for a snack or picnic!
visit Lake McDonald
After hiking Lake Avalanche, keep following Going-to-the-Sun Road down to Lake McDonald. Eat some lunch (you already know we had PB&Js!) that you packed or grab a bite at Jammer Joes Grill & Pizzeria.
Once your hunger is satisfied, head down to the lake and rent a kayak or paddleboard for the afternoon. Explore to your heart’s content and enjoy the beautiful colorful pebbles, clear water, and surrounding scenery.
Drinks at Lucke’s
Return your watercraft and head up the hill for a cocktail at Lucke’s Lounge. Can you imagine better scenery to enjoy a drink?! I think not.
If you are staying on the west side of the park, it will take you a bit to get back to your lodgings. You can find a few things for dinner on your way or make burgers at your campsite! Is it just me or are burgers the best thing after a long day of exploring?!
Hike Grinnell Lake or Grinnell Glacier
Ready for another day of hiking?! Of course you are! Due to grizzly activity and snowpack, the glacier was closed while we visited but Grinnell Lake was an excellent back up! One of my favorite hikes to this day.
You’ll head to Many Glacier for these trailheads. Park at the Many Glacier hotel and begin your walk around Swiftcurrent Lake.
Grinnell Lake is a 7.1 mile moderate hike that brings you to an amazing alpine lake. You can see the bottom of the glacier from the lake but won’t have access to it. If you want to see the glacier up close, you want to do the Grinnell Glacier hike. It’s 11.2 miles and rated hard.
I recommend packing lunch or grabbing lunch at the hotel so you don’t have to head back to your lodging in between. Because we’re headed back to Many Glacier for the evening!
Watch the sunset at Swiftcurrent Lake
You’ve already seen Swiftcurrent Lake, but the Many Glacier hotel and the surrounding area is excellent for sunset and wildlife viewing. Many people sit on their balconies and enjoy the view but there are plenty of places for those who aren’t guests to enjoy the view!
Nearby the hotel is Many Glacier valley just down the road. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife! This is where we saw a grizzly bear!
Grab dinner and Huckleberry Pie at Two Sister’s Cafe
Located in Babb, MT, Two Sister’s has the BEST desserts! And you have to try huckleberry pie while you’re in Glacier! If you are headed back to St. Mary’s area, you’ll actually pass this cute cafe on your way out of Many Glacier.
Hike The Highline
Holy moly I’ve got a good one planned for day 3 of your Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary. The Highline trail is the PERFECT hike to give you the full Glacier National Park experience. It is on the longer side, but if you only do ONE hike in Glacier (which you should definitely do more!!!) make it this one. It starts at Logan Pass which is the highest drivable point in the park. From there, you go along a narrow path with steep drop offs and on to incredible views the whole way. You pass Grinnell Glacier Overlook and end up at Granite Park Chalet, making this an out-and-back hike. However, you can also start at the Loop Trailhead, hike one way to Logan Pass, and take the shuttle back to your car.
Be well prepared for this hike, as it spans almost 15 miles. You will also probably see wildlife so brush up on your wildlife safety! As always, leave no trace whenever you are out on the trail!
Relax at your hotel/resort/airbnb
It’s been a long day so no shame in kickin’ back and relaxin’. Grab a cold beer and a snack and enjoy your free time however you prefer! Even if you’re not IN Glacier National Park, the views are outstanding no matter where you relax.
Look for wildlife at dusk
Got a little more steam? Head back into the park for one last chance at seeing wildlife. Dawn and dusk are the best time to spot animals!
Time to head home! Of course you don’t want to leave but it has to happen at some point.
Glacier National Park is a place that should be on every wanderer’s bucket list. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and I think you’ll agree. There is something for everyone too–hikers, wildlife searchers, or those that just want to soak up the beauty from their balcony!
It is so so important that we preserve this land so wildlife can thrive and generations after us can enjoy the beauty of Glacier. Anytime you spend time outdoors, please be mindful of this and follow Leave No Trace principles! You can learn more about that here.
Heads up! Don’t forget to check out the post on planning your Glacier trip here.Everything You need to Know about planning a trip to glacier
Now, I’d love for you to tell me… are you planning a trip to Glacier soon?! If you’ve visited before, what did I leave out? I hope you enjoyed this Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary!
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