Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Maggie McKneely

Need a Glacier National Park itinerary? This flexible 5-day plan will hit all of the highlights of the park and includes alternatives if you’re traveling with kids or non-hikers.

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Glacier National Park Itinerary

Towering rock walls carved by glaciers. Mountain slopes covered in orange, fuchsia, and bright yellow alpine flowers. Snow-covered peaks in every direction and turquoise lakes seemingly tucked between every mountain ridge. It’s also the first park in the world that is shared by two countries, the US and Canada. It’s no wonder why Glacier National Park is nicknamed the “Crown of the Continent,” and one of the top 10 national parks in the country. But with over a million acres to explore, planning an itinerary can be a bit daunting.

This flexible 5-day Glacier National Park itinerary will get you to all of the must-sees and highlights and also includes alternative options if you’re traveling with young kids or those who prefer a more leisurely trip.

glacier national park

Glacier National Park Itinerary Day 1:

Land in Kalispell, get a car, and go kayaking!

The closest airport to Glacier National Park is the Kalispell Airport (FCA), so for our purposes here we’ll assume that’s where you’ll start your adventure. Once you land, grab your rental car (the easiest way to enjoy the park – here’s a guide on renting a car in the USA), and hit the road!…

For about 40 minutes, until you arrive at Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. I know, I know… “but that’s not in Glacier National Park!” Don’t worry, you’ll be glad you included Flathead Lake in your Glacier National Park itinerary.

Don’t head to the park today because an afternoon won’t give you much time since it’s an hour’s drive from Kalispell. Instead, kick off your Montana trip with a kayak tour on Flathead Lake.

kayaking on Flathead Lake

Kayaking on Flathead Lake

Kayaking is the perfect activity for couples, families with kids, and those who have never actually been kayaking before. With a guide, it’s easy to learn and will give you a taste of the beauty of Montana and the freshness of glacier waters. Plus, if you take a kayak tour with a guide, you’ll get a great overview of the area that’ll be helpful when you do finally venture into the park on Day 2 of your Glacier National Park itinerary.

After your tour, grab a bite to eat and a pint to sip at Tamarack Brewery, or head over to The Raven for waterfront seafood dining. Then, head to your hotel or Airbnb to unpack and rest up for Day 2.

Money-saving tip: hit up a grocery store on Day 1 for snack and lunch items, especially if you plan on doing day hikes. There aren’t many restaurant options inside of the park, except for the ones in the lodges.

Glacier National Park Itinerary Day 2:

Do some hiking and eat some ice cream!

Day 2 of the Glacier National Park itinerary is all about soaking in the beauty of the park from the trail!

Start the day early because, for the casual hikers using this itinerary, this will be a big day  – Highline Trail day. The Highline is the most popular trail in Glacier National Park, and for good reason. The trek is filled with epic mountain vistas as the trail winds its way along the Garden Wall. It’s a full day’s hike – 13-16 miles – but the entire trail is relatively level, which means you don’t need to be a seasoned hiker to do it. For those reasons, it’s one of the top 10 experiences to have in Glacier National Park.

The trail starts at Logan Pass, about 1.5 hours from Kalispell.

Logan pass - glacier national park itinerary

Logan Pass

For full details on the hike, check out my post on the Highline Trail.

Highline trail - glacier national park itinerary

View from the Highline Trail

If you have kids who can’t do a full day of hiking, or you yourself would rather do something a little less strenuous, you don’t have to stay in the car! There are several other hiking trails that would be perfect for your Day 2.

  • Avalanche Lake/ Trail of the Cedars: Trail of the Cedars is a wheelchair-accessible loop trail just 5 miles from the Lake McDonald Lodge. The eastern portion of the trail is a raised boardwalk that travels through a forest of ancient hemlocks and red cedars, with lush ferns and mosses covering the forest floor. You can stick with just the Trail of Cedars, which is flat the entire way. Or, a half-mile from the Trail of Cedars trailhead, you have the option to turn off onto the Avalanche Lake spur trail. The trail has a short, steep section as it follows Avalanche Creek, but levels off once it leaves the creek.
  • Johns Lake Loop: The Johns Lake Loop trailhead is 1.3 miles east of Lake McDonald Lodge. It’s a very pleasant trail that wanders through dense forests of hemlocks and red cedars. It crosses a footbridge over Sacred Dancing Cascade, a picturesque waterfall on Lake McDonald Creek, before eventually ending up at the powerful McDonald Falls. The whole loop is an easy 1.8 miles.

At the end of your day, be sure to reward yourself with some huckleberry ice cream from Eddie’s in West Glacier Village before heading back to your hotel. (And if you’re not totally done with hiking yet, consider a sunset hike!)

glacier national park

Sunset in Glacier

Glacier National Park Itinerary Day 3:

Learn about the Blackfeet in Browning

Before they were part of a national park, the Glacier mountains were (and still are) a sacred spot for the local Native American tribes. Learning about their history is a crucial part of understanding Glacier National Park. A visit to Browning, Montana provides a fascinating way to get a glimpse of the culture of one of those tribes, the Blackfeet Nation.

glacier national park

Browning welcome sign

Browning is located on the east side of the park, a 2-hour drive from Kalispell. You can either take the Going-to-the-Sun Road through the park or Highway 2, which follows along the southern border of the park.

Once in Browning, check out the Museum of the Plains Indian to learn all about the history of the people who lived here long before explorers ever laid eyes on these mountains. Also, stop in at the Lodgepole Gallery to learn about Blackfeet art and culture.

glacier national park itinerary

a feather dancer at a Pow Wow in Browning

On your way back to the Kalispell area, be sure to drive by stunning Two Medicine Lake and stop in East Glacier Village for dinner. Serrano’s has incredible Mexican food (which I know you would not expect this far north, but just trust me!). You should also explore Glacier Park Lodge, the oldest and most regal of Glacier’s hotels.

glacier national park itinerary

Margarita at Serrano’s

Glacier National Park Itinerary Day 4:

Hike to Iceberg Lake OR take a Red Bus tour

Two options today, depending on how you’re feeling.

Iceberg lake trail - glacier national park itinerary

View from Iceberg Lake trail

Option 1: If you’re ready to get out and do more hiking, head over to the Many Glacier area of the park for the hike to Iceberg Lake. Another of the park’s popular trails, the Iceberg Lake hike is 10 miles roundtrip, but with very little elevation gain. You hike a couple of miles through relaxing pine forests before entering an exposed alpine meadow at the base of the Ptarmigan Wall.

The entire hike offers commanding vistas of the Many Glacier Valley, with Mt. Wilbur and Iceberg Peak dominating the view, as well as a high chance of seeing moose and bears! Iceberg Lake itself is one of the prettiest in the park – because of its constantly shaded location, it has ice floating in it almost year-round.

Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake

Although the trail is often a bit crowded, it’s well worth putting up with the other tourists.

Note: Iceberg Lake, and the Many Glacier region, is prime grizzly bear habitat. The trail is often closed for bear activity, so be sure to check with a ranger (or this webpage) to make sure the trail is open when you go.

Glacier National Park itinerary

Check before you go!

Option 2If you’d rather not do a long hike today, take a Red Bus Tour! These are an excellent way to learn the history of the park and take in the views. The fleet of 1930s-era buses are considered to be the oldest touring vehicles in the world, so this is an experience you definitely can’t get anywhere else. But, these tours sell out very quickly, so be sure to make your reservation far in advance.

glacier national park itinerary

Glacier National Park Itinerary Day 5:

Grinnell Glacier Hike OR Many Glacier Boat Tour

Last day in the park, last chance to see a glacier up close and personal! This is Glacier National Park, after all. So head over to the Many Glacier area for a variety of ways to see the park’s most visited glaciers, Grinnell and Salamander glaciers.

Grinnell Glacier

Grinnell Glacier from above

Option 1If you really, truly want to stand right next to a glacier, the 10-mile roundtrip Grinnell Glacier hike is the best way to do it. The first 3.5 miles are flat and easy as they go around Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes, but the second half up to the glacier is all uphill. It’s no walk in the park, so to speak, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded at the top by an impressive view of the Swiftcurrent Valley and all four of its lakes, as well as the opportunity to take a dip in a frigidly cold glacial lake. And, you’ll be right next to both Grinnell and Salamander glaciers!

Lake Josephine

Lake Josephine

If you don’t want to hike all the way up to the glacier, you can hike to the end of Lake Josephine and turn around. You’ll have a clear view of Grinnell Glacier here, but without any of the 2 miles of uphill beyond this point. That way, you’ll still get some hiking in without doing the entire trek.

Option 2: Don’t want to do the grueling hike up to the glacier, but still want to see and learn about said glacier? Take a boat tour! From the Many Glacier Lodge, you can board one of the park’s historic wooden boats for a tour of both Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. Enjoy the incredibly blue glacial water, learn about the park’s natural history from the boat captain, and take in the incredible view of the Many Glacier valley without lacing up your hiking boots.

Many Glacier Lodge

Many Glacier Lodge

Like the Red Bus tours, the boat tours sell out a long time in advance, so make your plans early.

Tips for Visiting Glacier National Park:

Where to Stay:

The west side of the park has far more lodging options than the east side. Any of the towns – Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Whitefish – will work as good bases for your trip. Alternatively, you can stay in any of the lodges and hotels inside of the park, but know that they are often sold out a year in advance and are more expensive than options outside of the park.

Although most activities are on the east side of the park, there are very limited lodging options. It’s worth doing a little extra driving each day to stay on the west side; there you’ll find plenty of AirBnBs and hotels. Check out where to stay near Glacier National Park.

Glacier Park Admission

No matter what time of year you visit, all visitors must purchase an entrance pass. You can either purchase a Standard Pass ($20-$35, depending on vehicle type) or an Annual Pass ($70). As of 2024, If you visit during peak season, May – September, you may also need a vehicle reservation, depending on what park of the park you are going to. Reservations MUST be made well in advance. Go here to find out what pass you will need for your trip.

Best time of year to visit

You can plan a Glacier National Park itinerary for any month as the park is open year-round. However, there’s a reason that the peak season is during the summer. The Going-to-the-Sun Road, the park’s only through road, doesn’t open for the season until late June/early July and closes again by mid-September. That means that for most people, July and early August are the best times to visit. The widest variety of activities will be available.

Glacier National Park itinerary

Hiking through snow in late July!

But, Glacier is one of the American West’s most popular national parks, and, like nearby Yellowstone National Park, summer is the park’s busiest time of year. If you want to avoid the crowds, consider early June or late September. Just know that the main road may be closed, and most of the trails are snow-covered.

The park is open year-round, so if you really want to avoid other tourists and see a part of Glacier most people don’t see, break out your snowshoes and skis and visit in the winter.

No matter when you go, you are guaranteed to have an incredible time in one of the most beautiful places on earth!

St. Mary's Lake

Iconic St. Mary’s Lake


Have any other questions about this Glacier National Park 5 day itinerary? Let me know in the comments!

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This is the perfect, 5-day Glacier National Park itinerary! No matter who you are - hiker or couch-potato, single or a family with kids - this itinerary will make sure you get the most out of your time in this beautiful park. #montana #usa #travel #glaciernationalpark  This is the perfect, 5-day Glacier National Park itinerary! No matter who you are - hiker or couch-potato, single or a family with kids - this itinerary will make sure you get the most out of your time in this beautiful park. #montana #usa #travel #glaciernationalpark  This is the perfect, 5-day Glacier National Park itinerary! No matter who you are - hiker or couch-potato, single or a family with kids - this itinerary will make sure you get the most out of your time in this beautiful park. #montana #usa #travel #glaciernationalpark

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