The Iconic Glacier National Park Hike To Avoid Doing With Inexperienced Hikers

Montana's Glacier National Park was formed by the movement of prehistoric glaciers, carving out their path through the land. Today, that mountainous wilderness is home to mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears, and visited by hikers from all over the world. One of the most popular areas to explore is the Many Glaciers Valley, where the impressive Grinnell Glacier rises up above chilly aquamarine water. To see it for yourself, you can hike Grinnell Glacier Trail, but be warned: This is one of those U.S. National Park trails that are only for experienced hikers.


Although this hike is only a little over 10 miles, it takes most hikers between 5 and 8 hours to finish — and not everyone is able to finish. While many adore this incredible hike, before attempting it, you should be aware of the risks. There have been injuries and even fatalities from falls on this hike, and there is sometimes bear activity. For those up for the challenge, however, this is an extremely rewarding hike. The difficult journey takes you through a forest of white-trunked aspen trees, winds through mountain meadows dotted with wildflowers, by dizzyingly tall waterfalls, and to the base of the ancient glacier.

What makes Grinnell Glacier Trail a challenge

Considering how beautiful this trail is, it's not surprising that many dream of seeing it for themselves. However, it's important to remember that while this national park trail isn't one of the most dangerous in America, like Bright Angel Trail, this hike is still a challenge, and shouldn't be underestimated. In addition to the climb itself, there are areas of the trail where the terrain gets rough, and you will be exposed to the elements — which could mean wind, snow, rain, and ice. Fortunately, you take the same way up and down this trail, so if you're getting tired, you can always turn back whenever you want to and tackle the trail another day.


Even fit, experienced hikers may find Grinnell Glacier tricky if they don't have much experience with hikes at higher elevations or hikes that change elevation. It's also important to remember that for some, the journey down may be more difficult than the way up, so you don't want to burn through all your energy on the climb only to leave yourself achy and exhausted on the way back.

How to hike this trail safely

It only costs $35 to get into Glacier National Park (unless you have your America the Beautiful National Park Pass, in which case it's free), and when you pay the entrance fee, you can have them point you in the direction of the ranger station. You might be eager to hit the trail early (a good idea so you don't run out of daylight), but don't skip talking with the rangers since they can prepare you for the conditions on the trail. No matter what season you go, you should always have bear spray with you, and know what to do when you come across a grizzly on the trail. Also be sure you bring enough water with you. It might not seem as obvious as when you're hiking in the desert, but this is a long, tricky climb, and you're going to need to stay hydrated. Even if you have trained for this hike, previous visitors have suggested packing hiking poles to help you handle the terrain.


If you're going to attempt this hike and take in the majestic views, it's vital to make sure that you, and anyone you're planning to take up with you, is prepared physically and knows what to expect from Grinnell Glacier. If anyone in your group is feeling overwhelmed, you should turn back and never leave the struggling person on their own in the wilderness so that you can finish the hike.