National Parks

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary for a Memorable Trip

Nov 15, 2022

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If you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park soon, you’re in for a treat! This Montana gem is FULL of amazing hikes, wildlife, and some of the best views you will ever see in your life. That’s why in this 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary, we’ll focus on a healthy dose of everything this park has to offer and then some.

Aside from recommendations on where to stay, you’ll get a map and trips to make your trip as amazing as possible.

Let’s dive right in! And when you’re done with this post, make sure you read my guide on how to plan a trip to Glacier National Park for everything you need to know before you go!

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Disclaimer: Hey explorer! This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small percentage of each purchase made through my links. I only ever recommend products I believe in and appreciate your support if you decide to use my links—thank you!

Know Before You Go: Glacier National Park Itinerary

Here’s a quick breakdown of what you need to know before your trip.

  • When to Go: Summer to early fall are ideal because this is when most of the park is open!
  • Trip Length: 3 days
  • 🚗 Rental Car: Use Expedia to help you find cheap rental cars! You will not need a 4×4 for this trip.
  • ✈️ Fly: Glacier Park International Airport is located in Kalispell, Montana—Use Expedia to find tickets!
  • 🚐 Rental Campervan: Want a campervan instead? You can rent one using Outdoorsy.
  • 🏨 Stay: We’ll cover where to stay too.
  • 🎟 Park Fees: You will be visiting national parks on this trip. The standard entrance fee is about $35 per park. To save, snag the America The Beautiful Pass ($79.99).

* If you plan on visiting the park and want to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road, you will need a Glacier National Park Vehicle Reservation. More on the NPS site.

Below is a map you can reference for your trip! If you want a live version of the map, click here!

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary at a Glance

  • Day 1—Arrive, West Glacier, Explore Going-To-The-Sun-Road
    • Lake McDonald
    • Big Bend
    • Hidden Lake Overlook
  • Day 2—Highline Trail to Grinnell Glacier Overlook
  • Day 3—East Glacier
    • Swiftcurrent Lake
    • Sun Point Nature Trail
    • Depart

In the following sections we’ll do a deep dive into your Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary.

I’m going to basically describe what your entire day can look like. Afterwards we’ll quickly discuss an alternative itinerary for you! 

Day 1—Arrive, West Glacier, Going-To-The-Sun Road

Let’s start our trip off in West Glacier! I suggest that as soon as you get to Glacier National Park, you make a mini road trip around Going-To-The-Sun Road.

Drive Around Going-To-The-Sun Road

Going-To-The-Sun Road is considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world, believe it or not.

The road stretches 50 miles from end to end of Glacier National Park. It will probably take you about 2 hours to drive, but this can change depending on how many stops you decide to make. 

Start with a short stop at Lake McDonald and ending at the St. Mary Lake Area. I’ll discuss more of the highlights below.

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Sunrise at Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald is most known for its fruity pebble or rainbow-colored rocks lining the lake floor. 

During my trip here,Scott and I actually made pancakes in our campervan and ate them at the lakeshore, HA. Lake McDonald is a popular place to rent kayaks, which is something you can opt to do as well.

Bring hiking sandals, like Tevas or Chacos, with you, especially if you plan on going in the water! The pebbles are slippery and can be painful to walk on.

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Take a Picture at Big Bend

A bit further up the road, you’ll find Big bend. It has some parking spots you can use to pull over and explore. This area can get littered with wildflowers during the summer, which surprised us when we arrived! 

It’s great for sunset but can be an amazing morning stop too. 

Other Stops to Consider

Let’s go over some other stops to consider on your drive!

  • Logan Pass Visitor Center—The most miraculous thing about this center is its location. It has 360 views of mountains, which I love to see! You can stop here for a restroom break, OR you can choose to do a short hike to Hidden Lake Overlook, but I suggest saving that for a sunset adventure ;). 
  • Wild Goose Island—You’ll find more short hikes and pull-offs from the Logan Pass Visitor Center to St. Mary. I like Wild Goose Island because it offers a view and a few picnic areas if you want to stop here for lunch or a snack break!
  • St. Mary Visitor Center—Once you make it to St. Mary, you’ll probably be a bit tired from driving and stopping and driving and stopping some more, so I suggest you turn back around. We’ll save East Glacier for another day in our 3 day itinerary for Glacier National Park.

We want to make sure you’re back near Logan Pass for sunset, so don’t spend toooooo much time driving around!

Sunset at Hidden Lake Overlook

Hidden Lake Overlook was my absolute favorite hike in the entire park by far. I mean, I would hike this trail over and over again if I could.

It’s relatively easy and offers 360 mountain views of Glacier National Park. I’m NOT kidding when I say that, lol. 

The elevation gain is about 540 feet and is only steep when you hit the initial boardwalk area from Logan Pass Visitor Center (where it starts).

Otherwise, it’s a pretty breezy 2.7mi round-trip hike. You by no means have to go all the way to the lake to get an amazing sunset experience.

I loved this hike so much that I wrote up a whole guide about hiking Hidden Lake Overlook for sunset—I suggest you give it a read if you want to learn more!

Alternatively, you can visit Goose Island or Big Bend for sunset!

Day 2 involves a long hike, so rest up!

Day 2—Highline Trail to Grinnell Glacier Overlook Hike

Today you’ll be wrapping up your West Glacier adventure with a long hike on the Highline Trail!

Highline Trail to Grinnell Glacier Overlook (Glacier National Park Itinerary Fave)

The Highline Trail is one of the most popular trails in Glacier National Park because it’s relatively flat and will bring you along some of the most epic views Glacier has to offer, which is why it’s on your Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary. 

The hike itself is 11 miles (Logan Pass to Highline Trail to The Loop). That seems daunting, but I promise that the elevation gain is extremely minimal, with the exception of getting to the actual Overlook. After 7 miles, you will have to go up 900 feet in elevation gain to get to Grinnell Glacier Overlook

If you want to skip out on the elevation, you can choose to hike past it and just explore more of the Highline Trail until you get to The Loop. 

This hike will take up a majority of the day, so plan accordingly.

Alternative—Hidden Lake Overlook

If you’re like, yeah, no, then hike Hidden Lake Overlook in the morning.

Alternative—Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake is another great option and much easier to get to! You’ll most likely have a large crowd around you, but the views are still worth it. Avalanche Lake starts at the Trail of the Cedars Trailhead (along Going-To-The-Sun Road) and will take you up 730 feet in elevation gain. 

The trail is only 4.5 miles and a pick for folks who want to do an easy hike in Glacier National Park. 

You can access the trailhead by parking at the Lake McDonald Lodge area.

Sunset at Lake McDonald

When you’re done with your hike, you’re going to be EXHAUSTED.

Therefore, I recommend driving down to Lake McDonald and enjoying the sunset! You can also take a dip in the lake if you want.

Alternatively, you can watch the sunset at Big Bend!

Last Day of 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary—East Glacier, Depart

Today is sadly the last day of our Glacier National Park itinerary 3 day edition, BUT that doesn’t mean it has to be any less fun. 

Sunrise at Swiftcurrent Lake

To end off things with a bang, you’ll start the day off at East Glacier and head for the Swiftcurrent Lake area. Once you get there, grab a spot somewhere and enjoy the sunrise! 

The main attraction at Swiftcurrent Lake is Grinnell Point. Grinnell Point rises above Swiftcurrent Lake like a beacon from heaven, LOL. And when the sun rises, OOOOOO, this baby turns RED, making it a beautiful way to start the morning.

If you want, you can hike the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail while you’re here!

Hike Sun Point Nature Trail

Sunpoint Nature Trail is underrated in Glacier National Park, but OMG, it should be on your list!

This hike will give you ah-mazing views of St. Mary Lake along the way that might leave you picking your jaw up off the ground over and over again. 

Not to mention, the lake water is the most perfect blue and will make you go, ooo la la.

Anyhow, getting to the trailhead will be about a 50-minute drive because you will need to access it from Going-To-The-Sun Road, but if you plan on leaving out of West Glacier, then this will be the perfect route for you!

The whole trail is 1.6 miles round trip and has a minimal 250 feet elevation gain. It’s the perfect place to enjoy some sunshine and lake views before heading out of the park. 

Depart

And that’s it! Once you’re done hiking, you can leave the park. If you continue along Going-To-The-Sun Road, you’ll get all those gorgeous views before you finally say bye to Glacier National Park. 

Now, let’s cover another way you can organize this itinerary!

Alternative—Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days

I wanted to ensure you had another option for our Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary. So below you’ll find an alternative to consider for your trip!

Day 1—Arrive, West Glacier

  • Arrive in West Glacier
  • Start your drive on Going-To-The-Sun Road
  • Stop at Lake McDonald and other stops as you please
  • Hike Hidden Lake Overlook for sunset

Day 2—East Glacier, Cracker Lake

  • Head to East Glacier
  • Hike Cracker Lake
    • 12.8 miles round trip with 1400 feet in elevation gain
    • The hike is said to be very flat, except for the beginning! This is a hike lots of families do.
    • It’ll lead you to VERY blue water and once-in-a-lifetime type views. Worth the trip!

Last Day, 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary—Lake McDonald Kayak

  • Start the day off with a drive up Going-To-The-Sun Road for sunrise
    • Stop along any places you didn’t get to before
    • You can also just stay at Lake McDonald and watch the sunrise
  • Head back down to Lake McDonald and rent kayaks
    • Kayak rental is available on the shore.

If you want even more things to do on your trip, you’ll love the next section!

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary Add-Ons

Look, I know how it is: people need options. I got you, boo. So in case you want to do a little bit of DIY work on your itinerary, below you’ll find a list of things to add onto your 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary. 

These are more like tours, pull-up spots, etc. Since there is so much hiking in Glacier, I made a separate section for Glacier hikes. You can find that below!

Visit Bowman Lake

Lake Bowman is a bit off the beaten path but so damn pretty! To get there, you will have to drive a bumpy road. Technically, you will be exiting the park then driving back in. 

Go Horseback Riding

Multiple outfitters offer horseback riding tours in the Glacier National Park area if you’re more into horses! Swan Mountain Outfitters is the most notable guide company that offers horseback riding tours in the park! 

They have tours that can take you around Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier, and Apgar. 

Visit Yellowstone National Park

Visit the famous Yellowstone National Park and enjoy the natural beauty America’s first national park has to offer!

Go Rafting

If you want to book a Glacier National Park rafting tour that’ll take you along some of Glacier’s most beautiful waterfronts, check out Glacier Outfitters! They rent out all kinds of gear and have experiences you can book with their guides to give you a different perspective of the park!

You can also book a full-day whitewater rafting trip if you’re in the mood for a reallllll adventure. Muahahahaha. Personally, if I was planning a 3 day itinerary for Glacier National Park, I would do a rafting trip. It just sounds so fun!

Two Medicine Boat Ride

Glacier Park Boat Company takes visitors out to multiple lakes in Glacier, including Two Medicine Lake, which is a must if you have the time! You can even book and boat tour and hike with them to see more of your beautiful surroundings.  

Head to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

If the Canadian border allows visitors, you can head to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park! The park sits on the USA and Canadian borders. 

The Peace Park is where Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, is “combined” with Glacier National Park. 

While you’re there, you can hike between the two countries or admire more lake views. You can learn more about the park on the UNESCO website. Getting to the park from St Mary is about a 1.5-hour drive.

Hop on a Red Tour Bus

While driving around Glacier NP, you will UNDOUBTEDLY see the famous red buses. You can book a Red Bus Tour for a more informative Glacier experience and learn about the park’s history.

Try to Spot Wildlife

Just for your safety, I recommend booking a tour if wildlife spotting is something you’re interested in. Bears, goats, moose, and other wild animals dwell in Glacier.

I tried Googling some wildlife tours to recommend but got some mixed results.

So I recommend doing some of your own research if this is something you’re interested in adding to your 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary.

Tips for Your Glacier National Park Itinerary

Before we part, I wanted to give you some final tips for our 3 day itinerary for Glacier National Park.

Bring a Hat

The majority of Glacier National Park is incredibly open. The sun will practically beat down on you during your entire trip! Bring a hat to protect your head.

Wear Sunscreen on Your Trip to Glacier National Park 

For the same reason as above, make sure you’re wearing sunscreen.

Always Pack Bear Spray

Grizzly bears are popular in the park. I recommend having bear spray with you.

You can usually buy it in stores near the park, or some hotels will have spray available for you to borrow.

Have a Camera Ready

Glacier National park is easily one of the most photogenic national parks I have ever been to. Don’t leave your house without one! Honestly, I’ve been loving film cameras lately for their sense of nostalgia. 

view of sunset on lake mcdonald in glacier national park

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days — My Final Thoughts

Woo! We have covered a ton of ground in our 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary. I hope you found this blog helpful!

Glacier National Park is truly one of the most beautiful places in the United States and you’re going to love your trip there.

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I'm a burrito loving explorer who got fired from corporate America and turned that into my dream career as a photographer and blogger. Now I'm here to help you explore life's magic. Thanks for stopping by!