National Parks

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary & Complete Park Guide

Feb 26, 2022

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This is my Glacier National Park itinerary 3 days edition blog! Inside, you’ll find a complete guide to Glacier National Park stacked with things to do, the best hikes, bonus itineraries, where to stay, and more.

3 day glacier national park itinerary

ALERT: If you plan on visiting the park in 2022 and want to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road, you will need a Glacier National Park Vehicle Reservation. More on the NPS site.

In 2019, I lived out of a campervan with my boyfriend. Yeah, I know, crazy, right? 

We decided that we wanted to visit Glacier National Park during our trip. 

When we drove from Washington to Montana, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew about Montana was that there were lots of mountains and lots more grizzly bears. But, what was Glacier National Park like? Were there actually glaciers there? Yeah, no clue.

Well…

We heard in passing about how amazing the park was but OH, MY GOD. Words can’t even do it justice. 

Glacier National Park Itinerary – Why You Need One

If you haven’t been to Glacier National Park yet, you need to get there like yesterday. It is seriously otherworldly. Never in my life have I been to a place that actually made me feel small. 

I’m serious! The mountains there are so large that you just feel like you’re a tiny, insignificant human. Wow. 

Not to mention, Glacier National Park has to be one of the most fun-filled National Parks I’ve ever come across. But, you know what I mean, sometimes you go to a park, and there’s like one main thing to do and see (White Sands, COUGH) then you leave. 

Well, not this one! I could have spent the whole month in Glacier and still not seen half of it. 

Anyways, have I convinced you to go yet? LMAO. 

So, needless to say, you need a Glacier National Park itinerary, vacation, all of it. But, if you’re a travel lover, I think you’ll seriously fall in love with this piece of the USA!

Purpose of this Glacier National Park 3 Day Itinerary Blog

The purpose of this Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary blog is to give you ALL the information you need for a magical trip to Glacier. Like I described above, Scott and I didn’t know what to expect when we decided to set off for the park. 

We kind of went with no expectations and figured things out as our trip progressed. In this blog, I want to set you up for success by providing you with everything you need to know about Glacier National Park, as well as my suggestion for a Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary. 

From there, you can use what you learn in this guide to determine what kind of trip will be best for you. 

I’ll start things off with all the information you need for planning a trip to Glacier National Park, then my 3 day itinerary for Glacier National Park, and finally, cap off with my final tips before you go. 

Don’t worry, I’m including a map as well!

Hidden Lake Overlook in Glacier National Park
Mountain Goat on Hidden Lake Overlook

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days Disclaimer

Hey boo, listen up, this Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary blog contains affiliate links which means when you use my links to make a purchase, I earn a small percentage of that purchase at no additional cost to you.

Affiliate links support me and my blog, but there is NO obligation to use my links, and I completely understand why someone wouldn’t want to! We can still be friends ;). Enjoy the blog, and thanks for being here!

Planning a Trip to Glacier National Park

Let’s dive right into the first half of our Glacier National Park guide! Here is where we will discuss everything you need to know before you arrive at Glacier National Park. 

Where is Glacier National Park?

Glacier National Park is located in Montana. It includes over 700 miles of hiking trails and covers over 1,500 square miles. 

You can find the park in Northern Montana in the Montana Rocky Mountains, bordering Canada.

Best Time for Visiting Glacier National Park

The summer months, July and August, are the best time to visit Glacier National Park and plan your Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary. 

Summer is also when there will undoubtedly be the most crowds in the park, BUT it’s worth it because this is also the time when the most activities are available for enjoyment.

I’d like to throw in here that I visited in early September to avoid the crowds, and I had an amazing time! Unfortunately, it was a bit too cold for me to enjoy a swim in the lakes by then, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything summer had to offer. 

But hey, July and August aren’t the only months you can choose to visit Glacier National Park. So let’s dive into what the park looks like during the other seasons in case you want to plan a Glacier National Park trip another time of year!

Winter

Winter can be dreamy AF in the park if you’re into snow-covered mountains and lakes. You can go skiing or even snowshoeing! It’s important to note, though, that you will experience road closures and will basically be exploring the west side of Lake McDonald Lodge. Still ridiculously pretty, though!

Spring

Spring is a great option for visiting Glacier National Park Montana! However, if you want to avoid the summer crowds that turn up without fail every year, maybe opt to visit Glacier National Park in late June. 

Keep in mind that Going-To-The-Sun Road fully opens in July, depending on its conditions.

Summer

Again, July and August are probably your best bet to visit Glacier National Park if you want to access the most. Meaning, Going-To-The-Sun Road will be open, and so will most park trails. 

For your best chance at avoiding crowds, try to visit in late summer.

Fall

Fall can be unique in Glacier if you plan it right! The foliage around the park will turn into a golden hue that’s unbeatable! October offers your best chance to see fall colors, FYI.

While I didn’t come for fall colors, nor did I see any, I visited Glacier National Park in early September and am SO happy I did. The crowds were pretty much gone, but everything in the park was still open!

going to the sun road in glacier national park
Going-To-The-Sun Road

How Many Days in Glacier National Park is Best?

Oh geez. There is too much to see in Glacier National Park! Scott and I found that a week was ample time to hike and relax at some of the more easy-going spots (think lakes and vistas). Going for seven days also gives you more time to plan for weather flukes.

BUT, not everyone has a week they can blow on exploring national parks, right? That’s precisely why I’m giving you a Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary. You can totally see the best of what the park has to offer in 3 days

Heck, if you plan it right, you could also make a big road trip out of your vacation and choose to drive down to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park!

And don’t worry. Just in case you have an extra day, I’ll be providing you with a Glacier National Park itinerary 4 days edition, too!

Getting to Glacier National Park

So how does one get to Glacier National Park? Let’s talk about that now. 

Driving to Glacier National Park

In my opinion, you’re going to have a much better Glacier National Park experience if you have a car! If you’re looking for a rental car, I suggest shopping around for a Glacier National Park rental car service using KAYAK!  

Flying Near Glacier National Park

Truth be told, you have several options for flying near Glacier National Park. I’ve laid them out for you with some additional details! And similar to rental cars, if you want to find reasonable Glacier National Park flight prices, use a service like KAYAK.

As we go through the airports below, you’ll notice I list out mileage, driving time, and flight estimates. I am from Phoenix, AZ, so I based all of my quick flight searches from there to give you an idea of ticket costs. Flights were also for a July date range, so you can see approximate ticket prices during the park’s high season.

Glacier National Park International Airport
  • The Glacier Park International Airport is located in Kalispell, Montana.
  • FCA sits about 30 miles west of the Glacier West Entrance.
  • That’s about a 30-minute drive!
  • After doing a quick flight search on KAYAK, non-stop tickets from PHX (where I am) to Kalispell are about $300 to $500 in the summer. Compared to most prices I see for airports near national parks, that’s not bad!
Missoula International Airport
  • Missoula International Airport is about 130 miles from West Glacier. 
  • That’s about a 2.5-hour drive to the park!
  • After a quick KAYAK search, tickets from PHX to Missoula are about $400 to $600.
Great Falls International Airport
  • Great Falls International Airport is about 150 miles away from East Glacier (St. Mary). 
  • That’s about a 2.5-hour drive to the park, but it can still be a good option for your 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary.
  • My PHX to Great Falls KAYAK search told me that tickets are about $400 to $600.

Glacier National Park Fees

Because Glacier National Park is a US National Park, you will be required to pay an entrance fee during your arrival. You can see a list of Glacier park fees on the Glacier National Park NPS site. For individuals traveling in a non-commercial vehicle, you can expect to pay $35.

Scott and I often find ourselves in National Parks, so we always purchase an annual national park pass, AKA the “America the Beautiful Pass.” A yearly pass stands at $80 and covers your entrance fees into National Parks, but will also include your day-use fees for other outdoor locations.

In ADDITION to your park entry fee, you will also need a Vehicle Reservation to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road, which we will certainly be doing in the Glacier National Park itineraries provided in this blog.

Lake McDonald Sunrise in Glacier National Park
Sunrise at Lake McDonald

Glacier National Park Entrances

Like most national parks, Glacier National Park can be entered from multiple locations: West Glacier and East Glacier.

In my opinion, the East and West sides of Glacier are equally as beautiful. They offer some of the best activities to consider during your 3 day itinerary for Glacier National Park. However, they have their differences. I’ll get into them here.

West Glacier

West Glacier offers one of the main attractions to the park: Going-To-The-Sun Road. You will also have access to beautiful lakes like Lake McDonald. West Glacier is also where you will find activities like whitewater rafting and guide fishing trips.

To be fair, West Glacier is where we spent most of our time during our trip. In addition, however, we found ourselves exploring the Logan Pass area quite a bit.

East Glacier

East Glacier is home to popular blue water hikes such as Iceberg Lake and Cracker Lake. The Eastside of Glacier National Park is also where you can see Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island – a couple of the most iconic park attractions. If you want to escape crowds, you can head over to Two Medicine Lake for some gorgeous views!

Glacier National Park Regions

Additionally, during your trip, you might hear about some of the sections of Glacier National Park. Understanding where these are can help give you a sense of direction.

  • North Fork
  • Lake McDonald
  • Walton
  • Two Medicine
  • St. Mary
  • Many Glacier
  • Belly River
  • Goat Haunt

I found the below map on Pinterest to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.

Glacier National Park Sections Map
Map of Glacier National Park Regions

Getting Around Glacier National Park

Going to the Sun Road Sunset in Glacier National Park
Going-To-The-Sun Road

Yay! We’re almost to the good stuff. Let’s take a second to talk about getting around Glacier National Park.

Driving Around Glacier National Park

No matter what season you’re visiting Glacier National Park, always check the National Park Service website for road closures! These can make or break your travel experience. 

To visit East and West Glacier, you will want to have a car. They are nearly two hours away from one another. 

Vehicle Reservation

I’ve mentioned this a couple of times now, but from May 27 to September 11, 2022, you will need a vehicle reservation to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road. The reservations are $2 per vehicle and are required for cars driving from 6 am to 4 pm. They are valid for 3 days and will be much easier to obtain if you book ahead of time! 

I recommend reading more about the vehicle reservations on the Glacier NPS site! Then, plan your 3 day itinerary for Glacier National Park accordingly!

Glacier National Park Shuttle System

BUT, Glacier National Park does offer a shuttle service. Great, right? 

Well…

Okay. The shuttle service in Glacier National Park is free to use, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on it. Shuttles come around their stops about every 30 minutes, and sometimes they get PACKED before they even get to you. Especially if they’re on their way up Going-To-The-Sun Road

Like my god, it’s crazy. Scott and I used a shuttle to get to the Highline Trail, and I can’t tell you how many times shuttles just drove right past us because they had no seats available. 

Or sometimes they’d be like, “Yo, we have one seat available. “Then we’d say, “Yo, we need two seats.” Then they’d say, “Yo, sorry.” and take off. So even if one person took a single seat and went ahead, there would be no guarantee that the next shuttle would have a single-seat open.  

PHEW. What a rant. 

So Should You Take the Shuttle During Your 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary?

Okay, here is my point. Have a car to get into the park and get around as you please. Arrive EARLY at the park so that if you want to make a stop and explore, you have some parking spaces available. 

If you have to take the shuttle, expect to wait and expect that you and your party might have to split up a bit so you can all get from point A to B. This is still a convenient option for getting to and from trailheads.

In other words, the Glacier National Park shuttle system can be a great option for hikers – that’s what we did! But again, plan accordingly. In the summer months, the shuttles get F**KED.

You can read more about the Glacier National Park shuttle system on the NPS website.

going to the sun road in glacier national park
Going-To-The-Sun Road

Where to Stay During Your Glacier National Park 3 Day Itinerary

When it comes to picking where to stay in Glacier National Park, you have the option of staying in the park lodges, campsites, hotels, and rental properties. I’m going to dive more into some of your options now!

Glacier National Park Lodging

If you want to stay IN the park, you can book a stay at one of the lodges or chalets. Spoiler, reviews can be pretty 50/50 on some lodges. So please read reviews before you book your trip!

Village Inn at Apgar
  • Located at the shores of Lake McDonald, you’ll get views from just about every room.
  • There are 36 rooms total, and you can rent a kitchenette!
  • Rooms start at around $180
Lake McDonald Lodge
  • Also, on the shore of Lake McDonald, but a bit more boujee.
  • The property offers a bar area and restaurant.
  • You can book a guest room or a duplex-style cabin.
  • The lodge has okay reviews – most people complain that there is no AC.
  • Rooms start at $120
Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins
  • Sits near Saint Mary Lake, surrounded by mountains in East Glacier.
  • Multiple activities leave from the area, including Red Bus Tours. 
  • All guest rooms and cabins are described as “rustic.”
  • Most people liked staying here because of the location and ease of getting to a shuttle stop, but I still suggest reading reviews!
  • Rooms start at $180
Swiftcurrent Motor Inn
  • Located near Many Glacier Hotel and by plenty of trailheads like Iceberg Lake and Cracker Lake.
  • There are about 95 cabins and rooms as well as a restaurant.
  • People in the reviews seem to really enjoy staying here because the rooms are cozy, and the location is unbeatable. 
  • Rooms start at $120
Many Glacier Hotel
  • Sits right at the base of Swiftcurrent Lake and has a fantastic view of the mountains!
  • The property is supposed to have internet, but I know the internet in the park is extremely spotty. 
  • People in the reviews have so-so opinions about the property. It’s a bit dated and can be uncomfortable at times. 
  • Guests seem to stay mainly for the view, bar, and access to trails.
  • Rooms start at $220
Apgar Village Lodge
  • Charming cabins right near Lake McDonald. 
  • Some even have a view!
  • The cabins are a fan favorite because of their location and rustic feel. 
  • Rooms include a kitchenette as well.
  • Rooms start at $130
Motel Lake McDonald
  • Near the west entrance of Going-To-The-Sun Road and the shore of Lake McDonald.
  • Honestly, this property has so many bad reviews I would just skip it.
  • Rooms start at $189
Sperry Chalet
  • Located about 7 miles east of Lake McDonald.
  • Described as rustic backcountry lodging. 
  • Rooms are $253 for the first person and $167 for each additional person. 
  • Read about the rooms, getting there, and booking on the Sperry Chalet website.
  • If you want to backpack during your Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary, a chalet stay could be perfect for you!
Granite Park Chalet
  • Another backcountry chalet – located up Going-To-The-Sun Road and can be accessed with the Highline Trail.
  • Rooms are $124 for the first person and $85 for each additional person. 
  • Read about booking, getting there, and more on the Granite Park Chalet website.

Glacier National Park Camping

Glacier has 13 front-country campgrounds and over 1,000 campsites. Some campgrounds require reservations, so your best bet at figuring out where to stay would be to read more about camping in Glacier National Park on the NPS website!

Hotels Near Glacier National Park

If you want to stay outside the park, I’ve listed a few properties I found for you to consider!

Sky Eco Cabins
  • Cute AF rustic cabin-looking accommodations. 
  • 10-minute drive to West Glacier.
  • The property has internet, air conditioning, a general store, mountain view rooms, and more. 
  • Rooms are around $230.
Under Canvas Glacier
  • “Glamping” in the Glacier National Park area. For folks who want an “instagrammable” stay or just something different!
  • Canvas tents include a small fireplace and a little dock to enjoy the outdoors.
  • About 7 miles from Glacier National Park.
  • Booking starts at around $250.
Great Northern Resort
  • Beautiful log cabins modeled after the famous Glacier NP chalets, nestled in the woods! 
  • The resort also offers whitewater rafting, which a lot of guests enjoy. 
  • About 3 minutes from West Glacier. 
  • Rooms start at about $217.

Rental Properties for Your 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Believe it or not, there are VRBO properties near Glacier National Park – some are INSIDE the park too. Go figure. These can be a bit more expensive but could be a good choice for those wanting a more secluded experience or having a large party with them.

  • Lakefront Cabin on Lake McDonald – $$$ – This charming AF shorefront cabin offers views from just about every window and a private deck you can enjoy using to enjoy the lake. Imagine waking up here with a hot cup of coffee and watching the sunrise. OOf. 
  • Boathouse on Lake McDonald – $$$ – Similar to the above property, this beautiful lakefront home offers your own private deck and view of Lake McDonald that will have everyone else in Glacier thinking you’re park royalty.
  • Pet-Friendly Lodge – $$$ – This pet-friendly property is located in the North Fork area of Glacier and has some AMAZING mountain views. Sleeps 8, so an excellent option for groups!

Final Notes on Booking Your 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

If at all possible, try to avoid the park on weekends. There will be many more crowds than you’d probably like to deal with, making parking a struggle!

I know skipping weekends isn’t feasible for most people, but I wanted to add that here!

3 day glacier national park itinerary
Hidden Lake Overlook Trail

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days

Woohooo! It’s time to get into our Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary. I’m going to basically describe what your entire day can look like. I’ll also offer a list of things to do in Glacier National Park if you want to mix and match activities as you see fit. 

After this section, you’ll find my suggestion for 2 days in Glacier National Park and Glacier National Park itinerary 4 days edition. 

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days – 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. This is how Scott and I started our trip.

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. I would have to agree if I’m being honest! Which I am… DUH. 

Anyhow, 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. 

I actually have a complete guide you can read on Going-To-The-Sun Road with all the best stops if you’re interested in learning more. 

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

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary
Sunset at Going-To-The-Sun Road

Lake McDonald

You might find yourself back here, but during your initial stop on Day 1 of our Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary, I say just come and parous around! Lake McDonald is most known for its fruity pebble or rainbow-colored rocks lining the lake floor. 

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.

Also, BRING SOME DAMN HIKING SANDALS, like Tevas or Chacos, with you. These effing rocks hurt to walk on. I don’t know how people do it. I cannot. Like please save yourself the agony and wear some sandals or water shoes in the lake, lmao.

Lake McDonald Sunrise in Glacier National Park
Sunrise at Lake McDonald

Big Bend

Big Bend was another sun Road highlight for both Scott and me! It’s a bit further up the road and 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! 

We loved Big Bend so much that we came back here for sunset. 

Going to the Sun Road Sunset in Glacier National Park
Big Bend on Going-To-The-Sun Road

Logan Pass Visitor Center

The Logan Pass Visitor Center gets CROWDED; beware. I would say 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.

Sunset – Hidden Lake Overlook, Goose Island, Big Bend

So you have some options here. You can choose to go to a pull-off to watch the sunset, OR you can do a short hike. My suggestion would be to go ahead and hike Hidden Lake Overlook, but I can understand why that might sound exhausting!

I’ll still take a minute to describe the hike for ya. 

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!

Hidden Lake Overlook Sunset in Glacier National Park
Sunset at Hidden Lake Overlook

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days – 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 Hike

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. I decided to add it to our Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary for those reasons. 

I have a whole blog written about hiking Grinnell Glacier Overlook from Logan Pass, but we’ll get into some of the fast facts now. 

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. 

The steep elevation gain sucks, but the view of Grinnell Glacier is so worth it! I promise. 

I also saw people of all ages, shapes, sizes, etc., hiking to the Overlook, so it’s not an impossible task. 

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. 

Again, I have a whole blog on Grinnell Glacier that details where to start your hike and all that good stuff.

Grinnell Glacier Overlook in Glacier National Park
Grinnell Glacier Overlook

Alternative: Hidden Lake Overlook

If you’re like, yeah, EFF that, then I say hike Hidden Lake Overlook in the morning. If you did that, you could find some alternative hikes in our hiking section of this blog!

Alternative: Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Lake is another great option and much easier to get to! Again, 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. Again, for more hike options, see the hiking section of this 3 day Glacier National Park Itinerary blog!

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 – that’s what I did when we finished up our adventure, ha!

Alternatively, you can watch the sunset at Big Bend!

Lake McDonald Sunset in Glacier National Park-2
Sunset at Lake McDonald

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days – Day 3 – East Glacier, Sunrise at Swiftcurrent Lake, Sun Point Nature Loop, 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, LMAO. And when the sun rises, OOOOOO, this baby turns RED. It’s pretty beautiful, honestly, which is why I think you’ll enjoy it on your last day in the park!

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. 

going to the sun road in glacier national park
Going-To-The-Sun Road

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!

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary – Day 1 – Arrive, West Glacier, Going-To-The-Sun Road

  • 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

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary – 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!

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary – Day 3 – Going-To-The-Sun Road Sunrise, 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.

Other Itineraries for Glacier National Park

Now that we’ve covered 3 days in Glacier National Park, let’s get into a couple of other options for you!

A Day in Glacier National Park

If you only had a day in Glacier National Park, I would drive Going-To-The-Sun Road (Day 1 of our 3 day itinerary). That’ll give you your best shot at seeing the park highlights.

Glacier National Park Itinerary 2 Days

If I only had time for 2 days in Glacier National Park, I would do days one and two from our 3 day itinerary (either the first one we discussed or the alternative). The destinations listed are kind of “must-sees,” and I think you’ll feel a bit of FOMO if you don’t get to explore those Glacier National Park attractions!

Glacier National Park Itinerary 4 Days

If I had 4 days in Glacier National Park, I would pick one of our options for a 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary. Then on day four, I would hike Iceberg Lake! It’s another long trail, but it’s so beautiful that I think you’ll love it!

The water is Gatorade blue and doesn’t even look real. It’s about 10 miles and is another hike that most families do. While it’s very long, it’s supposed to be relatively flat in most areas. You can obviously shift your itinerary to accommodate this hike. 

Another option is to book a rafting tour, horseback riding trip, or just take the day to chill by a lake and go for a swim!

Visiting Bowman Lake is another excellent option! The road there is bumpy, but it’s supposed to be worth the drive!

Highline Trail in Glacier National Park
Highline Trail

Map for 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Woohoo! Below you’ll find a map I put together for our 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary. I’ve added everything I talk about in this blog, so reference as needed.

I didn’t talk about places to eat in this blog, so I included the better-rated option in the map for you.

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 do in Glacier National Park. 

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. 

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.

Hikes for Your Glacier National Park Itinerary

Now that you know Glacier’s ins and outs, it’s time to get into the best Glacier National Park Hikes!

*Listed in no particular order

Highline Loop

Distance: 11.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,950ft

This Glacier National Park hike should be on every adventure lover’s list! The Highline Trail will get you above Going To The Sun Road to some of the most amazing views you have ever seen in your life. You can also take the trail to my favorite, Grinnell Glacier Overlook, for a spectacular view of the Garden wall. And make sure you take some time to make a pit stop at the Granite Park Chalet!

Highline Trail in Glacier National Park
Highline Trail

Iceberg Lake

Distance: 10.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,300ft

Iceberg Lake is one of the most popular Glacier National Park hikes, and it’s easy to understand why! By opting to hike on this trail, you will get a glimpse of a gorgeous alpine lake. You might find yourself staring at chunks of ice in the water!

Seriously, if you feel like doing a long hike during your Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary, I would recommend doing a lake one like Iceberg. You might not be at the park for a long time afterward, and the glaciers are sadly melting. Who knows what these lakes will look like a few years from now.

Grinnell Glacier Trail

Distance: 10.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,819ft

Not to be confused with Grinnell Glacier Overlook, this Glacier National Park hike will take you right up to the Glacier! You’ll climb up Mt Grinnell for fantastic views into its valley and the cliffs of Angel Wing. And, of course, at the finish line, you will have yourself a look at one of the most beautiful glaciers in the park.

Dawson-Pitakan Loop

Distance: 19 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,935ft

While you’re in the Two Medicine area, opt to explore Pitamakan Pass! The views include dramatic peak formations and a panoramic view of multiple lakes spread over the valley. You can also continue your hike into the famous Dawson Pass.

Cracker Lake

Distance: 12.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 1,400ft

Say hello to some of the bluest water you have ever seen in your life! Cracker Lake will leave you feeling like you just entered a dream world. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to see a few of Glacier National Park’s waterfalls as well. 

The lake itself is surrounded by Glacier’s dramatic mountains and probably mountain goats when you go. Make sure you bring your swimsuit! You might want to take a dip when you get there.

Gable Pass

Distance: 5.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,816ft

The Gable Pass hike is known for its panoramic views of iconic formations such as Chief Mountain and Gable Mountain. You’ll also have the chance to see Glacier National Park’s highest point, Mt Cleveland, which stands 10,466ft tall!

Quartz Lake Loop

Distance: 12.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,378ft

Located in the North Fork Valley area is a place of pure solitude. The Quartz Lake Loop hike will bring you to Glacier National Park’s Upper and Lower Quartz Lakes. And as with all Glacier National Park hikes, you’ll have supple views of peaks like Rainbow, Vulture, and Numa.

If you have no idea what those are, don’t sweat it. Just know that like most hikes listed for our 3 day Glacier National Park itinerary, this one comes with views for daysssss.

Ptarmigan Tunnel

Distance: 10.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,300ft

As a moderate hike, you won’t be disappointed once you hop on the trail! The Ptarmigan Tunnel was built back in the 1930s and was once used for mountain tours. So it’s a significant part of Glacier National Park’s history! Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop at a lake and see views that will leave you wanting more.

Siyeh Pass Loop

Distance: 10.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,280ft

Known as one of Glacier National Park’s most rewarding hikes, this trail has a bit of everything! You’ll cross rivers, walk along meadows, and feast your eyes on glacier formations. And the best part about this hike? The “loop” consists of hiking and then taking a shuttle back. I’ll take a free ride any day!

Best Lake Hikes in Glacier National Park

  • Cracker Lake
  • Iceberg Lake
  • Hidden Lake

Best Sunset Hikes in Glacier National Park

  • Hidden Lake
  • Highline Trail
  • Piegan Pass

Easy Hikes in Glacier National Park

  • Trail of the Cedars
  • Avalanche Lake
  • Hidden Lake Overlook
  • Virginia Falls
  • Red Rock Lake
  • Aster Falls
  • Beaver Pond Loop
Grinnell Glacier Overlook in Glacier National Park
Grinnell Glacier Overlook

Best Glacier National Park Photo Spots

How can you plan on visiting Glacier National Park without taking some fantastic photos? If you’re a photo lover like me, then enjoy this list of the best Glacier National Park photo locations. 

I’m providing you with this quick list if you have some time between your 3 day itinerary for Glacier National Park and want to chill at a photo spot! These are excellent places to spend ample time in.

Lake McDonald 

Lake McDonald Sunrise in Glacier National Park
Sunrise at Lake McDonald

Head to the lake for sunrise and stay for a swim! You can also take a canoe or kayak out for a ride. And in the right light, you’ll have the opportunity to see Lake McDonald’s rainbow-colored rocks.

Swiftcurrent Lake 

Best for sunrise, this lake is possibly one of the most iconic sights in Glacier National Park. Behind the lake sits Many Glacier Hotel, which is like a Swiss alpine getaway.

Hidden Lake 

Best for sunset, Hidden Lake also offers 360 mountain views of Glacier National Park. If you’re lucky, you might get to photograph some mountain goats too!

Going To The Sun Road 

This stretch of pavement is one of my favorite drives in the world. Along the road, you’ll see way too many peaks to count. You can head here for sunrise or sunset!

Glacier National Park 3 Day Itinerary Packing List

Need some help figuring out what to pack for your Glacier National Park 3 day itinerary? I GOT YOU. This will mainly be helpful for folks who plan on hiking.

DaypackOsprey Kyte 36L (women’s); Osprey Kestrel 36L (men’s)

Hiking BootsKeen Terradora (women’s); Keen Targhee III (men’s)

Lightweight Hiking SocksSmartwool Hiking Light Crew Sock (women’s); Darn Tough Standard Issue Crew Light Sock (men’s)

Comfy LeggingsEddie Bauer Movement Leggings (women’s); Beyond Yoga Legging (women’s)

Hiking PantsPrana Halle Pant (women’s); Prana Stretch Zion Pant (men’s)

Warm FleecePatagonia Better Sweater (women’s); Patagonia Better Sweater (men’s)

Cozy JacketPatagonia Down Sweater (women’s); Patagonia Down Sweater (men’s)

Rain JacketREI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket (women’s); Patagonia Torrentshell (men’s)

Trekking PolesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking Pole (women’s); Black Diamond Ergo Cork Trekking Poles (unisex)

Reusable Water BottleHydroflask 40 oz Bottle

HeadlampPetzel Tikka Headlamp

First Aid KitUltralight Medical Kit

Sleeping BagMarmot Ouray 0 Degree Bag (women’s); North Face Inferno -20 Degree Bag (unisex)

Reusable Water Bottle Hydro Flask Wide-Mouth Vacuum Water Bottle – 32 fl. Oz.

Hidden Lake Overlook in Glacier National Park
Sunset on Hidden Lake Overlook Trail

More Glacier National Park Packing Must-Haves

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. 

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 and Glacier National Park guide. I hope you found this blog helpful! I want everyone to enjoy their trips to places like Glacier, and I know planning can be a pain. 

If you have questions, leave them in the comments! Also, share this post with a friend who might enjoy it :).

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