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National Parks

The Amazing 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary You Want

Jan 21, 2024

National Parks

The Amazing 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary You Want

Jan 21, 2024

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I'm a travel creator and influencer coach based out of Arizona. This blog is where I share the best itineraries for US & beyond, 63 US National Parks, and influencer tips.

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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. It’s one of the prettiest US National Parks and I know you’ll love it!

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 additional details on everything you need to know before you go!

πŸ“Œ Save this to Pinterest!

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 linksβ€”thank you!

FREE CLASS: Get PAID to Travel!

Sign up for my free class and learn how I land paid brand deals that pay me to travel as a content creator and influencer!

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary Need to Knows

  • β›° When to Go: Summer to early fall are ideal because this is when most of the park is open!
  • ⏰ Trip Length: 3 days
  • πŸš— Rental Car: Use Expedia to help you find cheap rental cars! You will not need a 4Γ—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).
  • ✍🏼 Reservations: If you plan on visiting the park and want to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road among other popular destinations, you will need a Glacier National Park Vehicle Reservation. More on the NPS site.

This is a quick breakdown of what you need to know before your trip to this US National Park.

Glacier National Park Reservations 2024

When planning a visit to Glacier National Park between May 24 and September 8, keep these key points in mind:

  • Vehicle Reservations Required:
    • For Going-to-the-Sun Road & North Fork (West Side) from May 24 – Sep 8, 6 am – 3 pm.
    • For Many Glacier from July 1 – Sep 8, 6 am – 3 pm.
  • Entry Requirements: You’ll need (1) a vehicle reservation or proof of a service reservation (e.g., lodging, boat tours) and (2) a park entrance fee or valid park pass.
  • Access Without Reservation: The park is open 24/7, and you can enter vehicle reservation areas before 6 am or after 3 pm without a reservation.
  • Reservation Release Dates: Reservations are released 120 days in advance and on a rolling daily basis for the next day’s entry.

For more details and to secure your reservation, visit the official National Park Service (NPS) website. Plan ahead to ensure a smooth visit to the park during these peak times.

Glacier National Park in 3 Days at a Glance + Map

  • Day 1: West Glacier
    • Lake McDonald sunrise
    • Trail of the Cedars
    • Avalanche Lake
    • Stargazing or Northern Lights
  • Day 2: West Glacier
    • Going-To-The-Sun-Road
    • Highline Trail
    • Hidden Lake Overlook
  • Day 3: East Glacier
    • Swiftcurrent Lake
    • Sun Point Nature Trail
    • Boat Tour
    • 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, morning to evening. We’ll end with discussing an alternative itineraries for you, too! 

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

Make sure you grab your America the Beautiful Pass!

Best 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Arrival

I suggest getting to Glacier National Park one day before our itinerary starts OR early to mid-morning on day 1. I want you to get the most out of this trip, which also means you need to pick a place to stay near the park!

And what better way to begin your adventure than with a little sunrise mission? Sunrise in Glacier National Park was one of my favorite things to witness, and I’d love for you to be there for that!

Hence why we need you to get to the park the day prior if possible. To begin, we’ll start our trip off in West Glacier.

Please remember that you need to book a permit and make a reservation for popular park areas!

Day 1 (West Glacier)

Morning Sunrise at Lake McDonald

Once your drive through the West Entrance, you can make a stop at Apgar Visitor Center for information, maps, and all that park goodness. But assuming you want to catch the morning sun, I suggest you keep going. Out first stop: Lake McDonald.

Lake McDonald is probably one of the most beautiful lakes in Glacier National Park and it is the largest! It is most known for its fruity pebble or rainbow-colored rocks lining the lake floor. 

The crystal-clear waters, framed by the park’s majestic mountains, create a serene and picturesque setting perfect sunrise mission β€” trust me. 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 if you wanted an extended morning here. Otherwise, it’s time to keep going!

Insider Tip: 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.

Mid-Morning Hike Along Trail of the Cedars

After a morning at Lake McDonald, visiting the Trail of the Cedars is next on your list. This loop trail is perfect for all ages and fitness levels.

The path winds through a lush forest of ancient cedars and hemlocks, creating a cool, shaded canopy. Trail of the Cedars is well-maintained with boardwalk sections, making it a pretty lowkey trail!

As you go down the trail, you’ll get closer and closer to Avalanche Creek and Avalanche Gorge. The creek narrows and rushes through a gorge of vibrant, moss-covered rocks. Eventually, you’ll reach viewing platforms along the trail that

If you want a longer adventure, you can embark on a hike to Avalanche Lake. The hike starts at the Trail of the Cedars Trailhead and will take you up 730 feet in elevation gain over 4.5 miles. 

Insider Tip: You can also access the Avalanche Lake trailhead by parking at the Lake McDonald Lodge area.

Evening Glacier National Park Stargazing or Northern Lights

Did you know that Glacier National Park is one of the best places to see northern lights? Yep! You have to go during the right time of year (between October and April). Lake McDonald and the Apgar Village are are great viewing stops!

Keep an eye on aurora forecasts and geomagnetic activity. Websites like the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center can provide valuable information on potential aurora activity.

If auroras aren’t going to happen for you, you can also slot some time to do stargazing in the park!

Day 2 (West Glacier)

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. In total, the road will probably take you about 2 hours to drive, but this can change depending on how many stops you decide to make. 

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

Logan Pass Visitor Center β€” 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 ;). 

Big Bend β€” This is one of the prettiest spots in Glacier National Park! It has some parking spots you can use to pull over and explore, so get out your camera gear to take pictures! The area can get littered with wildflowers during the summer, which surprised us when we arrived! 

Wild Goose Island β€” 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 β€” 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.

Mid-Morning to Afternoon 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.

This 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

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

Sunset at Hidden Lake Overlook (Alternative)

Alternatively, you can opt to take your time enjoying Going-To-The-Sun! Make longer pit stops at places like Wild Goose Island and Many Glacier.

On your way back West, head over to Hidden Lake Overlook where you’ll embark on an epic sunset mission. Hidden Lake 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 sunsetβ€”I suggest you give it a read if you want to learn more!

Insider Tip: If hiking for sunset sounds kind of “meh,” alternatively, you can visit Goose Island or Big Bend for sunset!

Day 3 (East Glacier)

Sunrise at Swiftcurrent Lake

Start your final day in Glacier National Park by exploring the awe-inspiring Many Glacier area, often referred to as the heart of the park. This region is renowned for its dramatic mountain scenery, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife.

To end off things with a bang, head for the Swiftcurrent Lake area. Once you get there, grab a spot somewhere and enjoy the sunrise! 

Swiftcurrent Nature Trail provides a leisurely walk with excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography. 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.

Mid-Morning 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.

Getting to the trailhead will be about a 50-minute drive because you will need to access it from Going-To-The-Sun Road (assuming you’re staying in West Glacier).

Insider Tip: 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. 

Afternoon Boat Tour

After your hike, enjoy lunch with a view at the historic Many Glacier Hotel. The hotel’s dining options offer various dishes and a relaxing atmosphere with panoramic views of Swiftcurrent Lake and the surrounding peaks.

Post-lunch, consider a scenic boat tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, operated by Glacier Park Boat Company. These boat tours offer a unique perspective of the park’s landscapes and a chance to learn more about the area’s natural history from knowledgeable guides!

Alternatively, hike to Red Rock Falls, an easy trail that leads to a beautiful waterfall, or enjoy a peaceful stroll around Swiftcurrent Lake, soaking in your surroundings before you leave!

Departing From 3 Days in Glacier National Park

And that’s it! Once you’re done hiking, you can leave the park.

If time permits on your journey home, consider stopping in nearby towns such as Whitefish or Kalispell. These charming Montana towns offer various dining options, local shops, and a chance to experience the local culture and hospitality.

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

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days Alternatives

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

Alternative Itinerary 1

  • Day 1: West Glacier
    • Arrive in West Glacier and start your drive on Going-To-The-Sun Road.
    • Stop at Lake McDonald and other stops as you please, then hike Hidden Lake Overlook for sunset.
  • Day 2: East Glacier
    • Head to East Glacier and prep for a hike.
    • 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!
  • Day 3: West Glacier
    • 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.

Alternative Itinerary 2

  • Day 1: East Glacier and Two Medicine
    • Enter the park through the East Glacier entrance. Begin your day with a visit to the Two Medicine area, a less crowded but equally stunning part of the park.
    • Start with a scenic hike on the Running Eagle Falls Trail, an easy trail that leads to a beautiful waterfall also known as “Trick Falls.”
    • After the hike, rent a boat or kayak to explore Two Medicine Lake. Enjoy the tranquil waters and the stunning views of Sinopah Mountain.
  • Day 2: North Fork and Bowman Lake
    • Drive to the remote North Fork area of the park. This less-visited area offers a chance to experience the park’s rugged beauty away from the crowds.
    • Visit Bowman Lake, a picturesque and secluded spot perfect for photography and wildlife spotting.
    • Take a leisurely hike on the Bowman Lake Trail, which follows the shoreline and offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding peaks.
  • Day 3: Goat Haunt and Waterton Lakes National Park
    • Head to Goat Haunt, an isolated and scenic part of the park accessible by boat from Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada (passport and travel documents required).
    • After exploring Goat Haunt, take the boat back to Waterton Lakes National Park and spend some time exploring this beautiful Canadian counterpart to Glacier National Park.

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.

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 More Lakes

Glacier National Park is home to some of the best lakes.

Truly, there are so many you can add to an itinerary. I suggest Bowman, Cracker, or Iceberg Lake. Both Iceberg and Cracker require extensive hiking!

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 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!

Visit Yellowstone National Park

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

4 days in Yellowstone National Park is perfect! You can always switch it up and do a larger Grand Teton to Glacier National Park road trip!

Insider Tip: Take a Yellowstone to Glacier National Park road trip!

Head to Calgary

If you’re up for a drive, you can head right through the Canadian border and over to Calgary, Alberta!

This will require much more trip planning, but it would be one heck of a trip. If you want, from there you can make your way to Banff National Park.

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.

Packing 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 β€” 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.

Sunscreen β€” For the same reason as above, make sure you’re wearing sunscreen.

Bear Spray β€” 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.

Camera Gear β€” 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 my Sony a6400 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens! 

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days β€” 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.

Make sure you read these posts next:

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. It’s one of the prettiest US National Parks and I know you’ll love it!

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 additional details on everything you need to know before you go!

πŸ“Œ Save this to Pinterest!

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 linksβ€”thank you!

FREE CLASS: Get PAID to Travel!

Sign up for my free class and learn how I land paid brand deals that pay me to travel as a content creator and influencer!

3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary Need to Knows

  • β›° When to Go: Summer to early fall are ideal because this is when most of the park is open!
  • ⏰ Trip Length: 3 days
  • πŸš— Rental Car: Use Expedia to help you find cheap rental cars! You will not need a 4Γ—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).
  • ✍🏼 Reservations: If you plan on visiting the park and want to drive Going-To-The-Sun Road among other popular destinations, you will need a Glacier National Park Vehicle Reservation. More on the NPS site.

This is a quick breakdown of what you need to know before your trip to this US National Park.

Glacier National Park Reservations 2024

When planning a visit to Glacier National Park between May 24 and September 8, keep these key points in mind:

  • Vehicle Reservations Required:
    • For Going-to-the-Sun Road & North Fork (West Side) from May 24 – Sep 8, 6 am – 3 pm.
    • For Many Glacier from July 1 – Sep 8, 6 am – 3 pm.
  • Entry Requirements: You’ll need (1) a vehicle reservation or proof of a service reservation (e.g., lodging, boat tours) and (2) a park entrance fee or valid park pass.
  • Access Without Reservation: The park is open 24/7, and you can enter vehicle reservation areas before 6 am or after 3 pm without a reservation.
  • Reservation Release Dates: Reservations are released 120 days in advance and on a rolling daily basis for the next day’s entry.

For more details and to secure your reservation, visit the official National Park Service (NPS) website. Plan ahead to ensure a smooth visit to the park during these peak times.

Glacier National Park in 3 Days at a Glance + Map

  • Day 1: West Glacier
    • Lake McDonald sunrise
    • Trail of the Cedars
    • Avalanche Lake
    • Stargazing or Northern Lights
  • Day 2: West Glacier
    • Going-To-The-Sun-Road
    • Highline Trail
    • Hidden Lake Overlook
  • Day 3: East Glacier
    • Swiftcurrent Lake
    • Sun Point Nature Trail
    • Boat Tour
    • 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, morning to evening. We’ll end with discussing an alternative itineraries for you, too! 

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

Make sure you grab your America the Beautiful Pass!

Best 3 Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Arrival

I suggest getting to Glacier National Park one day before our itinerary starts OR early to mid-morning on day 1. I want you to get the most out of this trip, which also means you need to pick a place to stay near the park!

And what better way to begin your adventure than with a little sunrise mission? Sunrise in Glacier National Park was one of my favorite things to witness, and I’d love for you to be there for that!

Hence why we need you to get to the park the day prior if possible. To begin, we’ll start our trip off in West Glacier.

Please remember that you need to book a permit and make a reservation for popular park areas!

Day 1 (West Glacier)

Morning Sunrise at Lake McDonald

Once your drive through the West Entrance, you can make a stop at Apgar Visitor Center for information, maps, and all that park goodness. But assuming you want to catch the morning sun, I suggest you keep going. Out first stop: Lake McDonald.

Lake McDonald is probably one of the most beautiful lakes in Glacier National Park and it is the largest! It is most known for its fruity pebble or rainbow-colored rocks lining the lake floor. 

The crystal-clear waters, framed by the park’s majestic mountains, create a serene and picturesque setting perfect sunrise mission β€” trust me. 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 if you wanted an extended morning here. Otherwise, it’s time to keep going!

Insider Tip: 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.

Mid-Morning Hike Along Trail of the Cedars

After a morning at Lake McDonald, visiting the Trail of the Cedars is next on your list. This loop trail is perfect for all ages and fitness levels.

The path winds through a lush forest of ancient cedars and hemlocks, creating a cool, shaded canopy. Trail of the Cedars is well-maintained with boardwalk sections, making it a pretty lowkey trail!

As you go down the trail, you’ll get closer and closer to Avalanche Creek and Avalanche Gorge. The creek narrows and rushes through a gorge of vibrant, moss-covered rocks. Eventually, you’ll reach viewing platforms along the trail that

If you want a longer adventure, you can embark on a hike to Avalanche Lake. The hike starts at the Trail of the Cedars Trailhead and will take you up 730 feet in elevation gain over 4.5 miles. 

Insider Tip: You can also access the Avalanche Lake trailhead by parking at the Lake McDonald Lodge area.

Evening Glacier National Park Stargazing or Northern Lights

Did you know that Glacier National Park is one of the best places to see northern lights? Yep! You have to go during the right time of year (between October and April). Lake McDonald and the Apgar Village are are great viewing stops!

Keep an eye on aurora forecasts and geomagnetic activity. Websites like the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center can provide valuable information on potential aurora activity.

If auroras aren’t going to happen for you, you can also slot some time to do stargazing in the park!

Day 2 (West Glacier)

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. In total, the road will probably take you about 2 hours to drive, but this can change depending on how many stops you decide to make. 

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

Logan Pass Visitor Center β€” 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 ;). 

Big Bend β€” This is one of the prettiest spots in Glacier National Park! It has some parking spots you can use to pull over and explore, so get out your camera gear to take pictures! The area can get littered with wildflowers during the summer, which surprised us when we arrived! 

Wild Goose Island β€” 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 β€” 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.

Mid-Morning to Afternoon 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.

This 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

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

Sunset at Hidden Lake Overlook (Alternative)

Alternatively, you can opt to take your time enjoying Going-To-The-Sun! Make longer pit stops at places like Wild Goose Island and Many Glacier.

On your way back West, head over to Hidden Lake Overlook where you’ll embark on an epic sunset mission. Hidden Lake 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 sunsetβ€”I suggest you give it a read if you want to learn more!

Insider Tip: If hiking for sunset sounds kind of “meh,” alternatively, you can visit Goose Island or Big Bend for sunset!

Day 3 (East Glacier)

Sunrise at Swiftcurrent Lake

Start your final day in Glacier National Park by exploring the awe-inspiring Many Glacier area, often referred to as the heart of the park. This region is renowned for its dramatic mountain scenery, pristine lakes, and abundant wildlife.

To end off things with a bang, head for the Swiftcurrent Lake area. Once you get there, grab a spot somewhere and enjoy the sunrise! 

Swiftcurrent Nature Trail provides a leisurely walk with excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography. 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.

Mid-Morning 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.

Getting to the trailhead will be about a 50-minute drive because you will need to access it from Going-To-The-Sun Road (assuming you’re staying in West Glacier).

Insider Tip: 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. 

Afternoon Boat Tour

After your hike, enjoy lunch with a view at the historic Many Glacier Hotel. The hotel’s dining options offer various dishes and a relaxing atmosphere with panoramic views of Swiftcurrent Lake and the surrounding peaks.

Post-lunch, consider a scenic boat tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, operated by Glacier Park Boat Company. These boat tours offer a unique perspective of the park’s landscapes and a chance to learn more about the area’s natural history from knowledgeable guides!

Alternatively, hike to Red Rock Falls, an easy trail that leads to a beautiful waterfall, or enjoy a peaceful stroll around Swiftcurrent Lake, soaking in your surroundings before you leave!

Departing From 3 Days in Glacier National Park

And that’s it! Once you’re done hiking, you can leave the park.

If time permits on your journey home, consider stopping in nearby towns such as Whitefish or Kalispell. These charming Montana towns offer various dining options, local shops, and a chance to experience the local culture and hospitality.

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

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days Alternatives

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

Alternative Itinerary 1

  • Day 1: West Glacier
    • Arrive in West Glacier and start your drive on Going-To-The-Sun Road.
    • Stop at Lake McDonald and other stops as you please, then hike Hidden Lake Overlook for sunset.
  • Day 2: East Glacier
    • Head to East Glacier and prep for a hike.
    • 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!
  • Day 3: West Glacier
    • 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.

Alternative Itinerary 2

  • Day 1: East Glacier and Two Medicine
    • Enter the park through the East Glacier entrance. Begin your day with a visit to the Two Medicine area, a less crowded but equally stunning part of the park.
    • Start with a scenic hike on the Running Eagle Falls Trail, an easy trail that leads to a beautiful waterfall also known as “Trick Falls.”
    • After the hike, rent a boat or kayak to explore Two Medicine Lake. Enjoy the tranquil waters and the stunning views of Sinopah Mountain.
  • Day 2: North Fork and Bowman Lake
    • Drive to the remote North Fork area of the park. This less-visited area offers a chance to experience the park’s rugged beauty away from the crowds.
    • Visit Bowman Lake, a picturesque and secluded spot perfect for photography and wildlife spotting.
    • Take a leisurely hike on the Bowman Lake Trail, which follows the shoreline and offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding peaks.
  • Day 3: Goat Haunt and Waterton Lakes National Park
    • Head to Goat Haunt, an isolated and scenic part of the park accessible by boat from Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada (passport and travel documents required).
    • After exploring Goat Haunt, take the boat back to Waterton Lakes National Park and spend some time exploring this beautiful Canadian counterpart to Glacier National Park.

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.

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 More Lakes

Glacier National Park is home to some of the best lakes.

Truly, there are so many you can add to an itinerary. I suggest Bowman, Cracker, or Iceberg Lake. Both Iceberg and Cracker require extensive hiking!

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 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!

Visit Yellowstone National Park

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

4 days in Yellowstone National Park is perfect! You can always switch it up and do a larger Grand Teton to Glacier National Park road trip!

Insider Tip: Take a Yellowstone to Glacier National Park road trip!

Head to Calgary

If you’re up for a drive, you can head right through the Canadian border and over to Calgary, Alberta!

This will require much more trip planning, but it would be one heck of a trip. If you want, from there you can make your way to Banff National Park.

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.

Packing 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 β€” 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.

Sunscreen β€” For the same reason as above, make sure you’re wearing sunscreen.

Bear Spray β€” 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.

Camera Gear β€” 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 my Sony a6400 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens! 

Glacier National Park Itinerary 3 Days β€” 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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