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Planning a trip to Glacier National Park

Hi, new to the site and this is my first post!

My friend and I are taking a 4-5 day trip to the Glacier National Park in Montana and I’m trying to map out the whole thing so any help is appreciated. We’re going to fly in and rent a car to get to the park/trailhead. I think we want to start on the Highline trail since it’s so highly reviewed. I put us doing 10-14 miles a day since there will be a lot of video shooting and taking in certain sights. So to anyone with experience here what’s a good continuous path for us to take from Highline and would we be able to loop it so we’re back at our starting point after 3 or 4 days?

Ill probably be adding more info later, but any help here would be a great start. 


Welcome ro Trailspace Adam! Its been years since I went there but have spent over two weeks backpacking and day hiking the park. Ill dig out my maps if needed but several members have been there more recently than me and will probably be more help.

Hi Adam,

I'm no expert on GNP but I've been once (a couple years ago). 

Time of year and camp site availability will likely determine much of your route. If you haven't already read up on it, there is a lottery system in place for the camps. They reserve a percentage of them for walk-ups but you never know what may be available when you show up. 

I agree that you should try for the Highline trail if you can, Granite Park and Fifty Mountain are two of the most popular and heavily used sites in the Park though, so I bet it can be tricky to get those on walk-ups.

I suggest to just get a map ( I bought the Nat Geo 215) and maybe a guide book to start tracing out routes and reading up on them. 

I really enjoyed my route: placed a car at The Loop parking (chose to park at lower elevation so my car wouldn't get snowed in or get caught with the road closed), hitched a ride (shuttles stopped running when I was there in late season) to Logan Pass went north to SwiftCurrent, down to Many Glacier, up the Ptarmigan to Indian Pass, up Waterton Valley, due to snow storm / snow hazard (hazard areas marked in red on the 215 map) had to detour around Flattop Mountain back up to Granite Park and eventually back out to Logan Pass (hitched another ride back down).

I don't think you can make a really bad choice in terms of route if using the Highline trail as a central connector. 

Thanks for the info

I actually didn’t know there was limited camping. I’ll have to look into it, but hopefully we’re still far enough out to reserve (trip is in mid-summer). The original plan was to hike Havasupi Falls but those reservations were gone instantly. I’ll try to look more into this, get a map, and post back with more details

Ah ok, well here is some light reading to get you started :)

Also meant to say there is at least one area that that doesn't require designated camping: Nyack / Coal Creek. (also known for Grizzly concentration as I recall)

Thanks for the info. I’m a little confused though. So it sounds like you can only camp in these campgrounds. Is that true? I was thinking it’d be where you could hike all day and then set up camp wherever you find a good spot. Is it not like that there?

That is true for a lot (most?) of the park; you can only camp in the designated sites and must have a permit for those sites. It's the same in the Smokies here at home but even  little more restrictive ; there is no open camping zone anywhere within the park borders.

As mentioned about Glacier,  I know the Nyack/ Coal Creek area is open camping but the more popular areas are not. I would think that CDT thru-hikers might be given more leeway in picking a site but I've never researched it. I know in the Smokies, AT thru-hikers are the only ones allowed to pick shelters as they go, but the park requires that you start 50 miles outside of the borders and keep going 50 miles beyond to qualify for that kind of permit.

It's mixed a bag I guess: navigating the various permit systems and processes can be a huge pain, but these places are so heavily used that it may be a much less crowded and better experience because of the restrictions.

September 26, 2020
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