Con­sid­ered the Crown of the Con­ti­nent, Glac­i­er Nation­al Park deserves to be explored at least once in a life­time if not every sea­son. While attrac­tions like the Going-to-the-Sun Road are a good launch­ing point for this ele­vat­ed ter­rain in north­ern Mon­tana, if you are going out of your way to vis­it this icon­ic nat­ur­al resource, hik­ing the trails is prob­a­bly of high pri­or­i­ty. Back­coun­try Per­mits go for advanced reser­va­tion in March and serve as the best way to con­nect the pass­es, camp­grounds, and views you intend to see. Don’t know where to start your trip plan­ning to Glac­i­er? Check out these back­coun­try and front coun­try recommendations.

Overview
Filled with vibrant ecosys­tems, an abun­dance of wildlife and burly moun­tain pass­es, Glac­i­er is a great place for back­pack­ers to find them­selves in mag­nif­i­cent sur­round­ings. The Con­ti­nen­tal Divide Trail spans the entire length of the park before find­ing its north­ern ter­mi­nus at the Cana­di­an bor­der, and the Pacif­ic North­west Trail begins in Glac­i­er and pro­ceeds to head 1,200 miles west to the Wash­ing­ton Coast. Nation­al Scenic Trails aside, Glac­i­er has sev­en back­coun­try areas, 65 dif­fer­ent back­coun­try camp­grounds, and numer­ous trail­heads to choose from. Check out this map for an overview of the trail system.

Boul­der Pass
North Fork and Goat Haunt Area
Found with­in the north­ern wilder­ness of the park, Boul­der Pass is one of the most pop­u­lar overnight routes avail­able in Glac­i­er. Typ­i­cal­ly, Boul­der Pass back­pack­ing routes begin at the Kint­la Lake trail­head in the North Fork Area of the park. From there, hik­ers strad­dle the shore of Kint­la Lake, pro­ceed­ing 18 miles to Boul­der Pass. Appre­ci­at­ing the views is easy the entire way, espe­cial­ly at the Hole-in-the-Wall basin. From Boul­der Pass, hik­ers can either go anoth­er 10 miles to the Goat Haunt Ranger Sta­tion or make a half-loop with 15 miles to the Bow­man Lake Trailhead.

Stoney Indi­an Pass
Bel­ly Riv­er and Many Glac­i­er Area
The Bel­ly Riv­er and Many Glac­i­er Area of the park affords many hik­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, includ­ing the sought-after Stoney Indi­an Pass. A pop­u­lar way to expe­ri­ence this high-alpine pass is through a mul­ti-day trek start­ing from the Chief Moun­tain Cus­toms trail­head on the east­ern edge of the park. Fin­ish­ing at the Goat Haunt Ranger Sta­tion, the total trav­el length is just under 30 miles. A grad­ual incline to begin the trail pass­es by numer­ous alpine lakes and the climb up Stony Pass allows hik­ers to real­ly earn the views.

Gun­sight Pass
Saint Mary and Lake McDon­ald Area
Com­ing in at rough­ly 20 miles and begin­ning near the Going-to-the-Sun Road, Gun­sight Pass can be done as an ambi­tious day hike, but 2–3 days real­ly lets hik­ers take in the scenery. With over 7,000 feet of ele­va­tion change, the pass is no cake walk, but views such as the turquoise waters of Gun­sight Lake make it well worth it. In addi­tion to hik­ers, Gun­sight Pass is always pop­u­lar with res­i­dent moun­tain goats (who deserve some space).

Two Med­i­cine Pass
Two Med­i­cine and Wal­ton Area
Depart­ing from the Two Med­i­cine South Shore trail­head in the south­east por­tion of the park, the one-way dis­tance to Two Med­i­cine Pass is just under eight miles. This hearty trek isn’t rec­om­mend­ed for first-timers though. Those who take on this hike climb their way past icon­ic land­scapes like Rock­well Falls and Cobalt Lake before hit­ting big views at the pass. To extend the trip into a mul­ti-night excur­sion, hik­ers can con­tin­ue to the Lake Isabel­la Camp­ground or head into the Wal­ton area of the park, where the Nyack/Cold Creek Camp­ing Zone offers undes­ig­nat­ed camp­ing opportunities.

Going-to-the-Sun Road
Cross­ing the heart of the nation­al park and span­ning for 50 miles, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a cen­ter­piece for near­ly everyone’s trav­el to Glac­i­er. Numer­ous trail­heads and points of inter­est can be found off the shoul­ders, as well as stun­ning land­scapes that make it hard to con­cen­trate on the road. Dri­ving your per­son­al vehi­cle isn’t the only way to trav­el, and it’s not even the rec­om­mend­ed course of action. Instead, Glacier’s free shut­tle sys­tem is a great way to ride.

Lake McDon­ald
As the largest lake in the park, this mas­sive glacial reser­voir is anoth­er icon­ic image for anyone’s vis­it. Eas­i­ly accessed from the Going-to-the-Sun Road and sur­round­ed by upright Rocky Moun­tain peaks, Lake McDon­ald is an award-win­ning pho­to eas­i­ly tak­en by acci­dent. Miles of hik­ing and back­pack­ing trails sur­round the 10-mile lake. For those look­ing to enjoy the water in style, the cen­tu­ry-old Lake McDon­ald Lodge offers rus­tic accom­mo­da­tions with a mod­ern appeal.

High­line Trail 
For a more stren­u­ous day hike with all the views, the High­line Trail is a point-to-point high­light reel of icon­ic Glac­i­er land­scapes. Both ends of the hike are accessed from the Going-to-the-Sun Road and made logis­ti­cal­ly easy thanks to the free shut­tle. The trail trav­els near­ly 12 miles between the Logan Pass Vis­i­tor Cen­ter and “the loop” sec­tion of the Going-to-the-Sun road. Hik­ers strad­dle the nar­row edge of the Gar­den Wall before pass­ing many view­points, includ­ing the reced­ing and well-pho­tographed Grin­nell Glac­i­er. The High­line Trail can be split between days thanks to the cen­tu­ry-old Gran­ite Park Chalet lodg­ing found along the way.

Trail of the Cedars
As a required stop with any vis­it, the Trail of the Cedars is less than a mile long and eas­i­ly acces­si­ble thanks to a well-con­struct­ed board­walk trail and paved hik­ing route. Eas­i­ly one of the most pop­u­lar trails in the park, for good rea­son, ancient avalanche-avoid­ed trees line the route and the mov­ing waters of Avalanche Creek can real­ly leave a great impres­sion on you. This mile-long trail is wor­thy of a pit stop along a larg­er jour­ney. If hik­ers find them­selves under­whelmed by the scenery (they won’t), the trail con­tin­ues for anoth­er 1.9 miles to Avalanche Lake.

Glacier National Park, Montana.

Glac­i­er Nation­al Park is one of the last pris­tine pieces of wilder­ness in the Unit­ed States. With over one mil­lion acres of moun­tain ranges, lakes and native wildlife to dis­cov­er it cer­tain­ly lives up to its nick­name as the Crown of the Con­ti­nent. Hard­core climbers, in par­tic­u­lar, have found it to be a fan­tas­tic place to vis­it with a seem­ing­ly end­less array of crag to explore and switch­backs to traverse.

The region is not for the faint of heart. The rocks are infa­mous­ly treach­er­ous and unsteady and dur­ing the cool­er months, much of the park becomes an avalanche zone. If you’re an expe­ri­enced climber, whether rock or moun­tain, you’ll find that the untouched rocks here are a great place to find new routes amid the crowd-free wilderness.

Mount Oberlin, Glacier National Park, Montana.Mount Ober­lin
Mount Ober­lin is wide­ly con­sid­ered the entry point for moun­tain climb­ing in Glac­i­er Nation­al Park. It’s one of only two moun­tains in the area that are con­sid­ered “safe” to climb with a some­what straight­for­ward route to the top. The Clements Sad­dle Route will get you to the peak in rough­ly half a day and the views from above are excel­lent. Ober­lin is the go-to route for those want­i­ng to climb when the con­di­tions aren’t very favor­able for harsh­er ascents.

Going-to-the-Sun Moun­tain
The West Face of Going-to-the-Sun hous­es a 4,000-foot ver­ti­cal ascent up a crum­bling façade designed to weed out the weak. It’s list­ed as a Class 3/4 but even the most expe­ri­enced climbers have a tough time mak­ing it to the top thanks to crap­py infra­struc­ture. If you find your­self eas­i­ly tra­vers­ing to the peak, the oppo­site side of the moun­tain is where the real chal­lenge lies. You’ll find some pret­ty great crags to tack­le here too.

Mount Saint Nicholas
Mt. Saint Nicholas is often tout­ed as the most dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous major sum­mit in the park. Its loca­tion in the remote south­west­ern por­tion of GNP makes it hard to reach and even hard­er to ascend. The steep ver­ti­cal horn of the moun­tain and stur­dy crag makes it appeal­ing for avid rock climbers, while moun­taineers love the tech­ni­cal routes to the top. You might have to ford the mouth of Muir Creek to get there, or trek in 18 miles, but the views from the top make it worth the effort.

Kin­ner­ly Peak
Expect to set aside at least a week in the back­coun­try if you’re going to make an attempt at Kin­ner­ly Peak. This mas­sive glacial horn is just less than 10,000 feet high and rests in the remote north­west region of the park. All four sides are incred­i­bly steep, with the one-mile ele­va­tion dif­fer­ence on the north face between the peak and Upper Kint­la Lake. With a rel­a­tive­ly high spire mea­sure and no real trail to choose from, Kin­ner­ly ranks up there with the best of them.

Mount Mer­ritt
Mount Mer­ritt isn’t the most tech­ni­cal climb in the park, though it’s cer­tain­ly not easy by any stretch, it does have inar­guably one of the most breath­tak­ing views from the top. Scenic over­looks of the sur­round­ing Mokowa­nis and Bel­ly Riv­er val­leys along with the neigh­bor­ing Old Sun Glac­i­er paint a mar­velous por­trait of one of the nation’s most valu­able nat­ur­al trea­sures. With only two stan­dard routes avail­able to the sum­mit, expect to spend days in the back­coun­try mak­ing your ini­tial approach. The Moka­nis Lake route requires an ice ax to help car­ry you across a steep screen slope and Class 3 ledges while the Old Sun Glac­i­er path is a com­pli­cat­ed route full of 50-degree climb­ing and exposed scram­bling most of the way up.

Glacier National Park, Montana.