|Loop Hikes in Glacier National Park|
As a result of Glacier National Park's rugged terrain, very few loop hikes exist for day hikers within the park - relative to the number of miles of trails. Of course there are numerous loop opportunities for those wishing to venture into the backcountry and overnight at one of the many backcountry campsites. However, if you prefer the creature comforts of civilization at night, below are a few suggestions for those wishing to do one-way day hikes or loop trails.
Four of the easiest loop hikes in the park are the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Loop in Many Glacier, the Beaver Pond Loop just outside of St. Mary, the Forest and Fire Nature Trail 11 miles north of Apgar, and the Trail of the Cedars loop near the Avalanche Creek Campground, also one of the more popular hikes in the park.
Another fairly easy loop hike is the Johns Lake Loop on the eastern side of Lake McDonald.
In Many Glacier, hikers have the choice of creating several loops, of varying length, by combining the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Loop with the Grinnell Glacier Trail, Piegan Pass Trail, or any of the trails in and around Lake Josephine.
On the opposite end of the difficulty spectrum is the 17.6-mile Dawson Pass - Pitamakan Pass loop hike out of the Two Medicine area. If you take the shuttle boat across Two Medicine Lake you can shorten this hike to "only" 14.8 miles. Although this is a very tough day on the trail, the hike is fairly popular given how spectacular the scenery is along most of its route.
A shorter option in the Two Medicine area is the loop around Two Medicine Lake, which combines the Dawson Pass Trail with the Two Medicine Pass Trail. This loop also allows hikers to make an easy side trip to Twin Falls, a popular destination in this area.
One-way hikes using the shuttle:
Fortunately Glacier has an excellent shuttle system that offers point-to-point transportation service on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This service effectively provides several additional one-way hiking opportunities:
Perhaps the most popular option, and as far as many people are concerned, one of the best hikes in the park, is the 11.8-mile Highline Loop. The best way to do this hike is to hop on the shuttle at an area on the Going-to-the-Sun Road known as “The Loop.” From there, take the shuttle up to Logan Pass, and then hike the Highline Trail back to your car.
The Sunrift Gorge area provides multiple options for viewing several waterfalls over the course of a fairly easy hike of 5.2 miles. The best way to tackle this area is to park at St. Mary Falls, hike southbound to St. Mary Falls, and then onto the spectacular Virginia Falls. After viewing both falls, do a little backtracking before heading down to Barring Falls. From here, make the short hike up to Sunrift Gorge and catch the shuttle back to the St. Mary Falls Trailhead.
Another outstanding option is the 10.4-mile Siyeh Pass Loop, which begins from Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, travels up to Siyeh Pass, and then back down through the breathtaking Baring Creek Valley and on to the Sunrift Gorge parking area. The views from the Pass, as well as from Preston Park, are some of the best in the park.
An easier alternative is to head south on the Piegan Pass Trail from the Jackson Glacier Overlook. You'll visit Deadwood Falls near the junction of Gunsight Pass Trail, before heading over to the St. Mary Falls / Sunrift Gorge area (see above for destination options).
Another fairly popular option using the Glacier shuttle system is the hike from the Jackson Glacier Overlook parking area, over Gunsight Pass, and then down to Lake McDonald on the west side of the park. To do this hike in one day would be an extremely tough 20-mile death march. However, day hikers have the option of breaking this hike into two days by staying at the Sperry Chalet along the way (you'll need reservations months in advance).
Another option that is popular with day hikers is the hike from Logan Pass to Many Glacier. Similar to the previous hike, this one-way hike allows day hikers to take-in a lot of spectacular scenery, but offers the relative comfort of sleeping in a chalet at night. The route travels over the Highline Trail on the first day. That night you'll stay at the Granite Park Chalet (again, you'll need reservations months in advance). The next day you'll climb over Swiftcurrent Pass, and then down to Many Glacier. To make this option work, however, you'll need to hire a private shuttle.
For the really adventurous, here's a three-day, two-night loop that will take you through some of the most beautiful country Glacier has to offer – without having to overnight in a backcountry campsite. Start from Siyeh Bend and proceed over Piegan Pass and down into Many Glacier where you'll find several options for accommodations. On day two you'll hike up to Swiftcurrent Pass where you'll overnight at the Granite Park Chalet. On day three, hike back to Logan Pass via the Highline Trail, and then take the shuttle back to your car. Remember, though, you'll need to make a reservation for the Granite Park Chalet well in advance.