Glacier for the Adventurous

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Photo by Becky Lomax

Glacier's thrills on foot, horseback and raft

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For the adventurous, Glacier National Park holds so many rare experiences that visitors often depart planning a second trip. Hiking, backcountry chalets, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and fishing. Travel by foot, horseback and rubber raft to experience the thrills, and your adventures will make memories for a lifetime.

Base this trip out of West Glacier, Apgar or Lake McDonald to be closest to most of the activities. As an alternative for the first two nights, you can stay at Rising Sun Motor Inn or Rising Sun Campground. Make reservations to overnight in lodges, cabins, motels or campgrounds. To do all the adventures, plan for seven days.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

2 days

Work two top day hikes into your schedule. These hikes will each take a full day. Drive time to the trailheads will vary depending on where you are staying.

From Siyeh Bend a few miles east of Logan Pass, the 10-mile Siyeh Pass Trail loops around Going-to-the-Sun Mountain to drop back to the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The route crosses prolific wildflower meadows, steep cliff traverses and waterfalls through bighorn sheep habitat.

Get a dawn start to drive over Going-to-the-Sun Road to Many Glacier for the 11.8-mile round trip Grinnell Glacier Trail. While climbing through grizzly bear terrain, the trail looks down on sparkling turquoise Grinnell Lake. The destination is the fast-melting glacier. Every year the lake at its foot increases while its ice shrinks.

If you want to hire a guide, Glacier Guides leads day hikes. Their trips include transportation to the trailhead, lunch, and info on wildlife, flora, and geology.

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Horseback Riding

Half Day

See Glacier the way early park visitors did. While Glacier’s first visitors toured by horseback for two weeks, today ride lengths vary from one hour to full day. From Lake McDonald Horse Corral, a two-hour ride loops through a moist cedar-hemlock rain forest along McDonald Creek and passes through an historic rock tunnel on Going-to-the-Sun Road. With its short duration, you can do the saddle adventure in the morning and combine it with later afternoon rafting in the same day.

Whitewater Rafting

Half Day

The guides at Montana Raft Company know every ripple and rapid through John F. Stevens Canyon on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. A half-day trip will cover the splashy seven river miles that crash through Screaming Right Hand Turn and Bonecrusher rapids. Designated Wild and Scenic, the Middle Fork has rapids tame enough for families, but adventurous enough to douse a boat of paddlers with splashes.


Half Day

The Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead Rivers run with west slope cutthroat trout and other wild game fish. To prepare for fishing, stop by Glacier Outdoor Center in West Glacier. You can go on your own or hire a guide for a fly-fishing excursion. The guides know where the fish are biting, and a half-day on a drift boat moves you between fishing holes to cast flies for trout.

Backcountry Chalet

3 Days

For your adventurous finale, book a rustic two-night stay at historic Granite Park Chalet. Accessible only by trail, the chalet yields all the pleasure of backpacking, but with beds provided instead of sleeping on the ground in a tent. On day one, hike to the chalet on the Highline Trail, to a knoll just under the Continental Divide. For the second day, climb up switchbacks to Swiftcurrent Lookout for huge views. To exit via a different route, hike down to The Loop or over Swiftcurrent Pass to catch shuttles to return to your car. For guided trips to the chalet, go with Glacier Guides.

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