Yellowstone has our vote for the top national park in the world, but Glacier National Park is unquestionably the best national park in the United States for hiking.
Granted, there are great hikes in many US national parks. Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah, Olympic National Park in Washington, and Yosemite National Park in California all feature amazing hiking. Alaska, with the four largest national parks in the country, is absolutely full of amazing hikes.
But for a number of reasons we would pick Glacier National Park as the best national park for hiking.
Glacier National Park Hiking
- Glacier National Park has 151 trails with a total of 746 hiking miles, giving visiting hikers plenty of options.
- This includes the Continental Divide Trail, with 110 miles within the park.
- Certain trails, such as the Grinnell Glacier Trail and the Iceberg Lake Trail, often make lists of the top 10 hikes in the country.
Location & Accessibility
At just over one million acres, Glacier is plenty big enough to get way off the beaten track if that is your goal. At the same time, the most scenic part of the park is easily accessed from the amazing Going to the Sun Road, an alpine road that is only fully open in the summer months.
While well out of the way from most of the country, tucked in the northwest part of Montana, Glacier is only 30 minutes from Glacier National Park International Airport in Kalispell. Amtrak’s Empire Builder train running from Chicago to Seattle makes stops at both East Glacier and West Glacier. The fabulous small town of Whitefish is a great place to stage your forays into the park, including renting a car if you take the train.
Scenery: The Glaciers
But it is the scenery that sets Glacier National Park apart from other competitors to the throne of the best national park for hiking. 175 mountains with snowcapped peaks; 762 pristine lakes, only 131 of which are actually named; and 563 mountain streams provide glorious views for hikers.
Topping it off are the 26 glaciers in the park. Yes, unfortunately, all 26 are receding in size. Some of them tragically have lost up to 80% of their size since 1966. These masses of ice, so big they flow under their own weight, are going to disappear in our lifetimes due increasingly to human-caused climate change. Glaciers can present an amazing destination for hiking in the park and launch Glacier National Park to the top of the list for hiking parks.