The Glacier National Park circuit includes Highline Trail / Ptarmigan Tunnel loop and Many Glacier – Waterton via Highline.
This is a fabulous hike-of-a-lifetime in every possible way. In fact, there is almost no downside — aside from the very short hiking season. (And mosquitos early in the season.)
Bears are a worry. Hikers have been killed in this park.
The complete North Circuit is 65miles (104km) plus side trips, though many only hike sections. Parts are very accessible to all levels of fitness and experience. Much is pristine wilderness unchanged for hundreds of years.
Why we love it:
- Highline Trail
- Ptarmigan Tunnel (120ft long)
- Swiftcurrent Mountain Lookout
- Iceberg Lake
- wildflowers late June to early August
- great day hikes elsewhere in the Park
- likely to see elk, mule deer, moose, mountain goats & bighorn sheep
- almost certain to see black or grizzly bears through the telescope at Swiftcurrent motel
- great fishing, no licence required in the Park
- convenient hiker’s shuttle bus
- it’s an international hike if you cross in to Waterton, Canada for the excellent hiking there
- you will see few of the other 2 million tourists visiting Glacier each year once you are on the trail
- we love the nearby Going-to-the-Sun highway (badly damaged by flood Fall 2006)
- Wilderness Permit should be booked long in advance
- Summer highs average about 70°F (21C), lows below freezing.
- remote & wild sections
- potentially dangerous crossing at Belly River
- biting insects (including ticks in the early season)
- bring binoculars or a high powered zoom lens for observing bears on distant mountain sidesDetails on our Glacier National Park North Circle information page.
If interested in doing the entire North Circle, check the annotated photos posted by besthike editor Rick McCharles: North Circle trip report, 2005. His was a 7-day solo hike in September after the first snowfall of the winter starting and finishing in Waterton. Don’t miss him spooking a moose at Kootenai Lake.
Highline Trail – Geoffrey Peters