Glacier National Park known as the Crown of the Continent is located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. The park includes pristine forests, alpine meadows, glacier-carved peaks, and spectacular lakes. Glacier National Park borders Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada — the two parks are known as the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. The photo is courtesy of this terrific blog post, Top 10 Tips for Visiting Glacier National Park.
Glacier National Park is a hiker and trail runner’s paradise, with over 700 miles of trails. For those looking for some road running or gentler trail running options, here are our recommendations for running in Glacier National Park. We’ve also included a couple of options just outside the park, in Hungry Horse and Kalispell.
NOTE: Glacier is bear, moose and mountain goat country, so special safety measures must be taken. Running is different than walking or hiking. When you encounter an animal at running speed, they are more likely to feel threatened. With so much wildlife in the park, it is not the ideal place for running. If you are going to run, Park Rangers recommend running in groups, making lots of noise, carrying bear spray, and choose trails that are open with good visibility and high traffic (like the ones featured below). Before your first run or hike, check in at a Visitors Center or Ranger Station to learn about the current wildlife activity.
Going-to-the-Sun Road. The main road through the park. This scenic road cuts through the rugged terrain and in an incredible feat of engineering. It is runnable, but very hilly in sections and also very crowded with cars in season — and often lacks a shoulder. If running on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, it is best to go early or off-peak (though the road is closed in winter).
Lake MacDonald. Paved, 7 mile trail one-way. Start: Apgar Visitor Center or the Lake McDonald West Shore. Filling a basin gouged out by Ice Age glaciers, Lake MacDonald is the largest Lake in Glacier National Park. It’s surrounded by mountains, with stands of western red cedar and hemlock flourishing in the valley. The wildlife-viewing here can be spectacular. For running, park at the Apgar Visitor Center and hop on the paved Apgar Bike Path. Another option from this area is the Lake McDonald West Shore. This flat, well maintained dirt trail runs for 7 miles. The trail is easy to run on, provides amazing lake views but is very exposed to the sun.
Avalanche Lake Trail. 5 miles out and back, 780 feet gain. This is a moderate trail run, with decent footing. You’ll be rewarded with great views of Avalanche Lake after a 400 foot climb. Depart from Avalanche Lake Campground. Thanks to Aurélie Vilmer for this suggestion!
Hidden Lake Trail. 2.5 miles one-way, total ascent 274 feet. This is one of the more ‘runnable’ trails in the park, in terms of footing and because of it’s popularity, it’s a less remote. It is open the whole way, with incredible lake and mountain views, and fields of wildflowers. From the Logan Pass Visitor Center, it’s 2.5 miles to the end at Hidden Lake, gradually uphill for the first half and more of a descent the second half. The footing is decent, but it is a trail run and there are some large boulders (that can be avoided…).
Bowman Lake Area. ROUTE MAP. From the Bowman Lake Campground, there’s a trail along the west side of beautiful Bowman Lake. It’s rolling hills, with moderate elevation gain. It’s a dirt path with fairly easy footing but it’s a trail run. The first 3 miles or so are popular with hikers. Then it gets a bit more remote. It’s 6.5 miles to the end of the lake, but the trail continues north. Thanks to Aurélie Vilmer for this suggestion! Note: Bears!
Road Running Just Outside Glacier National Park
There are two good options for road running just outside of Glacier NP, for those staying in the Kalispell or Hungry Horse area.
Gateway to Glacier Trail. Paved, 10 miles one-way, 502 foot gain. Start: Hungry Horse Gazebo ROUTE MAP. This paved multi-use path runs for 10 miles between Hungry Horse and West Glacier. It’s a good option for those staying just outside Glacier, or looking for an alternative to trail running. It’s basically a path paralleling Highway 2E. The trail starts at a Welcome Gazebo in Hungry Horse, where parking is available. There are great views along the way….although Highway 2E is busy so this isn’t a ‘pristine’ run.
Great Northern Historical Trail. Kila to Somers. 20 miles one-way. Fairly Flat. ROUTE MAP. Kalispell is a gateway town to Glacier National Park, lying 30 miles southwest of West Glacier/Apgar. A good running option in the Kalispell area is to run a section of the Great Northern Historical Trail. This paved multi-use path runs for nearly 22 miles between the lakeside town of Somers and the mountain valley community of Kila, passing just to the west of Kalispell. This ‘rails to trails’ route follows part of the former Great Northern Railway. There are farms. fields, views of the mountains of Glacier NP in the distance. The trail follows Highway 2 west of Kalispell and Highway 93 south to Somers. Add-On/Variation: The paved Kalispell-Parkline Trail runs east of Kalispell from the junction of Highway 2/Highway 93.