How to See a Glacier

Flowers in the foreground and a glacier under a rocky mountain in the background.
Sexton Glacier, seen from the Siyeh Pass trail, is one of the park's glaciers that can be seen on a day hike. Sexton Glacier has lost more than 25 acres in area since 1966.

Hoping to see one before they are gone, many visitors come to the park to see a glacier. Ironically, Glacier National Park isn't the easiest place to see an active glacier.


Massive glaciers can be viewed with relative ease in Alaska's national parks. Kenai Fjords National Park, Wrangle-St. Elias National Park, and Glacier Bay National Park, are all known for their glacier viewing. In the contiguous United States, glaciers can be seen fairly easily in Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, North Cascades National Park, Grand Teton National Park and others. It is actually North Cascades National Park that boasts the highest concentration of glaciers in the lower 48 but Glacier National Park comes in second with about two dozen active glaciers.

Most of the park’s glaciers are tucked into shadowy niches high along the Continental Divide, cloaked by semi-permanent snowfields. Still, a few glaciers can be seen from the road, a few others can be seen from a short hike, and others can be studied up close after a strenuous hike. Binoculars and a park map can help you tell the difference between snowfields and glaciers throughout the park. Late August and early September, when most of the winter's snow has melted away, is the best time to see the glaciers.

 
People photograph a sign with their phones. Trees, mountains, and glaciers, are in the background.
Jackson Glacier is the easiest glacier to see in the park and it is the 7th largest.

Where to See a Glacier

Jackson Glacier from Going-to-the-Sun Road Overlook

  • The easiest glacier to see in the park.
  • Visible from Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side of Going-to-the-Sun Road
  • 5 miles East of Logan Pass
  • Read about all the park's glaciers on wayside exhibits
 
A road leads toward snowy, icy, mountains with trees nearby.
Do you see a salamander shape? The glacier becomes easier to discern as seasonal snow melts.

Salamander Glacier

  • Visible from your car as you drive into the Many Glacier area
  • Start looking ahead as you drive through the park entrance station
  • Salamandar Glacier sits in a basin just above Grinnell Glacier
 
Grass leads down the a icy blue lake with a glacier in the background below a rocky mountain.
Grinnell Glacier lost 45% of its area between 1966 and 2015.

Grinnell Glacier

  • Visible by a very challenging day hike from the Many Glacier area
  • 5.1 miles one way via Grinnell Glacier Trailhead
  • 4.5 miles one way via concessioner boat from Many Glacier Hotel
  • 1,600 feet of elevation gain
  • Grinnell is perhaps the most famous glacier in the park
 
A person stands in front of a glacier.
In 1910, the park had over 100 glaciers but by 2015 only 26 met the size criteria to be designated active glaciers.

Sperry Glacier

  • Very challenging 8.5 miles one way hike from Lake McDonald Lodge
  • 5,000 foot elevation gain to reach a view of Sperry Glacier
  • Sperry Glacier is the park's most studied glacier
  • The historic Sperry Chalet is often used as a rest stop on this hike
 
A mountainous landscape with a glacier beyond a ridge.
With binoculars and a map you can get a good view of Sperry Glacier's headwall from the Hidden Lake Overlook. Sperry lost 133 acres of area between 1966 and 2015.

Sperry Glacier from Hidden Lake Overlook

  • A less challenging 1.3 mile hike one way from Logan Pass.
  • 600 feet of elevation gain
  • Mostly on a boardwalk with stairs.
  • The glacier can be seen over the mountains at the far end of Hidden Lake.
  • Binoculars and a map will give you the best view.
 
Trees in the foreground. A glacier sits on a rocky mountain in the background.
This view of Piegan Glacier from August 8th, 2017 shows how seasonal snow can cover glacier ice until late in the summer.

Piegan Glacier from Preston Park

  • Challenging 3.5 mile hike one way from Siyeh Bend Trailhead to start getting views
  • 1,350 feet of elevation gain to where you'll start getting good views
  • Hike through an alpine meadow, full of wildflowers, with Piegan Glacier looming above
 
Thin clouds in front of snow and ice.
Sexton Glacier lost 25% of its area between 1966 and 2015.

Sexton Glacier from the Siyeh Pass Trail

  • Very challenging 10 mile hike point to point using the free park shuttle
  • 2,300 feet elevation gain and 3,400 feet elevation loss
  • Seen from the trail across the valley
 
Snow and glaciers on high mountain peaks. Two labels indicate Vulture Glacier and Two Ocean Glacier.
In late summer, a hiker with binoculars may spot two seldom seen glaciers, Vulture and Two Ocean Glacier. The latter lost 82% of its area between 1966 and 2015.

Vulture & Two Ocean Glaciers from the Highline

  • 4 miles of very challenging up and down hiking one way from Logan Pass on the Highline trail
  • 950 feet of elevation gain and 450 feet of loss
  • Start looking to the North West once you have passed Haystack Butte
  • Often done as a point to point hike from Logan Pass to the Loop, about strenuous 12 miles
  • These two glaciers are very remote and rare to see

 
Dark dirty water melts through white snow and ice.

Melting Glaciers

All the glaciers in the park have receded. Click here to find out what that looks like.

A bright turquoise lake with snow, ice, and mountains in the background.

Glacial Geology

Viewing Glacier's landscape is like reading a textbook on the geologic effects of glaciation.

Two people walking down a mountain trail.

Hike the Trails

With over 700 miles of trail there is something for everyone.

People load onto a shuttle bus.

How to Reduce your Carbon Footprint

Many people fall in love with Glacier and then want to reduce their footprint.

People stand on a beach and watch a wildfire.

Climate Change

Over the last 100 years, the planet’s surface has warmed by about 1.5°F.

A brown garbage can in the sun.

Sustainability

Sustainability means avoiding the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.

Last updated: September 25, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936

Phone:

(406) 888-7800

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