The Best Backpacking Trip in Glacier National Park

With vertiginous cliffs and peaks, numerous waterfalls and cascades, crack-riddled glaciers plastering mountainsides, and raw wilderness where a range of wildlife long gone from most of the continent thrives, Glacier National Park embodies the highest aspirations of backpackers. And if you’re looking for the ultimate backpacking trip in Glacier, this 65-mile, six-day loop has it all. It hits much of Glacier’s best scenery, including the entire Highline Trail, the Many Glacier area, Piegan Pass and Stoney Indian Pass, the Ptarmigan Tunnel, and some of the park’s finest lakes and most-remote wilderness.

Sightings of mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, and even black and grizzly bears are common along this route and long stretches of this hike also deliver amazing solitude. Logistics are easier than other trips in Glacier and the entire route follows good trails and stays at moderate elevations. This e-guide covers everything you need to know to plan and take this trip, including expert advice on the ideal time of year, how to obtain a popular backcountry permit and deal with bears, travel logistics, gear, and safety, and it lays out a day-to-day itinerary, alternate days on the main itinerary, plus two more alternate itineraries.

Read my blog story about this trip, “Descending the Food Chain: Backpacking Glacier National Park’s Northern Loop” (which requires a paid subscription to read in full), in which I share the story and many photos from the multi-day hike described in much greater detail in this e-guide; or see my story “The Best Backpacking Trip in Glacier National Park” (which is free for anyone to read).

As of Jan. 11, 2023, Glacier National Park has posted at nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/backcountry-reservations.htm: “Changes are coming to Glacier National Park’s advance reservation system in 2023. Complete details are not yet available. Check back in mid-February when we should have changes finalized.” Under the 2022 permit reservation system at Glacier, backcountry sites for trips starting between June 15 and Sept. 30 could be reserved in advance at https://pay.gov/public/form/start/74000984 starting March 15 for parties of one to eight people and March 1 (with a midnight deadline) for groups of nine to 12. But that page is no longer available at pay.gov.

This e-guide will be updated as soon as Glacier announces the details of its permit reservation procedure for 2023 and The Big Outside will contact all people who’ve purchased this e-guide in recent months with the new permit information.

Purchase this e-guide NOW to begin planning your backpacking trip on the amazing Northern Loop in Glacier National Park!

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