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5. Glacier National Park, Montana

Wild Goose Island sits out in the middle of Saint Mary Lake on the eastern side of the park.
For the best views, you’ll want to head off Going-to-the-Sun Road. Photo by Andrew Parlette licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The glacial retreat of Glacier has been anything but

This is perhaps America’s most stark example of the effects of glaciation and their rapid retreat. Yes, it’s in the name, but while many visitors come to the park with hopes of seeing glaciers, it actually isn’t the easiest place to observe them—those that are remaining are high along the Continental Divide and current estimates suggest they may be gone by 2030.

What you will see in Glacier National Park, however, is striking carved valleys and mountains, cirques, arêtes, alpine meadows, and large outflow lakes. You’ll be able to experience the effects of the last ice age on the terrain up close on over 700 miles of trails.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

Granite Park Trail: The Granite Park Trail (sometimes called the “Loop Trail”) is a roughly 8- mile out-and-back that brings visitors to the Granite Park Chalet. Formerly heavily wooded, a wildfire has since cleared the land unveiling meadows blanketed with wildflowers and undergrowth, and correspondingly, great vistas of the surrounding mountains.

Highline Trail: One of the most popular trails here, this nearly 12-mile (one way) route takes you high above the Going-to-the-Sun Road and offers panoramic views of and from the renowned Garden Wall, which is carved into a sheer rock face. It is common to spot wildlife here, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and marmots.

Iceberg Lake Trail: What makes this trail special is in the name—the 9.4-mile round trip hike takes you to a lake where you may find icebergs, which sometimes calve off the nearby glacier, floating in it.

Where to actually see glaciers:

While Glacier National Park has the second highest concentration of glaciers in the lower 48 (with about two dozen), it’s actually the North Cascades National Park that boasts the most. Other options nearby include Mount Rainier, Olympic, and Grand Teton National Park. For massive glacier viewing with relative ease, head to Alaska’s national parks (more on this below).

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