Hiking and Rafting Glacier National Park Allows You See It All – Almost!
There are over 700 miles of hiking trails in Glacier National Park, so the best way to see the interior of the park is on foot. The 6 day Glacier National Park backpacking tours are for those who wish to forget about civilization for a while and to visit the more remote parts of the park. You’ll spend your days in subalpine and alpine environments amongst Glacier’s towering peaks. On the trail, your guide will point out features of interest, identify flora and fauna, and be on the lookout for wildlife. You’ll be camping in Glacier’s beautiful and remote backcountry campgrounds. Almost all campsites are located near lakes or streams, offering opportunities for fishing or swimming.
After six stunning days in Glacier’s backcountry, an overnight rafting trip on Glacier’s southwestern border, the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Flathead River, will allow you to fully recover and recharge. Looking into Glacier from its border river allows a unique perspective. In addition to thrilling whitewater rapids, you’ll also pass through peaceful, stunning, scenic sections of calm, glacially fed water. These turquoise waters are home to native Westslope Cutthroat, along with Rainbow and some Brook trout. Your comfy raft will carry your gear, and you’ll have the chance to put your feet up and enjoy Glacier with very little effort — the perfect end to a backpacking trip.
Here’s the thing. Although we’ve been Glacier National Park’s exclusive, trusted backpacking partner since 1983, we have to stand in line for backcountry permits like everyone else. So, we can’t give you an exact itinerary for our Glacier National Park backpacking trips. We won’t know exactly where we’re going until the day before the trip. However, we can give you an example of what you might expect!
Arrive at our West Glacier office at 8:30 am to meet your guide. You’ll go over your gear and split up food and equipment amongst the group. Depending on the itinerary, you may expect a 1 to 3 hour van shuttle to the trailhead. We should be on trail between 11:30 to 12:30! Expect to hike approximately 6-8 miles the first day. Our guides are passionate and encyclopedic about Glacier National Park — no matter your level of hiking experience, we promise they’ll teach you something new as you hike. Our first night’s camp is likely to be on the shore of a beautiful alpine lake, surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks, or nestled in a secluded valley next to the peaceful sounds of a babbling creek. After setting up camp, your guide will prepare an incredible backcountry meal.
On the subject of meals, you will be amazed by what our guides cook for you. We like to eat, and it shows. Our in house kitchen staff, who assists our guides in trip preparations, believes in sourcing locally, purchasing organic when possible, and fueling your body with the best available, homemade food. You won’t find commercially freeze dried one bag meals on this trip! We can also accommodate nearly any dietary restriction or preference – just ask.
In the mornings, you’ll awaken to a cup of fresh, organic, fair trade coffee or tea and a hearty breakfast. In late summer, your guide might sprinkle freshly picked huckleberries onto your protein packed pancakes! After breaking camp, expect to be on the trail between 9:00 am to 10:00 am, depending on the mileage for the day. The average backpacking day is about 8 miles. A longer day could be up to 12 miles – in that scenario, expect to break camp a little earlier. Lunch is usually made along the trail next to a relaxing creek or on a scenic pass. After arriving at that night’s campground, you will set up camp and refill water while your guide prepares another delicious dinner.
On the last day, you’ll hike out to the trailhead to meet your shuttle driver. A delicious deli lunch awaits you, which will be a fine treat after 6 days in the backcountry. Typically, we return to the Glacier Guides and Montana Raft office around 4 pm, although that can vary. You’ll need lodging in West Glacier on this night — if you book early enough, we may be able to offer you a room at our cozy Glacier Guides Lodge, or if you are traveling with a family group, at our guest house. We’ll be happy to give you a ride to your West Glacier accommodation, and to pick you up the next morning, too – just ask.
Frequently Asked Questions
Mileage ranges from 5 to 12 miles a day, with an average of 8 miles/day. On longer trips we sometimes incorporate a layover day. That allows guests to explore without a heavy pack. Early season (through June and into first few days of July) our backpacking trips tend to base camp more, and then day hike to explore the alpine passes. This is due to winter snows lingering in the high country.
Elevation gain and loss on an average day will be about 500 to 800 feet, while a more strenuous day will be 2,000 to 3,000 feet, i.e. if you are hiking over a pass. We usually have 1-2 strenuous days over the course of 6 day Glacier National Park backpacking tours.
Weight of your backpack will depend on the weight of what you choose to bring. Upon arrival, your guide will give you 6-8 pounds of food to add to your bag. Most people end up with a pack weight of around 40 pounds. Remember, ounces make pounds!
Our guides pack and prepare all meals and are great backcountry cooks. You’ll enjoy delicious, largely locally sourced and organic meals. We are happy to accommodate special dietary needs upon advanced request. Please let us know what they are when you book your trip.
Group size will be no larger than 8 people per backcountry trip. 7 guests per guide.
Don’t forget your passport, because some of our trips during mid July through early September either start or end in Waterton, Canada!
Ready for adventure? Dreamed of seeing Glacier National Park’s star studded skies without having to carry a heavy pack into the backcountry? This is the trip for you! Our 2 day whitewater raft trip will give you an experience on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River that you’ll never forget. The Middle Fork is designated as a Wild and Scenic River. It also forms Glacier National Park’s southwestern border. As a result, this 2 day whitewater raft trip offers unique and amazing views into Glacier’s interior. In addition to thrilling whitewater rapids, you’ll also pass through peaceful, stunning scenic sections of calm, turquoise water.
On the first afternoon on the river, your guide will pick a beautiful spot on the river to set up camp. That night, sleep soundly in tents on our comfy sleeping pads and cozy sleeping bags. In the morning, sip steaming coffee or tea as the sun comes up. At mealtimes, enjoy largely organic, locally sourced meals prepared by your guides, who pride themselves on being backcountry gourmet chefs. We can take into consideration any dietary restriction or request that you may have – just ask!
On the second day on the river, we’ll prepare for the thrilling whitewater section of the John F. Stevens Canyon. Don’t worry, we will take pictures! After the most exciting experience in Glacier National Park, we’ll take off the river at West Glacier in the late afternoon. You’ll be back to our office in West Glacier around 5:00 PM where we’ll all be waiting to hear of your adventures!
The speed of the current — and therefore the length of the trip — changes with varying water levels, so the put-in may differ from trip to trip.
The minimum age also varies depending on the river level. In June the minimum age is generally 8. From mid July onward the minimum age is generally 6.
Most, but not all, of the whitewater occurs on the last day in the John Stevens Canyon.
The rapids are rated class II and class III, making this trip a fun and splashy adventure.
Early season — June and early July — you’ll appreciate our wet suits and splash gear, which are provided at no additional cost.
Hiking and Rafting Glacier National Park Trip Meeting Notes
Guests should call our office the day prior to departure at 406-387-5555 or 1-800-521-7238 to check-in. The day of the backpacking trip, you should arrive at our office by 8:30 AM to meet your guide. The day of the rafting trip, you should arrive by 9am. We are located 1.5 miles west of West Glacier on Highway 2. Look for our Glacier Guides and Montana Raft sign on the north side of the highway, between mile marker 151 and 152. Our property is just off the highway, tucked in the trees. When you see our sign turn to the north and you will see us shortly thereafter.