Some of the park’s twenty trails (140km of walking in all) push close to glaciers for casual views of the ice – though only two spots are now safe at the toe of the Illecillewaet – and the backcountry is noticeably less busy than in the Rockies parks.
Short trails off Highway 1
The easiest short strolls off the Trans-Canada are: the Abandoned Rails Trail (1.2km one way; 30min; suitable for wheelchairs), along old rail-beds to abandoned snowsheds between the Rogers Pass visitor centre and the Summit Monument; the Loop Trail (1.6km) from the viewpoint just east of the Loop Brook campground, full of viewpoints and features relating to the building of the railway; the Hemlock Grove Boardwalk (400m), a stroll through old-growth stands of western hemlock trees, some more than 350 years old (wheelchair-friendly; trailhead 5km from the park’s western boundary).
The hub for most of Glacier’s day-hikes is the Illecillewaet campground near the confluence of the Asulkan Brook and the Illecillewaet river, which can be appreciated on the easy Meeting of the Waters Trail (30min). Otherwise six manageable day-hikes leave the campground to provide superb views of glaciers, particularly the Great Glacier, Avalanche Crest and Abbott’s Ridge trails.
The longest Glacier backcountry option is the Beaver Valley Trail (30km-plus), which peels off from the highway at the Mount Shaughnessy picnic area on the eastern edge (also a favourite mountain-bike route). This can be combined with a trail up Copperstain Mountain (2595m) to form a loop of around 40km through forests and meadows and bleak alpine tundra – two backcountry campgrounds are available en route; contact the visitor centre for a permit (see Glacier National Park).