Guidebook

5 of the Best Day Hikes in the USA’s Northern Rockies

The Northern Rockies might not be the tallest peaks in the range, but they ARE the most rugged!

Greg Heil

Description

The Rocky Mountains reign as North America’s most iconic mountain range. Even though Colorado might be home to the tallest peaks in the range, the USA’s Northern Rockies are even more rugged and forbidding. The craggy peaks in Montana's Glacier National Park are known as “The Crown of the Continent,” with visually-impressive rocky summits rising thousands of feet above the narrow valleys below.

The Northern Rockies are also home to the continent’s most famous form of megafauna: the grizzly bear. These endangered beasts feel no fear of humans, so packing bear spray and taking precautions like wearing bear bells, talking loudly, and avoiding prime bear habitat is a must.

If you want to explore the rugged, remote Northern Rockies and are more excited than terrified to spot a griz, this guidebook rounds up five of the most renowned day hikes in the Northern Rockies. 

The list begins with one of the most famous hikes in the Crown of the Continent: The Highline Trail traverse, with a dogleg to view Grinnell Glacier. The views don't get much better anywhere on the planet, so if you want to check one hike and call it good, this is it!

Heading to national parks further south, the North Fork Cascade Canyon portion of the Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park forms a great day hike section of the epic multi-day backpacking route. If Yellowstone is more your style, Avalanche Peak is widely regarded as one of the best peak climbs in the park.

Wyoming’s Wind River Range is renowned as the most remote mountain range in the Lower 48, so it’s tough to tackle an iconic hike in the region in a single day. But if you have exceptional fitness, the shortest route to the renowned Cirque of the Towers might be achievable as a day hike. You’ll still have to cover almost 17 miles in a single day, so plan on a full-day slog deep into the Winds.

Finally, if you’re looking to bag a state high point, head to Idaho’s Borah Peak for an easy mountaineering objective. While Gannett Peak, Wyoming’s high point (also in the Wind River Range), requires a multi-day backpacking trip to access, Borah Peak can be done as a day hike.

Highline Trail + Grinnell Glacier Overlook
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Highline Trail + Grinnell Glacier Overlook

Glacier National Park
5 - 6 hrs
21.0 km
754 m
1,483 m
Simply put: One of the best day hikes in the world.
Difficult
Private
Teton Crest Trail: North Fork Cascade Canyon to Leigh Lake Trailhead (via Cascade Canyon)
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Teton Crest Trail: North Fork Cascade Canyon to Leigh Lake Trailhead (via Cascade Canyon)

Grand Teton National Park
2 - 3 hrs
12.8 km
81 m
606 m
One final stretch through beautiful Cascade Canyon
Moderate
Private
Avalanche Peak
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Avalanche Peak

Yellowstone National Park
2 - 3 hrs
7.2 km
641 m
641 m
A strenuous climb with magnificent views across Yellowstone National Park.
Moderate
Private
Cirque of the Towers
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Cirque of the Towers

Wind River Range
6 - 7 hrs
26.8 km
1,020 m
1,020 m
High alpine basin rimmed by huge granite spires in Wyoming's remote Wind River Range.
Difficult
Private
Borah Peak
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Borah Peak

Sun Valley
12.2 km
1,607 m
At 12,662 feet ASL, Borah Peak reigns as Idaho's high point
Easy
Private