Dog-friendly hikes near Glacier National Park
So, you're traveling to the area and you're bringing your pup... I am sure you're finding real quickly that Glacier National Park isn't the friendliest place for dogs. Sure, they might be allowed in specific places, but you're pretty darn limited and they aren't allowed on ANY trails in the park. It might seem like a bummer, but honestly it isn't the right place for dogs. Trails are crowded due to popularity and with wildlife in the park, dogs can be a great threat while hiking.
Given that I am a dog lover myself, this topic is extremely important to me. I absolutely love bringing my four legged friends with me on adventures and during my travels. I am such a type A kinda person that I have to do my research ahead of time to make sure we have places and hikes we can take our dogs on with us! So I've decided to create a list of my Top 5 favorite dog friendly hikes near glacier national park. These hikes might be 10 minutes from the park or 2 hours, and they certainly aren't the only hikes available to dog owning humans, but a great starting point.
1| Morrell Falls, Seely Lake Montana
~2 hours from Kalispell Montana
This is one of my favorite hikes to date! I hiked this trail the summer of 2020, and it was the first time I had hiked it since the a wildfire burned a great portion of it. This trail is dog friendly, dogs should remain on a leash though. The hike to Morrell falls is relatively easy, with lots of rolling hills and only 462 ft elevation change. The roundtrip length of the hike is 5.4 miles. I recommend hiking the trail early, if you get an early enough start you might get a chance to have the waterfalls to yourself for a bit, plus with the exposure due to the burn a few years ago, its nice to start in cooler weather. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead, however no trash receptical, so be sure to pack out your own trash and dogpoo bags!
2| Columbia Mountain, Columbia Falls Montana
~20 minutes from Kalispell Montana
I discovered this hike many years ago and have done it several times since. I love how close this trail is in proximity to town and thats its practically on the way to Glacier National Park. This hike can be a long and strenuous hike or it can be a nice day hike if your needing something easier for the feet. If you're looking for a short couple mile hike I recommend going to the waterfall in this hike. Its about a 1,500+ ft elevation change and offers great views overlooking the Flathead Valley. To stop at the waterfalls portion of this hike, you'll veer off to the left after you cross a creek (this is key to make sure you don't miss the falls, you can't see them from the main trail). If you're looking to work your legs and see some heights, you can attempt to summit Columbia Mountain on the full hike. This is much more challenging, 12 miles round trip and 5,000ft elevation change. Bring lots of water and if you're hiking in late spring/early summer, expect to have ice cleats or trekking poles if you encounter late season snow. This is no pit toilet at the trailhead, nor a trash receptacle so pack it in and pack it out. Dogs should remained leashed on this trail. It is a multi-use trail so expect people by foot and horseback.
3| Holland Falls, Holland Lake Montana
~2 hours from Kalispell Montana
Holland Falls is a great day hike with great views. There is also a campground right at the lake if you want to stay nearby for a night. A little bit of a jaunt from the Valley, but well worth it if you want some different views. This hike is a 3.3 mile round trip hike, with about 485 ft elevation change. There are rolling hills as you walk around the lake, and then you make a climb to get to the waterfalls, and then have a beautiful view of Holland Lake. There are bathrooms at the trail head. Dogs should remain on leash, and as always, pack it in and pack it out. If its a hot day, I highly recommend taking a dip in the lake, or putting your feet in! I promise you, I enjoy nothing more that dips in Montana lakes during the summers.
4| Swift Creek Trail, Whitefish Montana
~40 minutes from Kalispell Montana
Swift Creek Loop/Trail to Smith Lake is a great choice for a hike with your pups if you're staying in Whitefish. This trail feels like you're in the deep woods, without being too far from town. I love how secluded it feels, with views of the river and a lake if you choose to hike to Smith Lake. The hike to the lake is 4.0 miles round trip and 534 ft elevation change. I recommend carrying bear spray on this hike, and its a multi-use trail so expect to see bikers and horse back riders and learn trail etiquette for whom to yield to. There is not a bathroom at the trailhead, and also pack it in pack it out applies for this trail. With all the tree cover I recommend hiking this trail during the daytime, avoiding dawn and dusk as it can get quite dark in the trees.
5| Lone Pine State Park, Kalispell Montana
~5 minutes from Kalispell Montana
I have been on every trail in Lone Pine State Park and its an excellent place for day hiking! The main hike brings you to an overlook with views of the entire Flathead Valley, you can see Whitefish Mountain Resort and into Glacier National Park. If you have the opportunity, I recommend seeing a sunset while you're at the overlook. The main trail, Lone Pine Trail is a 2.9 mile round trip hike with 639 ft elevation change. There are usually doggy bags at the trail head and I believe there is a garbage receptacle at the top of the hike. Dogs should remain on leash on this hike. It is also a mult-use trail so expect to see bikers and possible horse back riding.
Leave No Trace
I am a firm believer in Leave No Trace, meaning pack it in and pack it out.... including your dog mess. It's extremely rude to bring your dog and not pick up after them. I, personally, hate dodging dog poop piles on trails when I am out hiking so I pick up after them every time. If you pack snacks for your day trip, pack it all out and throw it away in an acceptable location. Stay on trail when hiking, veering off trail ruins the natural habitat and erodes the natural trail. Remember to leave the place as you found it, no collecting rocks or flowers to bring back home. Let the next person enjoy the beauty after you. Montana is a special place, and if everyone does their part to leave no trace, it will stay that way.
Aside from the hikes I listed above, there are many many more that are dog friendly in the area. I highly recommend checking out the All Trails website/app on your phone and searching for dog friendly hikes. Expect to make a drive, not all hikes are right in town. I know Glacier National Park is gorgeous and the exact reason you traveled across the country, but Montana has so much more to offer for beauty. One of my favorite resources for finding day hikes near me, is the book Day Hikes Around the Flathead by Stormy Good Monod. The book is so detailed and offers a range of difficulty levels. Of course, if you're a client of mine and are traveling in to the area and have questions about the area, feel free to reach out to me and I can help you with your questions on planning.
Plan a Session with your Dog?
I, of course, want to meet your dogs while you're visiting the area, so why not plan a session with pooch and capture your vacation memories. I know lots of locations that allow dogs near the park. You can fill out my Contact Form to get in touch, this is the easiest way to plan/book your session. Check out this sweet Whitefish Couples Session that included their pup, Dexter! Or check out this amazing Engagement session in Eureka that included their pup, Duke!