See http://www.nps.gov/glac/ for
Glacier's official site.
Note that all the trails are well defined and there are distance to go markers at the start and at each trail junction (some with both miles and kilometers, some with just one or the other).
Note that the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed in the winter (generally open mid-May to mid-September) and vehicles longer than 21 feet and/or wider than 8 feet are prohibited on a large section of the road. There is also likely to be one or two sections of the road under road construction with a stop light (only one-lane available for traffic) and up to a 15 minute delay for each light.
The west side of the park receives more visitors, but (in my opinion) the east is the prettier area and has more trails; so if you can, try to stay on the east side of the park [and FYI, Kalispell is a long drive from the east side of the park]. I stayed in Rising Sun the whole time. The in-park hotels and campsites do fill up during the summer, so make your reservations as far in advances as you can.
Also note that Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada) is about an hour drive north of St. Mary's and has some pretty hikes as well (you will need your passport to cross the boarder).
Montana Pictures (48 pictures)
Snyder Lake (Lake McDonald) Directions: On the west side of the park, Going-to-the-Sun Road to the signed Lake McDonald Lodge turn (there are other turns in to the Lake McDonald area, but you want the signed one for the lodge). Park near the top of the parking lot, near the Going-to-the-Sun road. The trail starts across the Going-to-the-Sun road. No facilities near trailhead (but can walk parking lot down to lodge). $20 per week per car or National Parks Pass Trails: The wide trail goes past the horse corral and starts heading up. And it's up, up, up for the next 2 miles through the trees. It's not that pretty (only a couple of spots where you get views of Lake McDonald) and you have the extra fun of avoiding horse droppings - the trail is used daily to supply Sperry Chalet. The trail heads a slight down past the signed Mt. Brown junction and the Snyder Lake junction is just ahead on the left, 1.8 miles from the road. The trail narrows to one-person width (and loses the horse odors) and heads a milder up from the junction. As the trail gets further away from the junction, there are several times that the undergrowth overhangs the trail and will brush against your legs (and closer to the lake, the undergrowth is pretty tall). There is one long level spot along the way and it is a harder up near the lake (if you get tired - take a break as the lake is further ahead than you'll think). The trail stays near, but above, Snyder Creek the entire way. The shallow lake is tree surrounded with smaller peaks high above. It's hard to find a nice resting spot. If you look at a map, you'll see that there is another lake above this one. Unfortunately, when you reach the lake, you'll see that there is no way to get to the 2nd lake as there is a rock cliff between the two (and you don't even get to see a waterfall between the two). It took me 2:10 to reach the lake. I didn't stay very long as I was disappointed in it not being that pretty of a lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.4 miles, 2147 feet one-way Area: Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 31, 2009 Recommendation: Nope. Many better hikes and prettier destinations in Glacier. This is my second least favorite hike that I've done in Glacier (though no where near as blah as Pioa Lake).
Avalanche Lake (Lake McDonald) Directions: Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Avalanche Lake campground turn off. Turn into the campground area and there is a parking area a short ways ahead. There are bathrooms a short ways ahead on the Trail of the Cedars, just before the Avalanche Lake branch. Smelly outhouses just before the lake. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: The hike to Avalanche Lake starts on the paved Trail of the Cedars loop (.4 mile loop). At the top of the loop is the junction for the Avalanche Lake trail (there is a small sign). The Avalanche Lake trail is a wide (2 to 3 person width), packed dirt (with some gravel spots) trail that goes for 2 miles up to the lake, often along a creek that comes down from the lake. It is probably also one of the two most heavily used trails in the park - don't expect solitude. The trail starts with a climb for a short ways and then has small ups and downs for about a mile. When you reach a good climb followed by a long descent, that is the end of the ups and downs and the rest is up until near the lake. It's not a steep climb, but it seems to go on forever. Once you reach the lake, enjoy the views. Walk some to the right of the lake to find a spot to relax and enjoy the scenery with fewer people (most stay near the tail of the lake). The good sized pretty mountain lake is in a large granite bowl with a couple of waterfalls coming down the mountains. Trail Length + Elevation: 2 miles, +500 feet one-way Area: Forest, mountain lake, waterfalls, mountains Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, August 10, 2004; Saturday, July 19, 2008 Recommendation: It is a very pretty lake, despite all the people. But as pretty as it is, it's pretty far down on my "to do" list for the park, as seen by the fact that I didn't re-visit the lake for 4 years.
Hidden Lake (Logan Pass) Directions: Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Logan Pass parking lot. Flush toilets at the visitor center. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: From the Logans Pass parking lot, the trail heads up above the visitor center. It is paved for a very short ways and then a wide boardwalk for a very long ways, with steps along the way (and a couple of short rocky areas). Note that the trail is open (no tree cover) until near the lake. Clements Mountain is the pyramind peak straight ahead and Reynolds Mountain is the mountain to the left. You start heading up immediately and continue up until you reach the small pond. That's the end of the up and the overlook is a short ways ahead. Along the way, you may see a herd of bighorn sheep in the fields (and they pay no mind to the people). As you get closer to the rocky slopes, keep an eye out for mountain goats. There are often mountain goats and kids in the overlook area. The boardwalk ends around the small falls and it is a dirt, rocky trail the rest of the way (except for the observation area). Often there are wonderful reflection views on the small pond (and a good place to pause or stop and catch your breath). It is a mild trail and not too much farther from the pond to the boardwalk overlook observation area. It's 1.5 miles from the start to the observation area. From the observation area, you get a wonderful view down on the very large L-shaped Hidden Lake. Bearhat Mountain is the peak straight ahead across the lake. You can see Sperry Glacier to the left upper end of the lake and high above. If you aren't going down to the lake, continue a little bit past the overlook area for better views and fewer people. The trail narrows and is dirt past the observation area and the crowds stay behind as it heads down, with a couple of switchbacks, for 1.5 miles to the lake. Keep in mind that it is a one-way trail, so you have to go back up what you are coming down. The trail ends at the tail of the lake. To the left, you can wander a ways. To the right, you can wander a ways to near the top of Hidden Lake Falls (no view of the falls, though). There looks to be a trail on the other side of the creek (wet water crossing) where the lake ends, but there is no defined trail that goes around the lake. Find a nice spot to relax and maybe eat breakfast (as I did) or lunch. It is a workout from the lake back to the observation area. From Logans Pass to the observation area is probably one of the two most used trails in the park. If you go around sunrise, you can avoid the crowds. I had the trail almost to myself with a hike that started around 7 am, but there were a ton of people when I later went back and did a late afternoon hike. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 6 miles, 960 feet 1.5 miles, +460 feet to observation area (one-way) 1.5 miles, about -500 feet from observation area to lake (one-way) Area: Mountains, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, large mountain lake, wonderful views Pictures When I did the hike: Thursday, 8/5/04 (lake); Wednesday, 8/11/04 (overlook); Wednesday, 7/27/05 (overlook); Monday, 7/11/06 (overlook); Saturday, 8/25/07 (overlook); 7/11+7/12/08 (overlook); 7/30+7/31/09 (overlook); Friday, 8/19/11 (morning and afternoon) (overlook) Recommendation: A must, at least to the observation area (the lake is pretty too, but some may rather not put out the effort) - and go a little bit past the observation area (before the down) for more views. There is a reason it is so popular. The views for each step are wonderful and you'll likely see some wild life.
Gunsight Lake (Logan Pass) Directions: Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Gunsight Lake road-side parking area (near Jackson Glacier Overlook area and on the west side of Logan Pass) - the trailhead is at the east end of the parking area. This is also a shuttle stop. No facilities at the parking area - there is a chemical toilet a short ways west on the road. Outhouse in campground area (to the right of the food prepartion area). $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: [Note: for some strange reason, all the trail signs along this hike list just kilometers - no miles.] This one-person width dirt trail starts with a mile descent into the valley [which is annoying on the return leg]. Near the bottom, hook a right to river-side for a pretty spot where the water rushes through red rock. Just ahead on the trail is a junction, take a right and just ahead is a bridge over the river. The trail is mild for a good ways in being fairly level with some ups and downs along the way, but no major climbs. The trail is in the trees most of the way. Unfortunately, most of the trees in the area are now dead and it is not as pretty as it once was. After about 4 miles, you will reach the junction for Florence Falls - skip them. It's about half a mile and 150 feet gained from the junction to the falls, then back. The falls trail is well overgrown - sometimes I couldn't see the ground through the brush. After giving up on my attempt to go to the falls in 2004 (the trail was just too overgrown), I finally went to the falls in 2011. It is pretty as it is a wide, spread falls, but not stunning. Only try for a falls visit on the return from the lake where you'll know if you want to make the extra effort for the falls. Back on the Gunsight Lake trail, a short ways past the junction the trail goes over a bridge (and it is a nice resting spot). When you reach an open grassy area, the easy part is over and the trail starts its climb - over the next 30 minutes or so of heading up. Get out your camera and start taking pictures of the top of the valley and Jackson and Blackfoot glaciers as the views are just wonderful. The trail rounds the mountain as it heads up. The lake is in a bowl with the mountain the trail goes along as one of its sides (so, no, you are not heading towards the snowy mountain peaks you see across the way). Once you finally finish the climb, you still have a bit to go. The trail levels out and there (used to be) an open area, then a tree area, and then another open area before finally reaching the campground area (and getting your first glimpse of the lake). In 2011 I had a big surprise of the trail deadending at an ice-tree wall - they had a big avalanche go through the area (a very, very snowy year) at some point. I was able to make my way over the ice and branches (as others also had) and eventually reach the lake. I'm sure that the park service will clear a trail at some point in 2012 (they had so many problems in 2011 that Gunsight was not a priority) and the way will be easier. But the avalanche did have a bonus as you can actually spot the lake a little earlier (the campground was not affected by the avalanche). One access point to the lake (it is surrounded by trees on this side of the lake) is following the trail as it curves left and then take a short right where there is a big rock to a short stretch of open shore. It is a beautiful, peaceful nice sized lake in a mountain bowl with a couple of waterfalls and a small glacier above, and the right side mountain wall being red and white ribboned. Ahhh. If you have any extra energy, head up towards Gunsight Pass (crossing the swing bridge over the lake outlet and then taking a right), it's just simply magnificent. You don't have to go all the way to the pass (though that too is nice). Every time I've planned to try the Jackson Glacier Meadows option (taking a left past the bridge, 2 miles), I reach the lake and decide that the pass is just too pretty to skip. For my 2007 trip, on the return I elected to hike 3 miles of Sun Point Trail instead of the usual 1 mile last up - the new park shuttle gave me this option. It was a blah hike that only once went next to the river and the rest was through the trees. It doesn't go next to St Mary's Falls (.6 miles one-way). It does go next to the uneventful Baring Falls and there were some nice lake views near the end (but you can see those by simply visiting Sun Point). Recommendation: simply hike the 1 mile back out and skip Sun Point Trail. Trail Length + Elevation: 6.2 miles, +500 feet to lake (one-way), add about 1.2 miles and 150 feet (gained then lossed) if you take the side trip to Florence Falls 3 miles, +1600 feet from Gunsight Lake to Gunsight Pass Area: Mountains, mountain lake, glacier views, waterfalls Picture When I did the hike: Wednesday, 8/11/04; Sunday+Monday, 7/24+7/25/05 (Sperry Chalet); Tuesday, 9/12/06 (lake and pass); Sunday, 8/26/07 (lake and half way up pass); Saturday, 7/12/08 (lake and half way up pass); Saturday, 7/25/09; Saturday, 8/1/09 (Gunsight-Sperry half loop); Thursday, 8/18/11 (lake and falls) Recommendation: My favorite place in the park. It's a beautiful lake with great views of glaciers along the hike. As a bonus, it is not heavily used due to the distance (even though it is a milder hike than some of the shorter distance trails that reach a mountain lake). I also recommend heading up to the pass (or part way if you don't have energy/time/... to go the extra 3 miles, 1600 feet) for magnificent views. There is also a 2 mile trail from the lake to a view point for Jackson Glacier (haven't done it - planned on it in my 2008 visit, but going up the pass was just to enticing; made an extra trip to Gunsight in 2009 so I could do the meadow, but got overheated and stopped at the lake). Note: the way through the trees is not as pretty as it once was as a lot of them were killed in 2007 from too much water.
Gunsight Lake to Sperry Chalet (Logan Pass) Directions: Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Gunsight Lake road-side parking area (near Jackson Glacier Overlook area and on the west side of Logan Pass) - the trailhead is at the east end of the parking area. For Gunsight-Sperry half loop: On the west side of the park, take the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the signed Lake McDonald Lodge turn (there are other turns in to the Lake McDonald area, but you want the signed one for the lodge). Park near the top of the parking lot, near the Going-to-the-Sun road. The trail from Sperry comes out across the Going-to-the-Sun road. Walk down the parking lot and take the road to the right to the shuttle pickup spot, across from the store. Take the free park shuttle to Logans Pass. Catch the east side shuttle at Logans Pass and get off at the Jackson Glacier Overlook/Gunsight Pass stop (2nd stop). Note that the west side shuttles fill and you may have to wait for a bus or two (they only seat 12 people) [and, yes, it's very annoying when you are trying to do this as a long day hike] (if you have 2 cars, skip the shuttle and park one at Lake McDonald and take the other to Gunsight Lake trailhead). No facilities at the Gunsight Lake trailhead parking area - there is a chemical toilet a short ways east on the road. Outhouses in the campgrounds at the lakes. Vault toilets at chalet. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: The outing that brought me back to Glacier. See the above writeup for the hike to Gunsight Lake. After resting at the lake, the trail continues from near the shore and crosses the creek with a suspension bridge and then heads right and starts going up. And up, and up, and up. You'll want to take a number of rests along the way to catch your breath and enjoy the spectacular views. I can't even begin to describe how amazing the views are heading up to the pass - worth doing even if you are doing just a there-and-back (in other words, don't simply stop at Gunsight Lake). At the pass is an old shelter cabin (without a roof). Take a longer rest at the pass and enjoy the many views. Next comes the down, down, down to Lake Ellen Wilson. After the last switchback down, there is a wet water crossing in front of a small waterfall. The trail does stay well above Lake Ellen Wilson the entire way around the lake - you have to take a .5 mile sidetrip down to the campground if you want to get lakeside. The good news is all the pretty views of and around Lake Ellen Wilson. The bad news is that there is yet another climb ahead. The trail goes up from Lake Ellen Wilson, rounds the bend and continues up and eventually reaches Lincoln Pass. By this time, you are likely very, very tired. The rest is down hill, but it is still over a mile to Sperry Chalet. The chalet is very nice ($155 in 2005) with beds and full meals [but no showers]. There is food, running water, and toilets at the chalet (even for those who don't stay). From the chalet, there is a trail that heads 3.5 miles and over 1600 feet gained to Sperry Glacier (haven't done). For the return trip, you can either go back the way you came (which I did as I was so enamored with Gunsight Pass and Gunsight Lake) or take the 6.4 miles, 3432 drop to Lake McDonald. [Most Sperry Chalet guests come up from Lake McDonald]. In 2009 I took the shuttle to the Gunsight trailhead and did the Gunsight-Sperry half loop long day hike. It is a very long hike that you have to be in very good hiking shape to consider. But going by Gunsight Lake, Gunsight Pass, and Lake Ellen Wilson is absolutely worth the exhaustion. All that is described above. From Sperry Chalet, the trail widens (horse trail) and heads to the left from the chalet. Ahead is the signed junction for the Sperry Glacier trail - continue straight. The trail rounds the mountainside and starts heading down the valley - it starts out of the trees and there some views of Sperry Chalet above and Lake McDonald below (nothing really pretty). Further on are some switchbacks down and then the trail enters the trees. There is no up to the trail until just past the bridge over Snyder Creek, and then it's only a short up past the two trail junctions (Snyder Lake and Mt. Brown). And the last 2 miles are pure down, in the trees with very few views of Lake McDonald. I started the hike at 9:30 am and finally reached the road (and my car) at 8:30 pm [long stops at Gunsight Lake and Pass, shorter above Lake Ellen Wilson (not enought time or energy for sidetrip lakeside) and at the chalet; quick down last 6 miles). Trail Length + Elevation: Gunsight-Sperry Chalet total: 13.6 miles, 3100 feet gained 6.2 miles, +500 feet to Gunsight Lake 3 miles, +1600 feet from Gunsight Lake to Gunsight Pass 1.7 miles, -900 feet from Gunsight Pass to Lake Ellen Wilson 1.7 miles, +1000 feet from Lake Ellen Wilson to Lincoln Pass 1 mile, -450 feet down from Lincoln Pass to Sperry Chalet 6.4 miles, -3432 feet Sperry to road Gunsight-Sperry half loop total: 20 miles Area: Mountains, mountain lake, glacier views, waterfalls When I did the hike: Sunday+Monday, July 24+25, 2005 (stayed at Chalet); Saturday, August 1, 2009 (half-loop day hike) Recommendation: Simply wonderful. It is a really long hike, but well worth all the effort. Reservations are needed for Sperry Chalet. See http://www.sperrychalet.com/ for reservation information. For the half loop, a multi-day hike is really the better way to do this. But if it's the only way you can do this hike, then it's well worth the effort - Gunsight Lake and Gunsight Pass are my favorites and Lake Ellen Wilson is absolutely beautiful.
Piegan Pass (Going-to-Sun Road to Many Glacier) Directions: Either use 2 cars and drive one to Siyeh Bend on Going-to-the-Sun road or catch the morning hikers shuttle (fee) from the Swiftcurrent Motel or Many Glacier Lodge to St Marys Visitor Center and then take the free park shuttle along Going-to-the-Sun road to the Siyeh Bend stop along the road. The Siyeh Bend stop is on the east side of Logans Pass. Or for a there-and-back to Piegan Pass, take the free Going-to-the-Sun shuttle to the Siyeh Bend stop (no parking). No facilities. $20 per week per car or National Parks Pass Trails: With all the snow in the area when I went (abnormal amount of snow, including 3 feet in June), I had tossed this hike aside, but after 3 different rangers said it was doable, it was back on the list [just goes to show that "doable" doesn't mean it should be done]. After taking the shuttles to Siyeh Bend, I started my full day hike. The first 3 miles are the same as the hike to Siyeh Pass. The trail heads along a stream for a short bit and then turns right into the trees - and it's in the trees for the next 3 miles, mostly at a mild up (no hard climbs). At the Siyeh Pass junction, continue straight and the trail is soon above the tree line. From there it is just a mile through the talus slope to the pass - and it's a surprisingly mild up with no switchbacks. Along the way there are great views to the south of the valley across the road and Jackson Glacier in the far distance. No views to the south at the pass itself, but the views to the north are grand. Find a comfty rock (and hopefully it is not as windy as it was when I was there) and enjoy the views and you'll likely see marmots running around (keep an eye on your stuff as they'll snatch anything unguarded). The view of the east side of the Garden Wall and the valley ahead is wonderful, even though there are no mountain lakes. The way also looked snow free, so I headed on down. The trail heads sharply down with lots of switchbacks and stays above the tree line for about 2 miles (and it was really windy for my hike). Along the way was a small pretty falls where I took a rest. There are a couple of creek crossings (rock hopping) along the way. The trail heads into the trees and this is where I had big troubles as there were 4 large snow patches along the way and I was way past the no-turning-around point. I lost the trail with the first snow patch (guessing it was a switchback area) and started heading down through the trees - I could see the creek below and knew the trail would eventual go along that creek. I was quite thrilled when I came across the trail again. Along the way there are some impressive views from above and to the side of the large Morning Eagle Falls. I came to a 2nd large patch of snow and the way was straight through it - really nasty as I had to make my own bootprints and it was at a slope, my hands were shaking for 15 minutes after I thankfully made it safely through. The 3rd patch covered what looked to be a large switchback open area, but it had melted some and I was able to make my way down on the dirt beside it. The 4th was right before the waterfall and the trail was mild there. So lots of fun getting to the waterfall - for those who go when there isn't snow, it's a large, long down as the trail makes its way through the trees to the base of the waterfall. The base of the waterfall is a beautiful spot and I rested there for a while. From there the trail heads a mild down alongside the creek. I had another nasty surprise as I reached the first creek crossing - there was snow lining the banks. I found a spot where the snow was light and made the icy cold wet water crossing (the summer bridges weren't up). After getting feeling back in my feet, I continued on and reached the 2nd crossing (again no bridge up yet). Just past the 2nd crossing is a junction - to the right heads directly to Many Glacier Lodge in 4.1 miles, to the left is Grinnell Lake in 1.2 miles. Grinnell Lake is always worth a visit, so I headed left. The mild, narrow trail heads through the trees and meadows. I was happy to find that the swing bridge for the 3rd creek crossing was up. The trail heads more of a down, but is still mild. As the trail heads a harder down, you get the first glimpse of the lake. There are switchbacks on the way down. At the junction, take a left and you are at the lake with the stunning views of the Grinnell Valley. From the lake it is 3.7 mild miles to Many Glacier Lodge or the Grinnell Glacier trailhead. If you are hiking the last 3 miles (not cutting off those miles with the water shuttle (fee)), I recommend taking the left/west trail along Lake Josephine as the right/east trail is an ugly horse trail with no views. Note: you can do a milder hike by going to Piegan Pass from Going-to-the-Sun road and back. [Going to Piegan Pass from Many Glacier Lodge is a really hard hike.] You can do an even milder hike from Many Glacier Lodge to Morning Eagle Falls (there is one good up just past Grinnell Lake and the rest is mild to the falls) - good for a family outing. You can cut 3 miles off the hike by using the water shuttles (fee) for Lake Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 12.8 miles, 1750 ft up, 2640 ft down road to Many Glacier 4.5 miles, 1750 ft Going-to-the-Sun road to Piegan Pass 8.3 miles, 2640 ft Many Glacier Lodge to Piegan Pass about 5 miles Many Glacier Lodge to Morning Eagle Falls. Area: Rocky Mountains, beautiful valley views, impressive wafterfall. Picture When I did the hike: Monday, July 14, 2008; Friday, August 19, 2011 Recommendation: If there is no/little snow and the summer bridges are up, a worthy and beautiful hike. In 2011, I did a there-and-back to Piegan Pass and decided that the there-and-back hike is one that I'll recommend to others (the not as serious hikers). It's not a hard hike as there are no huff-and-puff climbs and the views at Piegan Pass are wonderful.
Siyeh Pass (Logan Pass) Directions: In Glacier, Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Piegan Pass/Siyeh Bend stop. No facilities. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: The trail starts next to a creek for a very short bit and then heads through the trees at a mild up for 2.7 miles to the Piegan Pass junction - take a right at the junction. Once you cross the bridge shortly before the junction, the trail is surprisingly mild for a ways. Then comes the fun part as the trail starts heading up, up, up to the pass. The pass is not the ridge straight ahead that you think it is, but a lot higher up. And the hike up to the pass and down on the other side is open - almost no trees until the last couple of miles. For my hike, it was really, really, really windy (don't recommend doing the hike on such a windy day). On the way up to the pass, there are great views back of Pollock Mountain as well as a small snow melt lake at the foot of Mt. Siyeh as the trail switchbacks up, up, up. Once getting above the false pass, you get great views down an unnamed valley (not labeled on any of my maps), with some small lakes, all the way out to the plains. On the other side of the real pass, the trail switchbacks down (annoyingly so as some of the switchbacks are too gentle) and you get grand views of the Sunrift valley including Matahpi Mountain and its glaciers and several tall waterfalls coming off them. Skip the sidetrip to the right to a glacier view point - the "trail" soon ends and you have to make your way through the rocks and boulders to even get somewhat close to the glacier, and even then the view from the pass trail is better. Once you pass through the tree area (to the left, down, and ahead), the trail continues through a long meadow at only a slight down for a good ways before finally starting to head down again - the down starts with a long switchback and then several shorter ones. The trail reaches the creek (well before the many falls at the top of the valley - no trail to those large falls). It is a pretty area with small falls going through the red rock. Make your way creek-side and find a nice resting spot to feet-soak and relax - there is still a ways to go. The trail follows along side (above) the creek for a little while. There is an annoying up and then the trail heads into the trees and it is blah the rest of the way. The trail ends at Sunrift Gorge on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Take the free park shuttle back to your starting point. Trail Length + Elevation: 10.6 miles, 1900 feet Area: Mountains, mountain pass, valley views Pictures When I did the hike: Saturday, August 25, 2007 Recommendation: It is a longer hike, but a very pretty hike. If you are in Glacier for a long visit, sure (but I'd put at least 5 other trails in the park higher on my to-do list).
St Mary Falls and Virginia Falls (Rising Sun) Directions: Going-to-the-Sun Road to the St Mary Falls road-side parking area (on the east side of Logan Pass). No facilities at the parking area or on the trail. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: Most of the 200 feet down comes early for the short hike to St Mary Falls. It is a wide dirt trail - about 1 1/2 to 2 person width. The falls are not that impressive - not very tall, but a large amount of water coming down. After the bridge over the river, the trail narrows some and starts heading up to Virginia Falls. There are a couple of small falls and cascades in the creek along the trail, but you will know when you reach Virginia Falls. At the trail junction, continue heading up about .2 miles to the base of this wonderful large dropping falls - it is worth the effort. Back at the trail junction, you can take a short side trip over the bridge for another view of the falls from a little further away. Virginia Falls can be seen from the Going-to-the-Sun road in the distance across the lake (if you are looking for them). Trail Length + Elevation: .8 miles, -200 feet to St Mary Falls (one-way) .7 miles, +200 feet from St Mary Falls to Virginia Falls (one-way) Area: Woods to falls Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, August 7, 2004 Recommendation: If you have time to spare, Virginia Falls is very nice.
Otokomi Lake (Rising Sun) Directions: Going-to-the-Sun Road to Rising Sun. The signed trailhead is to the left of the motel/store building. Restrooms at the store, outhouse at the campground for the lake. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: The trail starts with an up and continues up most of the way (there are 2 good sized downs along the way) heading up the valley through the trees. Midway through the hike, the trail goes near the creek and you can find some nice resting spots there. At the top of the valley is a side valley to the left and the lake is in a bowl at the end of that short valley. The trail rounds the top of the valley and soon is out of the trees as it goes through a long talus slope (no shade). The trail then drops down to the campground and it's a short ways ahead to the lake alongside the creek. There are very few resting spots along the lake from the trail, but you can cross the creek (on branches or wet water) and have better views and resting spots on the left side of the lake. For my second visit to the lake, I put on my watershoes and sat on one of the large logs clogging the outlet stream and had a nice feet soaking spot with a great view. Trail Length + Elevation: 5 miles, 1900 feet (one-way) Area: mountains, mountain lake When I did the hike: Saturday, July 23, 2005; Thursday, July 30, 2009 Recommendation: It is a pretty lake, but there are other lakes I'd put higher on my list (if you have plenty of time, do it; if you are there only for a short bit, do others).
Highline Trail and Swiftcurrent Trail or The Loop (Logan Pass to Many Glacier) Directions: For the (fee) shuttle for the Highline-Swiftcurrnt Pass hike: go to the Many Glacier area and take the road to the end and park in the lot near the Swiftcurrent Motel. The 7:30 am hiker's shuttle stop is in front of the motel where the sign is [the next pickup isn't until 12:45 pm]. [Note that the park is in Mountain Time Zone, says the duffus.] For the Highline-Loop hike: go to Logan Pass (free shuttle or park, the parking lot is normally full by noon). Note: If you're driving your car for one start and doing a half loop of Logan Pass-Chalet-The Loop with a shuttle return, park at Logan Pass and catch the (free) shuttle from The Loop back to Logan Pass. The small west side shuttles only seat 12 and will likely be full by the time they reach The Loop in the morning, but there will likely be seats available heading to Logan Pass from The Loop in the afternoon (2011 note: they've gotten better on dealing with the shuttle problems as when I was waiting (with others) for a shuttle at the Loop, a full shuttle came by and they radioed down and had an empty shuttle come directly to the Loop to pick us up). Bathrooms at the visitor center at Logan Pass, chemical toilets at the Granite Park Chalet. $8 for hiker shuttle from Swiftcurrent to St Mary's and then use the free Going-to-the-Sun park shuttle to Logans Pass $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: I did a large loop, but portions can also be done in shorter or different hikes. The trail starts across the road from the Logan Pass visitor center (next to the Continetal Divide sign) and heads along the mountain. It is mostly an open hike (no shade) until passing the first of the lakes. The trail is about 1 1/2 person width, so it is not too harrowing even though you have the mountain wall to your right and the steep mountain slope to your left [apparently many years ago it was narrower with a rope for people to grab onto while they walked]. The "cliff" portion doesn't last too long (and there is a similar section later on in the hike). It is very pretty and the views all around are wonderful. The trail goes above the Going-to-the-Sun road. If you are doing a there-and-back hike, a good turning around spot is right before the long, one switchback climb up a grassy slope (the rocky area before the switchback is also a nice resting spot, look for marmots) - but there are no views down to Lake McDonald until well after the switchback. After that climb, you will start to get views of the other side of the valley (but still have a ways to go to Granite Park Chalet). Heck, when you finally see the chalet in the distance, you still have a ways to go (you will eventually start seeing it - it is on a open mound and not in a side canyon). You will also start having views all the way down to Lake McDonald. .8 miles before the chalet is a junction with a hard right for the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. In 2007 I finally took the right (after going, 'Oh, it's only .6 miles!). But, oh, what a killer .6 miles it is. It is a steep, steep huff-and-puffer up the talus slope that had me stopping (not just pausing) every few steps to catch my breath. Oh, but what a reward! It is an absolutely stunning view of the Grinnell Glacier area (actually 2 glaciers now - an upper and lower) from above. The view includes the glaciers, various mountains, the large glacier lake, and some small glacial lakes on the upper shelf. When you reach the view point, go up to the left as far as you feel comfortable and sit and enjoy the magnificent view. If your hike takes you to the chalet area, you absolutely must exert the extra effort for this sidetrip. Back on the Highline Trail, after a long 7.6 miles (it's not as level as you'd think with the listing of just 200 feet gained, due to a number of smaller ups and downs), you finally reach the chalet (need reservations to stay the night). There are vault toilets (but no running water) and a couple of picnic tables outside and places to sit in the chalet (sells some candy and water, not much). Take a deserved long break. It took me a little over 3 1/2 hours (not rushing) to go from Logans Pass to Granite Park Chalet (first visit, not including sidetrip to Grinnell Glacier Overlook). For the hike out, you have the option of going over Swiftcurrent Pass to the Many Glacier area or down The Loop to the Going-to-the-Sun road. Swiftcurrent Pass: From the Chalet, it is .9 miles and 500 feet up to Swiftcurrent Pass. At the top there is a rock-created chair (collapsed in 2009) - it's not very scenic at the pass itself. Then the trail goes down, down, and down - about 2000 feet. After rounding one of the bends, you are presented with the head of the Swiftcurrent valley - a beautiful granite area with a number of glaciers above and extremely tall waterfalls. This will be your view as you switchback the rest of the way down. You can also see the lakes down below and all the way down to the Many Glacier area. Once you reach the bottom, the trail is mild the rest of the way with just a couple of small climbs and a gradual descent. I took a nice long rest at the first lake (Bullhead Lake). There is no trail access to the middle lakes. At near the top of the last lake is the Red Rock Falls (not impressive) and you have about 1 1/2 miles left. Including my breaks and not at a fast pace, it took me 8 hours to complete this hike [didn't do Grinnell Glacier Overlook sidetrip]. From the chalet, it is 3.5 miles and 2200 feet down to the Going-to-the-Sun Road (where you can catch the free park shuttle back to Logan Pass or one of the other shuttle stops). The trail loops down below the chalet (there is one good view back of the chalet) and it is not a steep down. It is a wider trail as horses use it to supply the chalet. Less than a mile from the chalet, the trail enters a burn area from 2003 and stays in it the rest of the way (not pretty). At the junction, take a left (as the sign says) and the trail heads at a slight grade up - but you are not too far from the road. There is a bridge right before reaching the road and you can take a short down creekside for a nice, well deserved feet soaking spot. There are chemical toilets next to where you pick up the shuttle. Note that the Highline Trail is sometimes referred to as the Garden Wall (which is the name of the ridge above the trail). Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 15.1 miles, +700 feet, -2300 feet (Highline-Swiftcurrent) Total: 11.1 miles, +200 feet, -2200 feet (Highline-The Loop) 7.6 miles, +200 feet from Logan's Pass to Granite Park Chalet .9 miles, +500 feet from Granite Park Chalet to Swiftcurrent Pass 6.6 miles, -2300 feet from Swiftcurrent Pass to the Swiftcurrent Motel parking lot 3.5 miles, -2200 feet from the Chalet to The Loop parking area Area: Mountains, mountains, mountains, waterfalls, lower mountain lakes (not in bowls) Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, 8/8/04 (Highline-Swiftcurrent); Wednesday, 7/27/05 (Highline to switchback); Friday, 8/24/07 (Grinnell Glacier Overlook and The Loop); Saturday, 7/19/08 (2 miles of Highline); Tuesday, 7/28/09 (Highline-Swiftcurrent); Wednesday, 8/17/11 (Highline-Loop with overlook sidetrip) Recommendation: Wonderful. If you don't have time for the full hike, at least do part of the Highline Trail - I always recommend for those looking for shorter outings to go to the bottom of the switchback and back (and then do the Hidden Lake Overlook). If you do go to the chalet area, you absolutely must make the sidetrip (tough up) for the Grinnell Glacier Overlook for one of the best views in the park. The hike down for The Loop (don't hike up it) is blah, but it is shorter and no shuttle fee for going by the chalet than Swiftcurrent Pass (a really pretty hike, but a really long day hike). If you do have the time and energy, the Highline-Swiftcurrent hike is one you'll always remember (but you have to have your travel plans set first - make sure you have a car or are staying in the Many Glacier area; it's too long of a hike to have to have a set finish time of trying to catch the shuttle).
Grinnell Glacier and Grinnell Lake (Many Glacier) Directions: To the Many Glacier area and either turn in the Many Glacier Motel parking area (do this if you are going to use the water shuttle) or turn left into the Grinnell Glacier parking lot shortly after the Many Glacier Motel turn off (this is the start point I always use) There are restrooms (flush toilets) to the right of the Grinnell Glacier lot and in the Motel. There is an outhouse about a mile before the glacier and one near Grinnell Lake. [I haven't done the water shuttle, so I don't know how much it costs or what the time schedules are.] $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: If you park in the Many Glacier Motel parking lot (and don't use the water shuttle), head down towards the hotel and then take the Swiftcurrent trail that starts to the left (as you face the lake) of the hotel near the shore. Stay on the level trail as it goes around the lake and then follow the signs for Grinnell Glacier. If you park at the Grinnell Glacier parking lot, head up the trail along the west side of Swiftcurrent Lake. The trails meet up just after the Swiftcurrent Lake boat launch. A little past the Lake Josephine boat launch there is a junction for Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier. Head up. It is a gradual grade up for the next several miles (then a hard up to end). After passing the junction for Jenny Launch, the trail rounds the bend and you start to get views down on Grinnell Lake and ahead for the large waterfall that feeds the lake and of the glacier itself. The trail ends at the base of the waterfall you see that is above the waterfall that feeds Grinnell Lake. The views are wonderful. As the trail goes above the lake, take a rest and enjoy the views (on one of the rocky areas is a standard rest spot for me). The trail takes a pair of switchbacks up [and if there is still heavy snow cover, the trail may be closed shortly after the 2nd switchback]. Pause and enjoy the cool (as in cool off - there is little shade along this hike) small waterfalls that go next to and over the trail (you'll likely get a little wet as the 2nd fall goes over the trail; the 1st fall is right next to the 2nd and one of my rest and enjoy the views spots on the hike) - you still have a ways to go. The dirt and slate one-person width trail continues along the mountainside and over a small mound to a group of trees in front of a small snow field (sometimes all melted). This is not the end (it used to be many, many years ago), but there are a number of benches and logs and 2 outhouses. Catch your breath because there is a big climb ahead. Huff and puff your way up and then enjoy the magnificent area. At the top is the end of the trail. There is a lake with icebergs in front of the glacier. The glacier is shrinking (I noticed the difference in just a year's time) and they expect it to be gone by 2026. Make your way down and spend some time in the lake area (don't just stop at the top of the mound). Hike down from the mound to the left and make your way over the rocks to the left to the outlet stream at the far end of the lake and rest and enjoy the views there (and also get away from the crowds). [Do _not_ walk on the glacier itself. It is dangerous and people have been killed falling into unseen crevices.] It took me about 2 1/2 hours to hike from the hotel to the glacier. To reach Grinnell Lake, back at the Jenny Launch junction, head down for 1/4 mile to the junction for Grinnell Lake and then head right for a level mile through the forest to the lake. There is a small beach at the end of the lake, but it can be buggy there. I hiked back along the east side of Lake Josephine, but would suggest sticking to the west side of the lake [as I did for my later visits]. The west side is in the open with little shade and the east side is in the forest with few views of the mountain scenery. The east side is also a horse trail, so you have other odors. If you use the water shuttle, it goes across Swiftcurrent Lake and then there is a short walk to Lake Josephine where you catch another shuttle that goes across Lake Josephine to Jenny Launch. From Jenny Launch, head right and a short bit later is a junction for Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier. It's a mile to the lake. For the glacier, head right and after crossing the bridge, the trail heads a steep up for 1/4 mile to intersect with the Grinnell Glacier trail and it is about 2.2 miles from the junction to the glacier. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: about 12 miles, +1600 (using water shuttle, about 7 miles for Grinnell Glacier and Grinnell Lake) 5.5 miles, +1600 feet to Grinnell Glacier 2.2 miles, -1400 feet from Grinnell Glacier to Jenny Launch junction .25 miles, -100 feet from junction to Grinnell Lake junction 1 mile, level from junction to Grinnell Lake about 3 miles, fairly level from lake back to parking lot Area: Mountains, mountain lakes, waterfalls, glaciers Pictures When I did the hike: Thursday, 8/5/04; Tuesday, 7/26/05; Sunday, 9/10/06; Wednesday, 8/22/07; Thursday, 7/17/08 [part of trail, rest snow covered]; Saturday, 7/25/09; Tuesday, 8/23/11 Recommendation: A must. Grinnell Glacier is my second favorite spot in Glacier. If you don't have the time, you can skip Grinnell Lake (but it is a pretty spot).
Cracker Lake (Many Glacier) Directions: To the Many Glacier area and turn in the Many Glacier Motel parking area. The trailhead is at the far end of the lot, just before the underpass. There is an outhouse near the lake. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: Good news, bad news: the destination is a beautiful shale colored lake, but the trail is a combo-trail - horses also use the trail. So it is a dusty, smelly hike. The trail starts with a walk around the head of Sherburne Lake. Then comes the climb with a few switchbacks. The trail levels off some as it goes along the creek, with some milder ups. Enjoy your first view of the long, oblong lake. Make sure you go to the top of the rock mound for great views, a wonderful resting/lunch spot, and you may see marmots playing. If you have the energy, head down the the top of the lake where there is a little beach and some old mining equipment. In the early 1900s, there was a copper mine in the area. You can go up to the small mine by heading back up from the lake shore to the dirt mound you see and then it is a very steep scramble up (as in sit-and-shuffle down) the talus slope to the mine entrance - not worth going to as it's nothing more than a small entrance. It took me 2:40 to reach the lake. In 2011, I had the thrill of watching a female moose finishing her swim across the lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 6.1 miles, 1400 feet (one-way) Area: Mountains, mountain lakes Pictures When I did the hike: Thursday, July 28, 2005; Wednesday, July 16, 2008; Monday, August 21, 2011 Recommendation: It's a beautiful stunning shale blue lake that is worth a visit, but there are some extra smells, especially in the first couple of miles, due to the horses. You can take a horseback trip to the lake (large fee) - make sure it is the outing to the lake (there is shorter ride along first portion of the trail) - they stay for about 2 hours at the lake.
Iceberg Lake, Ptarmigan Lake, and Ptarmigan Tunnel (Many Glacier) Directions: To the Many Glacier area and take the road to the end. In the parking lot, turn right just after the Swiftcurrent Motel into the cabins area and drive, bearing left at junctions, to the trailhead (not much space for cars, so may have to walk from the main parking area). Bathrooms and store at the hotel. Outhouse near Ptarmigan Falls, outhouse near Ice Lake, (none for Ptarmigan Lake). $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: The one-person width dirt trail starts with a climb and then is a more moderate trail with a slight grade up. The first 2.5 miles to Ptarmigan Falls are pretty uneventful - some nice valley views, but not much more. And the falls themselves are not impressive - that's changed some as there is now (2009) a nice view of them at a spot along the trail (before there was just glimpses of the falls through the trees) - still not all that impressive of falls, but pretty. If you need a rest, there is a nice rock outcrop at the top of the falls (a nice place to feet soak - I always stop there going and returning). A short ways after the falls is the junction for Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Lake [I did a Y-shaped hike to hit both in one hike, if almost 15 miles is too long for you to do in one hike, split them up into separate hikes (or skip Ptarmigan Tunnel)]. Continue heading straight from the junction towards Iceberg Lake - the grade up remains mild and there is no big climb to the lake besides the start of the trail. The precious lake is in the bowl at the end of the valley. After a little over 2 miles, you reach the pretty lake (hopefully) with chunks of ice in it (small icebergs) in a large granite bowl - the sides are massive mountains. Sit and enjoy for a while. Back at the Iceberg-Ptarmigan junction, take a left (heading from Iceberg Lake) and start your climb. A lot of the 1000 feet gained to the lake is gained early in the 1.6 mile hike. The grade does eventually become more reasonable and then it is more up again (but not as steep) as you get closer to the lake. Ptarmigan Lake is a small mountain lake and not all that impressive (nice, but not stunning) [it is not in a granite bowl]. Take a short sidetrip down to the lake and take a break and look where you are heading (and if you make it to the lake, you have to go to the tunnel). You can see the trail with 2 switchbacks heading up the orange talus slope at the far side of the lake. When you are ready to tackle the slope, head up. It is a little under a mile and up 600 feet from the lake to the tunnel - the hike isn't as hard as it looks. The about 100 foot long tunnel is man-made and wide and you don't need a flash light. The view from the other side is well worth it. You have a nice view down the other valley and down on the large Elizabeth Lake. To the left is a massive red slope of the mountainside (where a trail continues down to the lake). Continue past the tunnel a little ways for a pretty view of the valley and glaciers up to the left. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 14.8 miles, +2800 feet 2.5 miles, +700 feet to Ptarmigan Falls 2.2 miles, +500 feet from falls to Iceberg Lake 1.8 miles, +1000 feet from falls to Ptarmigan Lake .9 miles, +600 feet from Ptarmigan Lake to Ptarmigan Tunnel Area: Mountains, waterfall, mountain lakes Pictures When I did the hike: Friday, 8/6/04; Friday, 7/29/05 (to Iceberg only); Monday, 9/11/07 (Iceberg only); Thursday, 8/23/07; Sunday, 7/13/08 (Iceberg only); Sunday, 7/26/09 (both, saw 2 bears on trails); Saturday 8/20/11 Recommendation: Highly recommended, do at least Iceberg Lake. [If you aren't going to go to the tunnel, skip Ptarmigan Lake (and if you get to Ptarmigan Lake and are tired and thinking about skipping the tunnel, don't - take a long break and then head up).]
Pioa Lake (Many Glacier) Directions: On the way into the Many Glacier area, after entering the park, look for a parking area on the right/north side of the road, about a mile from the Many Glacier Lodge. Also the trailhead for Appekunny Falls. No facilities. $20 per week per car or National Parks Pass Trails: The narrow horse trail heads to the right from the parking area. It is mild with some up early through the thin trees and some meadows. The meadows can be kind of pretty if the summer flowers are in bloom. There is more of an up later with some switchbacks. After the creek crossing (log bridge), there is more up and then it is mild for a long ways through several meadows. And then it is a harder up to the trail junction - continue straight and up (the Sherburne Cut-off-trail is 1.2 miles to the road, supposedly a rough down/up and you don't get any of the meadows - its trailhead is right next to the park entrance station). From the junction it is 3 miles to Pioa Lake. The trail remains in the trees and continues to head a hard up. You finally reach the uneventful (tree surrounded, no long distance views) Swiftcurrent Ridge Lake. The trail makes a slight down next to the lake and then continues halfway around it, but there is really no lakeside access or resting spots. But, despite the lake's name, you are not at the ridge and still have some up to go, including switchbacks. After finally reaching the ridge, the trail goes along it (mild) a short bit and then starts the long down into the opposite valley (lots of fun going back). The trail heads down, down, down through the trees. There is a nice view of a waterfall across the valley, but that is the only view of the falls (the trail doesn't go near it). The down finally ends as you reach the valley floor, but you aren't at the lake yet and still have a ways to go. The trail continues along side the creek (you are going around the bend you see ahead) and then heads up the rock pile. After some more up, the trail takes a slight down and reaches the backcountry campground (outhouse in campground). Just ahead is the lake. And the reaction is, "That's it?" The lake is not that pretty and the distance views are not that great. I reached the lake after a little over 3 hours. Trail Length + Elevation: 6 miles, ?? ft one-way Area: Rocky Mountains, 2 blah mountain lakes. Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 Recommendation: Absolutely not, especially with all the other wonderful hikes in the park.
Medicine Grizzly Lake and Triple Divide Pass (Bank Cut) Directions: On the east side of the park, take Hwy 89 to the Cut Bank turn (signed turn), between St. Mary and Two Medicine (about 15 miles south of St. Mary). Head west along the well graded (but narrow) dirt road for 5 miles - the last mile (past the ranger house) is really narrow and you'll hope that no one comes the other way. There is a pull-in parking area on the right, just before the campground, and the trailhead is in the middle of the parking area. Vault toilets in road campground and outhouse in the backcountry campground. $20 per week per car or National Parks Pass Trails: Note that Triple Divide Peak at the top right of the valley is a rare point where the water flows in 3 different directions - to the Pacific to the west, to the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast, and to the Hudson Bay to the northeast. With a rainy morning, I got a late start (which meant my plan of doing both the lake and pass got tossed). The one-person width dirt trail is mild as it makes its way up the valley with some short ups and downs. It is mostly in the trees and sometimes near and above the river. A little bit past the wide, rocky dry creek bed that the trail goes through (just go straight - the way to the right hooks back up with the trail ahead), is an up a hillside to the ridge. The trail then annoyingly heads down for a ways and then is mild to a creek crossing (logs) and a trail junction is just ahead. Continue straight and there is a little bit of an up to the backcountry campground. The trail then resumes its mildness to the pass junction - again go straight - and is mild the rest of the way to the lake, including going through a long, open meadow with great distance views of the top of the valley. The beautiful good-sized lake sits in a bowl with a number of granite peaks above and several waterfalls feeding the lake. Once you reach the lake, you are not done - you need to walk halfway around the lake (a little less than 1/2 mile further) to fully enjoy all the views - the trail narrows for the walk around the lake and the undergrowth will brush against your legs. You can only see the Triple Divide Pass and the pretty waterfall that comes down from that area from near the top of the lake. There are a couple of small shores near the top of the lake where you can rest and feet soak (not really any resting spots near the bottom of the lake). Though 6 miles long, it is a surprisingly mild hike to beautiful area. It took me 2:45 to reach the lake. Saw a moose near the trail just past the meadow on the way back. Triple Divide Pass: I liked the area so much that I came back a few days later (Wednesday) hoping to go to Triple Divide Pass, but the weather again did not cooperate. From the pass junction, take a right and the trail heads a steady up - not huff-and-puff and no switchbacks. The trail soon gets above the treeline and then there are great views down on Medicine Grizzly Lake and of the top of the valley. Unfortunately, there was a cloud layer hanging on the pass that day and the rain started when I was about 3/4 mile from the pass. I stopped and hunkered down until the rain turned to drizzle and turned around - a couple who had gone ahead informed me on the way back that it was cold, wet, and very windy at the pass and you couldn't see much, so I had made the correct decision in turning around. Oh well, guess I need another trip to Glacier. And that return trip came in 2011 and I made it to the pass. Although you are not huffing-and- puffing on the trail to the pass it does seem to take forever to get there (when you think you are close, you aren't). But the views at the pass are great and there are plenty of rocks to rest on and enjoy the views. To the north, you can't see St. Marys Lake, but it is pretty. There were a number of marmots at the pass when I was there as well as a herd of female big horn sheep and kids on a ledge below on the south side of the pass. Trail Length + Elevation: Medicine Grizzly Lake: 6 miles, 540 feet one-way Triple divide Pass: 7.2 miles, 2380 feet one-way [pass junction is about 4.5 miles from trailhead] Area: Mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Friday, July 25, 2009 (lake); Tuesday, August 16, 2011 (pass and lake) Recommendation: A beautiful mountain lake in a bowl and not that hard of a hike. And a very pretty pass area.
Cobalt Lake (Two Medicine) Directions: Hwy 89 (from the north) or Hwy 2 (from the south) to Hwy 49 to the Two Medicine Junction and take the road into the park for about 9 miles to the parking area at the end of the road. There is bathrooms near the park store and an outhouse in the campground near the lake. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: The packed dirt trail starts to the left of the dock and goes around the south shore of Two Medicine Lake (with no views of the lake, unless you take the side trip to Paradise Point). After about 1.5 miles of fairly level hiking is the branch for Rockwell Falls and Cobalt Lake. After a little less than a mile is Rockwell Falls. Take a break at the base of the falls and enjoy the cool breeze [it was a warm day when I went]. Right after the falls starts the up of the hike. And it's up almost the rest of the way to Cobalt Lake. You are not almost to the lake until you cross the creek (and then you still have a bit of an up remaining. The pretty lake is in a half bowl to the left. Trail Length + Elevation: 5.7 miles, 1400 feet (one-way) Area: mountains, mountain lake When I did the hike: Thursday, July 21, 2005 Recommendation: It's a pretty lake worth visiting and the falls provide a nice break in the middle of the hike - both coming and going. Note: it was very buggy during this trip.
Upper Two Medicine Lake and No Name Lake (Two Medicine) Directions: Hwy 89 (from the north) or Hwy 2 (from the south) to Hwy 49 to the Two Medicine Junction and take the road into the park for about 9 miles to harbor parking lot. Flush toilets and water at the parking lot, outhouse near water shuttle drop off at far side of Two Medicine Lake. The water shuttles across Two Medicine Lake costs $10 (or $5 for one-way) and are at 9 am (hikers shuttle), 10:30 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, and 5 pm with the return leg about 15 minutes after each start time. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: Since the weather ruined my planned long loop in Two Medicine, I decided to go back to the area and hit 2 of the lakes that were on the back end of the loop, and cheat by using the water shuttle (saving myself about 7 miles of hiking). [Of course, The weather was absolutely beautiful this day.] It is a wider trail (about 2-person width) and 1 mile fairly level to the Twin Falls. The 2 falls come down separate sides of a rock mound. From the falls, the trail narrows a little and continues for 1 1/4 miles with only a slight up (no climb) to Upper Two Medicine Lake. People looked at my pictures from this lake and went, "Wow!", but my reaction was "That's it?" Of all the lakes I visited in Glacier, I found Upper Two Medicine Lake the least impressive [in 2004]. (And I was glad I didn't hike to this lake as part of the long loop as I would have been annoyed to spend the energy for 2 extra miles to this lake.) I'm not sure why I found this lake so lacking as the pictures make it look very pretty. Maybe it was because I had planned on doing some feet soaking and couldn't find a place to do so as the entire end of the lake was full of downed logs. I stayed about 5 minutes before departing. Heading back, a little after the falls is a trail junction for heading to No Name Lake (and around the north shore of (middle) Two Medicine Lake). After about .3 miles, the trail for No Name Lake (and Dawson Pass) branches to the left and heads about 1.5 miles and up, up, up 800 feet to No Name Lake. The climb is over a mile before calming some and there is a little bit of level/small up as you near the lake. Now this lake I really liked. It is a pretty, peaceful, small sized lake with a shear granite wall on the far side. Because I wanted to catch the 1:15 shuttle, I only stayed about 15-20 minutes at the lake. I hiked a good pace (going and coming) to complete this hike in about 3 2/3 hours (including the lake stops). Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 8 miles, +1150 feet (add 7 miles if you don't use the water shuttle) .9 miles, fairly level from boat shuttle to Twin Falls 1.3 miles, +350 feet from falls to Upper Two Medicine Lake 1.8 miles, +800 feet from falls to No Name Lake About 3.5 miles, fairly level each way if you hike around Two Medicine Lake (either shore) Area: mountains, mountain lakes Upper Two Medicine Lake Picture Noname Lake Picture When I did the hike: Tuesday, August 10, 2004; Wednesday, September 13, 2007 (to Upper Two Medicine Lake - still didn't like it) Recommendation: I'd skip Upper Two Medicine Lake, but I really liked No Name Lake.
Oldman Lake (Two Medicine) Directions: Hwy 89 (from the north) or Hwy 2 (from the south) to Hwy 49 to the Two Medicine Junction and take the road into the park for about 9 miles, turn right into the campground area and drive through the campground to the pull-in parking area on the left for the trailhead (you'll see a bridge across the water to the left and a bathroom (flush toilets and water) to the right). There are outhouses near the lakes. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: This was my bad weather day. I did get hailed (pea sized) on the previous day, but had hours of just clouds, some sunny, and only about 20 minutes of rain. This day it rained most of the hike. Add to that it was windy and cool. My rain gear kept me mostly dry, but it wasn't a fun hike. My original plan of hiking to Oldman Lake, up Pitamakan Pass, over to Dawson Pass, down to No Name Lake, and along Two Medicine Lake to complete the long 17 mile loop got trashed due to the weather - it is on my "next visit" list. The one-person width trail starts with a climb and then has a descent as it rounds the mountain (heading east from the parking lot). After crossing the small bridge over the creek, the trail heads up the other valley. Even though it gains 1500 feet over the 5.7 miles to the lake, it is a mild hike with no really big climbs [now if you go to the pass...]. About a mile before the lake, the trail goes through an old burn area and you can see some fire scars on the trees. The lake itself is very pretty, even with the lousy weather [even better with the beautiful day I had in 2009]. 2009 Note: there used to be 2 access points to the lake from the Oldman/Pitkman Pass trail, but they've closed the first one (from which it was .5 miles to the lake). The only way to the lake is now further ahead along the trail (if you look carefully, you might spot where the old branch was) and it is .3 miles from the signed junction on the main trail to the lake, with a bit of a down to it. If you go to the lake and aren't doing the loop, take a 5 minute sidetrip from the lake junction and continue up the main trail a little bit (before it starts the big up) for pretty views down on the lake. Note: there is a bear that likes the area and the lake and campground are often closed to visit (though you can still do the loop as the lake is .3 miles from the main trail). 2004, 2008, and 2009 were the only visits I made to the park where the lake wasn't closed - and for the hike in 2008 a group of campers coming down told me that the bear had visited them during the night (so I didn't go to the lake) and the area was closed the next day. So if you want to go to Oldman Lake, first check with the rangers to make sure the bear is not around and the lake is not closed. Bear update: unfortunately, the bear was deemed to have become too comfortable around humans and, thus, and danger to humans and was destroyed. Trail Length + Elevation: 5.5 miles, +1500 feet (one-way) [16.9 miles, +2450 feet if you do the loop combining Pitamakan Pass and Dawson Pass] Area: mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, August 7, 2004; Wednesday, August 24, 2011 Recommendation: It's a beautiful lake and area, worth visiting even if you don't do the full loop (and worth the extra side trip to go lakeside if you do the full loop).
Pitamakan Pass and Dawson Pass Loop (Two Medicine) Directions: Hwy 89 (from the north) or Hwy 2 (from the south) to Hwy 49 to the Two Medicine Junction and take the road into the park for about 9 miles, turn right into the campground area and drive through the campground to the pull-in parking area on the left for the trailhead (you'll see a bridge across the water to the left and a bathroom (flush toilets and water) to the right). There are outhouses near the lakes. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: This was one of two hikes that prompted my returned to Glacier. I started early and headed towards Oldman Lake. The trail starts with an up along the side of Rising Wolf Mountain for a mile and then a down for a mile to the creek crossing. The trail then heads a mild up the valley for a little over 3 miles. You gain a lot of elevation during this time, but it is spread out with no climbs. There is a trail branch to Oldman Lake - the lake was temporarily closed while I was there in 2005 due to bears (I actually saw the "bear dogs" patrolling the area as I headed up). If the lake is open, do take the short (.3 mile little bit of a down) sidetrip for a visit to the pretty lake. From the lake branch, the trail starts its climb up, up, and up to Pitamakan Pass, with a few switchbacks. There are wonderful views down on Oldman Lake as you head up to the ridge high above. On the ridge, at the first trail junction (which is actually the pass, even though you still have more up to go), you can look down into the next valley at the deep blue Pitamakan Lake. Continue up, past the Cut Bank Pass junction, and at the turn you've reached the continental divide, with a nice ledge to rest on and enjoy the views of mountains deeper in the park. Steal your nerves as the trail then gets nasty as it narrows and you have mountain to the left and steep drop off to the right - at times the trail even angles to the left-right (which I REALLY don't like). Take your time and watch your step. After about a mile, the trail finishes going around Mt. Morgan and goes along an open ridge where you again have wonderful views down on Oldman Lake (while you continue to have nice long views deeper into the park the other direction). The trail then goes back to the ledge-like hike (but not quite as narrow as around Mt. Morgan and none of the left-right angle junk) around Flinsch Peak and after a little over a mile reaches Dawson Pass. Take a rest on the open ridge, passing back over the continental divide, and enjoy the views (No Name Lake is not visible from pass, though). The trail then drops a steep 1600 feet over the next 1.5 miles to No Name Lake. Take a side trip to the lake and enjoy the pretty, small sized lake. Another 1.5 miles and 800 feet down takes you to the junction for Two Medicine Lake. You can either cheat by hooking a right and then a left (total of a mile) to take the fee water shuttle across the lake (you'll have to know the departure times - and you'll then have to walk the road back to the trailhead) or hook a left and hike for 3 fairly level miles along the Two Medicine Lake north shore (some views of the lake along the way, but not a ton, kind of blah) back to the trailhead. I wasn't rushing and took several long breaks along the way and it took me 10 hours to complete this hike. Trail Length + Elevation: Total: 16.9 miles, +2500 feet 5.5 miles, +1400 feet to Oldman Lake 1.4 miles, +1000 feet from Oldman Lake to Pitamakan Pass over 2.5 miles from Pitamakan Pass to Dawson Pass 1.7 miles, -1650 feet from Dawson Pass to No Name Lake 2 miles, -800 feet from No Name Lake to the trail junction About 3 miles, fairly level along Two Medicine Lake Area: mountains, mountain lakes When I did the hike: Friday, July 22, 2005; Thursday, July 23, 2009 Recommendation:  A long, tough hike, but the views between the passes are wonderful and I really like both Oldman and No Name lakes.  I think I told myself during 2005 that I wouldn't repeat the hike as that one ledge section is too harrowing for my nerves, but had forgotten that by 2008 (planned on repeating, but weather prevented) since it is such a beautiful hike. I did say "won't do that again" in 2009, but we'll see how long it is before the memory of the scenery again erases the scary part. A hike to the continental divide (either way) is beautiful (though still hard) and not scary.
Running Eagle Falls (Two Medicine) Directions: Hwy 89 (from the north) or Hwy 2 (from the south) to Hwy 49 to the Two Medicine Junction and take the road into the park for about 7 miles to the Running Eagle Falls parking lot. Chemical toilets at the parking lot, no water. $20 per week (for a car load) or National Parks Pass Trails: It is just a short little graveled (wheelchair accessible) loop the goes to a really neat waterfall. It is not tall, but it is wide and it comes out of the mountainside, with granite above and below the falls. With my 2008 visit, I had my first view of the falls as a double falls - as in water coming out of the hole in the mountainside and over the top of the wall as well - neat, but I actually like the one-fall view better. Trail Length + Elevation: .6 miles, level paved loop Area: Woods to a falls that comes out of the mountain side. Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, 8/7/04; Tuesday, 8/10/04; 7/21-7/23/05 [visited each day]; 9/13-9/14/06; Monday, 8/27/07; 7/18-7/19.08; Thursday, 7/23/09; Monday, 8/15/11; 8/24-8/25/11 Recommendation: If you are any where near Two Medicine, you have to stop here. One of my favorite places in the park.
Twin Lakes (Jewel Basin) Directions: From Kalispell, take Rt 93 south to Rt 82 west (top of Flathead Lake). Continue straight at the Rt 35 junction (stop light) and the road turns into Rt 83. A few miles east of the junction, turn left on to Echo Lake Rd (there is a blinking caution light on Rt 83 at the turn for the Swan River Elementary School and the turn is before Rt 83 heads south) and follow the brown signs for Jewel Basin. After over 2 miles, turn right on to Foothills Rd (again sign for Jewel Basin) and then turn right (as road curves left) for Jewel Basin Rd and it is 7 steep miles of one-lane good dirt road to the parking area at the end. And the road is steep, so use a lower gear and keep an eye on your temperature gauge (my sedan got very hot and the next day a group in a jeep were concerned as the fan kept running after they turned the engine off). Also, use a lower gear when heading out so that you don't fry your brakes. Vault toilet in parking area. Free. Trails: Take the trail to the left of the ranger house (not the old road to the right of the info sign). The one-person width trail heads a steady (not hard) up with a couple of turns before heading to the left. After .6 miles is a signed junction with a trail heading to the right - continue straight. The trail heads more of a not hard ups and some short downs as it heads to the left. After a good ways, the trail rounds a last bend and heads up to a low point on the ridge. Just on the other side of the ridge is a trail junction - continue straight. The trail heads a mild down from the ridge and keep an eye out for a trail branch to the right not too far from the last trail branch (the "Twin Lks" sign was hard to spot on my visit) - take a right at that branch. The thin trail makes its way down to the end of the first lake (not a direct down, some weaves and reaches the southeast end of the lake). There is a little shore where the trail ends. The thin tree surrounded lake does have a view of the ridge above and is pretty, but not stunning. [I didn't try reaching the 2nd lake as there wasn't a clear path to that lake.] After leaving the lake and reaching the main trail, take a left on that trail and a bit further (and not much effort) is a pretty view down on both lakes. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.5 miles, 770 ft up, 200 ft down one-way Area: Mountains, mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Thursday, August 25, 2011 Recommendation: It is a pretty area, but I had just spent over a week in Glacier National Park with its stunning lakes. If you have extra time after Glacier, it is a scenic area. The Twin Lakes were the easiest of the 3 hikes I did in Jewel Basin.
Crater Lake (Jewel Basin) Directions: From Kalispell, take Rt 93 south to Rt 82 west (top of Flathead Lake). Continue straight at the Rt 35 junction (stop light) and the road turns into Rt 83. A few miles east of the junction, turn left on to Echo Lake Rd (there is a blinking caution light on Rt 83 at the turn for the Swan River Elementary School and the turn is before Rt 83 heads south) and follow the brown signs for Jewel Basin. After over 2 miles, turn right on to Foothills Rd (again sign for Jewel Basin) and then turn right (as road curves left) for Jewel Basin Rd and it is 7 steep miles of one-lane good dirt road to the parking area at the end. And the road is steep, so use a lower gear and keep an eye on your temperature gauge (my sedan got very hot and the next day a group in a jeep were concerned as the fan kept running after they turned the engine off). Also, use a lower gear when heading out so that you don't fry your brakes. Vault toilet in parking area, outhouse near Crater Lake. Free. Trails: Take the trail to the left of the ranger house (not the old road to the right of the info sign). The one-person width trail heads a steady (not hard) up with a couple of turns before heading to the left. After .6 miles is a signed junction with a trail heading to the right - take the right. The mostly mild trail goes for .7 miles to the next trail junction. Take a right at that junction (#7). Not too far ahead, after a bend in the trail, is the next junction - a 6 prong junction (with 2 of them old roads - the road to the right is where the old road next to the ranger station reaches this junction - I took that route on the return an it was fairly ugly). The way you want is the 3rd prong to the left, almost directly across the trail you arrived on. The trail is still #7. The trail is mild (with some down). The trail rounds a bend and you can see Martha Lake below to the right (the trail doesn't go to that lake). The trail takes a steeper down for a bit and then not a hard up for a bit. The trail is then mostly mild, with some small ups and downs, to Birch Lake (a popular fishing hole). Just past the small mound with a solo dead tree is Birch Lake (and a nice resting spot). You can take either trail around the lake - it is shorter and a better trail to the right [which, of course means I went to the left - I took the other branch on the way back]. The trail for Crater Lake branches off the Birch Lake shore trail at the southeast end of the lake. For the left: after the mound, take the trail baring left and then stay on the trail as it heads around the lake - sometimes a little bit away from the lake and there is a nice view of the east valley at the far end of the lake. After a down is an open area and just past that is a signed Y-junction for Crater Lake (have to keep an eye out for it) - take the hard left. For the right: go up the mound and then down to the right and cross the outlet stream (no bridge, should be able to rock and log hop across) and the trail stays close to the shore most of the way. Near the southeast end of the lake, the trail heads a little bit away from the lake and look for the Y-junction for the Crater Lake trail and continue straight (if you reach an open grassy area next to the shore and see the trail heading up, you missed the junction). On the Crater Lake trail, the trail is mild and heads up a little bit and goes by a small ridge with a view to the east. After that, the trail curves in to the left and soon you'll see a small lake down to the left. AFter a mile from Birch Lake is a trail branch to the right (you may not spot it, just past a stream crossing) - continue straight. The trail goes through an open slope and you can see down on a small lake to the right (there is a thin trail that goes to that lake at the ridge at the far end). There is a rock crop at the end of the ridge and the trail heads down to the left before curving right and then hugs the hillside as it heads to the next valley - there might be some muddy spots and rocks to go over (the trail is mostly dirt up to that point). The trail heads to the left around a rock mound and then around and up another mound. At the top, the trail zigs to the left then heads right and then is a mild to steady down (which means an up on the return). After a bit you'll spot the lake below. The small building to the right is an outhouse - there is also a nice view of the lake from above there. The trail goes to the left as it rounds another rock mound and soon reaches lakeside. Find a nice resting and feet soaking spot at the pretty lake. The lake is slanted rock surrounded with occasional trees (no stunning mountain ridges above). Trail Length + Elevation: 5.3 miles, 610 ft up, 560 ft down one-way Area: Mountains, mountain lakes When I did the hike: Friday, August 26, 2011 Recommendation: It is a pretty area, but I had just spent over a week in Glacier National Park with its stunning lakes. If you have extra time after Glacier, it is a scenic area. Crater Lake was the prettiest of the lakes I visited in Jewel Basin, but it is a long hike.
Mt. Aeneas (Jewel Basin) Directions: From Kalispell, take Rt 93 south to Rt 82 west (top of Flathead Lake). Continue straight at the Rt 35 junction (stop light) and the road turns into Rt 83. A few miles east of the junction, turn left on to Echo Lake Rd (there is a blinking caution light on Rt 83 at the turn for the Swan River Elementary School and the turn is before Rt 83 heads south) and follow the brown signs for Jewel Basin. After over 2 miles, turn right on to Foothills Rd (again sign for Jewel Basin) and then turn right (as road curves left) for Jewel Basin Rd and it is 7 steep miles of one-lane good dirt road to the parking area at the end. And the road is steep, so use a lower gear and keep an eye on your temperature gauge (my sedan got very hot and the next day a group in a jeep were concerned as the fan kept running after they turned the engine off). Also, use a lower gear when heading out so that you don't fry your brakes. Vault toilet in parking area, outhouse near Picnic Lakes. Free. Trails: Take the trail to the left of the ranger house (not the old road to the right of the info sign). The one-person width trail heads a steady (not hard) up with a couple of turns before heading to the left. After .6 miles is a signed junction with a trail heading to the right - take the right. The mostly mild trail goes for .7 miles to the next trail junction. Take a right at that junction (#7). Not too far ahead, after a bend in the trail, is the next junction - a 6 prong junction (with 2 of them old roads). Take 2nd prong to the left (just to the right of the old road that heads up) for the Mt. Aeneas trail (#717). The trail heads a steady up with a couple of switchbacks a bit of a ways ahead. There are some more switchbacks higher up. Go by an old electric building and head right along the ridge. The trail stays along the ridge as it heads up to the summit - which you can see still a bit ahead (and it is an up, some steep). There are pretty views of the area at the summit (Birch Lake is the lake below to the right, Picnic Lakes below to the left, and other lakes and small mountains are visible in the distance). You can return the way you can or do the hike as a longer loop. For the loop, continue straight from the summit and the trail heads steeply down along the open ridge to the east (not a long down, but steep). The trail hooks to the left and heads not as steep of a down along the left side of a basin and then over a small ridge. The trail then is a steady down, mostly in the trees, all the way to the Picnic Lakes. After going by the outhouse is a signed junction - take a left and soon reach the lakes. The 2nd Picnic Lake is to the right and the trail goes next to it, crossing the inlet stream on a bridge. Before the bridge, making your way on paths, go to the left for a short sidetrip to reach the prettier 1st Picnic Lake with Mt. Aeneas looming directly above. Back on the trail after the bridge, the trail heads a steady up (and it is an up) to the notch in the ridge. At the ridge is a junction - go straight over to the other side of the ridge and the trail then heads down, down, down with a number of switchbacks. A bit after the switchbacks end is a trail junction to the right (cutoff trail, started hike on this trail) - take the right and go for .7 miles and then take a left at the T-junction and it's .6 miles back to the parking area. Trail Length + Elevation: Loop: 6.7 miles, 3 miles, 1778 ft to Mt. Aeneas summit 1.2 miles, 888 ft down Mt. Aeneas to Picnic Lakes 2.5 miles, 588 ft up, 1478 down Picnic Lakes to parking Area: Mountains, mountain lakes Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, August 27, 2011 Recommendation: It is a pretty area, but I had just spent over a week in Glacier National Park with its stunning lakes. If you have extra time after Glacier, it is a scenic area. It is not as hard of a hike to the top of Mt. Aeneas as you would think [but I was in excellent condition] and the hike from down the backside of Mt. Aeneas is pretty.
Holland Falls Directions: Rt 83 to just south of Condon (about 75 miles from I70 and 70 miles from Kalispell). Turn west at the sign for Lower Holland Lake on to the paved road and take the road to then large parking area at the end (baring left at the fork in the road). Vault toilet at parking area. Free. Trails: Take the trail at the top right of the parking area. At the trail junction a short ways ahead, continue straight/ right along the 1-person width loose dirt covering packed dirt trail. The trail soon curves and goes alongside the very large Lower Holland Lake (some times right next to, some times a little ways away) as it heads to the top of the lake. The trail is mostly mild with some small ups and downs. After going over a bridge crossing a stream, the trail heads mostly a steady up on an open trail (can be warm). Once you reach the falls area, make your way over the rocks for better views. It's nice, but not stunning nor worth it on a hot day. Trail Length + Elevation: 1.6 miles, 750 ft one-way Area: large lake, waterfall When I did the hike: Saturday, August 27, 2011 Recommendation: If you are in the area and have extra time, worth a short visit - nothing you should specially plan for.
Upper Holland Lake and Sapphire Lakes loop Directions: Rt 83 to just south of Condon (about 75 miles from I70 and 70 miles from Kalispell). Turn west at the sign for Lower Holland Lake on to the paved road and take the road to then large parking area at the end (baring left at the fork in the road). Vault toilet at parking area. Free. Trails: Take the trail at the top right of the parking area. At the trail junction a short ways ahead, take a left. The 1-person width loose dirt covering packed dirt trail is in the thin trees and is not hard for a bit (some ups and downs) and then has some switchbacks up. Continue on the main trail past 2 trail branches on the left (the 2nd is the return spot from Sapphire Lakes). The trail is mild a ways as it heads alongside the mountainside. As you hear the waterfall, creek (no views of the falls, the trail is above them), the trail heads down for a bit before angling up through the side canyon, through which the trail goes almost all the way to Upper Holland Lake. After crossing the creek on a single-log bridge and a short zig-zag, the trail reaches the (sign on a tree) Owl Creek junction - take a left and the trail continues heading a not hard up a little ways away from the creek. There will be a couple of branches along the way - you can take either as they meet up again (the main trail is a combo-trail for horse use). Cross the creek again on a flat-top log with a rail and after a bit, the trail heads more of an up as it weaves for a while. Then it is a mixture of mild up and steady up. After going next to a small falls, the trail is mild to the lake (still a bit away), except for a small up right before the lake. The good-sized lake is tree surrounded with small mountains in the distance - nice but not worth 7 miles. The trail continues around the left side of the lake. A little over half way on the left side of the lake is a signed junction for Sapphire Lakes - take a left and the trail immediately starts heading up (and this is an up) with a number of switchbacks. The trail is heading up to a ridge on the left, not to the gap to the right. Up, up, up. Once you finally reach the ridge, the trail continues to head up (don't left the first bit of mild fool you), but not as harsh - it is a ways before reaching the Sapphire Lakes junction. There are a lot of dead trees in the area. After a mild section with some down is the trail junction for the lakes - take a left and the larger of the twin lakes is not too far ahead (the smaller lake is to the left near the larger lake, but it is hard to spot the junction heading from the main trail). At the lake, take a left and round the lake to a nice (and well earned) feet-soaking resting rock at the end of a bit of land that extends into the lake. Prettier than the Upper Holland Lake, but still not worth all the work. On the way back, you might spot the trail branch to the right a short bit from the larger lake that goes to the smaller lake. Back on the main trail, take a left and head for Holland Lookout Pass (tallest point on this hike). The trail heads a sharp up and then a mild down for a bit with some nice views down on the Sapphire Lakes. After a bit of down and mild as the trail rounds the tip of the pseudo-valley, the trail heads towards a ridge on the left. At the signed junction, take a left and the trail switchbacks up (and it is an up) to the pass. The trail heads a sharp down from the pass and then heads right - it is a narrow, nasty trail through a not too old burn area. There is some mild and some down. The trail rounds a bend and goes through some trees and there is a small open area (good resting spot) with another trail heading right (Lookout Trail) - continue straight. The narrow trail continues heading to the right, mostly at a down angle through more burn area and you can see down on Lower Holland Lake. Round a bend and start the many switchbacks down, down, down. And down, down, down - mostly in the trees now. After forever and a day, the trail finally reaches the Upper Holland Lake junction - take a right and it is 1.3 miles back to the parking area. Trail Length + Elevation: Loop total: 15 miles, 3390 ft 6.7 miles, 2096 ft to Upper Holland Lake 1 mile, 854 ft to Sapphire Lakes 1.5 miles, 440 ft to Holland Lookout Pass (7440 elev) 5.8 miles, 3390 ft down to parking area Area: large lake, waterfall When I did the hike: Saturday, August 27, 2011 Recommendation: No. A ton of work and the lakes just aren't that pretty.
Louise Lake (Cardwell) Directions: Take I90 to the Cardwell exit, about 25 miles east of Butte, and head south on Hwy 359 for 5 miles to South Boulder Rd (#107) - near mile marker 6 and the turn is just past going over the creek. Turn right on to the paved road and 3 miles later the pavement goes away but you still have 10.5 miles to go. The dirt road was fairly good (don't need 4wd, I made it in my sedan) and there was a way around one of the rough spots. At the fork in the road 13.5 miles from Hwy 359 is an open grassy area and a vault toilet - if you are not in a 4wd vehicle/high clearance, this is where you'll want to park (the road is okay most of the way, but there are some rough spots and I was glad I parked at the fork). From the fork, take the right junction and it is about 1.5 miles of rough dirt road to the trailhead. Disperse camping is allowed in the public lands and non-fenced areas (about a mile before the fork and on). The toilet at the fork is the only one. Free. Trails: For walking the road from the fork, take the right junction and the road is fairly mild with some not hard ups and downs. After a mile is a sign for 1/2 mile further to Louise Lake and Lost Cabin Lake THs and the road heads a little more of an up. At the next signed junction, take a left for Bismark Reservoir and not much further is a small parking area in the trees. Continue straight through the parking area and around the road barrier for Louise Lake. After walking a bit of the old road, bare left on to the trail (with a small camping spot straight ahead and (not much of a) reservoir ahead to the right). The very good trail crosses the creek on a great bridge and the trail heads a not hard up in the trees with a couple of long switchbacks and rock hopping across some small streams. After the 4th stream crossing, the trail continues to the right before making another switchback (still not a hard up) and approaches the creek again. The trail then weaves its way up to the lake with a few more spaced out switchbacks. The pretty, niced sized lake is set in a mountain bowl. I sat and read and feet soaked for quite a while. Trail Length + Elevation: 4 miles, 1320 ft one-way Area: Forest, mountains, mountain lake When I did the hike: Sunday, August 14, 2011 Recommendation: It is nice, but not really worth that long drive to reach. But there are two really good trails in the area (and there is a third trail in the area that I didn't do) - so if you want some solitude and plan on camping in the area for a couple of nights, it's remoteness keeps the crowds away.
Lost Cabin Lake (Cardwell) Directions: Take I90 to the Cardwell exit, about 25 miles east of Butte, and head south on Hwy 359 for 5 miles to South Boulder Rd (#107) - near mile marker 6 and the turn is just past going over the creek. Turn right on to the paved road and 3 miles later the pavement goes away but you still have 10.5 miles to go. The dirt road was fairly good (don't need 4wd, I made it in my sedan) and there was a way around one of the rough spots. At the fork in the road 13.5 miles from Hwy 359 is an open grassy area and a vault toilet - if you are not in a 4wd vehicle/high clearance, this is where you'll want to park (the rockier road is okay most of the way, but there are some rough spots and I was glad I parked at the fork). From the fork, take the right junction and it is about 1.5 miles of rough dirt road to the trailhead. Disperse camping is allowed in the public lands and non-fenced areas (about a mile before the fork and on). The toilet at the fork is the only one. Free. Trails: For walking the road from the fork, take the right junction and the road is fairly mild with some not hard ups and downs. After a mile is a sign for 1/2 mile further to Louise Lake and Lost Cabin Lake THs and the road heads a little more of an up. At the next signed junction, take a left for Bismark Reservoir and not much further is a small parking area in the trees. Take the trail to the right in the middle of the parking area for Lost Cabin Lake [note that the trail was re-routed at some point in the past and you'll see bits of old trail as you hike the newer trail]. The trail heads a mild up in the trees for a ways. After rock hopping across a stream, the trail takes a short zig-zag (little more of an up, but not hard). The trail is then a mixture of straights and short zig-zags at a mild to not hard up. The trail crosses a small bridge over a stream and then is a mild down, a short up, and more down as the trail heads around a marshy meadow. The trail is mild a good ways. After crossing the creek over a bridge, the trail heads more of an up (but still not hard) as it weaves up the hillside. The trail goes next to the creek for a little bit, crosses another bridge, and then makes a couple of wiggles up. After the trail goes in front of a rock slope, it soon reaches the treeline and then the lake. Find a nice resting spot (hopefully not too buggy) and enjoy the scenic lake. There are trees along side 1/3rd of the lake and talus sloped mountains on the other sides. Pretty and peaceful. If you only have for one, Lost Cabin Lake is the prettier hike and lake with Louis Lake. Trail Length + Elevation: 5 miles, 1400 ft one-way Area: Forest, mountains, mountain lake Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, August 14, 2011 Recommendation: It is nice, but not really worth that long drive to reach. But there are two really good trails in the area (and there is a third trail in the area that I didn't do) - so if you want some solitude and plan on camping in the area for a couple of nights, it's remoteness keeps the crowds away.