The Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier National Park is one of the best hiking experiences we’ve ever had.
This trail moves through amazing scenery, has an abundance of mountain wildlife and takes hikers on both sides of the continental divide. On the way up you’ll be filled with anticipation, and on the way down to the lake you’ll be awestruck by the scenery the entire time.
While there are some things that you’ll need to know and be prepared for, we highly recommend taking this hike the entire way (or at least to the Hidden Lake Overlook) while visiting Glacier National Park.
HIDDEN LAKE TRAIL DETAILS
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Distance: 6.0 miles (round-trip)
- Trail: Out-and-back
- Elevation gain: 1,482 feet
- Peak elevation reached: 7,140 feet
- Best time of year to hike: Early summer to fall
- To beat the crowds: Arrive before 7:30 am or after 4:00 pm
- Footwear: Hiking boots
- Watch out for: Mosquitoes, bears, sun exposure
- Restrooms: Located at the trailhead and on the trail
- Pets: Not allowed
- Time needed: 3 hours
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR THE HIDDEN LAKE TRAIL
Hidden Lake Trail parking area map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The parking area for the Hidden Lake Trail is at Logan Pass. Logan Pass is right on the Going-to-the-Sun Road at the Continental Divide. It is 32 miles east of West Glacier and 18 miles west of St. Mary. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is amazing, but travel is slow. Allow much more time to get here than you think it will take you.
The parking area is on the south side of the road.
- Directions from West Glacier to the Logan Pass Parking Area (this is 32 miles and will take over an hour, especially when traffic is especially heavy)
- Directions from St. Mary to the Logan Pass Parking Area (this is 18 miles and will take between 35 and 45 minutes, depending on the time of day)
The parking lot is large, with spaces for over 100 cars. However, the lot fills up fast. We recommend getting to the lot before 7:30 AM. Yes, that means that you should plan on waking up very early!
The lot is frequently closed throughout the day due to crowds. Resist the urge to park illegally on the side of the road, as they park service will ticket you. And for those of you who think that “they can’t ticket us all,” be advised that they will. We saw nearly a hundred cars lined up on the side of the road, all with tickets.
There are restrooms at the trailhead, but none on the trail.
HIDDEN LAKE TRAIL: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The beginning of the trail is on boardwalk. While this may sound easy, it heads uphill nearly the entire way. Once the boardwalk ends, the trail is on packed dirt or gravel in the late summer. Up through mid-July, the are significant amounts of snow on the trail, making it difficult if you are not sure on your feet or wearing boots.
- Accessibility. The trail is not wheelchair accessible and is at times steep. Those who hike this trail must have good balance.
PREPARATION FOR HIKING THE HIDDEN LAKE TRAIL
If you hike the entire trail, you’ll be on it for a couple of hours. Since you may encounter snow and wildlife that has the potential to attack you, you need to be prepared.
- Water. While Glacier National Park is not known for being hot, you’ll want to be sure and take with you plenty of water.
- Traction. Since you may encounter snow, we recommend bringing microspikes with you. These are easy to put on and will keep you from slipping in the snow.
- Trekking Poles. We have found trekking poles (even for our kids) really help out with balance and with going uphill, putting less strain on your knees and legs.
- Bear Spray. We encountered bears on this trail, and you’ll be happy you had bear spray with you. You can get it ahead of your trip if you are driving, or they also sell it at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. Trust us on this-don’t go on the hike without it for at least one person in your party.
HIKING TO THE HIDDEN LAKE OVERLOOK
Hidden Lake Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
When you first arrive at Logan Pass, it’s best to head into the Logan Pass Visitor Center and find out any of the latest information on the hike. The rangers will let you know about recent bear activity as well as how much snow cover is on the trail.
The trail is frequently closed passed the overlook due to the danger of bears, and a quick conversation with the rangers can help you know what you can expect. You can also find the latest conditions on the trail by visiting the NPS website and learning about any special alerts at Glacier National Park.
The trailhead from the western side of the Logan Pass Visitor Center parking lot. It’s pretty easy to spot, as there is a large sign at the beginning of the trail combined with a long boardwalk that seems to stretch forever as it climbs up the mountainside.
At the beginning of the hike the trail moves through an alpine meadow on a boardwalk. This isn’t the type of boardwalk that you are typically used to, though. Different than most boardwalks, which are level and fairly easy, this boardwalk gain elevation through both an inclined walkway and stairs. It is also quite long, extending over a quarter of a mile. Many of the hikers that were on the boardwalk had to take multiple breaks along the way, even though it doesn’t appear to be that intimidating.
The great thing is that while you are hiking to the overlook there is plenty to keep your eyes and mind occupied! We saw a number of mountain goats (and their “kids”) and despite us trying to keep our distance, they seemed to be unafraid of people and crossed the trail right in front of us several times. We also loved how quiet people were on this part of the hike. Even though there were plenty of hikers, most were very respectful and kept their voices to a whisper.
The hike to the overlook is the steepest at the 0.4-mile point, but this lastly only a short time. The trail is generally evenly sloped all the way up, before leveling out near the overlook.
We hiked the trail in mid-July, and there was plenty of snow on the trail. At times it covered both the boardwalk and the gravel path. Instead of a clearly worn path, the trail through the snow was marked by temporary poles installed by the National Park Service.
Hiking on the snow was challenging, and we wished we had trekking poles or traction in some places. There were many people slipping and several other hikers on this popular hike ended up hurting themselves. In one instance, it was a serious knee injury. Had we known this, we would have been a bit more prepared and carried traction with us.
At the 1.5-mile point, the trail reaches the peak at the Hidden Lake Overlook, just after passing the Continental Divide. From the overlook, you get a great view of Hidden Lake with Bearhat Mountain as the backdrop.
If you end up stopping here, you’ll have plenty of company. Most hikers head to the overlook and turn back. If you do so, the entire hike will be about 3.0 miles with a total elevation gain right around 550 feet. There is no shame in stopping here, as it’s quite an accomplishment to get here!
HIKING FROM THE HIDDEN LAKE OVERLOOK TO HIDDEN LAKE
If you still have energy to keep going and want to get away from the crowds a bit, keep heading on the trail to Hidden Lake. After the overlook, the trail continues traversing alongside the mountain in an open landscape as it descends slowly. Over the next mile, the trail descends about 400 feet.
We ended up crossing several extended stretches of snow, but they seemed to be a bit easier to cross than the stretches of snow before the Hidden Lake Overlook.
On this part of the trail, our jaws were open the entire time. The views that we had of Hidden Lake and the valley extended between Bearhat Mountain and Mount Cannon were simply breathtaking. It still gives me goosebumps as I write this!
Along the way we saw plenty of marmot and even saw a bighorn sheep-combine the wildlife with the backdrop of the mountains, and it’s hard to find more beautiful views on earth!
With just 0.4-miles left the trail then enters a series of switchbacks as it descends another 400 feet to the shores of Hidden Lake.
Right before it comes to the shore, the trail enters a small forest. While you may not think much of the forest, it was able to provide cover to a number of animals, including a mountain goat that surprised us!
Once you arrive at the shore of Hidden Lake, you’ll find that this is a great place to relax and refuel. One of the fellow hikers that was near us decided to go for a swim. Since there were plenty of icebergs in the lake, we all watched with anticipation as he ran into the water and dove in. After his initial reaction (which sounded like a middle-school girl screaming), he exclaimed, “It’s actually not that bad!”
We chose to just be amused by his bravery and not to jump in ourselves. I’m still convinced we made the right decision!
Just to the right (west) of the shore is Hidden Creek, which is an outflow of the lake. Hidden Creek eventually feeds Avalanche Creek. This creek is known for being a hotbed of bear activity, as it is a great fishing spot. A few of us headed over to check it out, and quickly turned around after seeing a mother bear and her cub. We briskly hiked back up the switchbacks and after looking back we saw that the bear had made onto the trail and out of the forest.
HIDDEN LAKE TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Breathtaking Scenery. The scenery on this trail is simply amazing. We particularly loved the stretch in between the Hidden Lake Overlook and Hidden Lake.
- Wildlife. We couldn’t believe the amount of wildlife that we saw on this trail, including the marmots, mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
- Colors. The range of blues from the mountains and lakes along with the green and white of the mountainside was incredible.
- Crowds. We arrived at Logan Pass before 7:45 AM and had a rough time finding a parking spot. You really should be here early in the morning for the best chance of a spot.
- Footing. Hiking across the soft and melting snow on the slope of a mountain is not easy. At times we were a bit worried that we’d fall and get hurt. Make sure you are prepared!
THINGS TO DO NEAR THE HIDDEN LAKE TRAIL
The Logan Pass area in Glacier National Park has a ton of great things to see and do. You could easily keep yourself busy for days with nearby activities. A few of our favorites include:
- The Highline Trail is a challenging 14.9-mile (round-trip) trail that begins right across the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It starts off by walking on the side of a sheer cliff (for the first 0.5-miles) and has amazing views the entire way.
- The Mount Oberlin Trail is a moderate 3.5-mile (round-trip) hike that heads up to Mount Oberlin and offers amazing views. It is less crowded than the Hidden Lake Trail.
- The Logan Pass Visitor Center is worth a quick visit as well. The rangers here were outstanding, and it’s great to look around and learn more about the Continental Divide.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON GLACIER NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Be sure to download a copy of our extensive itinerary for Glacier National Park. We cover what to pack, tips on the best hikes and a ton of information on the many areas of the park.
- We have a number of blogs on Glacier National Park, including 10 Reasons Why You’ll Love Glacier National Park, which provides a nice overview of the park. We also cover information on campgrounds in Glacier National Park, and other hikes like the Avalanche Lake Trail, Trail of the Cedars and the challenging Iceberg Lake Trail.
- Don’t forget to check out our selection of Glacier National Park posters.
- If you are like us you have a ton of images from your past travels. Send one to us and we can create a Custom, Vintage-Style Travel poster with your own customized wording. We’d love to work with you!