Glacier National Park is an American treasure and offers some of the most jaw-dropping scenery on the continent. While the park’s namesake glaciers are mostly gone, the park’s 700 lakes steal much of the spotlight. Over 130 lakes are named, and they form many of the iconic images of Glacier National Park.
Due to glacial activity, the lakes entrenched in these U-shaped valleys have surreal colors beneath intense sunlight. The glacial silt and powdered rock sitting at the bottom causes Glacier’s lakes to appear emerald, sapphire, aquamarine, or opaque turquoise. Although their appearance will vary based on sunlight, the glacial lakes alone make a trip to Glacier National Park worth it.
While you can’t go wrong on which lakes you decide to visit, some tend to enchant adventurers more than others. Finding the best lakes in Glacier National Park is an impossible task, but we’ve selected our top-5 beauties. Head to these 5 magical lakes to kick off an unforgettable Glacier National Park trip.
Famous for its panoramic postcard of Wild Goose Island, Saint Mary Lake is a Glacier National park icon. It’s the 2nd largest lake in the park and among the main attractions near the eastern entrance. At 9.9 miles long, Saint Mary Lake has plenty of vantage points for a stunning portrait for your collection.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road runs along the north shore, and rugged peaks glisten on the lake’s glossy surface. For an adventurous expedition, tackle the 24.1-mile Saint Mary Lake Trail to connect with nature. The path encounters gushing waterfalls, blooming wildflowers, beautiful wildlife, and burned forest beside the lake.
Swimming in Saint Mary Lake isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s an unforgettable Glacier National Park experience. The icy-cold water will send shivers up your spine to instantly cool your body after summer hikes. When you’re driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, pull over at the Rising Sun Picnic Area for the most rejuvenating dip in Glacier.
Surrounded by Bearhat Mountain, Clements Mountain, and Reynolds Mountain, Hidden Lake requires some effort to reach. Fortunately, the day hike from the Logan Pass Visitor Center isn’t strenuous compared to others. After a 1.5-mile jaunt through alpine meadows, you’ll find the overlook that casts Hidden Lake in the spotlight. Snow-lined peaks and evergreen forests encircle the deep-blue waters of the lake below.
If you’re willing to make a steep descent, use the switchbacks to admire Hidden Lake from its shoreline. But hike in groups and use caution from here since it’s a known hotspot for bears. You may also spot mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and marmots around the path. Not many visitors venture to the lake’s base, so the extra effort offers seclusion to admire the rugged mountains.
With Mount Wilber and Iceberg Peak rising 3,000 feet above its surface, Iceberg Lake is often filled with floating icebergs. Starting behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, the hike to Iceberg Lake offers stunning vistas of Mount Grinnell and Swiftcurrent Mountain.
The trail courses through prime bear habitat, and it’s imperative to hike in groups, carry bear spray, and make lots of noise. Before you reach the icy waters of Iceberg Lake, you’ll walk through dense pine forests and stunning alpine meadows.
The rocky amphitheater prevents Iceberg Lake from receiving much sunlight, thus allowing the enormous chunks of ice to form. Watching the icebergs float atop the emerald waters is among the most picturesque sights in Glacier National Park. On days where the ice is more prominent, some icebergs are large enough for you to stand on.
The hike to Cracker Lake is one of the most adventurous activities in Glacier National Park. At 12.6 miles round trip, you’ll trek through dense forest, around tranquil creeks, and into a rugged canyon before arriving at Cracker Lake. And once you reach the overlook, your jaw may hit the floor due to the lake’s sparkling turquoise color. With intense sunlight, the shades of opaque turquoise appear straight from an alpine fairytale.
The snow-covered mountains form a breathtaking backdrop of the sloping green fields and milky water. It’s hard to imagine the views getting any better from the overlook, but a red-rock outcropping half a mile away says otherwise. With the 10,019-foot Mount Siyeh towering above Cracker Lake, it’s one of the most magical sights in Glacier National Park. For intrepid explorers, the backcountry Cracker Lake Campground includes three campsites beside the shoreline.
Grinnell Lake makes a fun-filled day trip in Glacier National Park that combines a hike and relaxing boat rides. And the sparkling turquoise water of Grinnell Lake is a breathtaking destination for your outing.
While you can trek the whole way to Grinnell Lake, two shuttle boats transport you across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. After you ride the shuttle and soak up the mountain views, you’ll hike through peaceful forests and cross streams before arriving at Grinnell Lake.
The glacial silt sliding off Grinnell Glacier gives the lake its bright, turquoise color on sunny days. From the shoreline, you’ll spot the cascading Grinnell Falls and the Grinnell and Salamander Glaciers.
You can also take the trail to the Grinnell Lake Overlook for some of the most dramatic vistas in Glacier National Park. The 360° views of craggy peaks, dense forests, and blooming wildflowers around the aquamarine lake will make your heart race.
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