As its name suggests, Hidden Lake is one of Glacier National Park’s most prized treasures.
The crystal-clear alpine lake lies in the heart of the park near Logan Pass, and is bordered by the stunning towering peaks of Bearhat Mountain, Dragons Tail, Clements Mountain, and Reynolds Mountain.
Nestled in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, the park boasts 1,583 square miles of wilderness that extend all the way to the Canadian border.
Home to snow-capped mountains and lush valleys, Glacier features more than 700 miles of hiking trails and the world-famous Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Though the lake is now one of the park’s most famous locations, it was originally named because the surrounding mountains concealed it from view.
The lake holds a unique crescent shape, and set amongst the carved mountain peaks, makes for one of the most sublime views in Montana—which is no easy feat.
Visitors can access Hidden Lake via a trail from the Logan Pass Visitor Center, which begins as a boardwalk path before turning to gravel as it meanders through the mountainous terrain.
Along the way, hikers will be treated to pristine views of the alpine meadows and the turquoise lake itself.
Hidden Lake Stats
- Size: 147.1 acres/59.5 hectares
- Season: Open year round, though parts of the mountain may be closed due to weather in winter
- Number of campsites, RV Parks: 13 (in Glacier National Park)
Things to do at Hidden Lake
Visitors to Hidden Lake consider it one of the most magnificent locations in the state. The shores are peaceful, with many park guests only hiking to the overlook and enjoying the view from above. And the water is an inviting luminous blue that makes you want to jump in.
While most would be content to simply sit and enjoy the scenery at Hidden Lake, there are still plenty of things to do in the area, from lake activities to hiking.
Can you swim in Hidden Lake?
It’s an extra one and a half miles to reach the shore of the lake from the trail lookout, so many park guests with limited time only take in Hidden Lake from a distance.
But those who do travel all the way to the lake usually can’t help but take a dip, with some travel bloggers describing the experience as “like swimming in Blue Gatorade”.
Given that the lakes in Glacier National Park consist of snowmelt, they are usually uncomfortably cold to swim in, even in the summer months. Temperatures tend to rise to their peak in mid-August, which is the best time to swim in Hidden Lake.
As the waters are so transparent, particularly around the shoreline, the lake is also a popular destination for floating (and snapping seriously cool social media photos while doing so!).
Is there wildlife at Hidden Lake?
Like many areas in Glacier National Park, Hidden Lake brings with it the chance to spot native wildlife. The Hidden Lake Trail in particular is a great place to view mountain goats, which have even been known to wander into the parking lot at the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
Although a rarity, it’s also possible to see grizzly bears wandering through the area, along with squirrels, bighorn sheep, marmots, and wolverines.
With more than 260 species of birds in the park, Hidden Lake is a great destination for bird-watching too.
Fishing at Hidden Lake
In keeping with Montana’s heritage as a fishing mecca, Hidden Lake is a top location for anglers. All fishing at Hidden Lake is catch-and-release as the lake can sometimes receive too many anglers. It’s a particularly good spot for Yellowstone cutthroat trout.
The majority of anglers fish near the lake’s outlet at the end of the Hidden Lake Trail. Those who wish to fish in solitude can simply stroll along the lake for a mile or so to find a less frequented spot.
There are no motor boats allowed on the lake, but visitors can still use portable pontoon boats or float tubes.
Interestingly, Vice President George H.W. Bush arrived at the shores of Hidden Lake in 1983 to take part in some trout fishing.
Camping at Hidden Lake
Camping is a beloved pastime in Glacier National Park, which hosts 13 front country campgrounds.
There are campgrounds that campers can reserve in advance and those that operate on a first-come-first-served basis. Additionally, some campgrounds offer both reservation sites and first-come-first-served options.
The campgrounds vary in amenities and creature comforts. Some offer tent camping, others provide RV sites, and there are also specific campgrounds for cyclists and those on foot. There are also certain rules to follow in each campground, including quiet hours between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Out of the 13 campgrounds in Glacier National Park, those that are the closest to Hidden Lake are:
- Avalanche Creek Campground – First-come, first-served
- Rising Sun Campground – First-come, first-served
- Sprague Creek Campground – Reservation only
- St. Mary Campground – Reservation only
- Many Glacier Campground – Reservation only
For a full list of the campgrounds in Glacier National Park, please see the National Park Service website.
Is there cabin rental or hotels near Hidden Lake?
There’s a variety of lodging options in Glacier National Park and also in the areas surrounding it, including accommodation for those who’d prefer to stay in a cabin or inn rather than at a campsite.
Some of the closest cabin rentals to Hidden Lake include:
$ – Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins – Columbia Falls
$$ – Rising Sun Motor Inn and Cabins – St. Mary Lake
$$ – West Glacier Cabin Village – West Glacier
$$$ – Glacier Raft and Outdoor Center Cabins – West Glacier
$$$ – Silverwolf Log Chalets – West Glacier
$$$ – West Glacier RV Park and Cabins – West Glacier
Some of the closest hotels, inns, and lodges to Hidden Lake include:
$$$ – Village Inn at Apgar – Lake McDonald
$$ – Lake McDonald Lodge – Lake McDonald
$$ – Motel Lake McDonald – Lake McDonald
$$$ – Many Glacier Hotel – Browning
$$$ – Cedar Creek Lodge – Columbia Falls
$$ – St. Mary Village – St. Mary
$$$ – West Glacier Village – West Glacier
$$$ – Belton Chalet – West Glacier
Hiking is one of the main activities in Glacier National Park, with trails available to hikers of all fitness levels and abilities. Several of these are in close proximity to Hidden Lake.
The Hidden Lake Trail
The most famous trail in the area is the Hidden Lake Trail itself, which offers some of the park’s most stunning views.
The trailhead begins just behind Logan Pass Visitor Center at the summit of Going-to-the-Sun road. Hikers can park in the parking lot at Logan Pass, but as this tends to fill up early, an alternative is to park at St. Mary Visitor Center and take the shuttle service to Logan Pass.
The trail extends for 2.8 miles (4.5 km) to the lookout and back. From the lookout, hikers get exquisite views of the lake and also of the Sperry Glacier Basin.
There’s a total elevation gain of 500 feet, but if hikers want to actually go down to the lake, the trail becomes extremely steep, dropping around 770 feet, and continues on for an extra 1.5 miles.
The Hidden Lake Trail is considered a moderate hike, which may be challenging for novice hikers. But most visitors confirm that the brilliant views are worth the exertion of the hike.
The best time to attempt the trail is in the summer months as the alpine climate brings snow nearly year-round.
The total length of the trail is 14.9 miles (24 km) and it takes on average just under seven hours to complete. It’s an ideal trek for visitors looking to spend most of the day on their hike.
The trail is off-limits to dogs but you’ll likely encounter lots of other hikers, as it’s one of the more popular trails in the area thanks to its idyllic wildflowers and sweeping views.
There’s a total elevation gain of 2,578.7 feet (786 meters), with a steeper incline towards the end of the trail.
June through October is the best time to walk this trail as the area receives snow in the winter months. Even though it’s more time-consuming than some of Glacier’s shorter trails, many visitors consider the Highline Trail a must because of its spectacular vistas.
Siyeh Pass Trail
Located near Siyeh Bend, the Siyeh Pass Trail is a slightly shorter trail than the Highline, but still packs a punch at 9.6 miles (15.4 km) in length. With an elevation gain of 2,234.2 feet (681 meters), it’s a moderate to difficult trail that inexperienced hikers may struggle with.
Most people can complete the Siyeh Pass Trail in under six hours, not including time stopped for lunch or to take in the beautiful views of Lake McDonald.
Certain stretches of the trail are bendy and can get cold and windy, even in warmer months. The best time to hike here is between March and October.
Hikers can’t bring their dogs on this popular trail, but they will likely spot several native species of wildlife, including chipmunks stirring among the wildflowers and even grizzly bears wandering in the distance.
Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail
Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail is a highlight of Glacier National Park. Less than a mile in length, it’s also one of the easiest trails in the park and can be hiked by the whole family.
This is a great option for beginners who want to enjoy the outdoors and view some beautiful scenery without doing a strenuous hike.
Located near Avalanche Creek, the trail is lined with red cedars (some over 80 feet tall), maple trees, black cottonwoods, and pacific yew.
There are other striking species too that give the hike an enchanted feel, despite the crowds of people. It’s also one of only two wheelchair-accessible trails in the park.
One of the focal points of the Trail of the Cedars is a quaint footbridge that crosses Avalanche Creek. From here, you can take in breathtaking views of the lower Avalanche Gorge.
Most of the trail is paved, though it features a boardwalk in some stretches.