Taking a road trip to rural America is essential for locals and international visitors alike, but it’s not complete without getting back to nature.
When it comes to the best scenery in the country, it is hard to go past Montana. Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park presents the best hiking and recreational activities in the heart of this iconic region, with simple trails and views destined to imprint themselves on your memory for life.
For the ultimate experience, the periods on either side of summer are the best time to head to the park. During winter, parts of the mountain are cut off due to snow (and it will be cold as heck too).
While summer seems ideal instead, it doesn’t come without crowds flocking from all corners of the country. So, for the best weather conditions and unfettered access to the tracks, book your spot during the shoulder seasons (May or September, on either side of the summer holidays). You won't have to contend with snow or people. Winning.
The 3.4-mile trek is considered to be medium to moderate difficulty, so a base level of fitness will be required to complete the trail and view the majesty of Hidden Lake Glacier National Park. The trek starts in the west at Logan Pass, off Going-to-the-Sun Road, which can be accessed by bus. Alternatively, there is ample parking at the Logan Pass Visitors Center.
Going-to-the-Sun Road is the only way to access the trail and it bisects the National Park through some of Montana's finest scenery. You can get more information about the trail and the park from the rangers at the visitors center.
Once you set out, there are four waypoints along the way. The first is a wooden overlook that will present gorgeous views of the lake. For beginner hikers, this might be your final destination, allowing you to view the lake without taking on the entire trail.
Those who press on can take a break at a hidden overlook before another stop where the switchbacks cease. Then it is a slow descent down to the lake in the east.
Arriving early is advisable. As the trail takes between three to four hours to complete (depending on your fitness and skill level), we recommend leaving plenty of time ahead of your trek.
Additionally, the trail tends to be a popular attraction during summer, so avoiding that rush will also give you the chance to get the best spot by the lake.
Trust us when we say you will need plenty of water. A wide-brimmed hat and proper hiking shoes won’t go amiss, either.
There are no food vendors in the area, so pack a trail mix, some protein bars, and a decent lunch to give yourself enough energy to power on through your adventure. Finally, a long-sleeved shirt and lots of sun lotion are also essentials, while a first aid kit is always a good idea.
Note: Remember this is a national park, so only leave footprints, not waste.
You can reach Going-to-the-Sun-Road from the east or the west. The St. Mary Entrance is on the east and can be reached from the town of Browning. To access the western end, follow the signage from the communities of Kalispell, Whitefish, and Columbia Falls.
At the Logan Pass Visitor Center, hikers can start their journey to Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park. As you reach the backside of the center, just after climbing the stairway, stay to your right and you will see the Hanging Gardens Trailhead.
Even a simple drive along Going-to-the-Sun Road provides breathtaking views of the snowy mountains, gorgeous terrain, and lakes and rivers of Montana.
Meanwhile, kayaking at Lake McDonald is essential, while driving to the top of Logan Pass will give you the best views of the park.
Once you’re done with those, head over to Mary Lake, cradled in the valleys of soaring mountains and guaranteed to take your breath away.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, though, and you really have to explore this park for yourself to discover its true majesty.
Tip 1: Take a few days to explore
The first and most essential tip is to book several days to explore the park; this isn’t an adventure you can complete in a day trip or weekend experience (if you really want to get the most out of it).
Many visitors have been returning year after year and still discover new things to explore, so you can imagine how much there is to see and do. Plus, there’s an abundance of accommodation options at the east and west ends of the park, so you can treat yourselves to a few days (five days, if you ask us) away in the midst of incredible views.
Tip 2: Grab food and essentials at local shops
While there are limited food and drink options in the park, you can get plenty of supplies at Columbia Falls and Whitefish, so stock up.
Tip 3: Plan an itinerary in advance
Aside from the trails, there are plenty of activities to enjoy as well, so you’ll want to draw up a schedule before you embark on your journey. Our favorites include the climbing rope courses, horse riding, and whitewater rafting on the Flathead River.
Bonus tip: The Cedar Tree Gift Shop sells the best ice cream in Montana – maybe the entire United States.
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