Take a hike: Glacier Lake - Mission Mountains Wilderness
August 29, 2019
At A Glance
Length: Approximately 1.6 miles one way, 3.2 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 425 feet
Usage: The trail is primarily used by day hikers and backpackers. Note: There is no overnight camping at Glacier Lake.
Services: The trailhead has a relatively large parking lot with a pit toilet. No drinking water is available at the trailhead. Hikers are able to bring their dogs on the trail.
Directions: Travel along Montana Highway 83. Turn west onto Kraft Creek Road at mile marker 37 (just south of Condon). Follow Forest Service Road 561 for about 11.5 miles to the trailhead. The trailhead to Glacier Lake also serves as the trailhead for Crescent Lake, Heart Lake and Turquoise Lake.
Hiking Time: Roughly two-hours total, unless you get distracted looking for huckleberries.
The hike was relatively easy and you can hardly tell you gain 425 feet of elevation. This is the perfect hike for someone looking to do a quick solo-hike or family adventure. In fact, there was a family with young children fishing at the lake.
The trail to Glacier Lake is relatively wide at the beginning and quickly narrows into a well-maintained single-track that loosely follows Glacier Creek. While hiking you will come to three creek crossings, one at Crazy Horse Creek nearly a half-mile in, and two along Crescent Creek. Each creek crossing has a secure log bridge, the first two bridges have handrails for support, the third does not.
The trail flows through Engelmann spruce and Douglas-fir groves that provide quite a bit of shade, but the forest floor is home to a variety of vegetation that can get humid in the afternoon. I'd recommend bringing a container to pick huckleberries. There are plenty of opportunities to stock up.
The most common wildlife encountered on the trail are birds and small mammals such as squirrels and chipmunks. However, bears frequent the area. Be prepared for a possible bear encounter by packing bear spray and storing food appropriately. Trail conversation and making other noises can also prevent surprising a bear.
The trail branches off into several outcroppings that yield unique views of Glacier, Crazy Horse and Crescent Creeks. These spaces are ideal for taking a break or enjoying some of the huckleberries you've collected.
About 1.3 miles into the trail it will fork at a well-marked junction, one path will continue onwards to Crescent, Heart and Turquoise Lakes, the other will lead you a little over a quarter-of-a-mile to the shores of Glacier Lake.
Glacier Lake is a 104-acre snow-fed lake at 5,260 feet elevation. The lake offers stunning views of the Mission Mountains, some of the peaks still had snow in mid-July! If you look carefully enough you can spot a cascading waterfall that winds its way from the snow patches and down into the lake.