Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park is one of those magical places that dreams are made of…but it’s actually real life!
From wildlife sightings to gorgeous meadows filled with flowers to dreamy sunsets, there are so many reasons to visit Hidden Lake Lookout in Glacier.
We recently came here on our end-of-summer trip, and we’re so glad we did! It’s a quick and easy hike, with an amazing reward at the end.
In this post, we’re sharing how easy it is to take the Hidden Lake Trail, what to expect along the way, and our best tips for taking epic photos here.
Are you ready? Because we are!
Hike To Hidden Lake In Glacier National Park
The Hidden Lake trail is an easy hike in Glacier National Park with an incredible view.
We’re pretty biased and think that all of them are incredible, but this specific trail to Hidden Lake Lookout has the best of both worlds: accessible AND beautiful!
Keep reading to see everything there is to know about this amazing spot in Montana.
Hidden Lake Trail Details:
- Elevation Gain: 540 feet
- Trail Distance: 2.7-mile round trip (Out and Back Trail)
- Starting Elevation: 6,646 feet
Hidden Lake Trail is considered moderate by the rangers of Glacier National Park, but that’s because it has such a quick elevation gain in such little time.
As average hikers ourselves, we think it’s definitely doable but take it slow and have your water ready if you’re feeling unsure!
Also, breaks are ENCOURAGED. The views are epic so it won’t even really feel like a break!
Getting To Hidden Lake Lookout Trailhead
In order to reach the Hidden Lake Lookout Trailhead, you’ll need to drive on the Going-To-The-Sun Road, either east or west – it’s located in the middle!
Make sure to do your research and know when the road is open. Click here to find the latest updates on the Going To The Sun Road!
You’ll need to park your car at the Logan Pass Visitors Center, which has a large parking lot and access to a lot of other trailheads too.
If you’re arriving during the day, the lot can be pretty busy so prepare to drive around in circles for a while until you find a spot.
The Beginning Of Hidden Lake Trail
Finding the trailhead to Hidden Lake In Glacier National Park is easy – it’s right behind the Visitors Center!
You can stop in the Visitors Center to get some questions answered but this trail is really straightforward and easy to follow.
The majority of the trail is on a wide boardwalk, with stairs climbing up, up, up!
On either side of you, you’ll see wildflowers as far as the eye can see, and towering mountains in the distance. You’ll truly feel like you’re in the center of it all on this hike.
Most of your elevation gain will come from these boardwalk steps. Have your water ready for a quick break, and don’t forget to turn around and soak in the Glacier mountain views!
Once you have finished the boardwalk and stairs, you’ll begin a dirt path that first wraps around Clements Mountain. (That’s the mountain that looks like you will walk right into it at the beginning of the trail!)
Keep going around the mountain to pass a small pond on your left. The trail continues onward, to a small patch of trees in the distance.
The wooded area is pretty small, but it provides some great views of the mountains, especially of Reynolds Mountain (pictured below).
This is one of the few spots on the trail that has ample shade, so it’s a great break stop if you need one.
After the patch of trees, there will be a small bridge crossing with colorful rocks, and it’s not too much longer until you get your first view of Hidden Lake Lookout!
Taking Photos With Your Phone? Here’s 11 Photo Editing Apps To Compliment These Glacier Mountains!
Aaaand we’ve reached our first view of the lake! *Berty jumps for joy*
The Hidden Lake Lookout Views
The first views of Hidden Lake in Glacier really do feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale!
Directly on the other side of the lake, you can see Bearhat Mountain, with Hidden Lake wrapping around the bottom.
Keep going down the path and you’ll eventually reach the small viewing platform. We visited it at the end, but we wanted to get some space to ourselves so we ventured off to the right and headed down the path.
If you continue all the way down this path to the right of Hidden Lake, you’ll eventually reach the shores of the lake.
We opted to stay up high (because, views), but walked a ways from the viewing area to get some space to ourselves.
Tips On Capturing Hidden Lake In Glacier National Park
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with ANY views at Hidden Lake Trail.
However, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your time here, and suggestions on where to get the best perspective for photos!
1. Stay On The Trail (Or Rocks Just Off The Path)
There’s no need to stray from the path because every single trail around the lake has incredible views!
I’ll say it again, WE DO NOT CONDONE WALKING OFF THE PATH. If you want to take a portrait, there are plenty of rocks directly off the path that don’t break the Leave No Trace Principles.
The rocks we chose (photos below) were a step off the trail, and there was no possible damage to the surrounding meadows.
We saw many social trails (a.k.a. unofficial smaller trails made by location popularity) roped off to deter people from wandering on them.
We request that you honor these barriers so the meadow can continue to thrive and be enjoyed by all!
See how these rocks are right off the path?
2. Patience May Result In Spotting a Mountain Goat Or A Pika!
If you decide to take the Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier in the early morning or late evening, chances are high that you’ll spot a mountain goat.
We were lucky and saw an entire family – mamma, dad and baby all together! *Heart eyes*
This is a popular place for these animals to find their evening dinner, so be patient, quiet, and most of all stay a safe distance away!
3. Pack a Wide Lens For Your Camera
Don’t have a fancy camera? Don’t fret! We saw plenty of people taking panorama photos with their phones, and it does an incredible job of capturing the entire view as well.
However, if you’ve got the gear, here’s what we suggest packing to capture Hidden Lake in Glacier:
16-35mm f/2.8: We love this lens for versatility! We often bring this lens hiking with us, because it can easily capture the entire scene in one frame.
35mm f/1.4: This is a great lens to bring for portraits and a really good option for when the sun is setting. It performs really well in low light and will continue to work beautifully as the light fades away.
Read More: Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
4. Plan Your Hidden Lake Hike During Sunrise Or Sunset
Some of our favorite photos captured at Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park were the ones with light rays shooting across the mountains or when the peaks turned a golden orange.
Spend a few minutes before you hit Hidden Lake Trail and research when sunrise and/or sunset will be. Proper planning can help you have an enjoyable hike without a rush!
Photography Light Planning Tip: Want to know where EXACTLY the sun will be and when it will set?
Consider getting the smartphone app Photopills. This program tells you when the sun will set, where, what angle it will be, and so many other light-centric goodies!
It’s $10, but we’ve already got our money’s worth with the epic shots it has helped us capture!
Hidden Lake Trail On The Return Trip
On the return trip from Hidden Lake in Glacier, we decided to head back before the sun completely set. This is because we wanted to catch the surrounding mountain tops turning bright orange!
This time of day is surreal and quiet, perfect for taking it slow and savoring the fresh mountain air.
Tips For Hiking at Hidden Lake Lookout
This is one of the shorter and more accessible trails in Glacier National Park, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare!
Here are some hiking tips for Hidden Lake trail to maximize comfort, ease, and fun.
1. Wear Good Hiking Boots
Hiking trails in Glacier National Park are NOT the time to break in those new hiking boots!
For this specific hike, we recommend wearing your favorite worn-in boots.
We recently were gifted some Arrowood hiking shoes by Teva, and they really performed well at Hidden Lake. (See them below!)
Don’t have boots? That’s okay! Tennis shoes work fine for this trail because the majority of it is on a flat boardwalk, so little ankle support is really needed. Choose your favorite everyday ones and get going!
2. Bring A Good Camera
The term “good camera” can look different depending on the person! We’re huge believers in thinking that the best camera is the one you have with you – which even includes your phone!
We say bring a good camera because this place is PHOTO. WORTHY. You’ll be happy you documented your journey to Hidden Lake in Glacier.
3. Eat Lots Of Snacks!
4. Consider Using Hiking Poles
Tender knees? We’ve learned that using hiking poles helps alleviate stress on our joints and allows us to hike longer and farther!
Consider borrowing some from a friend to try them before you buy!
Hiking poles aren’t everyone’s jam, so it’s good to try them (for free) before you decide to invest in a pair of your own.
5. Pack a Smart Daypack
What you pack can really be a way to make or break a hiking trip! It’s important to pack correctly, not only to keep you safe but to have an enjoyable time in Glacier.
Here are some essential things to bring when hiking in Glacier:
- Bear Spray (really, it’s essential)
- Water Bottle
- Snacks (sweet and salty)
- Layers of clothing to throw on when it gets colder
- First Aid Kit
- Optional (but essential for us): A really great camera
Want More Hiking Trails In Glacier National Park?
Hiking Hidden Lake Trail is often the first hike for many people just starting their Glacier adventure! Read below for more of our favorite places to explore in the park, as well as more informative trail tips.
Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park is one of the most beautiful places to see the sunset! Where else have you experienced an incredible view in Glacier? Find us on Instagram at @themandagies and share your Montana photo by tagging us!
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