This Breathtaking Hike Is One Of Glacier National Park's Best For Wildlife Views

Montana's Glacier National Park is known for its stunning mountains, spectacular wildlife, and hidden gem alpine lakes, but it's not every day you meet a trail that delivers all three of these in monumental proportions. The hike on the Hidden Lake Nature Trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook just so happens to be on one of those rare trails. Given the route's reasonable round-trip length of 2.7 miles, hikers don't have to slog for days with backpacks full of banana chips and freeze-dried lentils to take in all the wonders. As well as being on the shorter side, the trail is relatively easy, making it a great hike for families

The Hidden Lake Nature Trail provides expansive views of dozens of majestic peaks (including Clements Mountain, Bearhat Mountain, Mount Reynolds, and more) with elevations of more than 8,500 feet high, as well as distant views of Sperry Glacier. To boot, the trail ends at a point with panoramic vistas of one of the most iconic lakes in the whole park (Hidden Lake) in an area that's frequented by mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots, wolverines, and grizzly bears. 

Hiking to Hidden Lake

Maybe the only drawback of this trail is its popularity, so start your adventure early if you want to find parking and avoid the crowds. This is particularly important if you're visiting the park in high season, which runs from May through September but peaks in July and August. The journey to Hidden Lake begins at the Hanging Gardens Trailhead on the west side of the Logan Pass Visitor Center, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the park. 

The first portion of the trail is along a boardwalk with occasional steps that meanders through lush alpine meadows (the so-called "hanging gardens"), which can be filled with bright wildflowers mid-summer. As the trail progresses, it passes small lakes, charming streams, and possibly some snowfields, depending on the season. Hikers will approach a few "false overlooks" before reaching the true one, which never fails to delight. Take advantage of the opportunity to capture amazing photos of the impressive Bearhat Mountain towering over the placid lake. It's also pretty common to see wildlife (particularly the snowy white and sure-footed mountain goats) hanging out in this area. 

Tips to maximize safety and enjoyment

The Hidden Lake Nature Trail traverses wide-open areas that are highly exposed to the elements, so even though it's a short-ish trip, be prepared for changing weather conditions with sunscreen, a hat, thermal layers, and a good rain jacket. Also, carry plenty of water with you, and bring trekking poles if you're at all unsteady on your feet — the latter part of the trail is rocky and steep in sections.

A word to the wise about wildlife encounters in the "crown of the continent," Glacier National Park: Always maintain a safe distance from creatures great and small. For most of the larger mammals (moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, and coyotes), that means 75 feet, but for wolves, grizzlies, and black bears, a safe distance jumps all the way up to 300 feet. In particular, respect the protective natures of furry mothers and grant them and their babies an even wider berth. 

Some of the park's wildlife is less visible but can be quite a nuisance. For example, ticks are active in this part of Montana in late spring and early summer. Therefore, it's always a good idea to wear bug spray while romping around the park and to periodically check your clothing and skin for critters that may have hitched a ride.