Hike to Cracker Lake
Montana › Many Glacier
Added by Dustin Wong
Hike 6.1 miles (one-way) to chill on a beach of a beautiful turquoise glacial lake. You'll get off the beaten path as Cracker Lake is significantly less busy than Iceberg Lake. This is a convenient one day backpacking trip or day hike. For an overnight trip, check out Backpack to Cracker Lake.
The 6.1 mile (12.2 roundtrip), hike to Cracker Lake includes wooded forests, grand views of lakes and mountains, creek crossings, distant waterfalls, mining ruins, possible wildflowers and wildlife, and a swim in turquoise water. At 1400ft elevation gain, the trail never gets too taxing. The views and color of the unique glacier lake located at the back of a canyon is a wonderful way to get away from civilization for a night.
The trail starts at the south end of the Many Glacier Hotel parking lot. Most hikers choose to do this as a day hike, starting early in the morning, However if you wish to spend the night there are 3 lovely tent spots located on a ridge overlooking the lake. There have been moose sitings at the lake, and a marmots live around the campsite.
I wanted to take my friend into the backcountry for her first time, and this moderate one day trip was a great introduction. It was recommended by a ranger who had been all over the park as her favorite one day trip in the park.
The first 1.7 miles is a shared horse path through the woods, which can be messy and odor filled at times. Luckily it's short lived and the trail begins to climb through switchbacks, eventually following Canyon Creek. There are occasional shallow creek crossings as well as clearings of the forest canopy which provide stunning views of mountain walls on both sides of the creek.
This is bear country so we had to be diligent about making noise as there are a lot of tight bends and limited sight sections of the trail. We exercised our vocal chords by practicing our wolf howls and went about clapping our hands every now and then. Carrying bear spray at the hip is good practice for any hike in Glacier National Park.
At 4.75 miles in, we emerged from the forest and could see down the deep canyon and the occasional high elevation waterfall flowing from melting ice packs.
We experienced our first full view of the lake at a clearing 5.8 miles in. The trail then follows the ridge of the lake to the camping area and continues down to the main beach located at the back of the canyon. Along the ridge several paths lead down to small rocky beach areas, which one would certainly have to oneself. The beach at the end of the trail is not to be missed however, where gray silty sand meets ice cold turquoise blue water. It was a hot enough day where a quick swim was in order.
There is also an old mine site which I did not venture up the ridge for, as well as some abandoned mining equipment near the back of the canyon to explore.
We finished eating dinner just in time to see the sunset through a small opening in the mountains. The water was such a deep tone of blue at this time.
It was a great way to introduce my friend to the backcountry experience. Since then, she has told me numerous times that she is so grateful that she pushed herself outside of her comfort zone and did it. In the end it was a lot easier than she had thought it would be.
- Bear spray
- Water filtration (to purify lake water)
- Gas stove
- Lightweight towel
- Primitive outhouse located a short walk from the tent area
- Camping permit (see Park Backcountry Office)
- Sleeping bag (25 degree)
- Rope, carabiner, and food sack (there is a pole to hang your food)
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Backpacking, Hiking, Photography, Swimming
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Moose and Mines
This is a great hike and not too far off from the Many Glacier Hotel. When we first caught sight of the strikingly blue lake, we could see a Bull Moose standing in the water- it only added to the beauty of the surrounding area. On a hot summer day, the mine shaft is worth the extra scramble in order to cool down, the temperatures are significantly cooler and quite refreshing. Bring headlamps in order to explore the mine shaft, it isn't too deep, but fun to walk through. Cracker Lake is a definitely a favorite in Glacier.
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Planning & Preparations As amazing as this trek is, it's certainly not without its challenges, and the first one you will run into is obtaining a backcountry permit for camping.