I’m not exaggerating when I say that the trek to from the Logan Pass Visitor Center to Hidden Lake in Montana’s Glacier National Park was one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever taken.
For most of the three-mile round-trip journey, I was surrounded on all four sides by towering peaks. Some were covered with dustings of snow that looked like powdered sugar gently sprinkled on top.
Others were sunny and bare, aside from piles of rocks and bighorn sheep doing their best to blend in with the terrain.
Elsewhere, the aesthetically-pleasing sights became creeks, evergreen trees, alpine meadows, and snow patches that emerged around the trail. And of course, there’s the payoff at the end: Hidden Lake.
In this article, we’ll give you all the details you need to know to hike to Hidden Lake, share some incredible photos, and add some logistical tips to make sure you get a space in the parking lot and have the best chance for seeing mountain goats.
VIDEO: Glacier National Park Wildlife & Scenery
About the Hidden Lake Hike: Distance, Elevation, Map
What separates the Hidden Lake Trail from other amazing viewpoint hikes we’ve done is that this one is fairly short and only moderately strenuous.
It’s about 2.5 miles each way, and while there is some elevation gain, it’s not a huge amount. That means anyone in average physical condition can do the hike.
There’s no need to go deep into the backcountry to get stunning views, when you can simply hike this trail!
Hidden Lake Trail: The Details
Total distance: 5.1 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Total elevation gain: 1335 feet
Trailhead elevation: 6657 feet
Trailhead location: Logan Pass
Time needed: 2-4 hours roundtrip
Highlights: Mountain views, lake overlook viewpoint, mountain goats
Note that 5.1 miles is the total hiking distance from the trailhead down to the lake and back. If you see shorter distances listed elsewhere for this hike, they are just giving you the distance to the lake overlook viewing platform (aka the Hidden Lake Nature Trail), rather than the distance to go all the way down to the lake.
I highly recommend going down to the lake to get the full experience, and the best chance of seeing wildlife.
See the local hike area below. Here’s the NPS map of the Hidden Lake Trail and all the other surrounding hikes.
The Hidden Lake hike is a fairly busy one, so expect to see plenty of other tourists on the journey.
But the crowds do thin out the further you go, and once you reach the Hidden Lake Overlook, you’ll realize the trip was more than worth it.
Getting Here, Parking, and Entrance Permits
To hike to Hidden Lake, take the park shuttle bus or drive to Mile 32 on Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Logan Pass Visitor Center.
Logan Pass is the heart of the park and features a visitor center and several trailheads, including the popular Highline Trail that hugs the mountainside and goes all the way to Granite Park Chalet.
Logan Pass is the highest point on the park road. It’s located on the Continental Divide. The pass doesn’t open until mid-June each year, after the massive winter and spring snowfalls finally melt away.
During peak summer season, the Logan Pass parking lot fills up early, everyday, so you should plan on arriving before 8 am to guarantee yourself a parking spot.
Recently, Glacier National Park instituted a permit system recently to limit the number of vehicles in the park each day.
Vehicle reservations are required for the west side of Going-to-the-Sun Road from 6 am to 3 pm from late May to early September. Reservations can sell out months in advance. Learn more about park reservations here.
If you’re unable to secure a vehicle reservation, you can enter the park before 6 am, or after 3 pm. Alternately, you can utilize the park shuttle system.
Shuttles are completely free and run between July 1 and Labor Day. They stop at major points of interest, including Logan Pass.
Photos from the Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier National Park
The awesome views start immediately, as you’ll see Clements Mountain (8760 feet) looming large up ahead right as you step on the paved surface of the trail.
The initial portion of the trail is a paved sidewalk, which means that it’s wheelchair accessible for at least the beginning section. That’s followed by an elevated boardwalk to keep people off the fragile plants.
Look how Clements Mountain dwarfs a lone hiker walking on the raised boardwalk!
You may see bighorn sheep and mountain goats along this path. I’ve hiked the Hidden Lake Trail twice. The first time, I saw no mountain goats, which was disappointing.
The second time, I saw around 20 goats, many of them up close. Don’t be surprised if they cross the trail right in front of you!
Generally speaking, you’re supposed to keep some distance from mountain goats, because their horns can be dangerous.
But the goats here are pretty indifferent to people and will allow you pass by as long as you’re quiet and clearly not showing signs of being a threat.
Here’s an article detailing where I saw mountain goats in Glacier National Park on the hike.
Once you get a good distance into the hike, be sure to pause to look around in all directions. The views looking back are just as mind-blowing. You can see just how far you’ve come.
You can notice all sorts of cool details if you look closely. The first time I hiked here, I joined a group led by Carrie from Glacier Guides, who pointed out that some of the rocks along the path have ripple marks from being underwater centuries ago.
That’s a really cool detail that most people won’t notice!
If you see any little furry critters running around, those are likely marmots. They’re abundant at these high elevations and they hang out around the rocks and hillsides. I saw several on both of my hikes here.
I also saw a large group of bighorn sheep during the early portion of the hike. They were just off to the right of the boardwalk, lazily grazing on grass.
Grizzly bears do roam throughout the Logan Pass area as well. Though I didn’t personally see any here, plenty of people have. Some bear sightings have occurred right on the Hidden Lake Trail.
It’s never a bad idea to bring bear spray. Or travel in a group, especially in the thick forested section near the lake.
As the boardwalk ends and the gravel trail begines, you’ll pass by some small pine trees to the left of the trail. Keep your eyes open here, as mountain goats often hide in there, lying among the trees.
About 1.4 miles into the hike, you’ll reach the Hidden Lake Overlook, a viewing platform that provides all the postcard views you’re seeking.
Hang out here and bask in the scenery! It’s a great place for a lunch break.
The overlook is the place to take your postcard photos of the Hidden Lake area.
From up here, you can’t miss Bearhat Mountain (8684 feet) towering behind the lake.
Just hiking to the overlook is guaranteed to provide a ton of great sights and photo opportunities. But I do recommend continuing on for another 1.2 miles down to the lake itself.
For the first portion of the hike, the elevation gain is quite small (460 feet), so people who aren’t even regular hikers can do it.
There are plenty of people of all ages, even little kids and seniors, who partake in the first half of the hike to the overlook.
The second half of the hike, another 1.2 miles down to Hidden Lake, is more challenging. Foot traffic drops off significantly on this part of the hike, as many people turn around at the overlook.
Going down to the lake is easy – you’ll walk through an open meadow and down a few switchbacks to arrive at the lake. Cool views from down here!
But remember that if you choose to hike down to the lake, you have to hike back up. It’s a tougher uphill climb with an elevation gain of about 770 feet.
That’s a lot for such a short hike. Bring plenty of water and pace yourself.
I saw a handful of families and couples hanging out down at the lake having picnic lunches. It’s such a scenic spot to relax. The entire experience on Hidden Lake Trail was a total nature overdose!
Let’s close with a couple of frequently asked questions.
What’s the best time to hike to Hidden Lake?
Summer provides the best weather, but it’s also peak tourist season, so keep that in mind. September is actually an ideal time to visit, as crowds are thin and weather is still usually good.
What are the top hikes in Glacier National Park?
I highly recommend the Hidden Lake Trail as a hike that every visitor should do. The two other hikes I recommend for fit individuals who can do 8-10 miles: The Highline Trail and the Grinnell Glacier Trail hike. Both are exhausting but so rewarding!
Where else should I go near Glacier National Park?
You may also want to check out Bowman Lake or take a tour with Native Americans on the nearby Blackfeet reservation. And make sure to stop by the town of Polebridge, which is completely off the electrical grid!