Browning, Montana

Hike to Cracker Lake

12.2 Miles Total - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally 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.

Read More

Tags

Photography
Swimming
Backpacking
Hiking
Beach
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

So Blue!

This was a hike I'll never forget. The first mile or two was crowded and we got stuck behind some horses, but after that we saw maybe 10 folks the rest of the way. The lake is truly the bluest water I've ever seen, I could've spent hours just looking at it. Be sure to take time to explore the shore. There are multiple great waterfall views on the way. On our way out, probably on the last mile or two before the parking lot, we saw a brown bear well below us off the trail near the marshy river flats!

Amazing hike!

This hike was recommended by multiple people and we ended up doing it as a quick day hike. Start EARLY to beat the crowds (although the crowds aren't bad compared to other hikes because of the mileage). Be prepared to spend at least an hour at the lake soaking up the beauty. Also - the color of the lake really is vivid and so unreal in person. I recommend hiking the extra half mile (mile round trip) out to the red rock outcrop as well. Also a great hike to catch wildlife, especially on a quiet morning!

Spectacular Hike, Great Views!

This has been one of my all time favorite hikes that I've ever done. The trail is relatively flat with one short section of switch backs near the beginning, but after that it's relatively flat. The entire trail is jam packed with views and the lake itself is simply jaw dropping. This makes for a great day hike if you're in the Many Glacier region. Be sure to make lots of noise on the trail and bring bear spray, we passed fresh scat on the trail and saw a mama grizzly and cub up on ridges near the lake!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

Stay Nearby

Browning, Montana

Many Glacier Campground

Overview The Many Glacier Campground is located on the east side of Glacier National Park, at an elevation of approximately 4,500 feet. There are 41 camp sites available for advance reservations an...

Browning, Montana

St. Mary Campground

Overview St. Mary Campground is the largest campground on the east side of Glacier National Park, and is conveniently located approximately a half-mile from the St. Mary Visitor Center. The visitor...

Saint Mary, Montana

St. Mary / East Glacier KOA

West Glacier, Montana

Fish Creek Campground

Overview Fish Creek Campground is the second largest campground in Glacier National Park, and one of four campgrounds that takes reservations. Glacier National Park, in northwestern Montana, is ...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike the Skyline Experience

    The route starts from Many Glacier at the Cracker Lake Trailhead, about 5000 feet. Hike the trail about 2 miles until you come to a fork, stay right here to keep your approach hike a little shorter. Hikers wind through switchbacks and beautiful me...

    16 miles 6500 ft gain

  • Hike to Ptarmigan Tunnel

    This amazing 11 mile hike with 2,300 feet of vertial gain begins behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn cabins. If you start early enough you can park by the trailhead, but if you get a little later start you may need to park in the main lot of the Mot...

    10.7 miles 2249 ft gain

  • Kayak Swiftcurrent Lake

    Swiftcurrent Lake is easily accessed along the shores of Many Glacier Hotel where ample parking is available. The Glacier Park Boat Company offers single and double kayak rentals onsite (pricing and dates of operations are available here: glacier...

  • Walk the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail, Glacier National Park

    Walking in either direction, the trail is easy to follow. If you take the loop counter-clockwise, you will reach the Grinnell Glacier parking area in just over a half mile (which is an alternate starting point for this trail). Follow the signs and...

    2.3 miles