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Cracker Lake: An amazing hike in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park

A guided trail ride on the trail near Cracker Flats.
A guided trail ride on the trail near Cracker Flats.

Nestled in a glacial cirque in the Many Glacier area, Cracker Lake offers one of the most beautiful hiking destinations in Glacier National Park. The trail climbs 1,400 feet over the course of about 6 miles on its route up to Cracker Lake. The stunning turquoise blue color of the lake comes from suspended particles of rock ground into a fine powder by Siyeh Glacier. One trip to Cracker Lake and you will understand why Glacier National Park is called the “Crown Jewel of the Continent.”

Cracker Lake in Glacier National Park.  Photo taken June 2006.
Photo taken by Jill Lippard

The Cracker Lake trail begins at the horse corrals near the Many Glacier Hotel. The first section of the trail passes through thick forest and along the shores of Lake Sherburne. After about 1.5 miles, hikers arrive at the intersection with the Cracker Flats Loop horse trail. Up to this point, the trail is often extremely muddy and rutted due in large part to the heavy use from guided trail rides so wear good boots and expect to get dirty. From here, follow the Cracker Lake trail to the right as it begins to climb the Canyon Creek valley. At 3.5 miles, a small footbridge bridge carries hikers across Canyon Creek. The trail continues to climb gradually through forest and alpine meadows up the valley towards Cracker Lake. This is prime grizzly habitat so take the necessary precautions to avoid a surprise meeting with a bear. After reaching the foot of the lake at about 5.6 miles, continue along the eastern shore for excellent views atop the red rock formation near the backcountry campsites. A pit toilet is available. Just beyond the backcountry campsites, many hikers explore the machinery abandoned at the site of a turn-of-the-century mine shaft. Glacier Lilies blanket the meadows around Cracker Lake in June. Don’t be tempted to feed the marmots which seem used to people and boldly approach hikers, eager for handouts. Mountain goats are also common in the area. After soaking in the beauty of Cracker Lake and the amphitheater-like valley, return along the same route to the trailhead.

In June, the trail is extremely muddy for the first 1.5 miles and snow fields still cross over some of the upper sections of the trail as it approaches the lake. Plan a trip to Cracker Lake sometime between mid-June and mid-September.  As always, check out the trail status reports and weather conditions before hitting the trail.