Hiking to Trout Lake Glacier National Park
In early summer 2022, we headed to Glacier National Park to explore a different hiking trail. This time we chose the Trout Lake trail. Here’s an overview of our experience.
The Trout Lake trailhead is found on the north end of Lake McDonald. Once you pass the entrance to the Lake McDonald Lodge, you’ll go a little further and turn left on North Shore Lake McDonald Road. You go over a small one lane bridge, pass the parking area and continue on for approximately another 1/2 mile. There is a small pull-over parking spot that can fit perhaps four or five cars. The road is narrow. Once you park, you’ll see a small sign that says “Trout Lake” as seen in the photo shown here.
We headed up the trail. The first 2.5 miles are uphill, gaining approximately 2,000 feet in elevation. What was very interesting about the beginning portion of the hike was the way the area has healed since the 2018 Howe Ridge fire which burned ~12,000 acres. While there are still many remnants of the fire, in terms of blackened stumps and tree trunks as shown in this photo, it’s amazing how nature thrives. The entire area full of green, mostly in the form of small shrubs and some grass. It’s encouraging to see that an area that had been totally blackened is now alive.
Years ago there may not have been much to look at during the first few miles of hiking, as the forest was quite thick. However, because of the fire, there are minimal trees for the first mile or so, and that makes seeing Lake McDonald quite enjoyable.
As you can see from this photo, not only can you see the lake as you get higher and higher, but you can see the additional mountains in the distance. It is truly a wonderful hike for viewing the scenery.
The trail is well cleared. Once the forest got thicker, we noticed a lot of wild flowers blooming this year. In fact, beargrass (the white lacy plant shown here) was also in existence which was quite a treat to see. Beargrass isn’t actually grass, but is a similar plant to a lily. Bears don’t actually eat beargrass either, but sheep, deer, goats and elk do. The interesting thing is that it does not bloom every year, but only when conditions are idea. It can be seven years between growth, so we were quite happy to be able to enjoy it this year.
So once you arrive at the top of the ridge, there is a decent view of mountains to enjoy before the next mile and a half of hiking. The trail does go downhill at this point in time (so you might already be dreading the walk back up but keep going!). You’ll crisscross the slope. On your left, you’ll see a lake but that’s not the one you are headed for. The first lake you see is Rogers Lake. There is no official trail that goes to Rogers Lake from the Trout Lake trail, but once you’re down to the valley floor, there is probably a way over there.
So the Trout Lake trail winds down the ridge to the valley floor, and once there, you’ll head to your right towards the lake you’re coming to see. It’s truly worth the journey.
Trout Lake is a mile and a half in length and about 1/3 mile wide. Lake fishing is allowed year round in Glacier National Park, so if that’s your thing, bring along your equipment!
And once you sit and enjoy the beautify of the area, you can choose to continue along the trail to Arrow Lake, or head back the way you came and hike a mile and a half back up, and 2.5 miles back down. The results of our trip (per my health app on my phone) included a total of 23,714 steps, 246 flights climbed, and about 2000 feet in elevation. Phew! Exhausting but totally enjoyable.
What is your favorite Glacier National Park trail?
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