Cracker Lake (Glacier National Park) 30-Aug-2010

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana

I first visited Glacier National Park back in the mid-1070’s but, after that, it never seemed to win the vacation contest against yet another trip to the Sierras, North Cascades, Yellowstone, etc. We “re-discovered” Glacier three years ago, realized what we’d been missing, and have now been there three years in a row – still only scratching the surface of its many hiking and backpacking possibilities. We learned to visit the week prior to Labor Day as this is past the peak of the tourist season, so accommodations and trails are less crowded and the weather is (usually) good. This year we got to the park via the overnight Amtrak train service direct from Portland, Oregon – much better and safer than a 1,200 mile roundtrip car ride. We were at Many Glacier Hotel again this year since it is at or near several trailheads. There is also a shuttle from the hotel to the free shuttle service that operates within the park and this allows us to do several long loop trips as dayhikes.

Unfortunately, this year we played tag with the weather all week, starting with a light blizzard at Logan Pass, followed by rain all the next day. Rather than hike in the wet, we took a boat trip on Lake Josephine and were rewarded by seeing three grizzly bears foraging on the slopes above the lake. Despite several of the trails we took being posted for bear activity, this was our best and only close sighting of bears the whole week. By nightfall, the atmosphere was starting to clear and we were treated to a kaleidoscopic sunset.

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Sunset over Swiftcurrent Lake

Overnight, all was forgiven meteorologically and the day dawned bright and clear.

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Clearing weather over Swiftcurrent Lake

Encouraged by this break in the weather, we decided to do an out-and-back hike from the Many Glacier Hotel to Cracker Lake (12.4 miles roundtrip; 1,800 feet of elevation gain). The first 1.5 miles of the trail was a horse-generated muddy mess but with excellent views of the mud flats on the west end of Lake Sherburne and of Apikuni Mountain.

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Altyn Peak and Apikuni Mountain from the Cracker Lake Trail

The hosrsey mess was forgotten once we turned into Canyon Creek Canyon and the views opened up.

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
The view from the mouth of Canyon Creek

We enjoyed a view of the creek,

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Canyon Creek

but were less than overjoyed by the obviously fresh bear poop in the middle of the trail and the equally fresh claw marks on a tree next to the trail.

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
We were not alone…

But no bears were encountered and the views got more and more intense as we climbed higher along Canyon Creek toward the lake.

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Apikuni Mountain from Canyon Creek
Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Wynn Mountain from Canyon Creek

Cracker Lake is fed by the remnants of the Siyeh Glacier (it is now predicted that all of the live glaciers in the park will be gone by 2020), so it is colored milky turquoise by glacial flour.

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Cracker Lake below Allen Mountain
Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Cracker Lake below Mount Siyeh

After lunch at the lake, we headed back, only to find that the weather was turning again.

Cracker Lake Glacier National Park Montana
Storm clouds gather over Apikuni Mountain

The first drops of rain arrived about a mile before the end of the trail, but we made it back to the hotel bar just before the rain really started pouring down.

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