Cracker Lake Hiking Guide


cracker lake

About Cracker Lake Trail

  • Trail Highlights – Pristine, milky, turquoise-colored alpine lake, towering peak views, wildflowers, plentiful wildlife
  • Roundtrip Length – 12.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain – 1,400 feet
  • Peak Elevation – 6,035 feet
  • Parking Lot — Yes
  • Difficulty — Strenuous
  • Region – Many Glacier
  • Availability of Water — Yes

While much of this trail winds through forest, thus preventing views of the spectacular mountains, the final destination at Cracker Lake makes it all worthwhile.

The lake is a surreal milky turquoise color that has to be seen to be believed. The hue comes from deposits of ‘glacial flour’ in the water, which is essentially rock that’s ground into a fine dust by glacier movement.

The sun reflects off the flour in the water, causing the unusual, milky color. Adding to the spectacular setting are the peaks that rise up around the lake, the most impressive of which is Mount Siyeh, one of the largest rock walls in North America, towering over the lake at 4,500 vertical feet.

The Cracker Lake trailhead is located at the upper end of the parking lot above the Many Glacier Hotel. Because of heavy horseback use by hotel guests, the first 1.7 miles of the trail are usually a bit of a mess. Bear with it, because it gets better once you get clear of the horse traffic.

The first part of the trail passes through heavy forest, but soon opens up, providing you with a gorgeous view of Cracker Flats and the peaks around Lake Sherburne. Around 1.4 miles from the trailhead, you’ll come to the Cracker Flats Horse Loop. You’ll cross a bridge over Allen Creek after another .2 miles and soon reach the far end of the horseback loop. Go straight at this point, continuing on towards Cracker Lake.

At this point the trail begins to climb and switchback up a ridge. At the top you’ll get a nice view of Allen Creek flowing down one side of the ridge and Canyon Creek flowing down the other side.

At 2.3 miles from the trailhead you’ll come to a beautiful waterfall cascading down the cliff in front of you. From here the trail reemerges into the forest, winding through trees and berry patches which are prime grizzly bear feeding areas. Be extra cautious, especially as you round turns in the path, making lots of noise to warn them of your approach (learn more about safety while hiking in grizzly bear habitat).

Bears want to avoid humans and will usually get out of your way if they hear you coming. Carry bear spray in case you come in close contact with one.

At 3.25 miles, you’ll enter a clearing with stunning views of the slopes of Allen Mountain. Proceed another half-mile along the trail, and you’ll head back into the forest again for another 1.5 miles.

At mile 4.75, the trail opens up for the remainder of your trip to Cracker Lake. You’ll be basking in spectacular views of Mount Siyeh and Allen Mountain.

Another mile along the trail and you’ll come to an overlook and get your first glimpse of Cracker Lake with its surreal milky turquoise water – quite a sight!

Another .5 miles and you’ll arrive at an outcropping of red rocks with another fantastic view of the lake with Allen Mountain and Mount Siyeh towering around it. It’s another mind-blowing view you won’t soon forget. Continue on the trail a bit and you’ll arrive at the lake. An incredibly friendly mountain goat might greet you upon your arrival. He’s a lake fixture, having appointed himself the official Cracker Lake goat greeter, so be nice to him!

You can also continue on the trail towards the old Cracker Lake Mine that was set up in 1897. It never achieved its goal of hitting a mother-lode of copper, but the two prospectors who created it, gave it – and subsequently, the lake – its name after having a crackers and cheese lunch on the site.

cracker lake profile

Cracker Lake Elevation Profile

Additional Glacier National Park Hiking Info

Check out other Glacier National Park hiking trails, or head back to the hikes in the Many Glacier area.

Return home to
Glacier National Park Travel Guide

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