Trout Lake Hiking Guide

trout lake

About Trout Lake Trail

  • Trail Highlights – Pristine alpine lake with trout fishing, towering peak views, wildflowers, plentiful wildlife
  • Roundtrip Length – 3.7 miles
  • Elevation Gain – 2,000 feet
  • Peak Elevation – 2,000 feet
  • Parking Lot — Yes
  • Difficulty — Moderate
  • Region – Lake McDonald
  • Availability of Water — No

The 3.7 mile hike to Trout Lake is a short trek compared to other treks in Glacier, but the steep incline in the first part makes it a bit difficult for hikers who aren’t in great shape. It also doesn’t have much in the way of views until you get to the lake, but once you’re there, you’ll be amply rewarded with some awesome vistas of the surrounding peaks.

To get to the Trout Lake Trailhead, go to Lake McDonald Lodge on Going to the Sun Road. Pass the lodge and turn left on North Shore Lake McDonald Road. From here, the road winds for roughly .75 miles to a small pullover parking area. Although there’s only room for a handful of cars, you’ll likely find a spot, as it usually isn’t crowded.

From the Trout Lake trailhead you’ll begin to climb up to Howe Ridge, a steep incline of 2000 feet in the next 2.5 miles. The first mile or so of the climb up to the ridge is the most difficult, so hang in there, as it becomes less steep after that. You won’t get much in the way of views on this stretch, as you’ll be passing through dense forest, much of which was charred by a fire in 2003.

At about .8 miles, the trail crosses over an avalanche chute that cleared away a significant swath of trees. This is the first great vista of the hike, as you’re treated to a fantastic view of McDonald Lake glittering below. Then you’ll head back into the trees until you get to the top of Howe Ridge.

Once at the top, you’ll begin a steep descent, switchbacking down 1,300 feet over the next mile. Still no significant views along the trail, as you’ll again be passing through dense forest.

Forests Surround Trout Lake

Once you’re at the bottom, the trail intersects with the Camas Lake Trail. Turn right on the trail and you’ll have an easy, level jaunt of about .75 miles to the shores of 2 mile long Trout Lake.

Once at this crystalline jewel, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of Heaven’s Peak, Stanton Mountain and Mount Vaught looming above the lake’s south end. To the north, you’ll see Rogers Mountain and Camas Ridge.

There used to be a campground at Trout Lake, but it was closed after a fatal grizzly attack in 1967 and was never reopened. The attack and another at Lake McDonald on the same night inspired the movie ‘Night of the Grizzlies’. No more grizzly incidents have occurred at the site, but always follow proper bear precautions while anywhere in Glacier National Park.

While this hike doesn’t get the spectacular views of other treks in the park, once you’re at your destination, you’re well rewarded. Plus, if you’re an angler, you’ll probably be able to bag a few of the lake’s tasty Cutthroat trout!

Additional Glacier National Park Hiking Info

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

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Glacier National Park Travel Guide

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