"Hidden Lake Cascades"

Glacier National Park / Logan Pass, Montana, USA

About “Hidden Lake Cascades”


Hiking Distance: 2 miles round trip (cascades only); 3 miles round trip (Hidden Lake Overlook)
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2017-08-06
Date last visited: 2017-08-06

Waterfall Latitude: 48.6912
Waterfall Longitude: -113.73503

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The “Hidden Lake Cascades” were the informal name pertaining to a set of notable waterfalls that we encountered while hiking the Hidden Lake Trail from the Logan Pass Visitor Center to the Hidden Lake Overlook.

Admittedly, while these waterfalls didn’t knock our socks off and they were merely incidental attractions on the way to Hidden Lake, they were significant enough to include on this website.

Hidden_Lake_223_08062017 - Context of some of the 'Hidden Lake Cascades' backed by some formations beneath Clements Mountain
Context of some of the ‘Hidden Lake Cascades’ backed by some formations beneath Clements Mountain

Moreover, they indirectly gave me the excuse I needed to sing the praises of one of the most popular day hikes in Glacier National Park.

After all, in this hike, we were treated to views of Hidden Lake, which we thought was compelling enough to be Glacier National Park’s answer to Moraine Lake in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies.

We also saw massive fields of blooming wildflowers, mindblowing vistas taking in shapely mountains, reflective alpine tarns, and the occasional sighting of mountain goats and other wildlife.

Among the mountains we saw on this hike were Mt Oberlin, Clements Mountain, Reynolds Mountain, and even distant glimpses of the Garden Wall (which hikers to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook might recognize).

Hidden_Lake_034_08062017 - Looking across an extensive field of wildflowers during our hike to Hidden Lake
Looking across an extensive field of wildflowers during our hike to Hidden Lake

Indeed, this place was popular for a reason, and after finally getting a chance to do this for ourselves, we can see why.

The Hidden Lake Hike

The hike from Logan Pass to the Hidden Lake Overlook was said to be 1.5 miles each way (or 3 miles round trip).

I swore it felt longer than that, but that might be due to the thin air where the trailhead was at 7,152ft.

The trail itself climbed an additional 540ft over much of this hike.

Hidden_Lake_020_08062017 - The boardwalk leading to Hidden Lake with Clements Mountain the background
The boardwalk leading to Hidden Lake with Clements Mountain the background

Since we did this as a family (which included our 6-year-old daughter), it took us on the order of 2.5 hours total.

This also included a half-hour lunch break as well as plenty of photo stops along the way and at the Hidden Lake Overlook itself.

Hidden Lake Trail Description – from Logan Pass to the cascades

Our hike began from the very crowded Logan Pass Visitor Center (see directions below).

The well-signed Hidden Lake Nature Trail began right behind the visitor center and pretty much started right off as a paved walkway before becoming a boardwalk.

Hidden_Lake_038_08062017 - With so many wildflowers in bloom during our August 2017 hike to Hidden Lake, I'm sure it was tempting to go off trail, but that might be precisely why the park service has put up a boardwalk to keep people from damaging the meadow
With so many wildflowers in bloom during our August 2017 hike to Hidden Lake, I’m sure it was tempting to go off trail, but that might be precisely why the park service has put up a boardwalk to keep people from damaging the meadow

On the ascending boardwalk, the trail provided wide vistas and flanked large beds of wildflowers.

The boardwalks appeared to be there to protect the sensitive vegetation below.

I swore that on my first visit here in 2010, I saw a lot more “social trails” leaving the boardwalk and heading towards what would turn out to be the Oberlin Bend.

Perhaps over the years, the park service has since worked to correct that.

Hidden_Lake_063_08062017 - Context of the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail climbing further to the pass, but notice the cascade further up ahead. That was one of the 'Hidden Lake Cascades'
Context of the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail climbing further to the pass, but notice the cascade further up ahead. That was one of the ‘Hidden Lake Cascades’

In any case, the uphill hiking (despite being on boardwalk) was surprisingly taxing due to the thinner air.

This was especially the case if we were not acclimated, which was what happened with Julie and Tahia as this was their first hike in the park when we made our visit in August 2017.

The higher up we went on the boardwalk, the more expansive the vistas became and the more wildflowers we were seeing along the way.

The boardwalk would continue to persist for the first 1/2- to 3/4-mile or so.

Hidden_Lake_106_08062017 - Looking towards a pair of 'Hidden Lake Cascades' from near the apex of the climbing trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook
Looking towards a pair of ‘Hidden Lake Cascades’ from near the apex of the climbing trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook

About where the boardwalk ended and the conventional dirt trail began, that was where we started to see cascades tumbling at the foot of Clements Mountain.

The trail would continue its climb as it provided different angles of the “Hidden Lake Cascades” eventually crossing some of their unnamed streams (one was over a bridge).

Hidden Lake Trail Description – from the cascades to the overlook

Eventually towards the apex of the climb, the Hidden Lake Trail finally flattened out as it veered to the right.

In this stretch, we started to notice some interesting purple-colored rock laters near the foot of Clements Mountain.

Hidden_Lake_112_08062017 - Mountain goats seemed to be well adapted to the snow, which was still around during our August 2017 hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook
Mountain goats seemed to be well adapted to the snow, which was still around during our August 2017 hike to the Hidden Lake Overlook

We also saw a group of mountain goats blending in with the snow that still remained as of early August 2017 in addition to a reflective alpine tarn looking in the direction of Reynolds Mountain.

At least one of the goats appeared to have some kind of collar with a transmitter, which we’re guessing was to track their movement.

For the last 1/4- to 1/2-mile of the somewhat level trail, we eventually reached the busy wooden boardwalk and lookout for the Hidden Lake Overlook.

At this signed viewpoint, we were able to see the elongated Hidden Lake towered over by Bearhat Mountain (the closest one to the overlook) as well as Reynolds Mountain and Gunsight Mountain in the distance.

Hidden_Lake_167_08062017 - The Hidden Lake Overlook
The Hidden Lake Overlook

The hike continued beyond the overlook for another 1.5 miles descending to the shores of Hidden Lake.

However, after taking nearly 90 minutes to get here, we were content to spend some time having a picnic lunch before turning back.

Our six-year-old daughter embraced her role of chasing the aggressive squirrels and marmots away from our food.

When we had our fill (and more and more people showed up), we pretty much hiked all downhill back to the Logan Pass Visitor Center.

Hidden_Lake_218_08062017 - Heading back towards Logan Pass from the foot of Clements Mountain along the Hidden Lake Trail
Heading back towards Logan Pass from the foot of Clements Mountain along the Hidden Lake Trail

This took less than half as long as it took us on the way up.

All throughout the hike, we were treated to more gorgeous views of the Logan Pass area while also going back amongst the vast mats of wildflowers in bloom.

Authorities

The “Hidden Lake Cascades” reside in Glacier National Park near Kalispell in Flathead County, Montana. They are administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Hidden_Lake_013_08062017 - Starting on the hike up to the Hidden Lake Overlook, which began as a paved trail before becoming boardwalk
Hidden_Lake_018_08062017 - Looking towards what I believe was Mt Oberlin fronted by a big mat of wildflowers along the Hidden Lake Trail
Hidden_Lake_021_08062017 - Contextual look of the big fields of wildflowers backed by the mountains that I believe are part of the so-called 'Garden Wall'
Hidden_Lake_029_08062017 - The boardwalk ascended for seemingly quite a long ways as it made its way closer to the foot of Clements Mountain and eventually the Hidden Lake Overlook
Hidden_Lake_050_08062017 - Looking back at the Hidden Lake Nature Trail from high up on the boardwalk section
Hidden_Lake_060_08062017 - Looking up towards where the Hidden Lake Nature Trail stopped becoming boardwalk and started to become conventional dirt trail
Hidden_Lake_074_08062017 - Looking over wildflowers towards some of the 'Hidden Lake Cascades' seen along the Hidden Lake Nature Trail
Hidden_Lake_076_08062017 - Looking up at a series of cascades going over some step at the foot of Clements Mountain
Hidden_Lake_075_08062017 - Focused on one of the 'Hidden Lake Cascades' looking towards the left side of the foot of Clements Mountain
Hidden_Lake_083_08062017 - Focused on a cascade looking towards the right side of the foot of Clements Mountain
Hidden_Lake_088_08062017 - Looking back at the Hidden Lake Nature Trail in the direction of Logan Pass after having climbed up towards the 'Hidden Lake Cascades'
Hidden_Lake_090_08062017 - Looking towards one of the 'Hidden Lake Cascades' spilling towards a snow patch
Hidden_Lake_095_08062017 - Looking up towards one of the 'Hidden Lake Cascades' tumbling into another snow patch before the foot of Clements Mountain
Hidden_Lake_105_08062017 - Looking down at the context of one of the streams besides the Hidden Lake Nature Trail
Hidden_Lake_114_08062017 - At the top of the climb of the Hidden Lake Trail, the hike finally started to flatten out, and that was when we noticed these mountain goats blending in well with this patch of snow
Hidden_Lake_121_08062017 - Focused look at one of the mountain goats that we saw on our Hidden Lake hike, but this one had a radio collar on it
Hidden_Lake_125_08062017 - Looking in the other direction, there was a calm alpine tarn reflecting some of the mountains to the south of the Hidden Lake Trail
Hidden_Lake_130_08062017 - Clements Mountain started to reveal interesting purple rock layers during our Hidden Lake hike
Hidden_Lake_138_08062017 - Finally arriving at the overlook for Hidden Lake
Hidden_Lake_137_08062017 - Looking more towards the foot of Hidden Lake with Bearhat Mountain on the topleft
Hidden_Lake_172_08062017 - Julie and Tahia having a picnic lunch while enjoying the views of Hidden Lake
Hidden_Lake_160_08062017 - Some of the wildlife around the Hidden Lake Overlook appeared to have acclimated to human food and so they were quite fearless in trying to sneak away with something more high energy than what they're used to
Hidden_Lake_191_08062017 - On the return hike from Hidden Lake Overlook, the mountain goats started to move around
Hidden_Lake_200_08062017 - Julie and Tahia walking back towards Logan Pass after having had their fill of Hidden Lake Overlook
Hidden_Lake_208_08062017 - Julie and Tahia continuing on the return hike, which was pretty much mostly downhill so it went by far quicker than on the way up to Hidden Lake Overlook
Hidden_Lake_228_08062017 - Some of the mountain goats started grazing in front of one of the 'Hidden Lake Cascades' during our return hike
Hidden_Lake_256_08062017 - Context of the Hidden Lake Nature Trail with the canyon west of Logan Pass in the distance
Hidden_Lake_260_08062017 - The Hidden Lake Nature Trail veering towards the Logan Pass Visitor Center as we made our return hike
Hidden_Lake_268_08062017 - Classic view back towards Clements Mountain from the Hidden Lake Nature Trail
Glacier_NP_527_09252010 - Back when we first came to Logan Pass in September 2010, this place was far less busier though it was also the off-season. This photo and the rest of the photos in this gallery were taken from that day
Glacier_NP_528_09252010 - Looking back to the other side of the Logan Pass Parking Lot from our late September 2010 visit
Glacier_NP_533_09252010 - Looking up at a dusting of snow on Clements Mountain during our September 2010 visit
Glacier_NP_537_09252010 - This was what the Hidden Lake Nature Trail looked like in September 2010. I knew I wasn't crazy when I thought something was different about it when we came back in August 2017
Glacier_NP_538_09252010 - Looking ahead at some cascades in the distance as seen from the start of the Hidden Lake Natural Trail during our September 2010 visit
Glacier_NP_550_09252010 - Back in September 2010, there was a trail leading from Logan Pass Visitor Center towards the Oberlin Bend, which earned me this view of the closed road at the time. I'm not sure this trail was still there when I returned in August 2017
Glacier_NP_561_09252010 - Looking back to the east from the Logan Pass area towards where I think Reynolds Creek would ultimately make its tumble and meander further below

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


The Hidden Lake Nature Trail begins right behind the Logan Pass Visitor Center, which itself is pretty much close to the middle of the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Distance-wise, Logan Pass is about 32 miles east of West Glacier (where the park’s west entrance is located) and it is about 18 miles west of St Mary (where the park’s east entrance is located).

Since parking can be hopeless at Logan Pass, it’s also possible to catch park shuttles as far west as the Apgar Village and as far east as the St Mary Visitor Center.

The shuttles between Apgar Village and Logan Pass are served by the “West Shuttle” while the ones between St Mary Visitor Center and Logan Pass are served by the “East Shuttle”.

Hidden_Lake_004_08062017 - Looking back at the busy parking lot at Logan Pass, which was where the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail began
Looking back at the busy parking lot at Logan Pass, which was where the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail began

That said, in our experience, the interarrival times of the shuttles at each stop are on the order of 30-45 minutes, but the wait could be longer.

That’s because shuttles have limited space and they frequently fill up by the time they arrive at your stop (they’re not set up for having standing room).

Obviously, the highest percentage spots of not getting shut out are at the ends at Apgar Village, Logan Pass (make sure you caught the correct shuttle though), and St Mary Visitor Center.

However, often times there are places you want to hop on or off in between these stops, and that’s where things can get a bit testy.

Hidden_Lake_278_08062017 - Another look back at the craziness of the Logan Pass Parking Lot
Another look back at the craziness of the Logan Pass Parking Lot

Given the park’s lack of funds (as of peak season in 2017), this prevents having more frequent shuttles, staffing more drivers, or at least reconfiguring each shuttle to accommodate standing riders.

Therefore, I’m afraid even this shuttle option can be just as stressful as trying to find parking or dealing with traffic.

Finally for some geographical context, West Glacier is 26 miles (over 30 minutes drive) east of Whitefish, 33 miles (45 minutes drive) northeast of Kalispell and 136 miles (2.5 hours drive) north of Missoula.

Meanwhile, St Mary was about 8.5 miles (10 minutes drive) south of Babb, 30 miles (under an hour drive) north of East Glacier Park Village, 29 miles (over 30 minutes drive) northwest of Browning (administrative center of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation), and 202 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Helena.

Checking out a series of small cascades fronting Clements Mountain (or Mt Cleveland according to some other sign)


360 degree sweep of some impressive cascade on the Hidden Lake Trail

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Tagged with: glacier national park, logan pass, hidden lake, montana, waterfall, flathead county



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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