- Cracker Lake Trail 6.1 miles elevation gain 1,400 feet
- The first couple of miles of this trail is a heavily used horse trail
- Scenic hike
- Strenuous hike based on length
Many Glacier Trail Map
The first mile or so of this trail is shared with horses, that part of the trail can be very buggy, messy, and odoriferous! At this point Cracker Lake Trail is above and to the south of the outflow from Swiftcurrent Lake. Cracker Lake Trail then passes above the shore of Lake Sherbourne, most times this would be above muddy flats but during the summer of 2008 the water was at its highest level and the trail provides nice views across the surface of Lake Sherbourne. The red mountain, to the north, across Lake Sherbourne is Apikuni Mountain.
Cracker Lake Trail (see Google Map of Cracker Lake Trail) turns away from Lake Sherbourne and begins its first climb between Allen Creek and Canyon Creek. The Terrain View in the Google Map of Cracker Lake Trail is your best source of information regarding the layout of the actual trail. The bonus is the Hybrid View allows you to see the entire trail from a big birds eye view.
After the last of the lower switchbacks the trail pulls away from Allen Creek and rises a few hundred feet above Canyon Creek. Wynn Mountain (8,402 feet) is visible through the trees across the canyon.
Unlike many of the heavily forested trails in Glacier National Park, Cracker Lake Trail has frequent, spectacular, glimpses of the surrounding mountains. Snow clears from the Cracker Lake Trail early in the season. On a warm, sunny day this trail can get hot when, bring extra water or a water filter.
Cracker Lake is not visible until you are near the shoreline. The distinctive turquoise color of a glacier fed lake is visible from the shoreline as well as from points above the lake. The vibrant turquoise color of Cracker Lake is the most distinct of any of the glacier fed lakes that I have hiked to in Glacier National Park. The Cracker Lake Trail has been listed as one of the top five things to do in Glacier National Park by several large organizations so expect bigger crowds on the trail this year. Siyeh Glacier has melted, a small permanent snow field is all that remains of this glacier. (If anyone knows of a source for public domain photos of Siyeh Glacier please contact me.) A new photo album of historic photos is available this year. 'Glacier Album' has a photo of Cracker Lake from around 1915.
For me it is worth putting up with the start of the trail, with the reminder of what life was like 100 years ago, now instead of horse manure we have to deal with cars zipping past at 70 miles per hour on two lane roads built for 30 miles per hour. Swan Mountain Outfitters offers a variety or rides in the Many Glacier Valley. If you encounter a string of horses on the road between the hotel and the trails remember that in Glacier Park horses have the right of way.
Cracker Lake is unique with its deep glacier color that is visible even at the lake shore. All of the other glacier lakes that I have hiked to you need to be above and at an angle from the surface of the lake to get the color that Cracker Lake has even while you are in the water.
A slow hiker's guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers
Whitefish Pilot article on my Wildflower Guide.
Cracker Lake color is unique in Glacier Park
The trailhead is behind the Many Glacier Hotel near the stables
in the large parking lot for the hotel.
Recent storm damage appears to be cleaned up by Many Glacier Trail crew on the Cracker Lake Trail. Hope to get time to hike this trail this summer.
NOTE: Top photo above was taken in July of 2013 one month after the flood! Color of Cracker Lake had dramatically changed!
Cracker Lake Trail is muddy at the start. Wildflower bloom time depends on when the snow melts. Hiked to Iceberg Lake 6/23/13 with wildflowers everywhere on the lower part of the trail. On the Cracker Lake Trail the lower part is mainly in the woods so once the snow melts out around the lake the flowers will start blooming.
The Cracker Lake Trail starts at the south west end of the upper parking lot for Many Glacier Hotel. The trail drops down to follow above the shoreline of Lake Sherbourne, during 2008 Lake Sherbourne (reservoir) was at full pool and very picturesque. The Cracker Lake Trail starts a gradual climb near Allen Creek. Shortly after starting the climb to Cracker Lake the horse trail is thankfully left behind. The Cracker Lake Trail takes the right fork on BOTH trail intersections. NOTE: There is a trail junction which only has a sign for the horse trail, take the right unsigned fork to Cracker Lake!