Red Eagle Lake Trail
- Red Eagle Lake
8.1 miles one-way gains 300 drops 300 feet to Red Eagle Lake
- 16.2 miles round-trip
strenuous hike based on distance and no shade
- wildflower hike
- view hike
Incredible view of Red Eagle Lake with dramatic cloud formations.The length of this trail and lack of shade made this trail difficult for me. My body does not get along well with what I call up, down, up down trails. Earlier in the season I had hiked to Two Medicine Pass which is a much greater elevation gain but there was ample shade for much of the hike, that coupled with gravity made that hike easier for me then Red Eagle Lake Trail. Next year I will try this trail as soon as the bridges go in as the wildflowers will be in even greater abundance, the temperatures will be cooler and the days will be longer. Late July wildflowers were Alpine paintbrush, large stands of up to six feet tall fireweed, small clumps of lupine, cinquefoil, blanket-flower, bluebell, mountain hollyhock, wild bergamot and sticky geranium to name a few. The deadly baneberry was also blooming near the start of the trail. The trail winds its way through burned out forests and fairly dry meadows. I did this hike before the torrential rains of early August 2013. Manged to get a photo of a cedar waxwing along with another small bird that I haven't managed to identify yet. Sadly no Western Tanagers which were up and about my campsite at Rising Sun.
The Red Eagle fire of 2006 burned the forest along the entire trail to Red Eagle Lake. Forest regrowth is almost non-existent after this fire unlike the Roberts Fire of 2003 on the west side of Glacier Park. The trail starts a gradual ascent and winds through the hillside finally reaching the ridge above Red Eagle Lake. At this point the trail descends to the shore of Red Eagle Lake and the back-country campsite at the foot of the lake. I will let my photo of the view from above the lake shore of Red Eagle Lake speak for itself.
Trail Status Report distance is from second suspension bridge. Believe me the thistle issue starts soon after reaching the meadows only a short distance from the main trail head. This is one case were I would prefer the greater protection of blue jeans as hiking pants. As my light weight, quick dry, synthetic long pants provided only a small buffer from the thistle along the edge of the trail. This trail starts outside the entrance to Glacier Park and is located between the town of St Mary and the formal entrance to Glacier Park. Coming from St Mary this is the last left turn before the St Mary Visitor Center. Follow signs to Historic Ranger Station. This is one of the earliest long trails to open in Glacier Park although this year one of the suspension bridges needed to be repaired before the trail was fully open. I hiked this in 2013 in late July and there was still a bounty of wildflowers along the trail. NO SHADE! After the first slow gradual ascent up along the original wagon trail the trail starts a descent to Red Eagle Creek and the first suspension bridge. The trail then steeply ascends a sandy slope goes around a curve and then rapidly descends once again to Red Eagle Creek and the second suspension bridge. From this bridge there is a great view of Red Eagle Mountain. For the very adventurous just before the second bridge is a trail intersection for Virginia Falls and the GTSR. From this junction to the GTSR it is 10.6 miles. Red Eagle Lake is 2.5 miles from the bridge. This trail has a series of ups, downs, then some more ups. None of these are very tricky but they are tiring after having hiked so far in the heat. For the younger hiker these elevation changes won't be a problem.
There are numerous safe locations along this trail to filter water to resupply your camel-back. I did this at the lake shore. Without a water filter and electrolyte I would not have been able to complete this hike. When hiking through the meadows the vegetation can quickly obscure the actual trail. If you wander to far off the actual trail all signs of the trail suddenly disappear.
A slow hiker's guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers
Whitefish Pilot article on my Wildflower Guide.
Red Eagle Creek has two suspension bridge crossings on the way to Red Eagle Lake. There are horse fords near the bridges. The photo of the suspension Bridge is the second smaller bridge and the photo of Red Eagle Mountain and Creek was taken a few minutes after crossing the bridge on my way to Red Eagle Lake. This trail had the most private horse / mule riders then any others I have hiked in Glacier Park. Three riders with horses or one rider on horse back and two mules is much easier to deal with on a trail then the much larger horse wrangler led trail rides with twenty to thirty riders and horses. Both types of riders have long standing historical basis in Glacier Park. On the return to St Mary watching the horses with their riders quickly go up the trail made me wish for a horse.
Red Eagle Mountain from Red Eagle Creek Peace pipe Smoking cloud formation