November 21, 2012 by Deborah W. Trotter
Okay, goats are probably not the first thing people think of when they think of Glacier National Park in Montana. But mountain goats inhabit that part of the Rocky Mountains, and in my experience, they have been ubiquitous around the 1.5 mile trail to Hidden Lake. Which isn’t really hidden. Right?
I mean, think about it. The trail to Hidden Lake is one of the most popular in the Park. It starts right behind the Visitor Center at Logan Pass, and it is a people freeway. There’s an almost constant flow of hikers up and down the trail in the summer.
Would we all really climb 1.5 miles up to see a lake that we couldn’t see? Because it was hidden?
I’d love to say the joke is on us. “Yes, it really is hidden. You can hike all the way up there, and you won’t see a thing!” But the photographs reveal that Hidden Lake is not only visible, but beautiful.
You can see that it does curve out of sight to the left, however, and if you look at a map, you will see that it is a large lake, and lots of its expanse is hidden from view at the overlook from which the photos were taken.
there is much else to recommend hiking the trail to Hidden Lake. First of all, getting there requires an excursion on one of the most dramatic auto routes in America. The only way to drive up to Logan Pass and the trailhead behind the Visitor Center is via the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a narrow, two-lane engineering marvel that was constructed over an eleven-year period from 1921 to 1932. From the west, starting at Lake McDonald, the road will take you up almost 3,500 feet in 32 miles. From the east, the road climbs close to 2,200 feet in about 18 miles from the St. Mary entrance station and St. Mary Lake. It is a spectacular drive up from either direction.
Logan Pass sits on the Continental Divide at 6,646 feet above sea level. That hardly sounds like the top of the world, but when you stand gazing around you at the mountains that are the top of the world in Glacier National Park, you feel like you’re almost there.
The trail to Hidden Lake becomes a wooden boardwalk shortly after you start out from behind the Visitor Center.
The boardwalk keeps you above meadow areas that can be mushy or flowing with snowmelt. There might even be stretches where the boardwalk is covered by snow. The first time we took the hike in 1997 with our four kids, we were slipping and sliding through snow in late July. The next time, ten years later, but just a week later in the season, there was no snow around at all. We learned from a Park Ranger that the snow had melted quickly in 2007, and a full month earlier than usual.
The Hidden Lake trail also treats you to wildflowers,
and rock features in every direction. Near the top of the trail you will see mountain goats, probably very close to the trail, but certainly up high on the crags, leaping impossibly from point to point or just hanging out. The last time we were there we also saw a single bighorn sheep at the top of a talus slope, hunkered down in the sun, king of all he surveyed.
If you are going to Glacier, the 1.5 mile hike to the Hidden Lake overlook is a not-too-strenuous introduction to what you can experience when you use your feet to go out and go into the Park. There are a myriad of other trails, too, that will take you farther into places that you can only imagine from the road. And remember this: it’s never exactly the same Park twice, even at the same time each year. So if you want to really get to know Glacier National Park, one visit will not be enough. Make time to go once, and then go back again and again if you can. The Park will become a part of you. Goats and all!