We keep finding ourselves in Glacier National Park in late June/early July. This is not a bad time of year to visit as the crowds are present but manageable and lodging is attainable (even booking as late as February). The waterfalls are bursting with snow melt this time of year and the risk of fire is relatively low. But this time of year means there is still a lot of snow left on mountain passes and high mountain trails. We have yet to hike some of the more famous trails in the park because they haven’t been open when we are visiting (we have already booked for next summer for August and are hopeful we will get to take at least some iconic hikes including the Highline Trail and the full hike to Grinnell Glacier).
Anywho, both times we have visited the park, the trail to Hidden Lake has been completely covered in snow. In fact, the lake itself has still been frozen. So we have opted for the Hidden Lake overlook option, which leaves from Logan Pass and climbs up to an overlook but doesn’t drop all the way back down the lake. This hike (to the overlook and back) is ~3 miles and when it’s covered in snow offers plenty of challenge.
This year we were prepared for the snow and had spikes and poles. These tools greatly improved my speed. Dave was Uber-prepared with rain paints and gaiters, although I don’t recall regretting not having those items. People make this hike in flip flops, canvas sneakers, and shorts. So don’t let our preparation turn you off, just know it might be a slow and slippery journey.
Despite being covered in snow, the path to the overlook is marked by orange flags and is easy to follow. Mountain goats frequent this area, which is why this hike was a must-repeat for us. Indeed, we got to watch a couple of goats come down from the high peaks surrounding the area to graze. They are amazingly agile.
After Hidden Lake, we had plans to do a second hike, I think up the Loop trail and back. That hike would require a lot of elevation gain and wouldn’t get us onto the Highline trail (which is what we wanted). So we hemmed and hawed and decided on a hike that seemed slightly easier. (In the end, the hike we chose was not easier and it was not more scenic. But if you’re a reader, you already know I don’t think there’s a bad hike in Glacier…..)
Long story short, we decided to visit Florence Falls. We had heard rumors there might be grizzlies in the area and believe it or not, that’s why we made the decision to go. Long lenses in tow, we dropped down quickly from the Jackson Glacier overlook to Deadwood Falls and a rushing creek area. We made a note to plan to stop there before making the tough climb back up to the parking lot at the end.
The hike out to Florence Falls is, at least at this time of year, off the beaten path. We saw very few people during the hike but that also meant pretty overgrown trail. It was a hot day and I was down to my running shorts. Charging through thick plants on a thin trail meant a lot of minor scrapes and cuts. We hiked along a river for a good while which provided lovely views. And the hike took us back into a wilderness area that showed the mountains between Saint Mary and Two Medicine. The views were lovely and Florence Falls was impressive.
More bushwhacking on the return trip to Deadwood Falls and an unusually warm day and we were glad to sit for awhile. The final climb (~700 feet in just over a mile) was bad, but not quite as bad as expected.
I’m not sure we’ll do the hike out to Florence Falls again but this same trail accesses Gunsight Lake and Gunsight Mountain, which are both on my list of places to see in the future. So we’ll likely have to make that climb at least one more time.
That night, we drove back up to Logan Pass and despite the presence of bighorn sheep, I convinced the photographers to shoot sunset. The views did not disappoint.
Total Milage for the Day: 12.6 Miles (3 at Hidden lake, 9.6 to Florence Falls & back).