Fish Lake, Glacier National Park
Trailhead: Lake McDonald Lodge Area
Distance: 3.0 miles (one way)
Elevation Gain: 1,000 vertical feet
The hike to Fish Lake in Glacier National Park is a 3.0 mile (one way) day hike, and the highlight of this Glacier Park hike is the hike itself rather than the actual lake. The hike through the lower cedar and hemlock forest is magical, and this forest eventually gives way to Douglas firs and white pines as you gain in elevation. And once the trail levels off onto the Snyder Ridge bench, you will hike through an "enchanted" mossy forest that is stunningly beautiful. Fish Lake is pretty, but not jaw-dropping. You will see plenty of lily pads, as well as a loon or two. Again, the best part of the hike to Fish Lake in Glacier National Park is the hike itself and not the destination.
Finding The Trailhead
The trailhead to the Fish Lake in Glacier National Park is located in the Lake McDonald Lodge Area. More specifically, the trailhead is just across the Going To The Sun Road from the top of the main parking lot. The trailhead sign will read "Sperry Trail." This is trail not only takes you to Fish Lake, but also Sperry Glacier, Sperry Chalet, Snyder Lake and Mount Brown Lookout.
The Hike To Fish Lake...
The hike to Fish Lake in Glacier National Park climbs about 1,000 vertical feet in 2.0 miles. Most of the elevation gain happens the first two thirds of the hike. Once you get to the top of Snyder Ridge, it levels off and becomes a very pleasant walk through a seemingly enchanted forest for the final mile of the hike.
Sperry Trail Trailhead (mile 0.0)
The first few miles along the Sperry Trail you'll enjoy a gorgeous cedar forest. You'll swear you're walking in Jurassic Park as ancient cedars and hemlocks tower above you. You will notice almost immediately that the trail doesn't waste any time in climbing in elevation, which is the hallmark of the Sperry Trail.... it's all uphill! You will hear Snyder Creek far below you to your right as you work your way up this well maintained trail, and occasionally you will get a glimpse of Snyder Creek from certain vantage points along the way.
Mount Brown Lookout Trail Junction (mile 1.7)
As the Sperry Trail continues to climb in elevation, the cedars, hemlocks and larch will give way to Douglas fir and white pines. At mile 1.7, you will encounter the Mount Brown Lookout Trail Junction. Keep heading on the main trail (stay right) to continue your Glacier Park hike to Fish Lake.
Snyder Lake Trail Junction / Crystal Ford (mile 1.8)
Snyder Creek Foot Bridge, Glacier National Park.
In less than a tenth of a mile, you will then encounter the Snyder Lake Trail Junction. Stay right to continue onward to Fish Lake. Just beyond the Snyder Lake Trail Junction, about 25 yards up the trail, you will reach the large foot bridge that takes you across Snyder Creek. The horse crossing that is slightly upstream from the Snyder Creek foot bridge is known as Crystal Ford, and is an historic ford where horses and riders cross this beautiful mountain stream.
The historic Crystal Ford along Snyder Creek on the Sperry Trail in Glacier National Park.
Snyder Ridge Trail Junction (mile 1.9)
Once you cross Snyder Creek on the well built foot bridge, you will encounter the Snyder Ridge Trail Junction.
Take a right here. The trail abruptly heads uphill for a short while until it reaches the top of Snyder Ridge.
The trail then levels off along this absolutely gorgeous bench as it works its way through a beautiful mossy forest towards Fish Lake in Glacier National Park.
This wonderful hike across this amazing bench is the highlight of the Fish Lake hike in our opinion. Fish Lake is pretty, but the hike along the Snyder Ridge bench is beautiful and is a classic example of a Glacier National Park forest.
The hike through the Snyder Ridge bench is a wonderful experience through an enchanted forest.
Sprague Creek Foot Bridge (mile 2.8)
Along the Snyder Ridge bench, just about two tenths of a mile before you reach Fish Creek, the trail crosses Sprague Creek via a small foot bridge. This is our favorite spot on the entire hike. This section of Sprague Creek represents the perfect example of a classic Glacier National Park mountain stream... To be perfectly honest, we actually came back here after we visited Fish Lake and had our lunch.
Fish Lake (mile 3.0)
Fish Lake, Glacier National Park.
Fish Lake is not our favorite lake in Glacier National Park, but it has its own kind of beauty. Lily pads are everywhere, which is quite pretty, and we saw some loons while we were there which is always a special treat. Is the hike worth it? We feel that the walk through the mossy forest of the Snyder Ridge bench is worth the effort of taking this short Glacier Park hike, even though the lake itself is not that spectacular. But make sure you take the hikes on our list of the "Top Ten Things To Do in Glacier National Park" before taking the time to hike to Fish Lake.