Red Eagle Lake
Includes Triple Divide Pass, Cut Bank Area
Red Eagle Lake, Glacier National Park
Red Eagle Lake
Trailhead: Red Eagle Trail ( a.k.a. St. Mary Trailhead)
(Road to trailhead is located between St. Mary Visitor Center and the town of St. Mary, on the Sun Road)
Distance: 7.5 miles (one way)
Elevation Gain: 300 vertical feet
Red Eagle Lake is definitely among the list of popular Glacier National Park hikes. Located in the St. Mary Area, this pleasant Glacier Park day hike takes you through scenic meadows and also through an old
growth forest that had succumbed to fire in 2006. This Glacier Park hike is still very pretty, especially when the wildflowers are in bloom, and the views of the surrounding mountains such as Curly Bear Mountain, Split Mountain, Norris Mountain, Red Eagle Peak and Red Eagle Mountain are quite nice. If you like hiking in Glacier National Park, you'll like hiking to Red Eagle Lake.
Red Eagle Lake is a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by incredible mountains and is well worth the hike to enjoy a nice lunch along its shore. Even though this hike is not on our "top ten favorite Glacier Park hikes", we still thoroughly enjoy hiking to Red Eagle Lake every time we get on this popular Glacier Park trail.
FInding the Trailhead
The Red Eagle Lake trailhead is located on a 0.5 mile long road heading south off the Going To The Sun Road just before you reach the east entrance of Glacier National Park at St. Mary. This junction is located between the town of St. Mary and the East Entrance to Glacier National Park, and is well marked with a large sign. Once you find this junction, take this paved road for 0.5 miles to the trailhead.
The Hike To Red Eagle Lake
Your hike to Red Eagle Lake initially takes you near the south shore of St. Mary Lake as you walk through a fir forest that escaped the 2006 fire. You will then begin to hike through incredibly gorgeous meadows that during the right time of the summer season are teeming with wildflowers. There are several what we call "Sound of Music" meadows where you'll feel like your Julie Andrews and start singing "The Sound of Music".
As you gradually climb in elevation your view of the distant mountains becomes more and more impressive.
After about 2 miles, the trail to Red Eagle Lake will then reach the old growth fir forest that was severely burned in 2006.
Again, the wildflowers in this area can be amazing during the right time of the summer season, especially the paintbrushes. During the summer of 2012, there were literally fields of bright red paintbrushes that were absolutely spectacular. The rest of the hike will be through this burnt forest, but it has it's own beauty that makes it still quite enjoyable. The hike along Red Eagle Creek is very scenic, and it's fun to cross the foot bridges over this rather large stream.
And by the way, there are a ton of berries on this particular Glacier Park hike during the berry season, so keep an eye out for bears. Remember to talk loud because the human voice is the best tool to let a bear know you're in the area. This will ensure that you don't surprise a bear, which will dramatically reduce the chances of a problem. We also recommend that you carry bear spray and know how to use it just in case. In fact, with all Glacier Park hikes there is a chance of encountering a bear, so always talk loud and carry bear spray whenever hiking in Glacier Park.
At mile 5.0 (approx.) along this Glacier Park hike to Red Eagle Lake, you will reach a junction. The trail to the right is the St. Mary Trail, which takes you along the south shore of St. Mary Lake, past St. Mary Falls, and ending at the Jackson Glacier Overlook on the Going To The Sun Road (which is 15.2 miles from the trailhead you started out on heading for Red Eagle Lake. Therefore, at this junction, stay to the left to remain heading toward Red Eagle Lake.
As you continue your Glacier Park hike to Red Eagle Lake, you will enjoy excellent views of Split Mountain, Curly Bear Mountain, Norris Mountain, Logan Peak, Red Eagle Peak and Red Eagle Mountain. You will also get a glimpse of the St. Mary Valley with Going To The Sun Mountain rising above it to the north, as well as Fusillade Mountain to its left. Fusillade Mountain is the familiar mountain located in the center of the iconic view from the Wild Goose Island turnout on the Going To The Sun Road.
Red Eagle Lake
At mile 7.5 of this Glacier Park hike you will reach the foot of Red Eagle Lake. Near the foot of Red Eagle Lake in Glacier National Park, you will reach the Red Eagle Lake backcountry campground (foot). Walk into this campground and take a trail that takes you down to the shore of Red Eagle Lake. Walk along the shore to the north (right) to get the best views of Split Mountain and Norris Mountain at the far end of the lake to the southwest. You will also see Logan Peak to the right of Split Mountain, which is home to Red Eagle Glacier and Logan Glacier. All along the northwest shore of the lake looms the massive Red Eagle Mountain, which dominates the northwest view.
Once you've enjoyed the view from the foot of the lake (which is the best view of Red Eagle Lake), walk back through the Red Eagle Lake Backcountry
Campground (Foot) and rejoin the main trail.
The trail will follow the shore of the lake for about a mile to the head of Red Eagle Lake. There you will find the Red Eagle Lake backcountry campground (head).
When you walk to the shore, you will get a great view toward the foot of the lake, which is a dramatically different view than from the foot of Red Eagle Lake, but is very nice just the same.
Additional Overnight Option:
Red Eagle Trailhead to Cut Bank Trailhead via Triple Divide Pass (23.2 miles)
The trail to Red Eagle Lake keeps going up to Triple Divide Pass (8.7 miles past Red Eagle Lake), then down to the Cut Bank Trailhead (an additional 7.2 miles). This is a fairly popular overnight backpacking route. Most overnight backpackers, however, start at Cut Bank and hike to St. Mary. On this Glacier Park hike, overnighters will stay at Atlantic Creek backcountry campground on the Cut Bank side, and either the head or foot Red Eagle Lake backcountry campgrounds on the St. Mary side. The total distance of this particular overnight Glacier Park hike is 23.2 miles.
This is a view of the Atlantic Creek Valley (facing east) from the summit of Triple Divide Peak. The Atlantic Creek backcountry campground is located near the end of this valley (3 miles east of Triple Divide Pass), near where Atlantic Creek and North Fork Cut Bank Creek meet. The Cut Bank Trailhead is 4.3 miles further to the east. The entire hike from Red Eagle Trailhead to the Cut Bank Trailhead is 23.2 miles.
For details on the hike from Cut Bank Trailhead to Triple Divide Pass, click here.
Getting back to the subject at hand, the 7.5 mile day hike to Red Eagle Lake is a very nice Glacier Park hike that we always enjoy. Hopefully you will too!
Recommendation: Leave Early
All in all, we feel the day hike to Red Eagle Lake in Glacier National Park makes for a very enjoyable day. We recommend that you leave quite early so you can enjoy the incredible early morning sun that lights up your entire hike to the lake. Once the sun gets high in the sky around 11 o'clock, the spectacular view of the mountains from the foot of Red Eagle Lake becomes less dramatic due to ultra-violet haze. Also, because there is no shade on this particular Glacier Park hike due to the 2006 fire, by leaving early in the morning (preferably at dawn), you will avoid the heat of the day... at least to the lake.
Split Mountain (center) and Norris Mountain (distant left) serve as a gorgeous backdrop for Red Eagle Lake. Red Eagle Lake in Glacier National Park is among the many popular Glacier National Park hikes, and is always enjoyable.