Snyder Lake Trail
Snyder Lake, Glacier National Park
Snyder Lake Trail
Trailhead: Lake McDonald Lodge Area
Distance: 4.4 miles (one way)
Elevation Gain: 2,048 vertical feet
The hike to Snyder Lake in Glacier National Park is a 4.4 mile (one way) day hike that we feel is one of the more pleasing Lake McDonald Area hikes. The hike through the lower cedar and hemlock forest is magical, and this forest eventually gives way to Douglas firs and larch as you gain elevation. Once you get close to Snyder Lake, the Little Matterhorn really begins to dominate the landscape, making this nice Glacier Park day hike even more special.
Snyder Lake rests under three towering mountains, which are Edwards Mountain, Mount Brown and the Little Matterhorn. These towering giants create an amphitheater-like setting as you stand on the lake shore and take it all in. There is a fair amount of elevation gain (2.048 vertical feet), which is typical of most hikes in the Lake McDonald Area, so make sure you are in adequate physical condition before attempting this Glacier National Park hiking adventure.
Finding The Trailhead
The trailhead to the Snyder Lake Trail in Glacier National Park is located at 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 the trail not only to Snyder Lake, but also Sperry Glacier, Sperry Chalet, Fish Lake and Mount Brown Lookout.
The Hike To Snyder Lake...
The hike to Snyder Lake in Glacier National Park climbs about 2,000 vertical feet in 4.4 miles, and it's definitely uphill the entire way. However, the vertical gain is still fairly gradual, and if you take your time this vertical gain won't dominate your thoughts as you enjoy this Glacier Park hiking experience....
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)
At mile 1.7 you will reach the Mount Brown Lookout Trail junction. Keep heading straight (right) to continue onward to Snyder Lake. As you continue to climb in elevation, you will notice that the cedar forest has completely given way to a very scenic Douglas fir and larch forest, which is always fascinating to see these changes along the Sperry Trail in Glacier National Park. Certain trees and plants prefer certain elevations, and you will watch these changes happen right in front of your very eyes.
Snyder Lake Trail Junction (mile 1.8)
Only a few hundred yards up the trail, beyond the Mount Brown Lookout Trail Junction, you will see the Snyder Lake Trail Junction. This is where you will leave the Sperry Trail, so take a left at this junction and continue hiking upward and onward towards Snyder Lake. Snyder Creek will be to your right the entire way up the valley to Snyder Lake.
As you work your way uphill along the Snyder Lake Trail, you'll begin to really feel and see the dominating presence of Edwards Mountain to the southeast.
This Glacier Park giant is a famous mountain in the Sperry Glacier area, and you are getting a rare glimpse of it's north face. And by the way, Snyder Lake is directly below this great mountain. And as you keep climbing toward Snyder Lake, you will begin to see the amphitheater where Snyder Lake rests, which includes Edwards Mountain to the south, Little Matterhorn straight in the middle, and Mount Brown to the north. The forest also opens up at times, and if your timing is right, you'll see gorgeous meadows of beargrass that will make this Glacier Park hike even more memorable.
As you get closer to Snyder Lake, you will begin to see the large amphitheater where Snyder Lake rests, with Edwards Mountain to the south, Little Matterhorn in the middle, and Mount Brown to the north.
Snyder Lake and Snyder Lake Campground (mile 4.4)
Just before you get to Snyder Lake in Glacier National Park, you will cross a well built foot bridge that crosses Snyder Creek, and you will see the signs marking the Snyder Lake Campground. When you reach the west shore of Snyder Lake, you will be awe-struck by the mountains surrounding this small mountain lake. The Little Matterhorn dominates the skyline as you gaze upon this shallow body of water, and if you look carefully, you will see Native West Slope Cutthroat Trout swimming along the shore, feeding on insects that have landed on the surface of the water. It really is a wonderful scenic view, and you will say to yourself that it was definitely worth the effort to get a glimpse of this unique place.
For those of you who would like to watch the sunrise and set on this amazing amphitheater, there is a backcountry campground (Snyder Lake Campground) that is located next to Snyder Lake. Of course you will need a back country permit to stay here, so make sure you get that all arranged far in advance of your trip to Glacier Park.
Snyder Lake, Glacier National Park.
Upper Snyder Lake
Above the first set of cliffs and nestled deep within the amphitheater created by Edwards Mountain, Little Matterhorn and Mount Brown, lies Upper Snyder Lake. You can't see this lake from the shore of Snyder Lake, and the only way to get up to it is to bushwack up the talus slope on the far end of the lake. Once you get up the talus slope, you then must head up one of the gullies that will take you to the top of the cliffs. At the top of the cliffs lies Upper Snyder Lake, which is larger than Snyder Lake, and is deeper within the impressive amphitheater created by mother nature (photos coming soon).
Snyder Lake Bear Stories...
During this particular hike to Snyder Lake (where the photos on this page came from), we encountered some bears. The first bear was a grizzly bear on the trail as we were heading up to the lake. We were about a mile from Snyder Lake, and the brush became quite thick along the trail.
For some reason we had let our guard down (which is rare) on the way up and we were not talking loud (to alert bears that we were in the area). But because the brush and undergrowth was so heavy along the trail in this particular spot, we started talking loudly and saying "Hey Bear!"
And about 10 seconds after we started talking loud, a mature grizzly bear stood up on the trail in front of us. We stopped dead in our tracks and talked softly to the bear in a soothing voice, and the bear briefly looked at us, and once he identified what we were, he moved off the trail and walked a safe distance away.
Our second bear encounter was while we were sitting on the shore of Snyder Lake, taking in the view. A cinnamon colored black bear came out of the brush, crossed the outlet stream right in front of us, and then disappeared into the trees. So two bears in one day on the same trail... this made for an even more memorable day!