Glacier National Park is one of the most gorgeous places on earth, so it’s only natural that a whole lot of people flock to it throughout the year. During the late spring and summer, the park’s most popular trails can be downright crowded, making it less of a magical excursion than it should be. But there are ways to avoid the crowds and see the park in peace. One way is by visiting lesser known, almost secret trails that’ll take you away from the throngs of tourists and but still let you enjoy the area’s spectacular beauty. Here are three of the best offbeat trails in Glacier National Park.
Cobalt Lake Trail
Cobalt Lake is located in the Two Medicine area of Glacier, a region that is itself offbeat. It’s not that Two Medicine is a secret necessarily, but rather that it’s not as popular as Logan Pass or Many Glacier. In fact, less than 10% of all Glacier’s visitors make their way to Two Medicine. It’s far less crowded than other park areas, but no less awe-inspiring.
The Cobalt Lake Trail begins at the South Shore Trailhead on Two Medicine Lake. It’s just over an 11-mile round trip that gains 1,450 feet on the way up. Because of its length and vertical climb, the trail is fairly strenuous and should be taken seriously. Kids can certainly handle it, but only if they have trail experience and are able to keep up on their own. Cobalt Lake Trail is a truly magnificent hike, taking you through an area of beaver ponds, amongst forests teeming with wildflowers and fauna, and even across a suspension bridge. The trail ends at the stunning Cobalt Lake, a usually quiet location with breathtaking views of Mt. Rockwell and Sinopah Mountain. It’s an offbeat hike in an offbeat area of Glacier, but one that’s just plain unforgettable.
Dragon’s Tail Trail
Not considered an official Glacier trail and not found on many maps of the area, the Dragon’s Tail hike truly is an offbeat choice for a beautiful trek. The trail sets out from the Logan Pass Visitor’s Center and takes you to the summit of Dragon’s Tail, an 8,580-foot mountain overlooking Hidden Lake.
The Dragon’s Tail Trail takes from 4-5 hours and gains 1,950 feet in just 3 miles. This is not a super easy, family-friendly jaunt, but anyone can do it as long as they’re in shape and willing to get a little sweat in the gym socks. And it’s totally worth the sweat. The destination is gorgeous in and of itself, but it’s the trip up that’s really eye-opening. What makes the Dragon’s Tail hike so special–aside from being a mostly unpopulated trail in a mostly crowded park–are the unique views you get of familiar landmarks. Logan Pass, Bearhat Mountain, and Mount Clemens seen from new angles are worth buckets of sweat. Believe me.
Akokala Lake Trail
For a quiet, peaceful, and positively stunning afternoon hike, consider the trek to Akokala Lake. At 11.6 miles roundtrip, the trail is short enough that you can get it done without rushing to beat nightfall, but long enough to really immerse yourself in Glacier’s beautiful atmosphere. The trail gains 1,105 feet in elevation over the course of the jaunt, making it a pretty easy climb, so even people without much trail experience can enjoy it without the risk of running out of steam halfway through.
The Akokala Lake Trail starts at the Bowman Lake Campground in the northwest region of Glacier, and winds its way across mountain ridges and valleys. Plenty of choice flora and fauna viewing spots are featured along the trail and at the end you’ll find yourself on Akokala Lake’s southern shore, which is absolutely perfect for camping. It’s a gorgeous trail that deserves to be packed wall-to-wall with visitors but somehow still offers a nice little slice of wilderness solitude.
Glacier National Park can be a very busy place, which is fine for some people. Most of us, though, like to enjoy nature in a peaceful environment. Fortunately there are lots of offbeat trails for us to do just that.