Exploring Glacier National Park by a Lake Cruise and a Hike

St. Mary Lake.
St. Mary Lake.
Mirror image.
Mirror image.
Lake view with Wild Goose Island.
Lake view with Wild Goose Island.
Wild Goose Island.
Wild Goose Island.
View from the trail. This is a good picture of the lake color.
View from the trail. This is a good picture of the lake color.
St. Mary Falls.
St. Mary Falls.

An excellent adventure at Glacier National Park is to take the boat cruises/hikes. I managed to work in two of them. The first one was on St. Mary Lake. This lake is on the eastern edge of the park and is the 2nd largest lake in the park. It is one of the attractions along the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It sits at an elevation of 4,484’, is 9.9 miles long and 300’ deep. Because of its elevation the water temperature rarely rises above 50 degrees. It frequently freezes over completely in the winter with ice up to 4’ thick. The boat cruise was interesting as one of the park rangers was on board narrating and answering questions the whole trip. She explained all the geology of the region and pointed out areas of interest. We went right by the little Wild Goose Island, the only island in the lake. The water in the lake (as you will see in my photos) really is the bright greenish-blue color. This is caused by glacial (or rock) flour which is composed of crushed minerals which reaches the lake in the glacial melt. The boat docked across the lake and you had the option of hiking on your own on the many trails around the lake or with the ranger. I chose the ranger led hike as I was by myself and not used to hiking in bear country. In fact, the first thing she said was make a lot of noise along the way. Bears don’t like people so if you make noise they will stay away. I guess we weren’t making enough noise because every so often she belted out a ‘hey-ho’! The hike was a 1.6 mile roundtrip to St. Mary Falls. She discussed the native flora and wildlife and answered all the questions by me and my fellow hikers. It was very enjoyable and a fairly easy hike. Then when that boat docked I hurried over to Two Medicine Lake for my second boat cruise/hike of the day.

show route and directions
A markerTwo Medicine Lake -
Two Medicine Lake, Montana, USA
[get directions]

B markerSt Mary Lake -
St Mary Lake, Montana 59417, USA
[get directions]

Two Medicine Lake.
Two Medicine Lake.
Lake view.
Lake view.
View from the trail.
View from the trail.
Left fall of Twin Falls.
Left fall of Twin Falls.
Right fall of Twin Falls.
Right fall of Twin Falls.
The American Dipper
The American Dipper

Two Medicine Lake is in the SE corner of the park and it takes an effort to get there. You have to go out of the park and travel south and back into the park again. This lake is very different from St. Mary. It is not fed by any glaciers so the color of this lake is a deep dark blue color. This cruise was also narrated by a park ranger and when we docked on the other side I again elected to take the ranger led hike. Many of the others took off on their own as there were many other trails around the lake. This hike was a 1.8 mile roundtrip to Twin Falls. We also had the ‘watch for bears and be noisy’ speech from this ranger too. Since the boat trip back would be the last one of the day, we had to be mindful of the time and keep moving. This ranger was also very knowledgeable and eager to answer questions. One time she stopped and pointed out a tree that had recently been used as a back scratcher by a bear. There was still bear fur on the tree. That sent a chill up my spine and made me listen and watch more off of the trail. You get the bear warnings everywhere in the park and your chances of meeting up with a bear are pretty slim… maybe because of all the warnings. At Twin Falls which are not very far apart at all, we were treated to seeing up close a bird that makes it home behind waterfalls. It is called an American Dipper – a very fitting name as it is constantly dipping up and down. It can also stand in the rushing water that no human could ever stand in. After the boat came back and picked us up it was off to the cabin I was staying for my last night in the park. Maybe next time, and I would love to return and do all the things I didn’t have time for, I will be brave enough to venture out on the trails without a ranger!

Happy exploring!

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Comments 8 comments

hmdewalt profile image

hmdewalt 7 years ago

Great pics.

Wish I had a chance to visit.


Rose Kolowinski profile image

Rose Kolowinski 7 years ago Author

Thanks hmdewalt! You should definitely put it on your list of places to visit someday.


Chip 7 years ago

Beautiful pics. I'm going there in two weeks (I live in Ohio). This definitely made up my mind on taking the boat ride. Is the hike OK enough for a 5 year old? I'm assuming this is the boat company: http://www.glacierparkboats.com/stmary.htm


Rose Kolowinski profile image

Rose Kolowinski 7 years ago Author

Thanks Chip - yes it was the Glacier Park Boats. The hike to Baring Falls is very short and ok for a child. The longer ranger guided hike to St Mary Falls would probably be ok too. They could probably do it better than some of the adults! But you could ask the ranger what they think. The hike at Two Medicine Lake would be ok too. My hike there had two little kids along and they did fine. Have a wonderful trip!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

This sounds wonderful and will be put on my wish list. Loved the photos as well. Going with the Ranger probably added not only a bit of safety but more information as you hiked the trail than if you were on your own. Really enjoyed this hub. Thanks!


Rose Kolowinski profile image

Rose Kolowinski 6 years ago Author

Thanks Peggy. I would go back to this park every year if I could! But have too many other places I want to visit! Thanks for commenting.


mecheshier profile image

mecheshier 4 years ago

Fabulous Hub. Wonderful pics and great suggestions. Thank you for sharing. Voted up for awesome.


Rose Kolowinski profile image

Rose Kolowinski 4 years ago Author

Thanks, mecheshier! Glad you enjoyed it.

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