Looking to avoid the crowds on the Iceberg Lake Trail but still want a view of turquoise glacial lake? If you’re in the Many Glacier area and have the time, take the trail to Cracker Lake. At almost 13 miles, this is a gem of hike that you have to work a little harder for.
The trail starts from the southern end of the Many Glacier Hotel parking lot. Enter the thick forest, heading east. After about a mile in, the trees to the north clear and a spectacular view of Apikuni Mountain towering over the head of Lake Sherburne opens up.
The first mile and a half are also used by horses. Be prepared for muddy trails and strong odors if you’re hiking in the summer. If you want to avoid encountering horses on the trail, get started by 8 a.m., which is before the first horse parties hit the trail. If you can’t make the early start time, don’t worry too much; you won’t see horses after you cross Allen Creek.
Switchback up from Allen Creek and then walk along an awesome forested ridgeline with Canyon Creek down on your left and Allen Creek on the right. You’ll journey past large boulder fields, and at almost four miles in, cross the log bridge over Canyon Creek. Its turquoise waters give you a marvelous hint of what is to come at the lake.
Once the trail leaves the forest after the creek crossing you’re in full sun and in prime view of the rocky cirque in the distance. At 9,833 feet, Mount Siyeh is the tallest of the peaks in the cirque. One last uphill jaunt brings you into view of Cracker Lake. The lake gets its turquoise color from light refracted through glacial silt suspended in the water. Enjoy lunch at some choice viewing areas around the lake.
The trail does wind along the eastern side of the lake to three backcountry sites. If you’re lucky enough to snag one of the stunning camp spots through a lottery or walk-in reservation, enjoy the stillness and quietness of Cracker Lake after the day hikers leave.