Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,496.00 ft (760.78 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
11.60 mi (18.67 km)
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To Flathead and Swan Valley locals, Turquoise Lake is regarded as an all-time favorite spot, and for good reason. A little off the beaten path, it is nestled deep within dramatic rocky spires and steep mountain peaks on the western edge of the Mission Mountain Wilderness just across the highway from the Bob Marshall Wilderness. At just over 11 miles of round trip hiking of a moderate but sustained difficulty, Turquoise Lake is perfectly doable as a day hike objective, but there is so much to explore in the area that backpacking in and camping for at least one night is highly recommended.

From either direction it’s a bit of a drive, and the locals like to hide it away; the access road has little signage. After the turnoff from the highway, another 11 miles down a narrow, winding dirt road will take you to typically car-filled parking lot. There is no need to worry about the amount of cars there because most of them will be there to access the much closer and easier trek to Glacier Lake. Begin hiking down Glacier Creek Trail #690, but after 1.3 miles of flat and easy hiking you’ll spur away from this trail and find much less traffic.

Immediately after you turn away from Glacier Lake the trail grows steeper, leading you through a tedious series of gradual switchbacks. The Forest Service rates this trail as difficult, but in reality it’s more moderate: never too steep, just sustained.

The higher you climb, the better the views get, and soon you’ll see Glacier Lake stretching out in the valley below. Just after the series of switchbacks, 3 total miles into the hike, you’ll pass one more major fork in the trail (marked very clearly with signs) leading to Heart Lakes and Crescent Lakes. Continue left toward Turquoise along Turquoise Lake Trail #708, but if you’re backpacking in for a couple days, definitely feel free to check out some of these other gorgeous little lakes.  For the truly adventurous, you can then bushwack out to extremely remote Island Lake.

The trail is super clear and well-trodden until you reach a barren alpine region covered in massive rock slabs. Watch your footing, and be careful to keep an eye out for where the trail picks up in the intermittent dirt patches. Finally you’ll start descending into a bowl and a swampy area aptly called Lagoon Lake. Wildflowers are abundant, here especially, but also along the entire trail due to the unique, intense moisture trap that the Mission Mountains create. In mid to late August you can find a plethora of huckleberries in this bowl, but make sure you have some self-control if you want to set up camp by dark. Huckleberries can make half a mile take half a day!

At the bottom of the bowl you’ll find the small, steep-shored Lace Lake on the left and the roaring stream pouring from Turquoise Lake on the right. Turquoise itself bends around a huge rock shelf consisting of more rock slabs rising high above the crystal clear waters. There is nothing gradual about Turquoise Lake, as you will immediately noticed about the far shore, which consists of boulders that have tumbled down from the cliffs above. It’s big for a typical Montana mountain lake, though for the most part the shore is quite inaccessible between the sharp boulders on the far side, the giant rock slabs, and the logjam near the creek outlet. There are some very nice camp spots along the near shore of the lake.

Turquoise Lake is famous for its gold medal cutthroat trout fishing, though its little sister, Lace Lake is rumored to have even better fishing due to its location farther off the beaten path. Lace Lake may not have the spectacular views of Turquoise, but it’s a short enough hike away from Turquoise (about half a mile total) that you can set up camp, head over to Lace to catch some fish, and be back to Turquoise in time to fry them up on the fire for dinner. Sinkers are better than bobbers, and most of the prize fish dwell toward the bottom of the dark waters. Just be wary of log snags, and don’t use any lure you’ll be too upset about losing if your line gets caught. If you’re feeling really brave, the crystalline waters of Turquoise Lake might even tempt you to take a dip to wash off the sweat and dirt of the hike in.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

No

Open from

June 24 to October 31

Pros

Fishing. Low-traffic. Excellent backcountry camping. Near other adventures. Beautiful vistas. Various lakes.

Cons

Sustained grade. Long drive to the trailhead. Busy trailhead due to popular nearby hike.

Trailhead Elevation

5,160.00 ft (1,572.77 m)

Highest point

6,424.00 ft (1,958.04 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Near lake or river
Wildlife
Fishing
Big vistas
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana
Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana
Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana
Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana

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