Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Stories

Traverse an Alpine Pass Between Glacier National Park’s Iconic Lakes

Hike from St. Mary Lake to McDonald Lake through some of the Lower 48's best bear country.

Lock Icon

Unlock this article and unwrap savings this holiday season.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

Now 30% Off.
$4.99/month $3.49/month*

Get the one subscription to fuel all your adventures.


  • Map your next adventure with our premium GPS apps: Gaia GPS Premium and Trailforks Pro.
  • Read unlimited digital content from 15+ brands, including Outside Magazine, Triathlete, Ski, Trail Runner, and VeloNews.
  • Watch 600+ hours of endurance challenges, cycling and skiing action, and travel documentaries.
  • Learn from the pros with expert-led online courses.
Join Outside+


*Outside memberships are billed annually. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

See more perfect summer lake hikes to beat the heat.

  • Distance: 40.9 miles
  • Time: 3-4 days

Even without the grizzlies, this park’s alpine scenery alone would deserve a spot in our top 10. But with the densest bear habitat of any park in the Lower 48, Glacier is THE place to hike with that spine-tingling sensation of being watched. For a 40.9-mile safari through the heart of Glacier, hike from St. Mary Visitor Center to Lake McDonald. Following the river valleys and topping Gunsight Pass, this route cuts through the berry- and bulb-rich feeding grounds bears frequent. Make noise when nearing blind corners and approaching babbling streams, and use this hike’s high points to your advantage: Scan the surrounding terrain for browsing bears. And should you strike out on bear sightings (unlikely), you’ll still relish “truly grand topography that makes you feel out there in a way that even the Tetons or Cascades can’t match,” says Jonathan Dorn, who hiked here in 2006.

Do It

Take the Red Eagle Creek Trail, following the shoreline of St. Mary Lake for 7.6 miles, then bear right on the St. Mary Trail. Cross a series of hanging valleys draped in waterfalls before arriving at Reynold Campground at 7.3 miles. Next day, follow the 20-mile Gunsight Pass Trail up the St. Mary River Valley, where bears congregate for the berries and cool, high-elevation temps. Camp at Gunsight Lake, then descend into the Sprague Creek drainage and follow the Snyder Ridge Trail to Lake McDonald. From there, you can take the park shuttle back to your car at St. Mary’s visitor center.

Map/book Trails Illustrated Glacier National Park/Waterton Lakes National Park; Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks, by Erik Molvar