Glacier National Park: Lake Isabel
You'll find rugged landscapes and plenty of solitude on this 33.6-mile backpacking trip that visits a secluded lake at the foot of three rugged peaks.
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The 16.8-mile trek into Isabel Lake from the Walton Ranger Station offers a lesser-traveled route for those seeking an alternative to the more popular Glacier destinations. Start on the Boundary Trail and hike north along the Middle Fork of the Flathead. The trail climbs up a hillside above the river, then wraps around the base of Scalplock Mountain. Douglas fir and larch trees flank the trail.
At mile 3.4, turn right and hike northeast up the Park Creek valley. The 11-mile stretch through the valley crosses marshy meadows and passes the lower and upper Park Creek campgrounds. After 14.5 miles, bear left onto Lake Isabel Trail for the final 2.3-mile climb to Lake Isabel, a trout-filled lake nestled beneath a rugged cirque. Set up camp on the north side of the lake, or turn around and follow the same route back to the trailhead.
PERMIT: Overnight camping in Glacier National Park requires a backcountry permit. Check out the latest fees and more details at nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm.
MORE PARK INFO: Glacier National Park, (406) 888-7800; nps.gov/glac/.
-GPS data provided by the National Park Service
- Distance: 27.1
Location: 48.2747803, -113.6031342
From the Walton Ranger Station, follow Boundary Trail to the north. The path parallels the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
Location: 48.2801437, -113.6003036
The trail swings to the left, then switchbacks up a hillside above the river.
Location: 48.2819824, -113.5928268
The trail levels as it crosses a saddle at the foot of Scalplock Mountain.
Location: 48.2832985, -113.5895767
Turn left @ T-junction and head north around the base of Scalplock Mountain.
Location: 48.2861862, -113.5908508
Keep straight @ 3-way and continue hiking north. The trail to the left climbs to the summit of Scalplock Mountain.
Location: 48.2913895, -113.5929794
Hike through 2 narrow creek drainages that flow into the Middle Fork of the Flathead. Ahead, the trail travels to the northwest through Douglas fir and larch trees.
Location: 48.3070145, -113.6079559
Turn right @ 3-way junction. Head northeast up the Park Creek valley.
Location: 48.3191643, -113.5856628
Head east along the foot of Scalplock Mountain through marshy meadows. Rampage Mountain rises across the valley to the north.
Location: 48.3344574, -113.5469894
Stay straight on Park Creek Trail @ 4-way intersection with Fielding-Coal Creek Trail. Pass the Lower Park Creek Campground and continue northeast up the valley.
Location: 48.4147895, -113.4606171
Cross the creek, then bear left onto Lake Isabel Trail @ Y-junction. (Two Medicine Pass Trail forks off to the right.) Pass the Upper Park Creek Campground. In 0.4 mile, cross Park Creek.
Location: 48.4243698, -113.4923782
Lake Isabel (5,715 ft.): This trout-filled, subalpine lake is nestled at the foot of a rugged cirque. Caper Peak, Battlement Mountain, and Vigil Peak rise dramatically to the north, west, and south. Set up camp at the campground on the north side of the lake, or turn around and follow the same route back to the trailhead.