Tuesday, December 07, 2021

A jaunt to Snyder Lakes

| November 24, 2021 6:25 AM

Story and photos by JP EDGE

Hungry Horse News

Last week, we saw heavy winds, gusting over 50 miles per hour race across the valley, and Glacier National Park was hit especially hard, with downed trees covering its winding forest trails.

Upper Snyder Lake is well off the beaten path and sits in a basin of tall mountains, including Mount Edwards, Little Matterhorn and Mount Brown. Just below the waterfalls and cliffs separating the lower from the upper Snyder Lakes is a campground, a brisk 4.4 mile hike from Lake McDonald Lodge.

I set out for the Lakes from the Lodge at 12:20 in the afternoon, and quickly found myself hobbling and stumbling over these fallen trees, which decreased my speed. Once turning off the main trail, the trees became more of a factor as the forest changed from Cedar to LodgePole Pines.

After reaching the campground, I sat down on a rock for a quick snack, and to enjoy my surroundings while distinguishing the best route to take to the upper lake. Covering the rocks in the scree fields that make up this valley, I observed black and green patches of crustose lichens, which are a functional unit of separate fungus and algae organisms.

After passing through the campsite, I followed a faint social trail along the lake’s southern edge to a waterfall hidden behind the cliffs. From here, the trail ends, and one must climb 3rd class cliffs to gain a ledge that leads to the forest surrounding the upper lake. In winter, ice forming on the cliffs from the spray of the waterfall is also a factor.

Once I gained the ledge, I looked back over the lower lake and was able to see all the way back to Lake McDonald. I then ventured through the forest, which now had thick snow on the floor, and observed many tracks of wild animals, including deer, grizzly bear and wolf prints.

Wind began to gust as I reached the upper lake, and daylight was running short. I stopped for a moment, recorded my time, and made a hasty retreat back to the cliffs and climbed back down. The sun began to set on my hike back, and it was dark when I reached the lodge.

In total, the hike took me just over five hours to complete a total of approximately 10.3 miles and 2,447 feet of elevation gain.


The trail to Snyder lake is far more open after the Sprague Creek Fire scorched the landscape in 2017.