If you are looking for a dog-friendly hike near Glacier National Park, Stanton Lake is a great option. The trailhead is just a 15-20 minute drive from the town of West Glacier and the scenery is anything but dull.
The trail is somewhat steep, but it’s only 1.5 miles to the lake and another 0.5 miles to a backcountry campsite on a pristine beach. When we went, it was unoccupied and made for a pleasant lunch.
Stanton Lake is found at the bottom of Stanton Creek drainage, in the Great Bear Wilderness Area of Flathead National Forest.
The lake is fed by meltwater from the Stanton Glacier on Great Northern Mountain, the highest peak in the Flathead Range at 8560 feet.
- Distance: 4 miles
- Hike Time: 3 hours
- Elevation Gain: 672 feet
- Fee: Free
- Dogs: Yes
- Difficulty: Easy
Hiking the Stanton Lake Trail
We got to Stanton Lake Trailhead at 3:45pm on a Sunday and the lot was busy, but there were a few spots left.
Kim was immediately drawn to a six-foot-tall bush full of berries. She thought they might be huckleberries and they tasted delicious so we started picking them.
Some passing hikers had some ideas about what type of berry we were picking.
“Those are chokeberries!” snapped one lady, after scolding her children for taking interest.
“I believe those are serviceberries,” mentioned a friendly fellow from Baltimore.
After our hike, Kim did some research and verified that they were in fact serviceberries. The berry also goes by other names, including juneberry, saskatoon, chuckley pear and shadbush.
Once we had a tall Nalgene full of berries, we packed up Maia (who had been napping in her carseat) and started up the trail.
It is steep from the get go and ascends 400 feet in the first 0.8 miles. Over the next 0.4 miles, you lose 200 feet.
At 1.4 miles, the lake comes into view. From here, you can find a beach to hang out at or follow the trail around the edge of the lake to a backcountry campsite on the beach.
We heard from a guy on the trail that there was a moose in the marshy meadow beyond the lake, so we followed his instructions and bore right at the campsite.
The trail was overgrown and we battled through thick brush and a few spiny bushes to reach the meadow, but by the time we got there the moose had left.
In jest, I told Kim that he hikes to the lake to tell everyone about the nonexistent ungulate, laughing to himself maniacally on the way down.
After our failed moose sighting, we went down to the beachside campsite and had a satisfying lunch by the lake.
The hike took us 3 hours, with about an hour of that split between lunchtime and berry picking.
From West Glacier, head northeast on U.S. Route 2 and continue for 16.6 miles to Stanton Lake Trailhead. There is a sign before the turnoff but not directly at it, so watch for the Stanton Creek Lodge enclave then turn right immediately after it.
- Hiking Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness by Falcon Guides