My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Hiking to Bullhead Lake with Road Scholar

2012/10/24by Donna Hull

Updated 04.01.2014

Bullhead Lake, one of the prettiest spots in Glacier National Park

Hiking to Bullhead Lake takes you to one of the prettiest spots in Glacier National Park.

If I had to choose one favorite trail experience in Glacier National Park, hiking to Bullhead Lake would be it. In this boomer traveler’s opinion, you’ll find all the elements for a good hike—alpine scenery, excellent wildlife watching and little elevation gain. When Alan and I experienced hiking to Bullhead Lake with a Road Scholar Glacier National Park program, I could have hiked forever; but I’m sure my companions would have finally yelled, “Stop!”

Located in the Many Glacier area of the park, the 8-mile-round-trip hike to Bullhead Lake begins near the parking lot at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (your last chance for a civilized pit stop). The trail starts out in a heavily forested section. Our Road Scholar guide, Steph Paidas, pointed to a bizarrely shaped tree that looked as if a sculptor had been at work in the forest. She told us that unusually harsh winters stunt or stop a tree’s growth. If it lives, a new tree branch may take over, sending the growth in a completely new direction.

About .8 miles from the start of the trail, take the short spur to Fishercap Lake, which is known for good moose sightings.

Red Rock Lake at Glacier National Park

Stopping to photograph Red Rock Lake

 The serious photography opportunities began when we reached Red Rock Lake where, on a sunny day, the waters reflect the granite peaks of Mt. Wilbur, Mt. Grinnell and Grinnell Point. Yes, that’s the Continental Divide on the crest.

Red Rock Falls in Glacier National Park

Red Rock Falls

Back on the trail, our group continued to Red Rock Falls, a popular spot for families, photographers, picnickers or those looking for a leisurely day sitting by a waterfall. We saved the photography and exploration for the return portion of the trip.

Stephanie lectures about billion-year-old rocks on the hike to Bullhead Lake

Learning about billion-year-old rocks from Stephanie Paidas

Stopping for short, educational talks is a benefit of hiking with a Road Scholar guide. As we made our way above the falls, Stephanie delivered a mini lesson on the geology of Glacier National Park pointing out rocks that were a billion years old. Thanks to geological forces like the Lewis Thrust Fault and glaciation, we could literally touch the ancient past on a hike. Amazing!

Hiking to Bullhead Lake with view of Swiftcurrent Glacier

Road Scholar hikers catch a glimpse of Swiftcurrent Glacier on the trail to Bullhead Lake

The trail alternated between alpine meadows and dense growth thick with huckleberries and thistle berries. Grizzly scat, purple with undigested berries, proved that bears had recently been traveling on the trail. So, we upped the level of conversation and occasionally called out, “Bear, hey bear.” Forget the bear bells, human conversation is the best way to avoid an unexpected meet-up with the brown furry giants.

Most hikers will not need hiking poles for this flat hike. However, the poles do relieve stress on your joints. I’m glad that I brought mine.

At Bullhead Lake, our turnaround point, we picnicked on the large rocks scattered about the hillside that gently slopes toward the lake. Granite peaks surrounded us on three sides. Distant waterfalls plunged three thousand feet down rocky, gray mountainsides and the sun lit up the white surface of  Swiftcurrent glacier, one of the last glaciers remaining in Glacier National Park. The scene was nothing short of spectacular.

What about animal sightings on the hike to Bullhead Lake?

Mother moose on the way to Bullhead Lake in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park.

We meet Mrs. Moose on the trail to Bullhead Lake

When Stephanie hiked up a hillside meadow to scout out a safe place for the ladies to take a bush break, she discovered a mother moose and her child. Being careful not to block the moose’s path, we quietly crept up the hill for a few minutes of moose watching.

Don’t block the path of a moose. The animals may look like lumbering giants but they are capable of fast moves in your direction.

Toward the end of the hike, when we were almost back to Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, a commotion in the woods alerted us to a mother black bear (although she was colored brown) and her three cubs. The Road Scholar hikers oohed, ahed and snapped photos as mamma ate berries while the three cubs chased behind her.

Give bears a wide berth. You’re in their territory. Watch quietly and DON’T approach them.

Have you enjoyed hiking to Bullhead Lake in Glacier National Park? Post a comment to share your tips with us. This is one boomer travel experience that Alan and I will be repeating as often as we can. Yes, it’s that good.

Disclosure: Road Scholar provided this travel experience. As usual, the opinions are my own.

You’ll find more articles about our experience at Hiking Glacier National Park with Road Scholar.


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Heatheronhertravels
Twitter:
October 25, 2012 at 4:03 am

I really recommend using poles on longer hikes- I found mine invaluable in tha Alps although admittedly the paths are steep. They support your joints and help prevent twisted knees and ankles on uneven ground . Prevention is better than cure!
Heatheronhertravels recently posted..Wet and Wild Adventures on Dartmoor – staying at Woodovis Park – videoMy Profile

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June October 25, 2012 at 6:54 am

Wish I had your weather when I was there! I did hike to Red Rock Falls, but that was about it due to cold rain. Beautiful country!

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Mark H October 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Looks a lovely spot. I see one participant photographing with an iPad, which looks so absurd as a camera. I’ve never walked with a pole but it seems to be one of those things that some speak of very highly and others argue against. I’ve seena an increase in usage on walking trails in Australia. I wonder what others think about walking with a pole.
Mark H recently posted..Larnach Castle: A Juicy History (Dunedin, New Zealand)My Profile

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Leigh
Twitter:
October 25, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Sounds like a wonderful hike – and always great to be in a big group when you see bears. Supposedly there has never been a bear attack when there’s a group of four or more.
Leigh recently posted..Southwest Utah’s Scenic Burr Trail: 68 Miles of AwesomenessMy Profile

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ruth pennebaker October 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm

This looks heavenly, Donna. But it’s kind of amazing you have to remind people not to approach bears.

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Alexandra October 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I would love to do this hike. For now, must content myself with ocean scenery on Cape Cod, not bad either.
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Brette
Twitter:
October 26, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Oh what fun. I would love to see a moose and bears in the wild. I’ve never tried hiking poles, but they sound like a good idea.
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Heather
Twitter:
October 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

What a beautiful place. Looks just like a postcard.

How do you stay in condition to make an 8-mile hike? Inquiring minds what to know.
Heather recently posted..Get Into Soap LakeMy Profile

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Living Large October 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

Oh, what fun. I wouldn’t be able to do a 5 mile hike, much less and 8 mile one!

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Jane Boursaw
Twitter:
October 30, 2012 at 10:15 am

Wow – such gorgeous photos. It just looks amazing. And so cool that you got to see a moose!
Jane Boursaw recently posted..Giant Gollum Comes to Wellington, New ZealandMy Profile

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MyKidsEatSquid October 30, 2012 at 10:30 am

I really need to visit Montana! Look how clear that water is in the picture. Just lovely.
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Dorothy Day July 3, 2013 at 6:46 am

My favorite place in the world is the Glacier Park area in Montana. My favorite hike is the hike to Avalanche Lake in that park. Have you been to China? If not, you HAVE to go!

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Ian April 5, 2014 at 10:26 pm

Glacier just has some lovely scenery … great pics, especially of the moose!
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