Stanton Lake in the Fall

This blog is part of a six part series of hikes in and around the Whitefish area in coordination with Explore Whitefish. Check out their website at to find out more ways to explore the area, things to do, places to stay, and how you can recreate responsibly while visiting.

Just outside of the south boundary of Glacier National Park, lies a gem of a lake tucked between two wooded ridges. At the head of the lake, the north face of Great Northern Mountain towers overhead. In October, the wooded ridges turn golden as the larches warn of the snow that is to come.

On a cool mid-October day, we ventured out on this short trail to the lake. The sun broke through and gloriously lit the trees as we cruised the shorelines.

Fog hung in the Nyack Valley as we parked our cars at the trailhead for Stanton Lake, just off Highway 2. The wide parking lot is found just east of the humble trailhead parking for Coal Creek (for Glacier National Park) and is well signed.

Moss hung from every tree and drops of dew clung to ever branch, golden leaf and pine needle. After only about 50 yards of warmup, the trail began to steeply climb up the ridge. It didn’t take long for us to shed a layer despite the damp, cool morning.

We crunched our way up the hill which quickly leveled off and began traversing across the top of the ridge. The forest gave teasing views of the golden larch trees scattered among the evergreens.

Sneaky views of the hillsides, lake, lake and mountains teased as we got closer to the lake. We dropped down near the outlet of the lake to a mirror surface as fog was lifting off the water. A little bit of traveling and we were at the edge of the lake. Great Northern with its layered slabs of rock as some early season snow. It perfectly reflected in the lake as a grebe silently foraged, frequently diving for morsels under the water.

Stanton Lake

The warming sun backlit the trees that glowed yellow. We continued along the shoreline toward the head of the lake spying squirrels and woodpeckers. Birch and cottonwoods were in mid-molt, clinging to some yellow leaves, while discarding the rest onto the now-yellow trail.

Towards the head of the lake, we walked through a campsite with wonderful views looking back up into Glacier’s southern peaks. A little further and we reached the head of the lake where willows grew tall as Stanton Creek emptied into the lake. I watched an American Dipper bob above the waters and fruitlessly scanned for a moose.

We turned around and headed back. We met a few folks hiking with their dogs and kids. The fall air filling our lungs. We stopped once more at the foot of the lake to enjoy a snack and take in the views. The lake a bit more choppy and noisy with more hikers, but still beautiful.

One last glance and we followed the creek back down to our cars.

Stanton Lake with Great Northern Mountain

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