Lake of the Hanging Glacier

Spectacular mountain scenery, hanging Jumbo Glacier calves small icebergs into the lake. Many waterfalls, a turbulent creek paralleling most of trail, and worthy explorations for viewpoints along and above lakeshore for sure-footed adventurers.

Getting There

Trailhead directions from Invermere or Radium, BC:  Approx 1.5 hour drive on mostly good logging gravel road and high clearance 2WD/AWD or 4WD last 1.2 - 3.6 miles, with Radium access recommended as longer rougher road from Invermere.

Directions from Radium:  Turn west at the four-way stop and follow Main Street West downhill toward the sawmill.  At .3 miles, turn left onto Horsethief FS road (good gravel) and continue straight (avoid right fork and branch roads) as road climbs gradually from the Columbia River.  At the four-way junction at 5.6 miles (9 km sign) with Westside Road, continue straight onto Horsethief Creek FS road (at 16 km marker). Continue on main Horsethief Creek FS road.  There may be road washout .1-.2 miles before trailhead parking on narrow Horsethief Road. If in a non-4WD vehicle, alternative parking just before washout along road.  If 4WD, continue to trailhead and signed parking area (4,790 feet).  Approx 1.8 miles before the trailhead, overnight camping sites are available at Farnham Creek FS Rec Site.

Topo maps (1:50,000):  Duncan Lake 82K/7, Radium Hot Springs 82K/9.

Recommended Guidebooks:  Mountain Footsteps: Hikes in the East Kootenay of Southeastern British Columbia (Strong, 4th ed., 2019); Hikes Around the Columbia Valley (Mclellan & Strauss); Hikes Around Invermere & the Columbia River Valley (Cameron & Gunn, 1st ed., 1998)

On the trail

Lake of the Hanging Glacier is accessible approximately late June/mid-July to late September/mid-October, when the seasonal bridge is installed by Summit Trail Makers Society volunteers over Hellroaring Creek (unsafe and uncrossable when no bridge).  For bridge open dates and trail conditions see:

Day hike or backpack (campsite .8 mi before lake in subalpine meadow), and explore ridges above east or west side of lake to panoramic viewpoints.  No camping is allowed near lakeshore.

Trail goes through alder thickets and lush subalpine forests, passing many dramatic waterfalls, along and above turbulent creeks. Cross bridges at about 1.1 miles over Hellroaring Creek and about 1.8 miles over Horsethief Creek. Trail gains approximately 1,300 feet elevation over the next 2.5 miles, following Horsethief Creek with nearly continuous waterfalls along steep switchbacks. Grade flattens at about 4.3 miles, traveling through subalpine, with some trail sections obscured by avalanche debris and wet areas, then through large subalpine meadows with abundant wildflowers. Pass a campsite at 4.2 miles and reach the lake (7,150 ft) above tree line. 

The lake fills a 1.5 mile long basin below glaciers and several jagged mountains on the southern skyline include the imposing Lieutenants (up to 10,500 feet), Commander, and Guardsmen peaks. See Glacier Dome to the west, and Granite Peak and Mount May to the east. While at the lake, listen for the calls or enjoy sightings of marmots and pikas, and perhaps see a few icebergs as they float to the outlet of the wide rocky  delta.   Hike along the lake's outlet delta (some rock hopping) or onto the ridges on east or west side (including viewpoint route on NW side) of lake where there are also scrambling and climbing opportunities. Bring lots of water, as there are few sources along the trail which mostly parallels turbulent creeks in canyons and steep waterfalls.  Sources include two creeks near trail bottom and an intermittent spring about .9 mi from the lake.

Chicken wire wraps (see "Get Inspired Every Day" link below) strongly advised for overnight parking at/near trailhead to protect against potential porcupine/marmot damage to vehicle's  hard/soft under parts (tires, hoses, brake linings, etc).

High clearance or 4x4 vehicles needed for rough 3.6 miles (some washouts possible) just before trailhead.  Contact BC Invermere forest district (+1 250-342-4200) for road conditions or other backroad info (campgrounds, fire restrictions or hazards).

Links to trail details and photos:

  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Day Hiking
  • Seasons: June, July, August, September, October
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
  • Length: 13.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,300 ft
  • 8,000 ft
  • Land Manager: British Columbia Recreation
  • Parking Permit Required: see Land Manager
  • Recommended Party Size: 6
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
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