The hike to Red Eagle Lake in Glacier National Park is a pleasant one. Itís flat by Glacier Park standards, with minimal elevation gain and loss and it goes into one of the prettiest valleys of the Park. The Red Eagle Fire of 2006 roasted the valley, killing almost all the conifer trees.
The conifers are taking a while to grow back, but the aspens, particularly in the first three miles or so, have shot up. Today, some are 20 feet tall.
This mosaic of dead trees, live trees, and grasses has created a mecca for songbirds of all types. Itís also good moose, deer, and elk habitat. We saw three moose and several whitetail deer along the way and more songbird species than we could count.
The lower campground is about 7 miles from the trailhead and the upper campground is about a mile further.
An alternate route is to start at the St. Mary Falls trailhead and swing down St. Mary Lake, then over the hump to the Red Eagle Valley. Thatís a longer hike, about 15 miles or so, but gives great, and seldom visited, views of St. Mary Lake from its south shore. Situated on the Continental Divide Trail, Red Eagle is a popular stop for backcountry hikers.
We try to hit it in the offseason ó either early or late in the year to avoid the crowds. The last time we were at the lake it was September and snowing. The camp at the head of the lake is far more pleasant ó it has trees and shade. The Red Eagle camps are also a stop for people going up and over Triple Divide Pass, which is about a 25-mile hike from St. Mary to the Cut Bank Ranger Station.