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Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, MT

With plenty of options for water sports, this lake is one of the most beloved among park visitors

Saint Mary Lake
Saint Mary Lake
Saint Mary Lake

Lake St. Mary is the second largest lake in Glacial National Park. Located in the eastern part of the park, it is 10 miles long (16 km) and lies 1,500 feet (460 m) higher than Lake McDonald. Accordingly, the water here is even colder during the year, and in winter, the lake freezes completely.

Despite such a harsh climate, the lake area is home to many animals, including mule deer, grizzly and black bears, and elk. In the summer, the landscape is decorated with lupine, Indian paintbrushes, and other wildflowers. Fishing on the lake requires a special permit. It is only permitted to catch lake trout (mackinaw).

The legendary Going-To-The-Sun Road runs right along the lake. It is fully open only in the summer, so June, July, and August are the most convenient months for visiting Saint Mary Lake.

The summer season is when the most popular activities on the lake are available: boating, canoeing, and more. For hiking enthusiasts, St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls trails are an excellent idea. It's a short 2.4 miles (3.8 km) journey in both directions. Both waterfalls can be reached by Going-To-The Sun Road.

Practical info

What are some popular water sports to enjoy at Saint Mary Lake?

Boating, kayaking, and canoeing are popular water activities to enjoy at Saint Mary Lake. Watercraft can be rented at Lake McDonald Lodge or the Apgar Village area. Additionally, an interpretive boat tour is available for visitors who prefer a more relaxed experience. Fishing on the lake is allowed with a special permit but visitors are only allowed to catch lake trout. Show more

When does Saint Mary Lake freeze over completely?

Saint Mary Lake can freeze over completely in winter thanks to its high elevation. The best time to visit the lake free from ice is June through August. During the colder months, travelers can take the legendary Going-To-The-Sun Road, which provides an unbeatable view of the frozen lake. Show more

Where can visitors catch lake trout and what is required to do so?

To catch lake trout on Saint Mary Lake, visitors must obtain a special permit, which can be purchased at the Apgar, Two Medicine, and Many Glacier park ranger stations. Additionally, fishing gear and boats are available for rent in Apgar Village. Fishing in Glacier National Park is subject to park regulations. Show more

What animals can be found in the area surrounding Saint Mary Lake?

The area surrounding Saint Mary Lake is home to diverse wildlife, including elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, and grizzly bears. Visitors should keep a safe distance from these creatures and never feed them. To prevent bear incidents, all food and scented items must be stored in bear-resistant containers. Visitors may carry bear spray while hiking as a precaution against close encounters with the animals. Show more

When is the best time to visit Saint Mary Lake to take advantage of the full activities available?

For the full range of Saint Mary Lake activities, it's best to visit during June, July, and August. During these months, the Going-To-The-Sun Road is fully open, which provides an unbeatable view of the lake. Additionally, the lake's clear waters are perfect for water activities such as canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Finally, hikers can explore the beautiful St. Mary Falls and Virginia Falls trails during the summer months. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin