An outdoor enthusiast’s playground. A nature lover’s blissful paradise. An artist’s magnificent muse. A photographer’s masterpiece in the making. A family vacation sure to please. Glacier National Park, Montana, is all this, and so much more!
Just imagine spending your days soaking in vistas like this mist-shrouded lake. You can, if Glacier National Park, Montana, is your destination. Come along for the hike as we soak in the views of the very popular Avalanche Lake trail, in Glacier National Park.
Trekking The Trail to Avalanche Lake
To experience Glacier National Park at it’s finest, one needs to explore it’s extensive trail system on foot. But wow! Which trail to hike? Our trail of choice today? The Avalanche Lake Trail, easily located within Glacier’s renown Lake McDonald area.
This four mile trail is perfect for an early morning hike. In fact, you’ll want to hike Avalanche Lake Trail as early in the day as possible. It’s very popular, and in peak travel season the trail often becomes quite crowded by mid-day. And what awaits you at the end of the trail is well worth that early morning wake up call. Especially if you make it to the lake for sunrise!
The trail begins with an easy trek through an old growth red cedar and western hemlock forest. It’s so serene along the trail at this early morning hour, even here on the banks of nearby Avalanche Creek, where glacially fed water rapidly rushes past.
Stop and listen as the cool water races it’s way down the narrow gorge. Note how over the centuries, the water has carved it’s way through the earth, past the evergreen trees and bright green moss that line the rocky creek bed.
Continue winding up the trail. At a total elevation gain of 500 feet, it’s a fairly easy upward hike through Avalanche Gorge. Eventually the trail opens onto a dramatic view of snow-capped mountain tops. Even on a misty July morning, this is a site to behold. Look closely over to the left for a thin ribbon of water cascading down the mountainside.
Misty Morning Views of Avalanche Lake
At last! The trail has ended, but my oh my, what a spectacular ending it is, right at the foot of Avalanche Lake. The steep cliffs of Bearhat Mountain and Little Matterhorn surround the lake, creating a most stunning backdrop, even on a cool, mist-shrouded morning.
Grab a seat on the rough-hewn log bench. It’s perfect for a refreshing snack and a family photo. Oh, and of course, the main attraction – a front row view of this stunning mountain rimmed lake, complete with several glacial waterfalls spilling 100’s of feet down the cliffs on their way to the lake below.
Looks like you’ve got a visitor. Just watch out for that wily chipmunk! Seems to me that he’s got his eye on your snack. Snackers beware, or that chipmunk might make off with your treat.
Best of all, with an early start, and misty mornings a possible deterrence, you might be fortunate enough to have these incredible views all to yourself. So go on. Sit back. Soak in the ambiance. Stare out across the lake, reflections of snowy mountains spilling across the pristine, still waters. Who knows what wildlife might be staring back from across the lake!
Yep! That mist-shrouded early morning walk sure was well worth a little dampness! Sadly, it’s time to head back down the trail, and leave behind this tranquil scene. The mist is beginning to lift, and the later morning crowds are sure to be headed on up the trail by now.
Walking The Trail of the Cedars
While at the Avalanche Lake trailhead, you might notice signage for another trail, the Trail of the Cedars. Take the time to meander this short stretch of trail, whether or not Avalanche Lake is on your hiking agenda.
Though quite short, and quite easy, this one mile long, wheelchair accessible trail is an enjoyable snapshot of the many grand vistas Glacier has to offer. With it’s raised boardwalk, Trail of the Cedars is accessible to practically every visitor.
The trail takes it’s trekkers through an ancient forest, where dramatically green red cedars and western hemlocks tower as much as 100 feet above you. Some of these trees are more than 500 years old! Take it slowly. This is one trail to stop and take notice of those incredibly luscious green ferns and that spongy soft moss blanketing the forest floor.
Much like Avalanche Lake, Trail of the Cedars is very popular. Get here early to secure a parking spot, and enjoy a more peaceful stroll along the boardwalk. Trail of the Cedars can be done either before hiking the Avalanche Lake trail, or after Avalanche Lake trail.
Plan A Hike In Glacier’s Lake McDonald Area
With over 700 miles of hiking trails, you are bound to find a trail in Glacier National Park that suits your outdoor adventure style, be it a short and sweet lakefront walk or a long distance adventure of epic proportions.
Note: Click on the above map for an interactive view of the trails around Lake McDonald.
The Lake McDonald area is no exception. With trails for all levels, it is a perfect place to become better acquainted with the incredible beauty that defines Glacier National Park.
Ready to plan your own hiking adventures in Lake McDonald, or elsewhere in Glacier National Park? Check out these links, and get a-hiking!
- Glacier National Park
- Hiking The Trails
- Day Hikes In Glacier National Park
- Day Trip Plan
- 2015 Glacier Visitor Guide
Traveler’s Tip: Book at least two nights at Lake McDonald Lodge for easy, early access to activities and trails in the area. It is a very popular area, and trust me, these trails can get crowded! For best views and less crowded trails, it’s worth rising early, especially if the Avalanche Lake Trail and Trail of the Cedars are your destinations.
What’s Your Favorite National Park?
Glacier National Park is an ideal destination for anyone looking to escape the day to day trappings of modern life. There’s still areas within the park where – gasp – there is little to no cell signal! Yes, you really can disconnect here at Glacier.
So what do you think? Are these incredible views worth an early morning wake up call?
Do you enjoy exploring the great outdoors? What’s your favorite national park or hiking trail? Have you hiked in Glacier National Park? What was your favorite hike? Do share!
Got Glacier on your mind? Don’t miss my other Glacier National Park posts:
- Get off the beaten path at Hiking The Upper Two Medicine Lake Trail.
- Get on the road at 7 Must-See Stops Along the Iconic Going To The Sun Road.
- See all you can do at 7 Family Adventures in 5 Days Exploring Glacier National Park.
All images by C.Biederman. Map from U.S. National Park Service.