One of our favorite hikes of all time was Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park! We visited in August, 2020 and it was absolutely gorgeous. Today I want to share with you everything you should know about hiking the Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park.
How to get to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake is located in Glacier National Park which is in the northwest region of Montana in the northern United States. It boasts over 700 miles of hiking trails with gorgeous mountains, glaciers, crystal blue rivers, and an abundance of wildlife which makes it a popular travel destination.
There are a multitude of gorgeous hikes but in my opinion, Avalanche Lake is one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park.
The park is quite large with multiple entrances. One of the nice things about the Avalanche Lake Trail is that it’s located near the West Glacier entrance. You won’t have to drive the Going To The Sun Road to reach the trailhead which will save you a lot of driving time if you use the west entrance.
The trailhead has limited parking. We had to circle a few times before we found an opening for us to park. There is extended parking further down but you would have to hike back up the road to reach the trailhead.
You will actually be starting on the Trail of the Cedars. This short boardwalk hike boast some incredible cedar trees. It is a short loop trail and you can start in either direction to reach the Avalanche Lake Trail.
What you should know about the Avalanche Lake Trail in Glacier National Park
Length and time
The trail is 6.7 miles round-trip (including the Trail of the Cedars). It took us roughly 5 hours to complete the hike but we did spend a good bit of time enjoying the lake once we reached the top.
Difficulty and elevation gain
The trail is rated as moderate and has an elevation gain of 757 feet. There are parts of the trail that include steep inclines and steps. We took breaks as needed to rest and drink water.
The highest point of elevation is just under 4,000 feet.
The trailhead starts near the Avalanche Campground. This campground offers restrooms with flush toilets as well as sinks with running water. The nearby Lake McDonald Lodge offers additional amenities.
There is an additional restroom near the lake at the top of the trail but it is more of an outhouse with a vaulted toilet.
Make sure that you bring enough drinking water and snacks.
Dogs are not allowed on the majority of the trails in Glacier National Park so you will need to make arrangements for your pets accordingly.
If you’re looking for somewhere to take your dog, the Apgar Village Trail is dog friendly. We took Cap and he enjoyed it! It’s a shorter hike and not nearly as scenic but he enjoyed getting out with us.
What the trail is like
First of all, it is gorgeous! It was my personal favorite hike in Glacier National Park. It starts off next to Avalanche Gorge. Avalanche Creek flows through the gorge and is created by glacier melt-off. The water is insanely blue and is mesmerizing!
After running along the river for about a mile, you will split off and climb through a forrest of hemlock and cedar trees. This is where things got steep but there are plenty of large boulders that make perfect places to sit and rest if you need to!
Near the top of the trail the foliage gets thicker. There were times where the foliage grew over the trail and made it narrower which required us to hike single-file. There are downed trees along the trail but none had fallen over the trail.
Enjoying the Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park
Once you reach the lake, you can either access it right away or hike around it to the opposite side. We highly recommend hiking around the lake and enjoying the other side. There are glaciers that feed the lake on the far side and as a result the water is much cleaner and more enjoyable. Trust us, it’s worth the additional hiking!
Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the lakeside and explore the beautiful colored rocks. If you’re brave enough to jump in the icy water for a swim, it’s crystal clear! Consider packing a change of clothes for the hike back down.
We spent at least an hour or more enjoying the views and dipping our toes in the water. The views are second to none! You will be surrounded by glacier covered mountains with multiple waterfalls visible. I think we counted at least 5!
Wildlife you could encounter
There is an abundance of wildlife in Glacier National Park. Animals you could expect to see on the Avalanche Lake Trail include birds, chipmunks, deer, and bears. There are other animals in the park including mountain goats which we were luck enough to see on a different day!
During months when bears may be frequenting the area, the park rangers may close down parts of the trail. Be sure to always check the Glacier National Park website for the latest information on bear activity and trail closures.
We didn’t see a bear ourselves on this trail, but there was one spotted at the lake about an hour prior to our arrival. Our group did see a bear on the nearby Johns Lake Loop Trail on a different day.
Closing notes about Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park
I hope that this post has inspired you to hike to Avalanche Lake during your next visit to Glacier National Park!
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