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Avalanche Lake Hike Glacier National Park

If you are looking for a great day hike in Glacier National Park, look no further than Avalanche Lake Trail. The Avalanche Trail location in West Glacier, paired with low elevation gain and a nice blend of scenery make this one of the most popular trails in Glacier National Park. This hike begins on the Trail of the Cedars and is 5.5 miles roundtrip including Trail of the Cedars. (this can be shortened a bit if desired) with a mild elevation gain of 757 feet. 

If you would like to watch a video of our hike to see the terrain click here.

Avalanche Lake - Glacier National Park Montana

How We Got There

We took a car from Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) and arrived via the West entrance of Glacier National Park. You could also arrive by train into Whitefish, Montana and drive from there. At the park entrance, we drove Going to the Sun Road along the shore of Lake McDonald for about 6 miles before reaching Lake McDonald Lodge. Then continued driving about five more miles until we reached Avalanche Campground. Here we waited patiently for someone to leave so we could snag their parking spot.  If you prefer to take a shuttle (and avoid parking woes in prime season), park at Apgar Visitor Center and catch the Going to the Sun Road shuttle to the Avalanche Creek transfer spot.

Avalanche Lake Trail - Glacier National Park Montana

When We Went

Early September - Labor Day Weekend

Pros - We didn’t get hot during the hike, but it’s so wooded that any Summer day should be fine.

Cons - Labor Day Weekend is one of the busiest weekends in the park. If possible avoid this weekend for your visit. 

Avalanche Lake Trail Map - Glacier National Park Montana

The Hike

Hikers will begin on Trail of the Cedars, one of the few accessible hikes in the park. This trail has a boardwalk and meanders through stunning cedars before arriving at a bridge with crystal clear falls. 

Trail of the Cedars - Glacier National Park Montana

After crossing the bridge, visitors will access the trailhead for Avalanche Lake. Here guests will have a short climb before arriving at the top of the gorge with additional waterfall views. (this is not a large waterfall, but it is very beautiful) Please keep a careful eye on your children here! 

Falls along Avalanche Trail - Glacier National Park Montana - Please keep your children close here

Continuing on, hikers will traverse a wide path that parallels Avalanche creek. The path meanders for a couple miles through wooded terrain before opening up to mountain views where remains of the avalanche can be seen. 


Avalanche Lake Trail - Glacier National Park Montana

From this point, the lake is just a bit further. There is a pit toilet off to the side of the trail before arriving at the lake if needed.

Many visitors stop here, but the trail continues on to the opposite end of the lake. If you’re looking for a bit more space to enjoy the scenery or swim, keep hiking. About midpoint along the lake there is access to a small pebble beach area. Just before reaching this we veer off to eat lunch on our favorite rock. 

Avalanche Lake Beach - Midpoint around the Lake - Glacier National Park Montana

The trail ends at the far end of the lake, where we sometimes go for a quick dip. The water is always cold so be prepared. Water shoes would also be helpful here as it is a pebble beach. (The opposite end of the lake is not pebbles, but it’s not like sand. It’s a weird sinking dirt that I personally do not care for. I’ll take the pebbles any day over that stuff.)

What We Loved

I personally love wooded hikes. Some prefer the wide open terrain with epic mountain vistas which is lovely as well, but the smell of fresh evergreen and the sound of the flowing river and tumbling falls always invigorates my soul. Avalanche Trail provides that in spades and rewards hikers for their efforts with incredible lake and mountain vistas. 

Avalanche Trail rewards hikers for their efforts with incredible lake and mountain vistas. The moderate length and difficulty of the hike is also nice.

The moderate length and difficulty of the hike is also nice. It leaves time for fishing, snacking, and soaking in the moment while still feeling like you’ve earned the reward. And, it’s fairly inclusive of most ages and ability types.

Trees on Avalanche Lake Trail - Glacier National Park Montana

Know Before You Go

Please keep your children close and be careful near the top of the gorge. Remember to bring bear spray and have it opened and ready for use if needed. If you need a bear spray tutorial click here

Avalanche Lake - Glacier National Park Montana

Remember to Bring

Rain Jackets

Bear Spray

Hand sanitizer

Lunch or snacks (optional, remember to pack your trash back out)

Mosquito Repellant (optional, we’ve never needed it on this hike)

Sunscreen

Sunglasses

Camera

Shoes with good tread

Water shoes if you plan to swim

Fishing pole if you plan to fish (currently a fishing license is not required to fish within the park boundaries)

Hiking Poles (optional)

Falls along Avalanche Lake Trail - Glacier National Park Montana

The entire family loves this hike. We have been frequenting Glacier National Park for 6 years and have our favorite hikes. Avalanche Lake is at the top of our family friendly hikes list, for families with older kids! 

Avalanche Lake is at the top of our family friendly hikes list, for families with older kids! 

The first time we hiked it our daughters were 7 & 9 and we definitely struggled a bit. They are lower energy though, so if you have high energy children you might be fine. If not, maybe aim for 10-12+ If you are able to add this one to your itinerary, we highly recommend doing so!

Avalanche Lake Trail Views - Glacier National Park Montana

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