Avalanche Lake Trail Glacier National Park ~ a slow hiker's guide™


Avalanche Lake Trail is one of the busiest trails in Glacier Park   McDonald Lake Trail Map

Avalanche Lake Trail

August 16, 2013

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Paving activities will not take place this weekend, but will continue Monday for another week on the Going-to-the-Sun Road between Avalanche Creek and Logan Creek, on the west side of the park. Visitors can expect delays of approximately 20 minutes in this area during paving activities. A pilot vehicle will be used to provide traffic control. Visitors visiting the Trail of the Cedars or hiking the Avalanche Trail to Avalanche Lake will encounter a busy and congested area for parking during paving activities. Acting Glacier National Park Superintendent Kym Hall said, "During this short paving operation, we encourage visitors to consider alternative areas to hike and visit, other than the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake."
Avalanche Lake Trail Avalanche Campground - Foot of Avalanche Lake/ 2.0 mi
Initial clearing scheduled for: Cleared 5/14/13
Trail is clear. 6/17/13
Trail is open but, posted for bear 5/25/2013

NPS Trail Crew Report as of 7-6-11
Avalanche Campground - Foot of Avalanche Lake ~ 2.0 mi.
TRAIL OPEN: 7/1/11 Trail is clear. 07/05/2011
UPDATE: Trail no longer muddy as of 6/27/11
75-100 yd section of trail is flooded due to high water approx. 1/3 mile from trailhead.
There are a number of other trail sections that are very muddy as of 6/23/11.

TRAIL CLOSED: 6/24/11 from Avalanche Gorge to Avalanche Lake due to Creek flooding above the gorge.
TRAIL OPEN: 6/26/2011 but is muddy and wet about 100-150 feet in
TRAIL CLOSED: 6/30/11 from Avalanche Gorge to Avalanche Lake due to creek flooding above the gorge.
Trail clear of down trees. 5/18/11.

Trail clear of snow 5/9/12 Compare that with last years status updates!
This trail was opening and closing frequently during the 2012 hiking season due to flooding!
Towards the end of 2012 the trail crew rerouted a section of the trail that was often under water.
When I hiked it this year, 2013, in May the trail was dry until the last mile when I hit the snow line.

During the winter of 2010 / 2011 there was an avalanche/micro burst that knocked down over fifty large trees from Avalanche Creek up to the Avalanche Lake Trail. These downed trees have opened up a new view of the mountains at Logan Pass from the Avalanche Lake Trail. The south western slopes of Mount Canon and Hidden Creek are now visible from Avalanche Lake Trail. The downed trees from the micro burst are about 1 mile from the start of the trail so at this point about one mile remains till Avalanche Lake. Glacier National Park Trail crews have cleared all but one of these trees from the trail. The mud and snow that was everywhere at the start of July 2011 are gone. On the return from Avalanche Lake at the new view spot I watched a grizzly sow and her twin bear cubs on the slopes of Mount Canon. Luckily some other hikers had good binoculars as I did not have my telephoto lens with me. I returned to this site on 7-21-11 with my long lens but no sign of any bears on the trail. Did see a large black bear cross Going To The Sun Road about half way between Apgar and Sprague Creek. The normally wide beach at Avalanche Lake is almost non existent. As you get nearer to the lake the forest undergrowth crowds the trail, having grown two feet a week since my last hike up to Avalanche Lake.

Avalanche Lake Trail is one of the most traveled trails in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Lake Trail is a fairly easy rolling trail through an old growth cedar forest. This is a busy, crowded trail during the height of the summer season. The top photo of Avalanche Lake was taken in mid August of 2006. The black and white photo above was taken in 1901. Water level in 2006 was very low. Trail of the Cedars provides a scenic link to the trailhead for Avalanche Lake Trail. Few hikers realize the amount of maintenance that Glacier National Park Trail crews perform every year to keep these trails open.

The latest image from Google of Avalanche Lake (click the hybrid button) shows the classic turquoise color of glacier fed lakes. Cracker Lake is the only glacier fed lake that I have hiked to that the turquoise color of glacier fed lakes shows at the shoreline of the lake itself. You get a hint of the color looking at the far side of the lake but nothing as powerful as how Grinnell Lake looks from the Grinnell Lake Overlook Trail.

Top photo of Avalanche Lake was taken by me in 2006, bottom photo was taken one hundred and five years earlier by USGS in 1901. Glacier National Park, Montana. Avalanche basin.
Chapman, R.H.

avalanche lake glacier park © Shawn Coggins

Photo of Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park. © Shawn Coggins

avalanche lake 1911

USGS 1901. Glacier National Park, Montana. Avalanche basin. Chapman, R.H.

Photo of Avalanche Lake mid May 2007. © Shawn Coggins The winter of 2006/2007 was a 'light' snow year. Surprisingly, I didn't encounter any other hikers until arriving at Avalanche Lake shore. On the return hike I ran into several bus loads of school kids on a field trip to Glacier National Park. If you're seeking tranquility this is not the trail to hike.