Avalanche Lake Trail is one of the busiest trails in Glacier Park McDonald Lake Trail Map
Avalanche Lake Trail
- Avalanche Lake
4 miles (round trip) gains 500 feet
(rolling hills actual ascent closer to 800 feet)
Crowds, difficult to find peace and quiet on this trail!
Spectacular View at Avalanche Lake, Old Growth Forest, waterfalls
After observing thousands of hikers on this trail, I rate this a
Moderate hike for unprepared hikers.
Easy hike for others
August 16, 2013
Cover shot of my Wildflower Guide for Glacier National Park.
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A slow hiker's guide™ Glacier National Park Wildflowers
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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.
Photo of Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park. © Shawn Coggins
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.