The hike to Avalanche Lake is great for two reasons:
- It's not super long and you get some fantastic views.
- You kind of get a two-for-one deal because it branches off of another trail.
This is the first hike we went on after arriving in Glacier National Park and halfway through is about the time we declared Glacier as the best national park EVER.
The hike begins with the Trail of the Cedars, which is an accessible loop trail consisting of boardwalks and paved surfaces. While it wasn't the most challenging part of the hike that morning, I loved that it was accessible for those in a wheelchair and I instantly thought of my mom's friend Jeri who writes about accessible travel over at Anything is Possible Travel (you'd love it, Jeri!).
As you can see, we started out the hike on a dry morning. That didn't last.
About half way along the Trail of the Cedars loop, we reached the fork that would take us to Avalanche Lake. What we heard was the roaring Avalanche Creek (apparently they use the term "creek" very differently in Montana. It looked like a river to us!) flowing through a gorge.
After taking the Avalanche Lake trail, the upper portion of the gorge comes into full view. If I'm being completely honest, I probably could have stood there all day watching the water rush through those well-polished rock walls. Stunning, I tell you.
Once we passed the gorge, the creek leveled out a bit and looked more like the creeks we're used to seeing -- you know, the calm, meandering kind?
Overall, the trail to Avalanche Lake is pretty moderate. There were some steep, rocky areas, but there wasn't a huge elevation gain to get to the lake. If you head out on this hike in early summer like we did, be sure to wear waterproof or quick-drying clothing! Rain happens. :)
A few miles after taking the Avalanche Lake trail junction we caught glimpses of the lake. While there are several areas to view the lake, one particular area offers a nice beach with places to sit. It would be the perfect spot to have lunch if you get to the lake around mid-day.
We could have continued along the trail around the lake, but since we were pretty soaked by that point and had plans to check out another part of the park that afternoon, we decided to turn around and head back.
Eventually we reached the junction with the Trail of the Cedars loop and we took the east side of the loop trail, which we hadn't seen that morning. The first thing you come to is a bridge crossing the gorge.
After stopping to watch the beautiful turquoise water for a bit, we continued along the very soggy boardwalk back to the parking lot on the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
As I mentioned, the hike to Avalanche Lake wasn't super strenuous. I believe it was about 4.5 miles round trip (out and back to the junction with the Trail of the Cedars). The sights along the way are worth the hike and Avalanche Lake is a beauty.
That said, if you're looking for a short nature walk, the Trail of the Cedars is just under a mile long and offers incredible scenery with minimal effort. I highly recommend it.
I've got many more Glacier National Park posts to come, my friends! Stay tuned.