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Glacier National Park: The Hike to Avalanche Lake

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The hike to Avalanche Lake is great for two reasons:

  1. It's not super long and you get some fantastic views.
  2. 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. 

Trail of the Cedars. Accessible boardwalks through the forest?! Yes, please.

Trail of the Cedars. Accessible boardwalks through the forest?! Yes, please.

Avalanche Creek runs alongside the Trail of the Cedars.

Avalanche Creek runs alongside the Trail of the Cedars.

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. 

Upper Avalanche Gorge, looking upstream.

Upper Avalanche Gorge, looking upstream.

Upper Avalanche Gorge, looking downstream.

Upper Avalanche Gorge, looking downstream.

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?

Avalanche Creek from the Avalanche Lake Trail (upstream from the gorge).  

Avalanche Creek from the Avalanche Lake Trail (upstream from the gorge).  

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 short boardwalk along the trail to Avalanche Lake.

A short boardwalk along the trail to Avalanche Lake.

Beauty along the trail to Avalanche Lake. Looks like it belongs in a movie, no?

Beauty along the trail to Avalanche Lake. Looks like it belongs in a movie, no?

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.

Avalanche Lake 

Avalanche Lake 

Avalanche Lake 

Avalanche Lake 

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. 

The bridge crossing Avalanche Gorge.

The bridge crossing Avalanche Gorge.

The perfect spot to view Avalanche Gorge.

The perfect spot to view Avalanche Gorge.

The view upstream from the bridge. Not bad, right?

The view upstream from the bridge. Not bad, right?

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.   

Just beautiful.

Just beautiful.

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.

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I've got many more Glacier National Park posts to come, my friends! Stay tuned. 

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North Coast Road Trip: Taking the Time

I'm back this week after another trip to visit family in Crescent City, California. You may remember a few photo-heavy posts (here, here and here) about the lovely little town in which I used to live.This time around I decided to mix work and play by taking the time to really appreciate the already long drive. I stopped often to capture fun places to explore along Highway 101 (which I hope to share eventually), had to take a detour along a road I've never traveled and spent some much-needed time with family.

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If you're heading from the Sacramento area to the north coast, I recommend taking I-5 to Highway 20 to Highway 101. That was my plan, but was turned back due to an accident that closed Highway 20. The nice Caltrans worker suggested I take CA 175 to get to Highway 101 instead. The road is pretty dicey in places and goes up (then down) a very steep grade, but the views made the detour totally worth the extra effort:

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Taking the time to stop at some of the beautiful areas along the way was also well worth it. I'm sad to say that I usually just cruise on by, too preoccupied with getting to where I'm going. I hope to stop more often in the future. Here's why:

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I spent some time tooling around Crescent City visiting tourist sites I haven't paid much attention to in years past. Here's a view of Battery Point Lighthouse from Crescent City's harbor (mermaid included):

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On the driest day (it seems we only get one or two whenever we visit), we decided to head to the nearest trail head in the Redwood National and State Park system to spend a few hours appreciating both old growth...

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...and new growth:

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Beautiful, right?

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I look forward to sharing more about the places I know and love in the coming months. So many Californians haven't experienced much of the north coast and I'm hoping to inspire at least a few people to keep on trucking once they get through wine country. I promise it's worth the drive.

What about you? Any north coast adventures you'd care to share? Let's chat about them in the comment section, shall we?

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