The hike to Avalanche Lake might be the best “first hike” in Glacier National Park. In June, I flew in to Kalispell, Montana – the airport gateway to Glacier National Park – to run in the inaugural Glacier Half Marathon with my friend Jason. We planned a few days before and after to see as much of the park as we could. Our first stop? Heading into the west entrance of the park and getting a quick hike in.
One of the first stops was Lake McDonald, with epic views of the distant crags beckoning you to explore further.
Hiking to Avalanche Lake
The trailhead begins on the south side of Going to the Sun Road at Avalanche Creek. Some sections begin as a boardwalk, but it quickly becomes a well-travelled dirt path.
Avalanche Creek is a beautiful cascade lined by tall pines and lush greenery. Many people hike only as far as the cascades, but the full hike to the lake is well worth your time.
The trail is rich with wildlife, including not-so-shy deer and bears. This very trail was closed for two days prior to the day we hiked it due to bear activity along the trail.
Once you reach the lake, find your way to the beach near the west side of the outlet. Chance are good that you’ll see many people also ogling this beautiful, glacier-carved cirque. Take some time to soak it in, but be sure to follow the trail to the far end of the lake where you’ll find fewer people and a fresh perspective.
When you’ve had your fill of this beautiful lake, retrace your steps around the lake and follow the trail back down along Avalanche Creek to the trailhead.
Avalanche Lake Trail Map
Avalanche Lake Tips
- Be bear aware and safe. Carry bear spray and do not approach bears on the trail.
- Always follow the seven core Leave No Trace principles.
- Sturdy hiking shoes with good tread are recommended. This trail is often slick with moisture.
- Check the official Glacier National Park website for latest bulletins and conditions.
- GPS user? Download our GPX file for this hike.
Glacier National Park Weather Forecast
- 8:54 PM MST on January 17, 2019
- 5:00 PM MST on January 18, 2019
Friday 01/18 50%
Snow showers. High 36F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 50%. Snow accumulations less than one inch.
Saturday 01/19 70%
Snow during the morning will give way to a mixture of rain and snow during the afternoon. High near 40F. Winds SW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of rain 70%. About one inch of snow expected. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.
Sunday 01/20 70%
Snow showers early will become steadier snow in the afternoon. High 37F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 70%. Snowfall around one inch.
Monday 01/21 20%
Mostly cloudy skies. High 33F. Winds light and variable.
Originally hiked on June 22, 2017. Thanks to Jason Fitzpatrick for hiking with me and introducing me to Glacier National Park.