Welcome to the Trail Well Traveled!
Each Friday, in partnership with Montana Wilderness Association we will feature a new western Montana trail and then give one lucky listener some cool goodies to help them embark on their journey!
One of the more popular day hikes in Glacier National Park, the trek to Avalanche Lake starts at a cascading waterfall, winds through a lush forest of ferns and mosses and concludes at one of the most beautiful lake scenes in all of western Montana.
Roundtrip: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 730 feet
Directions: The hike to Avalanche Lake begins with the Trail of the Cedars walk, about 5.5 miles east of Lake McDonald Lodge on the Going-To-The-Sun Road. Head down the boardwalk loop, and at the back – adjacent to the waterfall, about a half-mile back – a dirt trail will branch off heading up to the lake.
What to expect: After turning onto the Avalanche Lake Trail hikers will immediately encounter a short but steep climb through a dense forested area. The humidity in this particular valley allows the cedars to grow to heights of 100 feet and diameters of 4 to 7 feet. Some of these trees are more than 500 years old!
In less than a tenth of a mile you’ll arrive at the banks of Avalanche Creek. Here you’ll have an up-close view of the amazing power of glacially melted water as it rushes down the narrow gorge.
At roughly 1.1 miles the trail departs from Avalanche Creek. Although no longer in direct contact, the trail continues to follow the creek up to the lake. Though you’ll no longer be able to actually see the creek, you’ll hear the rushing waters for the remainder of your hike.
About 1.6 miles back, hikers will find hundreds of downed trees – the result of recent avalanches thundering down Mt. Cannon. At 2.3 miles is the foot of Avalanche Lake, including a large beach with plenty of space to soak in the scenery.
The lake sits at the base of 8,694-foot Bearhat Mountain to the northeast and the 7,886-foot Little Matterhorn to the south – each blotted with waterfalls hundreds of feet long.
For a little more solitude, continue on the trail as it follows along the western shoreline to the head of the lake.
Tidbit: For great photos, consider starting your hike around daybreak in order to reach the lake before the sun rises above the mountains. You should also note that this is an extremely popular area, which means parking can be an issue during the middle of the day – especially during peak tourist season.
Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at hikewildmontana.org
And don’t forget to tune in to the Trail 103.3 each Friday at 9:50 am for the next featured trail and your chance to win!