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Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars

Intermediate
 4.6 (188) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A well-traveled, easy and open hike with scenery for the record books; one of Glacier's best!


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Map Key

6.2

Miles

9.9

KM

Out and Back

3,965' 1,208 m

High

3,416' 1,041 m

Low

616' 188 m

Up

616' 188 m

Down

4%

Avg Grade (2°)

13%

Max Grade (7°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly It's short and relatively easy, with a huge payoff at the end where one can wade, swim, skip rocks or have a snack on the beach. There are abundant stops and photo ops along the way.

Overview

Avalanche Lake is the perfect blend of accessibility, enjoyable hiking and scenic payoff. You know from the start that you're in for an experience that's worth the sweat. It's a great one for families with smooth trail, steady inclines and lots of fun stops along the way from hollowed out trees struck by lightning to avalanche clearings blasted through the forest.

Most of the trail is shaded and cool, growing warmer and more open as you reach the lake, where rock beaches and stunning views of distant waterfalls await. This is a snapshot destined for the mantel.

Need to Know

Avalanche Lake is popular. During peak season, the trail can be crowded with large groups, and parking is often a challenge. The best option is to take the shuttle from Apgar Village, Lake McDonald Lodge or one of the other stops along the way.

Description

From the car or shuttle bus stop, stroll along the majestic Trail of the Cedars or warm up the legs with a short climb aside the pounding waters and carved walls of Avalanche Gorge. At the crowded and well-marked trailhead, begin immediately heading uphill alongside the sounds of glacial runoff. You'll follow the creek that cuts through a deep canyon below, so enjoy the awesome views of deep pools and rushing waterfalls.

The trail steepens for a short period here as you leave the lower section behind and enter the main portion of the trail; a double-wide path that winds gradually uphill under the forest canopy for the bulk of the journey. As you near the top, the canopy gives way revealing the open sky above and high mountain peaks just ahead. The trail narrows for a section of short singletrack flanked on both sides by thick brush. Soon thereafter, the brush lessens and the trail reaches it's official terminus at Avalanche Lake where the view turns from beautiful to magnificent.

Relax on the rocky beach enjoying the views of the surrounding mountains as they soar thousands of feet above the lake. Additional options include making your way along the shoreline for a secret picnic or fly-fishing spot, or taking the optional lake-side trail to the far end of the basin and top of the lake giving you close-up views of the mountains and cascading waterfalls.

Visit hike734.com for more expert Glacier content and maps that help you decide which trail to hike.

Flora & Fauna

Abundant cedar trees highlight the trail while up top at the Lake, chipmunks scurry along the ground and trout fill the water. Don't forget your fly rod! Though other wildlife exists in the area like deer and bears, the steady crowds make for a slim chance of sightings.

Shared By:

Mike Harcarik

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 188 votes

#43

Overall
  4.6 from 188 votes
5 Star
71%
4 Star
21%
3 Star
7%
2 Star
1%
1 Star
0%
Recommended Route Rankings

#3

in Montana

#43

Overall
171 Views Last Month
18,239 Since Sep 2, 2015
Intermediate

8%
3%
82%
3%
3%
1%

Photos

Amazing sunny day at Avalanche Lake with all of the falls flowing.
Jul 14, 2018 near Red Roc…, MT
Avalanche Lake gets passed on to the younger generation.
Jan 9, 2017 near Red Roc…, MT
Avalanche Lake rests in the shadow of sheer, towering cliffs.
Jan 18, 2017 near Red Roc…, MT
Avalanche lake and surrounding falls.
Jan 7, 2016 near Red Roc…, MT
Avalanche Lake.
Feb 10, 2016 near Red Roc…, MT
Avalanche Creek carving its way towards McDonald Creek.
Nov 13, 2015 near Red Roc…, MT

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Check-Ins

Mar 20, 2021
Jodee Coleman
1h 00m
Dec 26, 2020
Casey Spiwak
Oct 17, 2020
Jason Bott
6.2mi
Oct 17, 2020
Mel and Luke B
6.2mi — 3h 00m
Sep 28, 2020
Chris Sequeira
1h 00m
Sep 23, 2020
Adan H
Sep 18, 2020
Marc Enriquez
Did the 2.5 mile trail to Avalanche Lake. Hal jumped in the freezing cold water. Got caught in the dark on the way back. 5mi
Sep 18, 2020
Hal Addison