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Avalanche Lake via Trail of the Cedars



6.2 mile 9.9 kilometer loop


Ascent: 616' 188 m
Descent: -616' -188 m
High: 3,965' 1,208 m
Low: 3,416' 1,041 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 13% (7°)


No Dogs
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Trail shared by Mike Harcarik

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

Mike Harcarik

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.


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.


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 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.

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Jan 5, 2020
Evan Epperly
Oct 15, 2019
Sara Breckon
Sep 22, 2019
Jessie Thompson
Sep 20, 2019
Noah Smith
Sep 18, 2019
Milly S
Got there early and had the trail to ourselves on the way out! It was incredibly pretty and the lake was so still when we got there. Amazing! 6.2mi — 3h 00m
Sep 16, 2019
David Rubin
Sep 12, 2019
Angela Franco
Sep 11, 2019
Allen Larson
More challenging than expected but worth it

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 162 votes


  4.6 from 162 votes
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in Montana


121 Views Last Month
15,287 Since Sep 2, 2015



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.
Feb 10, 2016 near Red Roc…, MT
Avalanche lake and surrounding falls.
Jan 7, 2016 near Red Roc…, MT
Avalanche Creek carving its way towards McDonald Creek.
Nov 13, 2015 near Red Roc…, MT


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