Upper McDonald Creek
ElevationAscent: 181' 55 m
Descent: -35' -11 m
High: 3,354' 1,022 m
Low: 3,192' 973 m
GradeAvg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 6% (3°)
Popular hikes nearby
Highline to The Loop
11.7 mi 18.8 km • Point to Point • 1,183 ft Ascent 360.66 m Ascent
20.2 mi 32.5 km • Point to Point • 3,711 ft Ascent 1131.26 m Ascent
Siyeh Pass Route
10.2 mi 16.5 km • Point to Point • 2,229 ft Ascent 679.35 m Ascent
7.1 mi 11.4 km • Loop • 365 ft Ascent 111.22 m Ascent
Ptarmigan Tunnel Route
10.9 mi 17.5 km • Out and Back • 2,283 ft Ascent 695.97 m Ascent
Triple Divide Pass Out-and-Back
14.5 mi 23.4 km • Loop • 2,391 ft Ascent 728.83 m Ascent
Navigate on-trail with our free app
“A short, level trail that meanders through the forest along the edge of picturesque McDonald Creek.”— Tom Hollo
The main trail meets the creek near a bench and heads left up the creek. The aforementioned spur trail (Upper McDonald Creek Alternate) turns right from this juncture and runs down the creek back to the road, offering a great view of McDonald Creek Falls, worth the short detour. It is also possible to start on this spur trail from the road, 100 yards after the road bridge that crosses the creek, but this is not an official trailhead. You may also notice a trail that runs parallel to the road immediately after the bridge - this is a horse trail that starts as the Upper McDonald Creek Connector and becomes a spur of the Upper McDonald Creek Trail after the falls spur splits off and into the trees.
Turning left at the bench, the main trail continues north, offering picturesque views of the creek with glimpses of Glacier's characteristic glacial blue-hued water as it passes through several rapids and waterfalls. Do not to fall into the creek - many have drowned in it. After a while, there is a bridge on your right to cross the creek, which is part of the Johns Lake Loop Trail (that trail was joined with the creek trail south of this juncture). Upper McDonald Creek Trail does not cross the creek, but continues north along it, eventually cutting inland near a beaver pond. You may also see a feeder creek, depending on the time of year and the water level. The trail used to run all the way up Upper McDonald Creek, it now peters out around 3.5 miles in.
Note regarding trail conditions: This trail is often snow-free in the spring before many of the other trails in the park. However, it is often muddy due to its location along the creek and at the base of Stanton Mountain. The trail is accessible in the winter via snowshoes or skis, but you can't reach it by car because Going to the Sun Road is gated off at Lake McDonald Lodge.
You are relatively unlikely to see most of the animals Glacier offers on this trail, due to the fact that it is near such a heavily trafficked area. That said, there are no hard and fast rules about sightings in Glacier. Mammals you are most likely to see are White Tail Deer, Black Tail/Mule Deer, squirrels and chipmunks. Keep an eye out for water fowl in the creek, including Glacier's prized Harlequin Ducks, which are known to nest almost exclusively in the park.
Hiked this trail?
We need help with the following missing trail information:
ADA Accessible, Need to Know
Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow hikers know what's here.
Land Manager: NPS - Glacier National Park