Avalanche Lake Trail via the Trail of Cedars in Glacier National Park in Montana is among one of the most popular trails to hike. Fun for the whole family and good for hikers at any skill level. About 2 miles in and you are rewarded with the pristine blue waters of Avalanche Lake and the sound of the waterfalls that feed glacial water to the lake. Pack a picnic and enjoy it at the lake, dip your toes in the water and even go for a swim to cool off. You’ll want to stay for a while and absorb the “otherworldly” feeling of being in a natural paradise.
The Avalanche Lake trailhead is located off of the Trail of Cedars loop about midway. If you go past the trailhead and follow the sound of the rushing water, you will be rewarded with Avalanche Gorge. Mossy, argillaceous rocks seem to frame the “GORGE”ous blue water that’s cascading down to the foot bridge overlook. A perfect spot for a selfie!
The Avalanche Lake trail goes through the forest and is a gradual climb. Some may find this trail easy to moderate, but please note that it is steep in some areas and mostly uphill. Take it at your own pace and always hydrate along the way. The trail can become crowded as it is popular, but there is plenty of room for hikers to pass and plenty of logs and rocks to rest upon along the way. You’ll want to have bear spray as well as bear bells or whistles. Remember this is Grizzly country! Glacier National Park has plenty of warning signs ensuring you don’t forget who lives there.
Along the trail, there are many things to see. First you will see Avalanche creek, the beautiful gorges, mountains, wildlife, riparian forest, streams, mossy rocks and downed trees from avalanches. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. Besides bears, foxes, deer, martens, squirrels, chipmunks and many different birds call this trail home. You may even get lucky and see an American dipper (North America’s only aquatic songbird) in the mossy stream.
The trail is primarily lush forest, so there are lots of tree roots and rocks that you need to be mindful of. Some people prefer walking sticks to help ensure proper balance, but they are not a necessity.
Avalanche Lake is well worth the 2 miles of steep inclines. Once you arrive at the lake, you will be gobsmacked by the amazing view. This lake was caused by glacial melt and the waterfalls still feed the lake from that same bowl.
Avalanche Lake Trail is accessible via the Trail of the Cedars along Going to the Sun road. There are several parking lots nearby that fill up quickly, so you may have to wait for a spot or park farther down the road and walk back.
This warning sign at the Avalanche Lake trailhead has various warnings and advice regarding bear activity and safety while on the trail.
- “Entering Grizzly Country: You are entering a wilderness area and must accept certain inherent dangers, including snow, steep terrain, water and wildlife. There is no guarantee of your safety. Bears have injured and killed visitors and may attack without warning and for no apparent reason. To enhance your safety and protect park resources, follow the recommendations posted below. Bear spray has proven to be effective for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and the animal involved. If you are attacked, use a firearm only as a last resort. Wounding a bear, even with a large caliber gun, can put you in far greater danger.”
- “Notice to Backcountry Users: The backcountry you are entering is inhabited by black and grizzly bears and other wildlife.. Bear and mountain lions are usually shy and avoid people, but are potentially dangerous and may attack without warning. For your safety please comply with the following recommendations: When Hiking 1.Hiking alone and/or after dark is NOT RECOMMENDED 2.Alert wildlife to your presence by making noise. Make extra noise anytime trail conditions make it hard for animals to see, hear, or smell your approach. 3.Do not carry or use odorous foods. 4.Stay on the trail. Travel off of maintained trails may increase your chances of an encounter with a bear or mountain lion. 5.Avoid bears and mountain lions, never approach or attempt to feed them. 6.Help protect park wildlife. Do not leave food or garbage, or packs containing these items, unattended at any time. When Camping 1.A Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight backcountry use and MUST be in your possession while in the backcountry. You must follow your permit itinerary. 2.Food and garbage storage regulations have been established for your safety and are strictly enforced. When Fishing 1.Dispose of entrails by puncturing the air bladder and throwing into deep water, at least 200 feet from the nearest campground or trail. IMPORTANT: For your protection, report all bear and mountain lion sightings, damage, or personal injuries to a Park Ranger. THERE IS NO GUARANTEE OF YOUR SAFETY WHILE HIKING OR CAMPING IN THE BACKCOUNTRY. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW AND COMPY WITH ALL PARK REGULATIONS.
- “Warning (Grizzly and Black Bear) Frequenting Area. There is no guarantee of your safety while hiking or camping in bear country.”
- “No Dogs Allowed on Trail”
*Glacier National Park is nicknamed “The Crown of the Continent”
*There are over 700 lakes in Glacier National Park, but only 131 are named
*Glacier National Park is home to 25 glaciers. In 1850, that number was 6 times more!
*Glacier National Park is home to 71 different mammals, including the Grizzly Bear!
Please note that Glacier National Park is a fee area. Plan ahead to ensure you have all the appropriate passes needed for your visit. For the day and time we visited, we needed a park pass (can be purchased in advance and at the gate) and a Going to the Sun Road entry pass that must be purchased in advance online. Going-to-the-Sun Road Entry Ticket, Glacier National Park Ticketed Entry – Recreation.gov Please recreate safely and take out what you bring in and leave no trace!