“A well-traveled, easy and open run with scenery for the record books; one of Glacier's best!”
— Mike Harcarik
Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Avalanche Lake is the perfect blend of accessibility, enjoyable running 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.
While this run presents a steady climb, it offers an easy and wide path on which to run in a beautiful outdoor setting. Some rocks and roots exist, but the trail is packed with little to no loose obstacles or high steps/drops. The grade is mild, but continuous and runners can stop at any point for rest. The path is wide enough to easily run without disturbing or getting in the way of the others on this busy trail. The elevation, scenery and finishing views make this a 5-star trail run!
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.
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.