Post Summary: Everything To Know About Avalanche Lake Hike In Glacier National Park, Montana
Did you know that the Avalanche Lake trail is actually the oldest and first trail constructed for visitors in Glacier National Park?
It’s true! Even from the very beginnings of Glacier, people knew that this place was special.
Conveniently located in West Glacier, this amazing hike in Glacier National Park is one of our favorites. It’s easy enough for most everyone to accomplish, and the short distance and epic views make it an incredibly rewarding hike for all visitors.
In this post, we’ll be sharing what to expect on Avalanche Lake hike in Glacier National Park, and how you can make the most of your trip to Montana!
The Epic Avalanche Lake Hike In Glacier National Park
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Quick Facts About The Avalanche Lake Trail In Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake is a popular day hike in Glacier National Park, becuase of its easy-to-reach location, gradual elevation gain, and beautiful end destination!
- Difficulty: Moderate.
- Trail Length: 4.5 miles round trip (out and back)
- Elevation Gain: 730 feet
- Most Popular Hiking Times: Summer, mid-day
- Best Photography Lighting: Sunset and morning.
Getting To The Avalanche Lake Trailhead
The Avalanche Lake Hike is probably one of the most popular day hikes in Glacier National Park, but with popularity comes lots of people…and little parking.
We found that most people show up to hike Avalanche Lake trail between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm. It’s also an excellent spot to have lunch, so you’ll find that people park and stay parked for long periods of time. This makes searching for a spot a little difficult.
On our last trip, we circled the area THREE times before snagging a spot as someone was just leaving. Here’s to hoping you plan your trip a little better and have a little more luck than us!
Glacier Planning Tip: Get anxious about finding parking? Go early in the day (around 8:00 am), or later in the evening (around 4:00 pm or 5:00 pm)
What To Expect On The Avalanche Lake Hike
The beginning of Avalanche Lake Trail actually begins on its shorter neighbor, Trail of the Cedars.
This wheelchair-friendly trail goes in a giant circle, surrounded by huge Pacific Northwest Cedars and tons of interactive signs and information plaques scattered along the way.
Once at the far end of the loop (about 0.5 miles in), you’ll find the official entrance to the Avalanche Lake Hike. From here you’ll take a very short but steep climb, and continue on your way to Avalanche Lake.
The trail begins alongside Avalanche creek, but then slowly winds through the forest. The trail is never flat for long, but not a constant incline either. The trail slowly ascends with inclines and declines, which makes this trail pretty manageable for most hikers.
We saw everyone from experienced hikers to small families enjoying this trail together!
Reaching Avalanche Lake
After 2.3 miles of hiking, you’ll reach the scene of the day – Avalanche Lake!
The lake sits below the 8694-foot Bearhat Mountain (fun fact: Hidden Lake is right on the other side!) and during the springtime, you can witness several small waterfalls dumping their glacial runoff into the lake below. It’s quite a beautiful sight!
Here, there is actually a large section of beach where you can dip your toes in the water, or even snag a bit of the shoreline for yourself for a quick nap.
Trail Tip: There are small makeshift benches scattered along the shore. These are perfect for a rest. However, it’s also known for another thing – chipmunks!
The local chipmunks have learned that people = free meal. Make sure to tuck your hiking snacks and garbage away when not in use, as to deter these guys from stealing your things.
FAQ About Avalanche Lake
How Long Does It Take To Hike This Trail?
It probably takes most people 1 hour to hike to Avalanche Lake, and another hour to hike back. Give yourself about three hours total to reach Avalanche Lake, enjoy the scene and rest, and make your return trip.
When Is Avalanche Trail Open?
In normal winter conditions, Avalanche Lake Trail should be open year-round. However, the weather is a fickle friend – always check road updates if you are visiting during the shoulder seasons before or after winter.
Does The Annual Closure Of The Going-To-The-Sun Road Affect The Trailhead Opening?
Generally, winter closures happen on the Going-To-The-Sun Road between the Avalanche area (the trailhead of this hike) and St. Mary on the eastern side of Glacier. Make sure to save this Glacier Roads Conditions Page to plan your trip to West Glacier.
What Lodges Are Near Avalanche Lake?
The closest lodge to Avalanche Lake Hike is Lake McDonald Lodge.
Why Is It Named Avalanche Lake?
Dr. Lyman Sperry was a Glacier National Park explorer. In 1895 as he explored Avalanche Lake, he heard several avalanches roaring in the background, thus calling the area Avalanche Lake.
Nearby Trails To Avalanche Lake Hikes
Not ready to leave Glacier National Park? There are more than 700 miles of hiking trails in Glacier ready to be explored by you. Here are some of our favorite hiking trails in Glacier and a little bit about what you can expect at each:
Iceberg Lake Trail: a 10-mile out-and-back hike to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Glacier National Park.
Lake Josephine: An iconic Glacier lake in the Many Glacier Area. This lake is known for incredible sunrises and photo ops with the charter boat on the shore. It’s also an excellent starting point for longer hikes to Grinnel Glacier Trail, Piegan Pass Trail and more!
Hidden Lake Overlook: An easy hike from Logan Pass Visitors Center, this is a great option for wildlife viewing, scenic mountain views, and it’s family-friendly!
Sun Point Nature Trail: The summer’s best trail in Glacier National Park, this trail brings you to 2 or 3 waterfalls, provides lake access, and incredible views of St. Mary Lake.