Avalanche Lake Trail: One of the Best Day Hikes in Glacier National Park

Avalanche Lake Trail is one of the best day hikes in Glacier National Park. Whether you are bringing your kids along or not, the Avalanche Trail hike provides scenic views, little elevation gain, and a varied hiking experience. At almost 5 miles, it is definitely one of the most popular hikes in the park, and there is a good reason. Here is a guide to Avalanche Lake Trail so you know what to expect on your visit to Glacier National Park.

Main Avalanche Lake

Getting to Avalanche Lake Trail

If you are coming from the West Glacier Entrance, this is one of the first major trails you will find. Keep following the Going to the Sun Road past the Apgar Visitor Center and Lake McDonald to your left. You will then see the Avalanche Campground area towards the right and some parking on the side of the road. This is where you park. If you are not here early in the morning, parking can be very difficult, as there are not many spaces.

Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail

The trailhead to Avalanche Lake Trail is accessed through the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. That is the only trail marker you will find at the start, in addition to signs that lead to towards Avalanche Gorge and Lake. Trail of Cedars is a boardwalk loop hike that takes you through some beautiful tall red cedars and ferns. This is a great little trail for toddlers or those with mobility issues. However, if you are planning to do the Avalanche Lake Trail, then do not do the loop. Take the Trail of the Cedars Trail until you see the Avalanche Gorge and follow signs leading to Avalanche Lake (they are very clearly marked).

Map of Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche

What to Expect on the Avalanche Trail Hike

Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail

In order to reach Avalanche Lake, you will have to hike a short section of the Trail of the Cedars Nature Trail. This wheelchair and stroller friendly boardwalk trail takes you through a tall hemlock forest and right along the Avalanche Creek.

I would consider this more of a walk than a hike. If you do the loop, it is a mile, but if not, then keep heading towards Avalanche Gorge/Lake area. If traveling with little ones who may not be up for an almost 5 mile hike, then stop at Avalanche Gorge and turn back. It is a stunning area with beautiful colors and the sound of the rushing water is very soothing.

Avalanche Lake Trail

Once you pass Avalanche Gorge, here is where you continue on towards Avalanche Lake. The Avalanche Lake Trail is close to 5 miles round trip, but it’s not a difficult hike as the elevation gain is gradual and only about 600 feet. At the start of this trail, you will walk alongside Avalanche Creek. We stopped to take some pictures here and ended up with one of my favorite family vacation travel photos.

Glacier Fam 3

The Avalanche Trail hike up to the lake is about 2 miles, yet it is a beautiful wooded hike. We visited in 2018 and there was still evidence of a fire back in 2012 (the trail was closed for almost 3 years). I had read that this trail can close due to grizzly bear activity in the area, but we didn’t see anything. Be sure to carry bear spray when visiting Glacier National Park, as bear sightings are common in the park.

Once you reach Avalanche Lake, you are met with a gorgeous view of the mountains and greenish-blue clear water. There will likely be plenty of people here relaxing, picnicking, and even wading in the glacier-fed water! Take some time to soak in the views and appreciate the beauty of Glacier National Park. Once you are here, you will clearly see why this is one of the best day hikes in Glacier National Park.

Avalanche Lake

We stopped to take some family pictures, have a snack, relax for a bit before heading back to the car. I was very lucky that when I walked up to Avalanche Lake, it was relatively quiet. We only stayed for 30 minutes, but as soon as we left, people were wading in the water and I would not have been able to get the picture I took above.

I didn’t know this when I hiked Avalanche Lake Trail, but you can keep going to the end of the lake, which is just under a mile further. I read that it much quieter over there and gives you a different perspective of the lake. I hope to hike this trail in the future and definitely plan to hike it to the end next time.

Avalanche Fam

We enjoyed our hike back and went much quicker on the way back down, excited to hike to more areas of Glacier National Park. These two trails, Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake Trail, are just two of the hikes in the West Glacier area. There are so many more hikes in this Apgar area by Lake McDonald. If you’re looking for a guide on some activities and hikes to do in each area of the park, check out my review on what to do in Glacier National Park with kids.

Our trip to Montana was part of a national park road trip out West we planned because our son was in 4th grade and we wanted to take advantage of the Every Kid in a Park program. Our whole family visited Yellowstone and Grand Teton, Glacier, Badlands, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park for free with the 4th grade national park pass and participated in quite a few junior ranger programs with the kids. This was one of the best national park vacations we’ve had!

Tips When Hiking to Avalanche Lake

  • Bring bear spray
  • Trekking poles are not really needed but may be helpful
  • Wear layers, as the temperature varies from the forest to the lake
  • Use hiking shoes (they provided much better grip)
  • Bring snacks or a picnic lunch for when you get to the lake
  • A Hydroflask water bottle is always important on a hike
  • The All Trails app is useful to see your GPS location on the trail

Visiting the national parks is a great way to experience the beauty of the country and enjoy some outdoor activities. We often center vacations around the national parks and visit small towns along the way. Check out some of our other outdoor-inspired long trips:

If you enjoyed this post, then Pin it for later!

DQ Family Travel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. Your price does not change when you click on these links, but it does provide me with a small commission.

Liked this post?

Consider subscribing to my monthly newsletter where I share recent posts, family travel tips, and much more.


Click Here

19 thoughts on “Avalanche Lake Trail: One of the Best Day Hikes in Glacier National Park”

  1. These photos are absolutely gorgeous! Glacier is so high up on my bucket list. I’d love to go next summer.

  2. I LOVED Glacier National Park! I really wish my cousin and I had more time when we were there in September because I really wanted to do this hike. Looks so beautiful! 🙂

  3. I am so impressed by the beautiful landscapes here! It’s great that you can wander in this National Park with kids and show them around without them being too tired! I hope to go there one day!

  4. This looks so beautiful. It sounds like the perfect place to spend the day with the family. I love your tips and can’t wait to visit myself one day.

  5. This hike looks beautiful! I’d love to visit Glacier one day and I’ll definitely be doing this walk! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Glacier National Park is definitely on my list, it looks so incredible! And this hike sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  7. The Avalanche Hike looks so beautiful and I especially love the gorge! I would love to visit here one day!

  8. I think Avalanche Trail is the one day hike in Glacier I HAVEN’T done – the parking lot has always been so full whenever I’ve been in the area! ONe day, though…it looks so beautiful!

  9. Wellness Travel Diaries

    Glacier Park looks so stunning and I absolutely love hiking, so your guide is helping me plan my trip when I go. Is the path really easy to follow and understand where to go?

  10. This looks like such a beautiful spot to explore and WOW – those photos are amazing. Looking forward to exploring Glacier National Park one day and will definitely be saving this post for later!

  11. I wanted to go to Glacier park last summer! Maybe I was waiting for this post! Looks gorgeous!

  12. Glacier National Park is stunning isn’t it! I love your family photos, and that this walk was easy enough for you all to hike together! 😀 The pay-off with views of the lake seem almost too beautiful for such an easy, fun trail.

  13. What a beautiful hike! The trail looks so pretty and the views are stunning! I’d love to try it out in person one day. Thanks for the great guide!

  14. This place seems so relaxing, and I’d love to picnic here! The Avalanche Gorge looks especially beautiful 🙂

  15. Glacier National Park is so beautiful and it’s on my list. I’m all about the day hike so will definitely hike Avalanche Trail – so pretty!

  16. Looks so beautiful – would love to hike the Avalanche Trail. Thanks for such an informative post!

  17. Jude Boudreaux

    Thanks for the great overview! We’re going to get to Glacier this July and now this is saved to our planning!

  18. Wow that looks like an excellent adventure! Not only is the lake beautiful but the boardwalk through the tall trees and the rushing water in the carved out gorge really add to it! Looks amazing

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top