2 - 3
FATMAP difficulty grade
Access to Avalanche Lake is from the large parking area at the Avalanche Creek trailhead via the Trail of the Cedars.
Even in the off-season, it can be difficult to get a parking spot, so using the free shuttle is an excellent option. This trail is on the west side of Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun road, which can provide surprisingly different weather conditions than on the east side.
On a September day when it was rainy on the east side, the hike to Avalanche Lake was dry and pleasant. As with many National Park hikes, expect this trek to be quite crowded with eager hikers.
Avalanche Lake is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier National Park for good reason! The route begins as a mellow ½ mile stroll along the pristine ADA-accessible Trail of the Cedars trail until the signed intersection with the Avalanche Lake Trail.
From the intersection, the trail begs hikers to stop frequently to get better views of Avalanche Creek as it roars through the narrow red rock canyon.
After the rather steep initial ascent, the trail mellows out a bit as it travels through a wooded stretch. If you are a fast-paced hiker, expect to say “Excuse me” often as you constantly pass slower hikers en route to the lake.
Alternatively, one could slow down and match the pace of the many happy hikers along the way.
It is always best to remember that everyone is there for the same reason...
to see a gorgeous place that has been preserved for all people to appreciate! About 3.2 miles from the trailhead, the trail drops down a bit as it passes through a brushy area and past a sign indicating an outhouse up a trail to the right.
Shortly after that, the first view of the north end of Avalanche Lake comes into view.
This is where the vast majority of people choose to spend time at the shore before turning around to head back. If looking for an extended outing and some solitude, keep hiking as the trail continues just above the west side of the lake.
The trail ends abruptly just before the south end, but it is easy to make one's way to the shore.
There is a massive log that allows hikers to cross a tributary and allow access to the sandy shore with stunning views of the thin waterfalls tumbling from far, far above.
Spend some time in relative solitude before heading back to join the throng of hikers heading back to the trailhead.
Once back at the intersection with the Trail of the Cedars, either return the way you came or head the other direction to complete the Trail of the Cedars loop.