Hiking Avalanche Lake In Glacier National Park

Hiking Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park should be on your Glacier Itinerary. It has one of the most beautiful ending destinations of all the hikes in Glacier (a mountaintop lake that you can walk into and is surrounded by mountains).

Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

Getting To The Avalanche Lake Hike And Parking

Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park trailhead

The Avalance Lake Hike is normally accessed from the West Side of Glacier. You get to the trailhead before getting on the Going To The Sun Road (but after where you need a vehicle registration).

Related: Tips For Driving The Stunning Going To The Sun Road

There is limited parking along the road and in the Avalanche Creek picnic area parking lot across from the hike. We have had to patiently drive around waiting for a spot to open. But one always opens since people are coming and going from the hike.

Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park parking

This is also the trailhead of the popular short and boardwalked Trail of the Cedars hike, so there is a lot of turnover with cars.

Related: Trail Of The Cedars Hike In Glacier National Park

Vehicle Registration

In any case you will need your vehicle registration in order to reach the trailhead starting May 24th – September 8th from 6am to 3pm. Here are details on that:

For 2024 you will need to have entry tickets for park. Dates and times are below:

  • Going To The Sun Road – May 24th – September 8th from 6am to 3pm.
  • North Fork (Bowman Lake) – May 24th – September 8th from 6am to 3pm.
  • Many Glacier – July 1st – September 8th from 6am to 3pm.

During these dates you will need:

  • Secure your vehicle reservation
  • Get your park pass or pay the entrance fee
  • Have your reservation ready to scan.

**Note: Visitors with lodging, camping, or commerical activity reservations (ex. boat tours and horseback rides) can use their service reservation to access the portion of the park for which they have a reservation.

Try to get these tickets for your trip (click here). However if you can’t you do have another option to go out after 3pm. It is light until 9/10pm at night so you still have a lot of time to get out and do some exploring!

But ALWAYS double check their site to make sure nothing has changed. You can do that here.

Crazy Family Adventure Tip: Even if we had our vehicle registration we might not get into the park until after 3pm anyways. This normally means the trail is less busy and there is parking available. This hike will probably take you around 4 hours or so. But with the sun setting after 9pm you still have plenty of time to complete the hike.

Related post: 21 Amazing Things To Do In Glacier National Park In 2024

Avalanche Lake Hike Details

Map of where Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park is located

You can see on the map above that in order to access the Avalanche Lake Trailhead, you have to start on the Trail of the Cedars. The Trail of the Cedars hike is a loop hike. On almost the exact opposite side of the loop, across from the Trail of the Cedars trailhead, is the Avalanche Lake trailhead.

  • Location: Trail of the Cedars Trailhead
  • Distance: 4.5 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Gain: 730 feet
  • Length Of Time To Complete: 4-5 hours – we did see people trail running it – so you could complete it a lot quicker than this! Be sure to account for time to hang out by the lake when you get there.

Related post: The Best Hikes in Glacier National Park

The Avalanche Lake Hike

Hiking to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park

This hike is very popular. Especially since it is part of the shorted Trail of the Cedars hike. We saw people constantly on this trail. The trail starts on the Trail of the Cedars, then you take the route to Avalanche Lake where you start climbing up and pretty much don’t stop going up until you get there.

Climbing rocks on the Avalanche Lake  hike in Glacier National Park
Hiking to Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

The trail is a lot of fun, with logs to jump on and boulders to climb along the way. This definitely helped to keep the kids interested. This was by no means an easy hike, but it was worth it! The trail follows along and crosses Avalanche Creek at some points.

Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

Once you get to the top, you walk out into a clearing that has a Lake (really more like a shallow pond) surrounded by mountains and waterfalls coming down the mountains into the lake. Yes, it is as beautiful as it sounds!

Related: One Day Glacier National Park Itinerary

Glacier National Park Guides

Glacier 1 Day Guide Thumbnail
Glacier 3 Day Guide Thumbnail
Glacier 7 Day Guide Thumbnail

Planning a trip to Glacier? We put together a series of digital guides that take the guesswork out of planning. Stop-by-stop itineraries for making the most of 1, 3 or 7 days in Glacier National Park including where to stay, where to eat, what hikes to take and the best driving routes.

We’ve even included links for you to book your stays and buy your park passes. Everything you need in one convenient digital guide. Just download and go!

Our Experience Hiking Avalanche Lake For The First Time

Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

We were in Glacier National Park in August and decided to take the hike up to Avalanche Lake with our 4 kids who were 8, 6, 6, and 4.

The weather looked good so we headed out. The hike was amazing! You walk through the forest and along this beautiful waterfall/creek as you continue to walk up the mountain.

We made it to the top and walked out to see Avalanche Lake surrounded by mountains with waterfalls. It was a sight to see. Not 2 minutes into making it to the top it started thundering.

We could actually see the rain making its way across the lake coming right for us!

We quickly huddled under a tree to try to wait out the rain. After hiking the 2 miles up so we wanted to enjoy it for a little bit longer. The rain did stop and we headed out to check out more of the lake and grab some pictures.

We kept looking up at the sky and it definitely wasn’t blue skies, so we figured we should start heading down. If we could make it into the forest area we knew the trees would somewhat cover us. The only problem was we would have to walk a little ways to get to the tree coverage.

We started heading back down and about 50 yards into the hike it started down pouring on us!

The Pit Toilet

The closest cover was a pit toilet . . . Yup.

Our family in the Pit Toilet on the hike to Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

We headed for the Pit Toilet and all 6 of us huddled inside. It smelled horrible!

We kept the door open so we could breath in some fresh air and kept hoping the rain would let up.

Luckily after about 5 minutes it did, unfortunately by this time we were all soaked from the sudden down pour. We were not prepared . . . we had 1 umbrella and a couple of towels.

We wrapped the kids in towels, and I held the umbrella. Our youngest was on my back, so we started the two-mile trek back to our car.

Luckily the kids were troppers and there were only a few tears at the beginning, but once everyone had their towel or umbrella and we started walking down everyone cheered up and it ended up being a wet but fun hike back down the mountain.

By the time we made it to the car we were all happy to change into dry clothes (family travel tip – always have extra clothes and shoes in the car) and decided to head to a pizza place to grab some dinner!

Needless to say it was quite the adventure and now we know we should always pack rain ponchos in our backpack for everyone just in case. We loved our time at Glacier National Park, even with this crazy adventure. It is one of our favorite places we have visited to date.

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One of our favorite hikes in Glacier National Park is Avalanche Lake! This is a magical Glacier hike and one that should be on your travel bucket list!

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