Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park is standby for us each year. It’s one of the first trails to open every spring, and one of the last to close in the late fall. We tend to visit this lake at least twice a year and it’s just as gorgeous every single time.
Of course since this hike is jam packed with views and fairly easy, it’s also very popular. During the summer months it can be a little wall to wall with people, and you’ll struggle to find a parking space during the mid-day hours.
One thing I often recommend to people visiting, is to park at the visitors center, and take the shuttle to Avalanche. But there’s no doubt that’s crowded as well. In fact most places that are easy to get to in Glacier are quite crowded during the summer months. Which is why I love coming to these places during the off-season times.
However if you’re looking for a short hike in Glacier, it’s hard to beat Avalanche Lake. You can find out my other 2 recommendations for short hikes in my Top 3 Short Hikes in Glacier. Whether you’re hiking with kids, or just looking for a shorter day, these hikes will be your best bet on your visit.
In fact, the first part of the trail, (called the Trail of the Cedars) is even wheelchair/stroller accessible as well. The Trail of the Cedars leads right past Avalanche Gorge which is really beautiful as well. Somehow I didn’t end up with a photo for this post, so I’m leaving you a link to my Instagram if you’d like to see it.
We usually visit the gorge which is just a few hundred feet from where the trail heads up to Avalanche Lake. Then we head up the trail which starts along the gorge and follows the creek upwards for a while.
In the early season you’ll find lots of bright green moss, and some spring wildflowers as well.
The views open up a bit the closer you get to the lake. But you don’t really break out of the trees until you reach the lake.
It can be quite chilly here even in the summer, so always be sure and bring layers!
Avalanche Lake Trail Breakdown:
Distance: 4.5-5.6 miles, the longer distance is if you hike to the end of the lake and back.
Elevation Gain: 730′
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate depending on fitness levels, and whether or not you have a toddler in tow!
Another bonus of coming here in the off season, (if it’s open that is) is this beautiful mountain cirque surrounding the the lake is all dusted in snow. There’s logs and a few benches to sit on where you can enjoy this view with snacks or lunch.
Then you head back out the same way you came with maybe another side trip to visit the gorge. And just one final note, there’s also a campground located near the beginning of the trail that we sometimes camp in as a ‘base camp’ of sorts to do some exploring on the west side of the park!