Glacier National Park
Avalanche Lake

Mt. Gould in Glacier Park

Avalanche Lake

Photo Use Guidelines

Avalanche Lake is located in a cirque on the west side of the continental divide. Massive mountains surround the lake, providing an unforgettable scenic experience. The lake itself is named for the numerous avalanches that roar down the surrounding mountains. For those of you lucky enough to get to Avalanche Lake on a warm day soon after the trail opens in May, you will be treated to the sights and sounds of many avalanches, which is quite a sight if you have never seen one up close before. During spring and early summer, these avalanches turn into dozens of waterfalls that cascade down from the highest peaks.

Wildlife is abundant. Mountain goats are readily observed. Just look for their white coats up against the brown and gray rocks. Other wildlife includes bighorn sheep, deer, and of course, grizzly bears. Due to the large number of people that use this trail and the trails passage through mainly thick forest, bear sightings along this trail are rare.

Along the Avalanche Lake Trail
Photo Use Guidelines

Avalanche Lake is perhaps the most heavily used backcountry lake in Glacier National Park. An easy hike up the two-mile long Avalanche Lake Trail provides the only access to the lake. The trail itself is one of the first trails to open in the park as well, as it's low elevation allows the winter snows to melt off usually by early May.

The trailhead, which is located 6 miles up the Going-To-The-Sun Road from the Lake McDonald Lodge, has decent parking and a campground. It is impossible to miss when on the Sun Road. If you plan on hiking this trail, do plan on arriving early. Even though there is lots of parking, on busy days during the summer, parking can become scarce after noon.

Looking north back over Avalanche Lake
Photo Use Guidelines

The fishing on Avalanche Lake is not exactly exemplary. The cutthroat trout that inhabit this very sterile lake tend to be quite small in size. They are easy to catch on either a spin rod with small spoons or a small dry fly. The outlet of the lake, which is where the trail ends, receives a fair amount of fishing pressure by park standards. However, the lake is easily walked around. A short hike up either side of the lake will allow an angler to reach areas that are seldom fished. The water, as it comes almost exclusively from snowmelt, is very cold, so plan on bringing warm waders if you don't want to fish from shore. Another option is to pack in a small raft or float tube. You may not find better fishing out in the middle of the lake, but you will find views that few people ever see.

Hiking Gear & Equipment Guide for Glacier National Park

Hiking Boots : Buyers guide to getting the right boot for hiking
Hiking Socks : Guide to getting the right sock for hiking
Trekking Poles : Why you should use one when hiking

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