How to Hike Trail of the Cedars Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

In this article we are going to give you all the details you need to know about How to Hike Trail of the Cedars Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park.Glacier National Park is bursting with gorgeous views in every direction. From the Going-to-the-Sun-Road to the various waterfalls and hiking options, you will not be disappointed with making a trip to Glacier. Wildlife abounds here too, as you may have read in an earlier post about our being chased by a grizzly bear. (Don’t let that scare you away—everybody was just fine, including the bear!)

If you are thinking about visiting Glacier (check out our planning guide), there are many things that are absolutely musts. One hiking trail that you absolutely must go try out on your trip to Glacier is the Trail of the Cedars and the Avalanche Lake Trail. Take a look at the many reasons why you will want to include these trails in your travel plans.

Getting to the Trails

How to Hike Trail of the Cedars Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park
Trail of the Cedars Avalanche Lake Trailhead


As with many other areas of Glacier National Park, you may find that Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake Trail attract plenty of other tourists. That can mean parking is hard to come by in certain areas. Some shuttles are available if you don’t want the hassle of driving, depending on the time of the year that you visit. For example, you may want to look into the Apgar Visitor Center shuttle if you do not want to mess with finding parking for your hike.

If you do decide to drive there yourself to Trail of the Cedars though, you will want to set out on your journey quite early. If you arrive early enough, you will have better luck finding some parking options.

Getting Acclimated

Part of the appeal of these two trails is the fact that they are a bit easier if you are a lowlander (like us) and are just getting acclimated to the mountains of Glacier National Park.

The morning we hiked, we set out just before sunrise. It happened to be a bit foggy that morning, but the weather apps were predicting the day would reach a high somewhere in the 60-degree range. The weather in Glacier tends to vary throughout the day, making for some interesting experiences.

We used the fog as an excuse to take it a little easy and ease into some hiking in the higher elevations of Glacier.

Trail of the Cedars

The Trail of the Cedars is situated in West Glacier National Park. It is actually only a little less than six miles from Lake McDonald, which is another beautiful area that you really need to visit when in Glacier. The trail is a loop, so you will be able to start your easy trek and end it at Going-to-the-Sun-Road.

Trail of the Cedars Avalanche Lake Trail
Trail of the Cedars Avalanche Lake Trail

Ranger Station

You will see that this trail starts near the Avalanche Campground Ranger Station. It is actually accessible by wheelchair thanks to the boardwalk built here. The really nice thing about this trail is that it is only about a mile long, so if you only have a relatively short amount of time available, this is a wonderful and quick way to take in some lovely scenery.

As its name implies, this hike is going to take you through a forest of western red cedar trees and western hemlock trees. These trees are quite old, and they enjoy the humid weather of the area, which is a maritime climate specific to the Pacific Northwest region of the country.

Smoky The Bear

Actually, Smoky Bear Ranch goes so far as to say that there is a rainforest within Glacier National Park because of the trees and climate you will find here. As you hike, make sure you pause once in a while to look way, way up at the tallest trees, which could be as high as 100 feet.

You may also notice that the trees here are rather large in diameter. If you were to measure them, some of them may turn out to be as big as seven feet across. The very large sizes of some of these trees leads some people to believe that they could be as much as 500 years old.

Nestled among these ancient trees, you will also likely spot various ferns and mosses growing in the area. It creates quite a lush feel to the area.

Bridge Over the Water

Trail of the Cedars Avalanche Lake Trailhead
Waterfall from Bridge Trail of the Cedars Glacier National Park

There is nothing troubled about the waters under the bridge that connects Trail of the Cedars with the Avalanche Lake Trail. In fact, there is simply gorgeous blue water, at times rushing, but always stunning.

The bridge along Trail of the Cedars allows you to walk over Avalanche Gorge, and it provides some breathtaking scenery. The water, along with the mature trees and the mosses and rocks, provide so much to see and to photograph. Allow yourself some time to simply savor these views.

Avalanche Lake Trail

Incredible Beauty Along Avalanche Lake Trail Glacier National Park
Incredible Beauty Along Avalanche Lake Trail Glacier National Park

The Trail of the Cedars is a lovely, easy hike all on its own. But you can also continue on if you wish to hike a bit further, because it is the start of the Avalanche Lake Trail.

The Avalanche Lake Trail is just a little under six miles long, and you will be rewarded with amazing waterfalls along the way. You will also find a glacial lake with incredible views if you decide to continue on past the bridge over the Gorge.

Autumn Colors Reflection Avalanche Lake Trail Glacier National Park
Autumn Colors Reflection Avalanche Lake Trail Glacier National Park

The hike itself is rated as moderate by AllTrails and is described as having a heavier amount of traffic. To be honest, it was slightly more rigorous than I thought it might be based on this description. But we are lowlanders, so bear that in mind. If you are someone who is used to elevation, you likely won’t have much difficult with this gorgeous hike.

The temperature did warm up to about 60 degrees, which is beautiful weather for some moderate (or slightly rigorous!) hiking.

Avalanche Lake


How to Hike Trail of the Cedars Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park
Amazing Views Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

The views of Avalanche Lake will completely blow your mind. They are totally and completely fantastic. Once you see the lake, you will also notice the many tumbling waterfalls. They grace the cliffs on three sides of the lake.

Waterfalls of Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park
Waterfalls of Avalanche Lake Glacier National Park

The water you see in several of these falls likely comes from Sperry Glacier. The glacier is considered “moderately sized” for the area. A fun fact is that this region features the second largest number of glaciers in the Rocky Mountain range. The mixture of the maritime climate and continental air makes for some interesting facts about the glacier.  Read more about on the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website if you are so inclined.

Blue Water Avalanche Lake Trail Glacier National Park
Blue Water Avalanche Lake Trail Glacier National Park

Beyond the geological facts, the views are something to savor. The waters here at the lake are so blue and just stunning! While we visited, the sun came out at just the right time and in just the right way. We were treated to the sun’s rays lighting up the mountains from behind. To make it even more fantastic, our fall visit meant that vibrant colors were gracing the trees in the area.

To get the best viewing and photographing opportunities, it’s best to set out on your hike earlier in the day. That works out well for finding a parking spot as well. Some of the parking lots for the trailheads can fill up really quickly. As noted, this is a rather popular hike—and for many excellent reasons, of course.

These Hikes are Worth it

Hiking the Trail of Cedars and Avalanche Lake Trail is so incredibly worth the effort you put into it. The trails start off nice and easy, allowing you some options. You can choose whether to loop back after the Trail of Cedars or to continue on.

I recommend that you do continue on to explore the Avalanche Lake Trail. You will be richly rewarded with some of the most amazing views you have ever seen in your life. Just keep on hiking! This is a must-see area of Glacier National Park.  Contact us if you have any questions, and until next time, get out and capture the adventure!

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Written by Wayne Moran - Visit Website