Avalanche Lake Hike – Glacier NPs

St. Mary, MT

After a few days exploring the Two Medicine section of Glacier NP, we drove about 50 miles to the north to St. Mary, MT where we secured a spot for the motorhome at Johnson’s of St. Mary RV Park.  St. Mary is the eastern terminus of the famous scenic Going to the Sun Road, a narrow two lane road that goes over the mountains through the middle of Glacier National Park.  St. Mary is also just south of the entrance to the Many Glaciers section of Glacier NP, so it’s a perfect spot to access some great hiking.

Unfortunately, heavy clouds and steady rain moved into the area the day after our arrival.  For two days we couldn’t even see the mountains and one day we didn’t even leave the motor home (very unusual for us).

On day three the weather on the east side of the park continued to be very wet, while the forecast for the west side of the park was a bit drier, so off we went for a hike to Avalanche Lake.  But first we had to navigate the Going to the Sun Road.

The first obstacle we had to conquer was eleven miles of wet dirt road.  The Going to the Sun Road is in the final phase of a ten year improvement program and a large stretch on the east side has had all the pavement removed.  It will be re-paved in September, but for now it is a bit sloppy.

The next challenge was the fog at Logan’s Pass, the highest point on the Going to the Sun road.  Driving through a cloud where you can’t see the car in front of you on a narrow, winding road really gets the old heart beating!

Once down the other side of the mountain, we were a bit dismayed by the layer of mud covering the normally fairly clean Jeep!

The hike up to Avalanche Lake is one of the busiest hikes in the park, so the trail was a bit crowded.  But after two days of steady rain it was good just to get out in the fresh air.

Avalanche Lake was very beautiful and the trail went by a number of neat waterfalls.

The trail to Avalanche Lake branches off from the Trail of the Cedars, a wheel-chair accessible loop trail along a raised boardwalk that passes though a forest of ancient western hemlocks and red cedars.

Below is a Black Cottonwood, one of the many amazing tall trees along the trail.  Some of the trees in this area are more than 500 years old.

Some of the trees had some very strange images grown into the trunk.

One of the reasons we wanted to travel over to the west side of the park was to take advantage of the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers, Rick and JoAnne, of Rick and JoAnne’s RV Travels.  They are volunteer camp hosts at Apgar Campground at the west entrance to the park.

We spent a very pleasant time in their motorhome sharing experiences traveling in a motorhome.  Then it was time to head back across the Going to the Sun Road.  As we approached Logan’s Pass we found that the fog had not eased at all.  In fact it was thicker than earlier that day.  So again, we crossed the pass at crawl speed and traveled down the other side for a few miles before things cleared a bit.

As we approached the park exit we noticed a couple of cars pulled over with the occupants standing along the road.  Must be some wild life nearby!  Sure enough, a couple of black bears were enjoying a late evening snack nearby.

The weather is predicted to be poor at least one more day, but clearer skies are in our future.  Drill Sergeant Pam has some pretty long hikes planned, so things better clear up soon or somebody is going to get pretty wet!

More on that later . . .


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29 Responses to Avalanche Lake Hike – Glacier NPs

  1. Suzanne says:

    Thanks so much for the great info! I head into the park at the end of the week, so I am really appreciative of all the great hiking tips! I hope the crowds are thinning somewhat, but that may be “in my dreams.” 😉

  2. Looks like the same weather we had the last few days in Waterton Lakes. Beautiful trail but the drive looks scary in that weather.

    • placestheygo says:

      Brenda, it seemed like several bloggers were going through a rainy spell at the same time. They say all this rain in MT has kept the wildfires away which is a good thing.

  3. pmbweaver says:

    That would be a white-knuckle ride for me.

    The trail looks lovely. Those Cedars are amazing.

    Oh how cool to see those black bears. Glad they didn’t see you two or you might have been the evening snack.

    Wishing you good luck with that weather. I know how Drill Sergeant Pam can be when she can’t get her hike in….also, when she doesn’t get her morning coffee….lol

  4. Jodee Gravel says:

    Looks like the name of the road is a bit of false advertising! The Jeep looks great in that mud – it’s a Jeep thing you know :-). I’ve never seen a cottonwood of any color that huge – awesome!! Learned to drive the tule fog of the Central Valley in CA for years – claustrophobic soup that went on for over a 100 miles – don’t miss that!! Hope the sunshine finds you soon.

    • placestheygo says:

      Jodie, the sunshine did find us yesterday:) It was a perfect day and we are expecting several more while here in Waterton Lakes. Yes, the Jeep did look like it was out having a good time!

  5. Avalanche lake is where we saw our first bear in the park! (this was early in the morning before the trail got too crowded.)

    It’s great you got to meet the Morgans!

  6. Ingrid says:

    No Jeep is complete without a good layer of mud cover. Glad you got to meet Rick and JoAnn – sweet couple we met over lunch while in Denver. Nice to see you guys back out on the trails. Love the photo of John at Avalanche Lake 🙂

  7. heyduke50 says:

    yikes nasty weather and so glad it broke so you could get out…

  8. RJRVtravels says:

    OMG – I am sorry you couldn’t experience Going to the Sun when there was actually SUN! Instead you got to “white-knuckle” it. Again, it was great meeting you and John. Safe Travels.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, JoAnne and Rick! But we have driven the road in the sun a few times on prior visits so we do know how beautiful it is:) We’ll see you down the road for sure:)

  9. Sherry says:

    When I broke my ankle in 2011 at Glacier on day 2 of our stay, we did all the wheel chair accessible hikes including Trail of Cedars where I looked longingly at the Avalanche Trail so this post has been wonderful. I can see clearly what I missed. Boy that fog looks treacherous. Glad you got safely down both times..

  10. Hate driving in the fog but so worth it to see the bears at the end of the day!

  11. Wow, I can’t imagine doing that drive in that fog – crazy! It was very interesting to us how different the weather can be from one side of the park to the other. I can’t wait to hear about your Many Glacier area hikes!!

  12. Gay says:

    Very nice hike you two! We haven’t visited the west entrance yet…I sure like what I see!

    • placestheygo says:

      It is interesting, Gay, how different the two sides are with weather and the west is definitely more populated. The longer hikes seem to be in the east or from Logan’s Pass.

  13. So happy you got to meet Rick and Joanne, one day we should all have a gathering somewhere. Both of you are in the best element, rain or shine or fog or mud!

    • placestheygo says:

      MonaLiza, I was excited that we were going to visit Glacier at the same time Rick and JoAnne were here. But they were on the other side of the park 55 miles away. The better weather on their side got us over there. The hiking we wanted to do was all on our side of the park so I was worried we might not make it over.

      You are absolutely correct about being in my element not matter what the weather. Any day hiking is a great day in my book!!

  14. LuAnn says:

    Our truck looks very similar to your Jeep. Seems many of us are getting wet this time of year. Your images of Glacier are wonderful but that drive looked a bit scary. Can’t believe you remained in your seat to take those photos Pam. 😉

    • placestheygo says:

      LuAnn, it was interesting when we got to the west side of the park. There were very distinct looks on the cars…clean and totally muddy! You could tell who had come from the east!! Coming over the pass the first time, we followed a car which really helped. Coming home in the evening, we were alone which made it much harder but also easier because no one was around and we could take our time. As soon as you head down from the pass the world opens up.

  15. jcgc50 says:

    We drove and hiked all over Glacier and never saw a bear. Looks like it was worth the drive in the fog!

    • placestheygo says:

      Gayle, this is our first time to see wildlife and boy did we have some nice sightings. If we are ever able to publish our other two hikes, you will see some beauties including more bears!

  16. Laurel says:

    Wow, that was some seriously heavy fog! The Avalanche Lake hike looked totally worth it, though. I’m with you — gotta get out in nature, no matter what the weather. And then it feels soooo good to return to a warm and cozy home on wheels. (It certainly wasn’t as much fun in our tent camping days to go out hiking in wet and cold weather.)

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