If you only have time for one hike in Glacier National Park, make sure it's Avalanche Lake. For one, it is relatively short and easy to get to compared to the other most popular hikes in Glacier. For another, the hike to Avalanche Lake offers plenty of diverse scenery to give you a great overview of the landscape of Glacier National Park.
The Avalanche Lake trail starts at Avalanche Creek campground, about half an hour's drive from the West Entrance to the park. The first part of the hike is on the Trail of the Cedars, a one-mile loop trail that winds through the forest and highlights massive red cedar trees up to 100 feet tall. Some are estimated to be more than 500 years old! There are tons of ferns, too, and moss and lichen all over the trees and rocks.
The trail meets up with Avalanche Creek, and the way the water carves through the red rocks here is spectacular. This portion was my favorite experience in all of Glacier National Park, aside from our wildlife sightings. I mean, the rocks just look so awesome. Watch how the water slams against the rock and gets aerated from the rapids. It looks like the most dangerous and enticing hot tub!
You will then follow the Avalanche Lake Trail along the creek and away from it for the final two miles. The Avalanche Lake Trail is 4.6 miles in total with 600 feet of elevation gain. The hike is tough, but it's totally worth it for the views at the end.
We hung out at the lake for a while and had lunch and took in the tranquil views. Luckily due to the difficulty of the hike, the lake was a lot less crowded than our other stops in Glacier National Park.
I also enjoyed a little wildlife photography on this hike. We saw the smallest chipmunk and a long-crested jay, which is related to the blue jay.