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McDonald Lake Area

Lake McDonald is the longest and deepest lake in the park, carved 472 feet deep in places and 10 miles long by glaciers. Kootenai Indians called this the Yakilahkwilnamki, “The Sacred Dancing Place” and held ceremonies on the lakeshore. The sparkling clear waters and prominent mountain views no doubt contribute to the lake’s continued popularity. This well-used area has been developed with four campgrounds, the west side visitor center, visitor services at Apgar Village, and an amphitheater. Historic Lake McDonald Lodge is near the head of the lake, where a boat tour is available. Going-to-the-Sun Road traverses the southern boundary of the lake. This road provides easy access to the lakeshore and banks of McDonald Creek, which empties into the lake. There are easy woodland trails to be pursued in this valley, including paved trails at Apgar Village and Avalanche Creek. The National Park Service conducts interpretive programs and guided hikes in the area. The Lake McDonald Valley sits just beyond the West Glacier entrance station and can be reached from the east, via the Going-to-the-Sun Road over Logan Pass.

McDonald Creek after the Fire
View looking from the bridge on McDonald Creek.

  1. McDonald Lodge - in Glacier National Park

  2. Lake McDonald - Apgar Lookout- 3.3 miles - Left on un-maintained gravel road past West Glacier horse corral, then over Quarter Circle Bridge 1.5 miles. Elevation climbs 1,850 feet

  3. McDonald Creek Bike Path - 2 miles - Asphalt bicycle path 50 yards south of Apgar visitor Center suitable as a nice ride for the entire family.

  4. Fish Lake- 3.0 miles - Sperry Trailhead across from Lake McDonald Lodge. Elevation climbs 1,000 feet

  5. Granite Park - 3.5 miles - Granite Park Trailhead, 24 miles from Apgar on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Elevation climbs 2,200 feet

  6. Mt. Brown Lookout - 5.4 miles - Sperry Trailhead across from Lake McDonald Lodge. Elevation climbs 4,325 feet

  7. Snyder Lake - 4.4 miles - Sperry Trailhead across from Lake McDonald Lodge. Elevation climbs 2,150 feet

  8. Sperry Chalet - 6.4 miles - Sperry Trailhead across from Lake McDonald Lodge. Elevation climbs 3,450 feet

  9. Trout Lake - 4.2 miles - 1.5 miles west on the North Lake McDonald Road. Elevation climbs and descends 2,100 feet

  10. John's Lake Loop - 3 miles - 1.3 miles north of McDonald lodge on the opposite side of the road.
    Trailhead is marked John's Lake 0.3 miles, parking is enough to hold about 8 cars. Trail loops around and takes in a lot of forest scenes and waterfalls.

    Photo View across McDonald Lake
    View across McDonald Lake after the fire.

Glacier National Park is located in the northwest corner of Montana, just north of Columbia Falls. The park encompasses more than one million acres and is home to grizzly bear, moose, elk, along with 63 varieties of wild mammals. While most of the roads in Glacier National Park are closed off during the winter, this provides miles and miles of tracks for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Visitors are seldom around in the dead of winter, so the muffled hush of the snow covered woods is especially enticing and serene.

A ski or snowshoe trip along the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is one of the most scenic roads in North America, is a great option, according to park rangers. The road is closed to cars from September or October until snowmelt, usually in June. Several short hiking trails branch off from the road, which would be excellent for snowshoeing or skiing in the winter season.

 Once you have your gear, head up to Glacier National Park for an exciting adventure. Guided snowshoe trips are available, led by a park naturalist, and are highly recommended. If you are looking for an informative tour, snowshoeing is an easy way to explore the winter wonderland of this unique park. Snowshoeing will provide even the novice an effortless activity so your senses are more in tune with your environment and your guide's knowledge on the history, wildlife, geology, and biology of this precious ecosystem.

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