An Impressive Cirque Around Avalanche Lake


Hiking to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park has become an annual event. The trail is at lower elevations on the west side of the Going to the Sun Road which means the snow melts sooner making it accessible much earlier than trails at higher elevations in the park. As this is one of our regular hikes, my interest was piqued when I read that a Spokane-based-home-for-youths-group was impressed with the cirque around the lake. The group’s visit to Glacier National Park coincided with NBC’s filming of “America the Beautiful: America’s National Parks“ series. Former president George W. Bush’s daughter, a correspondent for the Today Show, was in the park doing a news piece on the series and took the opportunity to interview some of the group.

Because I agree with the opinion that the cirque around Avalanche Lake is impressive, I thought I’d take a look back at our past seven hikes to the lake.


  • 2005 – Our first trip to Avalanche Lake. Kalispell was enjoying a warm and mild spring when we moved here from New Orleans.  Eager to explore the Park, we hiked out to Avalanche. It was my first experience in Glacier’s cedar forest and deer lingered around the trail for picture taking. My most vivid memory of that hike is that I couldn’t understand why the trail guide had described it as easy/moderate when I thought it difficult.

Avalanche Lake, May 2005. Not much snow but lots of sunshine.





Avalanche Lake, August 2006. Dry and bare.




  • 2007 –  This was the year we came to appreciate why it is named Avalanche Lake.  The breakup begins in May and we were there to capture an avalanche on video. Mallory was 10 at the time and observed that …it was a pretty scrawny avalanche… (from a distance it looked like a waterfall). David told her it wouldn’t seem so scrawny if she were underneath it. After looking at the pictures from that hike, I vowed to never stuff my hair up under a knitted cap again.


Avalanche Lake, May 2007.



  • 2008 – Back out to the Lake in May in hopes of hearing another avalanche.  We didn’t, but blue skies and white snow made for a stunning landscape.


Avalanche Lake, May 2008. E runs on the beach.


  • 2009 – It was Mother’s Day.  After having a free lunch of hot dogs and watching the demonstrations at the Family Forestry Expo, we hiked out to Avalanche Lake. I think David captured some of the most extraordinary reflections in the lake that day.


Avalanche Lake, May 2009. Marlene on the beach.




  • 2010 – We must have been itching for spring really bad because we jumped the gun and took the hike on April 23. The lake still had some surface ice. By this time, David, the girls, and I were old pros at taking this hike.


Avalanche Lake, May 2010. David walks on the beach.


  • 2011 – This year saw record spring snows making the hike in May to Avalanche a sloppy mess. Avalanche debris covered a good portion of the trail forcing hikers to find their way around downed trees, broken branches, and mud. The lake level was up and the beach was covered in deep snow. We heard the loud cracking of several avalanches as we rested at the lake and ate our snacks.


Avalanche Lake, May 2011. Marlene walks to the lunch spot.



We’ve got some beautiful pictures from this year’s hike on Facebook. Click here to see them.


Happy Trails,




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