Glacier National Park, MT – The Same Lake Twice?


May 6, 2013 by Deborah W. Trotter

Glacier 1997 Park Entrance sign
You return to a lake you’ve hiked to before, and you’re sure there’s something different about it. Very different. But you don’t hike with your photo album containing your pictures from ten years earlier, so you’re not sure. Memories are not always reliable.

One thing I know for sure from both of our visits, however. Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana, is gorgeous, a stunning, milky green jewel surrounded by evergreens, its setting a glacial cirque edged by a towering rock wall, vertically ribboned by falling snowmelt.

Avalanche Creek

Avalanche Creek

The woodsy two and a half miles to the lake felt the same both times we hiked it (except the second time we tiptoed quickly around a large mound of fresh bear scat in the middle of the trail not far from the lake – yikes!). The trailhead is just beyond the north end of Lake McDonald, and the trail starts off on a wooden boardwalk through a dark, cool cedar forest. Because the forest is healthy and old, you don’t see much else on the way up for the first couple of miles. Eventually you start to hear the thundering sound of lots of rapidly moving water, and the trail opens up along the cascades of Avalanche Creek, plunging down from the direction of the lake. This part of the hike provides a whitewater festival, delighting both the eyes and ears.

Avalanche Creek

Avalanche Creek

Before too much longer, the forest thins a bit, and there sits Avalanche Lake.

Avalanche Lake, 1997

Avalanche Lake, July 23,1997

Avalanche Lake, 1997

Avalanche Lake, July 23, 1997

Avalanche Lake, 2007

Avalanche Lake, August 3, 2007

You can see that there was far less water in 2007 than in 1997, both in the lake and in the volume of snowmelt feeding it from above. So . . . was it the same lake both times?

Now, I’m not trying to spark a philosophical/existential discussion really (although I wouldn’t mind that at all). I only want to make the point I have made before: the special places that are our National Parks are not static. They present variety in many aspects from year to year and visit to visit, and that is part of their magic. So I encourage you to find a Park you love, and get to know it. Go back as often as you can. Each visit will gift you anew, whether in the form of water, wildflowers, wildlife, weather . . . or something else.

It’s never the same Park twice!

6 thoughts on “Glacier National Park, MT – The Same Lake Twice?

  1. I totally agree; heading back to the same parks and trails is often fun for what you see that you didn’t notice before. Glad you only found the bear’s “evidence” and not the full animal. They are beautiful, but from a distance 🙂

    • Yes. Two of our kids came nearly face to face with a bear that same visit on another trail. The son with the camera had just put it away and was too startled/unnerved to get it out again as the bear moved away!

  2. Absolutely gorgeous, thank you for sharing.

  3. Wow. That is truly remarkable!

    All our parks, Glacier especially, are completely unique and ever-changing. I worked in Glacier for two years and hiked Avalanche Lake a few times. I now run one of the most popular sites dedicated to Glacier.

    Would you be interested in elaborating more about your experience in Glacier on my site as a guest post?

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