Trail of Cedars is a stroll not a hike
~ McDonald Lake Trail Map
Trail of Cedars
- Trail of Cedars
1/2 mile loop gain zero feet
part boardwalk and part paved
Despite the number of hikers the deep forest under the old growth Cedars and cottonwoods can be very peaceful
Spectacular View at Avalanche Gorge, Old Growth Forest, waterfalls
Very Easy Stroll
Trail of the Cedars parking area was expanded at the start of the summer of 2013. The final phase of the GTSR reconstruction on the west side will make access tricky during the summer of 2013.
Avalanche Gorge in and of itself is worth the short stroll around the Trail of the Cedars. The old growth cedars add to the attraction on this stroll: it's not really a hike. Trail of the Cedars is one of two handicap accessible trails in Glacier National Park. The moss-covered rocks in Avalanche Gorge are very slippery, more then one person has drowned in the gorge.
The boardwalk has been getting severely damaged during winter windstorms on a regular basis for the last five years or so. The boardwalk wanders through the cedar forest as it approaches Avalanche Gorge.
During the winter of 2012 / 2013 several trees were blown down. One knocked out the railing across the gorge and it rests on the rocks just before the bridge, changing the photo ops for countless photographers. Several other trees came down and took out a large section of the boardwalk. Similar trees down in 2007 did not take out as large a section of the boardwalk as occurred during the most recent incident.
I would not advise hiking the Trail of the Cedars during a strong wind storm. Over the past six years these storms have been blowing over some of the large cottonwood trees and sadly a few of the old growth cedars. The trail crew is kept busy repairing the boardwalk to Avalanche Gorge. While there is some blow down on the paved section of the trail to Avalanche Gorge the number of downed trees is minimal compared to the boardwalk section.
During May and the early part of June there is the possibility of seeing Harlequin Ducks on Avalanche Creek. This is one bird that really fits their name.
Drowning remains the number one cause of visitor deaths in Glacier Park. More than one person has drowned in this area. The water is very cold, and extremely powerful as it makes its way through Avalanche Gorge.
Trail of the Cedars, Avalanche Gorge spring run off mid May 2007. Photo © Shawn Coggins
How clear the water is in Avalanche Gorge is directly related in the spring to how warm the preceding days had been. The water can change from crystal clear to a ragging torrent in a matter of hours, especially after a heavy spring rain.
© Shawn Coggins The photo above was taken in early April of 2007 on the Trail of the Cedars just a short distance away from Avalanche Gorge. When I returned a month later to hike the Avalanche Lake Trail the Trail of the Cedars boardwalk was free of downed trees. The Avalanche Lake Trail had many more downed trees recently cleared from the trail in the spring of 2007. These downed trees were the aftermath of 'The Pineapple Express' in November of 2006. The Pineapple Express was a major freak winter storm that occurred in early November of 2006. Heavy rains at high altitude that already had snow cover caused catastrophic flooding. During the winter of 2012 / 2013 the Trail of the Cedar Boardwalk was once more damaged by falling trees. The hand rail on the bridge over the Gorge was knocked out along with a very long section of the boardwalk. As of early June the hand rail had temporary repairs as did some of the boardwalk.