Trail of Cedars Glacier National Park Montana Fairy Tale Forest

Trail of Cedars on West Glacier side of Glacier National Park in Montana is a must visit for anyone going to the park. Even if you are just driving the Going To The Sun Road and not staying overnight in Glacier National Park you should at least stop and have a stroll around the Trail of Cedars.

This lovely 1 mile nature trail looks like a fairy tale nature walk with a boardwalk through the forest to Avalanche Creek and a pretty waterfall. The trail is lush with ferns and a moss covered forest bed. Walk across the bridge and follow the loop around through the giant cedar trees and along the creek back to the Avalanche picnic area. Grab a picnic table and enjoy your lunch before continuing along the GTTSR and more spectacular views in Glacier park.

 

Trail of Cedars Glacier National Park Montana USA

 

Read my Glacier National Park guide for more information about planning your trip to one of the most beautiful and amazing national parks in America. Also visit the US National Parks website here. They will have the latest information on trail conditions, weather, and when Going To The Sun Road is fully open for the (short) summer season.

 

Boardwalk and wooden bench at Trail of Cedars in Glacier National Park

Boardwalk and wooden bench at Trail of Cedars in Glacier National Park

 

Going To The Sun Road closed to cars from Avalanche picnic area, but you could bicycle further on GTTSR

Going To The Sun Road closed to cars from Avalanche picnic area, but you could bicycle further on GTTSR

 

Trail of Cedars map of the hiking trail along the Avalanche Creek and Avalanche Gorge at Glacier park MT

Trail of Cedars map of the hiking trail along the Avalanche Creek and Avalanche Gorge at Glacier park MT

 

Where is Trail of Cedars?

Trail of Cedars is located along the scenic Going To The Sun Road in West Glacier, about 6 miles (10 km) east of Lake McDonald Lodge.

The parking area for Trail of Cedars is a 30 minute drive from Apgar Visitor Center in West Glacier (14.7 miles/24 km). Watch for signs for Trail of Cedars and Avalanche Picnic area.

 

Trail of Cedars and Avalanche Lake trail signage along Going to the Sun Road

Trail of Cedars and Avalanche Lake trail signage along Going to the Sun Road

 

The location makes Trail of Cedars one of the most popular trails in Glacier National Park. The parking lot does fill up quickly during peak season from late June through August. After the school year begins in late August or early September your chances of seeing fewer tourists is pretty good.

 

Moss covered wall of rock at Trail of Cedars walk

Moss covered wall of rock at Trail of Cedars walk

 

Although you never know when the snowfall will begin in the Rocky Mountains, sometimes there is snow during Labor Day weekend in September. Just be prepared for a variety of weather, especially if you visit Glacier National Park during spring or fall.

 

A large tree on the bank and fallen trees lying across the Avalanche Creek at Trail of Cedars

A large tree on the bank and fallen trees lying across the Avalanche Creek at Trail of Cedars

 

Trail of Cedars Hike Description

Trail of Cedars is one of the two wheelchair accessible trails in Glacier National Park – Running Eagle Falls in East Glacier is the other.

Trailhead is located at Avalanche picnic area, about 6 miles east of Lake McDonald Lodge along Going To The Sun Road.

  • Distance: .7 mile (1.1 km)
  • Type of hike: Loop
  • Time: Allow 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

 

Beautiful Avalanche Creek alongside the Trail of Cedars accessible trail in West Glacier Montana

Beautiful Avalanche Creek alongside the Trail of Cedars accessible trail in West Glacier Montana

 

Features at the Trail of Cedars include a waterfall, creek, giant cedar trees as well as western hemlock, and black cottonwood trees, ferns and moss covered rocks.

 

Hiking the Trail of Cedars you'll see it winds around and across the Avalanche Creek in Glacier National Park

Hiking the Trail of Cedars you’ll see it winds around and across the Avalanche Creek in Glacier National Park

 

Watch for wildlife such as mule deer and white-tailed deer, weasels, chipmunks, and squirrels, and possibly black bears, or grizzly bears.

 

A large western red cedar tree with its characteristic stringy bark

A large western red cedar tree with its characteristic stringy bark

 

Be Bear Aware

I’m told that grizzly bear sightings in West Glacier are quite rare. Visit Many Glaciers on the East Glacier side of the park for a better chance of seeing grizzly bears. Remember to be bear aware, do not approach wildlife – give them space, use a telephoto lens to photograph wildlife. While hiking be sure to carry bear spray and know how to use it.

 

Lying in the forest a fallen cedar tree with moss covered bark slowly decomposes

Lying in the forest a fallen cedar tree with moss covered bark slowly decomposes

 

Summary of Trail of Cedars

Arriving in West Glacier early in the evening after driving from Jackson Hole WY I received a map of Glacier National Park and a few tips from Chuck, the proprietor of Glacier General Store and Cabins where I stayed.

He mentioned Trail of Cedars in West Glacier, a short but beautiful hike through the forest and along a creek. Perfect! After driving all day, I wanted to get out and walk and have some nature therapy.

I thought Trail of Cedars was the perfect introduction to Glacier National Park.

 

Avalanche Creek at the Avalanche Gorge on Trail of Cedars hike in Glacier National Park

Avalanche Creek at the Avalanche Gorge on Trail of Cedars hike in Glacier National Park

 

This Glacier nature trail is truly for everyone from little kids to elderly folks with limited mobility. If you need more of a hike than a walk, continue to the Avalanche Lake trailhead which is accessed from Trail of Cedars.

Watch for the signage for Avalanche Lake about midway through the loop of Trail of Cedars.

 

Tree identification board at Trail of Cedars in Glacier National Park Montana

Tree identification board at Trail of Cedars in Glacier National Park Montana

 

Other National Parks Near Glacier

Across the boarder to Alberta Canada you can visit Waterton Lakes National Park. Waterton and Glacier parks formed the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on June 18, 1932. They are both included as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

If you plan to stay in the USA, you may want to visit both Yellowstone and Glacier in one road trip like I did – have a look at my guide to Yellowstone National Park to start planning your trip. Both parks have spectacular sights, although Yellowstone is more crowded than Glacier so plan accordingly.

If you plan on continuing your road trip north to Alberta take some time to drive another of the most scenic drives in the world – the Icefields Parkway from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park – you will LOVE it!

Also have a look at these hiking trails in the Canadian Rockies:

Enjoy your travels!

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Trail of Cedars Glacier National Park Montana

Glacier National Park Trail of Cedars Hike Montana

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

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