Story and Photos by Kay Bjork
In spite of limited access, there are plenty of activities and landscapes to explore in Glacier National Park in the spring with the extra perk of experiencing solitude before the busy summer season begins. We have enjoyed offseason outings where we literally had the park to ourselves, in stark contrast to summertime when most of the 2 million annual visitors pass through this extraordinary place.
March usually offers some fun snow outings on unplowed roads, including Fish Creek and Camas Road and portions of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Head up the North Fork to the Glacier View Trail where you can go from spring back to winter as you gain elevation and enjoy 360-degree views on a sunny day.
In April and May there are several low elevation hikes in the Lake McDonald area where you can experience the park’s awakening as the snowmelt and ice transform trickling streams into broad deep waterways that boil over rocks and trees and burst of new life as flowers blossom and baby animals and birds appear.
Stop at the Apgar Visitor Center for current trail conditions and to find out other trails that might be open for foot travel and to pick up a trail map.
Spring Hikes in Glacier National Park
This 2.8-mile trail climbs nearly 2,000 vertical feet, so expect snow as you head up for a great view of Lake McDonald and surrounding mountain ranges.
Fish Creek Trail
This trail travels along the west shore of Lake McDonald for seven miles through an old burn where you can observe the dramatic rebirth and strange beauty of silver and charred tree snags left behind after a fire.
Trail of the Cedars
This mile-long trail in the Avalanche picnic area remains icy and snowy later into the season because it meanders through an old-growth cedar forest, but it includes a portion of boardwalk. You can also take a two-mile hike into Avalanche Lake, but this shady trail also often remains icy and snowy late into the season.
Johns Lake or McDonald Creek
Right across from Lake McDonald Lodge you can hop on the Sperry Trailhead where you head north just before the horse barns and head down a secondary trail that parallels the Going-to-the Sun Road. At the Johns Lake Trailhead you can take the Johns Lake Loop or continue on the trail to where you enter a tunnel under the road that leads to a footbridge over McDonald Creek. Here you can head south past a waterfall that is particularly spectacular in the spring. Continue down the trail to the road at McDonald Creek and cross the bridge and the Going-to-the Sun Road to catch the trail for your return to Lake McDonald Lodge.