What makes the Flathead Valley the absolute last BEST place in the last best place, Northwest Montana?
Well, the Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche Lake hike in our backyard national park, Glacier, certainly adds to the Flathead’s distinction.
I’d put Trail of the Cedars/Avalanche in the “easiest hikes in the park” category. Immediately accessible off the stunning Going-to-the-Sun Road -- insider tip: take the free shuttle and you won’t have to fight for a parking space -- the first part of the trail, The Trail of the Cedars, is a loop of just .60 paved miles, and has a raised, handicap accessible boardwalk in some sections. The cedars are mossy and magical, and some are over 80 feet tall.
The trail splits, and you can continue on about 2 miles and a mere 500 vertical feet to stunning Avalanche Lake. The now-dirt trail hugs dusky red Avalanche Gorge, through which Avalanche Creek thunders cerulean and foam. The walls of Avalanche Gorge are as smooth as glass, and gazing upon them can glaze me with that same Grand Canyon effect of timelessness.
Staring down into the Gorge’s thunderous depths, I always think of the final passage from A River Runs Through It, the quintessential Montana novel by our native son, Norman Maclean:
The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of those rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.
See why I adore Avalanche Lake? Ahhh. On this early May trip, I sat comfortably at the edge of the lake, soaking in the sunshine and listening to the distant thunder of an avalanche deep in the mountains - hence, Avalanche’s name.
Be sure to check the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake off your Must See in Glacier National Park list! And let me know if I can point you in right direction. My cell is 406-249-8929.