The veritable nerve center of Glacier National Park’s popular west side is the peak-studded Lake McDonald Valley, named for the majestic lake that sprawls out as its centerpiece.
Once occupied by massive glaciers that carved this area thousands of years ago, the valley is now peppered with spectacular sights, hiking trails, diverse species of plants and animals, historic chalets, and the grand Lake McDonald Lodge.
Ten miles long and nearly 500 feet deep, Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, is a direct result of glacial carving. Towering peaks surrounding the lake all show evidence of the power of glaciers to carve even the hardest of rock.
The powerful glaciers that carved the broad “u-shaped” valley that Lake McDonald sits in also carved smaller hanging valleys with waterfalls that are accessible by numerous hiking trails.
Evidence of the Robert Fire of 2003 scores the mountainsides that rise up from Lake McDonald’s west shore, a reminder to visitors of the park’s worst fire season in history.
Several popular day hikes originate in the Lake McDonald Valley, including Avalanche Lake and the wheelchair-accessible Trail of the Cedars. With Glacier’s shuttle, accessing these trailheads and other destinations in the valley has never been easier.