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Lake McDonald picture in Glacier National Park
GlacierNPS / Flickr

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  • Hiking, Recreation Type
  • More than Full Day Time to Spend
4.8
Overall
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  • Value
    5.0
  • Facilities
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    5.0

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Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, is the major hub of activity on the west side. Carved out by massive glaciers thousands of years ago, the valley is home to the rustic Lake McDonald Lodge – one of the park's most popular accommodations – and several historic chalets. The area offers an array of activities including bus tours, boat tours, horseback riding, ranger presentations and access to two of the park's popular day hikes, the Avalanche Lake Trail and Trail of the Cedars. The lodge offers numerous dining options in a hunting lodge setting, complete with a roaring fireplace in the lobby. The lodge opens in late May and closes in late September and advance reservations are highly recommended. Tours and activities, as well as the park's free shuttle service, operate on the same schedule. There are also several campgrounds situated around Lake McDonald, as well as the Apgar Visitor Center. Reserve online in advance of your visit.

Recent visitors loved this crystal clear lake and many commented on its rainbow-colored rocks, advising that the shore on the west end was the nicest. Some suggested visiting in early May to avoid crowds and save money on the park entrance fee, but noted that roads, shops and restaurants are closed until later in the month. Lodge guests loved the rustic ambiance and peaceful location, but some bemoaned the limited parking and lack of televisions. However, animal lovers noted that this is one of the few areas in the park where pets are welcome. To learn more about the facilities at Lake McDonald, visit the NPS website.

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#1 Apgar Nature Center Housed in a small cabin built in 1929, the Apgar Nature Center sits in a grove of cedar trees and is one of the official park visitor centers. The nature ... Read more » GlacierNPS / Flickr

#2 Lake McDonald Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park, is the major hub of activity on the west side. Carved out by massive glaciers thousands of years ago, the valley is ... Read more » GlacierNPS / Flickr

Wirepec / Getty Images

#4 Going-to-the-Sun Road Going-to-the-Sun Road is a paved, two-lane highway that snakes through Glacier National Park, dividing the park into east and west regions and crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. One ... Read more » GlacierNPS / Flickr

#5 Logan Pass The visitor center at Logan Pass is located in the middle of the park off the Going-to-the-Sun Road, less than 20 miles west of the St. Mary visitor center and ... Read more » GlacierNPS / Flickr

#6 Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park partnered to create the world's first International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both parks ... Read more » Wikimedia Commons

#7 Iceberg Lake Trail The Iceberg Lake Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers, who are treated to stunning views of Mount Wilbur, Iceberg Peak and the Continental Divide upon reaching the snow and ... Read more » GlacierNPS / Flickr

#8 Glacier Park Boat Company Tours This historic family-owned boat company dates back to 1938, when it became the first tour concession in the park. Its handcrafted wooden boats take visitors on narrated tours of Lake ... Read more » GlacierNPS / Flickr

#9 Grinnell Glacier Named for anthropologist and conservationist George Bird Grinnell, the Grinnell Glacier is one of the most-photographed attractions in the park. The Grinnell Glacier hike is a little more than 10 ... Read more » GlacierNPS / Flickr

#10 Highline Trail One of the most popular hiking trails in the park – and one of the most strenuous – the Highline Trail follows the Continental Divide and features stunning scenery of glacial valleys ... Read more » GlacierNPS / Flickr

Apgar Visitor Center picture in Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald picture in Glacier National Park
Trail of the Cedars picture in Glacier National Park
Going-to-the-Sun Road picture in Glacier National Park
Logan Pass picture in Glacier National Park
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park picture in Glacier National Park
Iceberg Lake Trail picture in Glacier National Park
Boat Tours picture in Glacier National Park
Grinnell Glacier picture in Glacier National Park
Garden Wall picture in Glacier National Park
Apgar Visitor Center picture in Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald picture in Glacier National Park
Trail of the Cedars picture in Glacier National Park
Going-to-the-Sun Road picture in Glacier National Park
Logan Pass picture in Glacier National Park
Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park picture in Glacier National Park
Iceberg Lake Trail picture in Glacier National Park
Boat Tours picture in Glacier National Park
Grinnell Glacier picture in Glacier National Park
Garden Wall picture in Glacier National Park

Housed in a small cabin built in 1929, the Apgar Nature Center sits in a grove of cedar trees and is one of the official park visitor centers.  GlacierNPS / Flickr

Visitors love the glacial geography and the more than 130 lakes in Glacier National Park, especially Lake McDonald, the largest and most popular in the park. GlacierNPS / Flickr

The Trail of the Cedars features a raised boardwalk that passes through a fragrant, old-growth red cedar forest. Wirepec / Getty Images

The annual snow removal on Going-to-the-Sun Road every June often draws spectators. GlacierNPS / Flickr

Offering maps and trip-planning information, the Logan Pass visitors center features exhibits, restrooms, water fountains, a bookstore, ranger-led guided hikes, parking and free shuttle service to the other two visitor centers.  GlacierNPS / Flickr

In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park partnered to create the world's first International Peace Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Wikimedia Commons

The Iceberg Lake Trail is a favorite among experienced hikers, who are treated to stunning views of Mount Wilbur, Iceberg Peak and the Continental Divide.  GlacierNPS / Flickr

The Glacier Park Boat Company is the park's official rental concession for kayaks, paddleboards, canoes and rowboats at Lake McDonald Lodge, Many Glacier, Two Medicine and Apgar GlacierNPS / Flickr

Named for anthropologist and conservationist George Bird Grinnell, the Grinnell Glacier is one of the most-photographed attractions in the park.  GlacierNPS / Flickr

The Highline Trail follows the Continental Divide and features stunning scenery of glacial valleys, alpine meadows and a famous ledge called the Garden Wall.  GlacierNPS / Flickr

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