Lake McDonald

#2 in Best Things To Do in Glacier National Park
Lake McDonald picture
GlacierNPS/Flickr

Key Info

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Hiking, Recreation, Free Type
More than Full Day Time to Spend
4.8

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 5.0Atmosphere

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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More Best Things To Do in Glacier National Park

Apgar Nature Center1 of 9
Trail of the Cedars2 of 9
Type
Time to Spend
#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 center features interactive activities for kids: children can feel a grizzly bear's fur, listen and identify birds by their "songs" or create their own puppet show. Educational displays detail plants found in the park and teach about the habitats of the vast array of wildlife. Ranger-led talks and other programs are held in the outdoor seating area.

Recent travelers recommended making this visitor center your first stop in the park to gather important information on road and weather conditions, bear sightings and trail closures. Families particularly enjoyed the junior ranger programs and special activities, and many visitors were impressed with the restaurant, the helpful staff and the free Wi-Fi. Many also noted that this is the place to park for free shuttle service and park tours.

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