When Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park is closed in the spring, the two most popular activities from West Glacier are hiking to Avalanche Lake and biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We decided to do both.
We planned on camping at Fish Creek, waking up early and getting a parking spot at Avalanche Lake, then hiking to the lake before biking. It was a glorious day.
The Avalanche Lake parking lot fills up fast any time of the year where Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to it. It fills up very fast in the spring on the weekends especially. We were aware of this, so we decided to spend the night in Glacier National Park so we could get an early start.
After a beautiful night at the Fish Creek Campground, we woke early and drove over to the parking lot… we weren’t the first people there. It was rapidly filling up which made us happy with our decision. I also know that the ride down from Logan Pass can be chilly, so I wasn’t sup eager to get to the top. The Avalanche Lake trail would get busy as well, so we decided to hike first, then bike.
It had rained the previous day which made everything along Avalanche Creek incredibly dark and beautiful. We made our way on Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Gorge and took the classic photo from the bridge that I’ve taken just about every time I’ve gone. An American Dipper was busy flying up and down the frothing water among the red rocks, getting food to bring back to the nest amongst the rocks along the creek.
We hiked up the beautiful Avalanche Gorge then into the cedars as the sunlight filtered its way to the mossy, forest floor. The air smelled amazing and we were excited to have the dirt under our feet.
Birds were chirping over our heads as we walked up the roaring creek. I was pleasantly surprised to find no snow on the trail with just a little bit of mud in some places. We eventually climbed up to the shores of the lake where the roar of waterfalls echoed through the cirque. There still is a bunch of snow up there and it was making a racket in the form of waterfalls as it melted, then crashed to the lake.
While we didn’t spy any mammals, a pair of Common Loons were a delight as they fished and we basked in the warm sun on a cool, spring morning.
We headed back down to the car, changed into our biking gear and started pedaling up Going-to-the-Sun Road. The drive up the road is gorgeous, but the ride delivers an intimacy and quiet that you don’t get with a string of cars. The forest floor was carpeted in flowers such as Trillium and Glacier Lilies.
The previous storm was taking it’s time clearing out the clouds, so we would get bouts of sunshine, then the sun would hide for a bit keeping the temperature nice for the ride up once we got our blood pumping.
It seemed like everywhere, water was flowing, cascading, falling, and just making everything look refreshing. The views were wonderful as the clouds revealed the mountaintops. Some along the Garden Wall even had a skiff of new snow.
We worked our way along with hundreds of others making the ascent up the road. We passed rocks, water, and snow along the way letting us know that there still was time before cars would be using the road. They still need to install some guardrails in a bunch of sections, but it’s coming along… The opening of Logan Pass always feels like the beginning of summer.
Speaking of Logan Pass, I wasn’t sure of how far we’d be able to ride, but found out from some people coming down that the road was clear to the pass. As we climbed, it got cooler and more water was on the road. When we finally made it to Logan Pass, the wind and cool mountain air had us putting on all of the clothes that we brought for the ride down.
The ride down was a chilly one… especially when our bike tires would fling water on us. If you decide to ride the road, make sure that you bring long pants, a jacket, hat and warm gloves. It’s a very cold ride down.
We made it back to our car completely spent after hiking 4.6miles and riding 32 miles. Big, happy spring days in Glacier National Park visiting the popular and beautiful Avalanche Lake and biking to the top of Going-to-the-Sun Road.