West Shore Lake McDonald

While most visitors to Glacier National Park drive along Going to the Sun Road on the east shore of Lake McDonald, few know of the trail that runs along the west shore and even fewer hike it.

We started at the north end of the trail after taking a left onto North Lake McDonald Drive past McDonald Creek and the Lake McDonald Ranger Station to a place known as Kelly’s Camp. We parked our car and started walking.

The trail starts out in a wooded area and then quickly breaks out into the burn from the 2003 Moose Fire. It runs along the shore of Lake McDonald giving you different views of Lake McDonald with the views looking back north particularly impressive.

A little more than two miles into the hike, you come to the spur trail for a campground on a peninsula which would be a toasty campsite offering no protection from the sun in the summer due to it being in a stand of burned trees.

Eventually (about four more miles), the trail finds some more shade as you hit the wonderful cliffs of the Rocky Point area as you approach Fish Creek. Past this, the trail forks and heads to the Inside North Fork Road or continues on to the campground and further on to the picnic area.

Beyond the picnic area, you find one of the few sections of trail that are available to bicycles and it ends up dumping you onto the Camas Creek Road which would easily bring you back to Apgar giving those that camp at Apgar a nice little place to ride their bikes to if they want to picnic over at Fish Creek.

West Shore Lake McDonald
Douglas Fir

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8 responses to “West Shore Lake McDonald”

  1. Michele Avatar

    Hello from Helena! I have been looking at this hike for quite a long time but all the reviews I read didn’t give it much appeal. Still… to me ANY hike in Glacier is a good hike! Thanks for posting this and showing some of the views we can expect. I think we will be hiking it in a few weeks (June 24th).
    Keep up the good work!

    1. hike734 Avatar

      I think that it is a swell hike. Rocky Point is fantastic and then I’d just walk up the lake as far as you wanted. If you wanted to do the whole thing and had some people to key swap or shuttle, you’d not have a bad day at all. 😉

      1. Mike Kinsella Avatar
        Mike Kinsella

        When do the free hiking shuttles start for the summer? We used them last summer to get to Logan Pass from Apgar and back from the Loop.

        1. hike734 Avatar

          I’ll be using them too whenever I can. They start up July 1st until September 2nd.

  2. Mike Kinsella Avatar
    Mike Kinsella

    Not the most exciting hike as you were being very careful not to say, but I’m loving the labelled flowers and birds (spotted sandpiper- very cool).

    1. hike734 Avatar

      It really isn’t, but I could have spent a few more hours on that point at the campground. There were some feathers on the ground that the swallows were trying to get. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to capture that… but I tried!

  3. Charlie Avatar

    Stupid me I put in for that campground 2 miles in from Kelly’s camp. Then I see your review. Is it still going to be toasty in 2016?

    1. hike734 Avatar

      I think that it probably will. The good news is that you have a site reservation. When you come in to pick up your permit, you can see if there’s something else that you would rather do! The site is pretty exposed, but it’s a nice, peaceful spot.

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