It is difficult to say how many people visit Avalanche Lake during a busy summer in Glacier National Park. Countless pairs of shoes have trod the trail 2.3 miles from the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the magical shores of this lake nestled in a glacial cirque.
Many of the lucky ones have made more than one trip to Avalanche Lake and this writer remembers his first trip to Avalanche Lake with his family in the early 1970s. I actually fell into the creek at the outlet only to have my uncle rescue me out of the cold water. Since that time I have made numerous trips to the lake and enjoyed the views.
In the past the area around Avalanche was known as Avalanche Camp.
In 1894, the Sperry party attempted to reach the glacier basin above Avalanche Lake which Schultz called Beaverhead Lake.
Avalanche Creek was called Beaverhead Creek.
Other names associated with this area include Royal Gorge for Avalanche Gorge and Glacier Lake for Avalanche Lake.
Still to others Avalanche Lake was know as Lost Lake. Now there is a Lost Lake is near Rising Sun Point.
Avalanche Basin was called Beaverhead Basin by the Kotennai1 and Snow-slide-on-the Mountains. That is an avalanche folks.
So when did the Sperry party visit Avalanche Lake?
Sperry’s party of six, lead by Frank Geduhn, reached the lake after an arduous journey through tangled brush and deep forests.
They camped on the shore of the lake on June 3, 1895. The area was named “Avalanche” because of the number of avalanches both seen and heard during their stay.
Sperry also wrote that in July of the same year a trail was cut from Lake McDonald to Avalanche Lake. He expected to be in the first party to use the completed trail in August, but Mr. J. H. Edwards and his wife beat them to the lake by a few hours. Mrs. Edwards became the first woman to see Avalanche Lake and she got a peak named for her as well.
An expenditure of $75 was provided to cut the trail by a Mr. Whitney from St. Paul, Minnesota.
A year later Sperry returned and actually reached the Sperry Glacier Basin via the Snyder Lakes Basin.
While you are at Avalanche Lake look for the peaks that early visitors called Sphinx, The Dome, The Castle, and Cathedral Spires. All named by the Sperry party on their first visit to the lake.
Obviously, they did not make the Glacier National Park map.
1) This is a must see. Hike the 2.3 miles and suffer through the 600 feet of elevation gain and loss.
2) Travel light but not too light. It is always amazing to me when I see folks hiking with just a water bottle. Prudent adventures will take rain gear and a little bit to eat as well as water.
3) Bears. Every year people see bears along this trail. Take your bear deterrent spray and you probably will not need it.
4) People. Expect to share the trail with folks who walk slower than you and with other who travel at a bit faster pace. Play nice with others.
5) Camera. Take one and use it.
6) Fish. There are native Westslope Cutthroat Trout in Avalanche Lake. Take your fishing rod or fly rod and catch a few. Release them so others can enjoy them as well.
7) Stay away from the edge of Avalanche Gorge. Falling in there could really ruin your vacation.
What piece of Glacier National Park real estate do you want to learn more about?
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Thanks for joining in for this small bit of fun history about Glacier National Park. Not all of it is true but it is interesting.
© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2014
Schultz, W. R., Signposts of Adventure, Glacier National Park As the Indians Know It, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926
Robinson, D. H., Through The Years In Glacier National Park, West Glacier, MT, Glacier Natural History Association, 1960
Elmore, Francis, Collection from Glacier National Park Archives
Vaught, L. O., manuscript, Unpublished works