Glacier National Park is a stunningly beautiful place, and there is no denying that. However, if you’re looking for the real destination within the park, you need to head to Lake McDonald. This huge alpine lake is simply breathtaking, and it’s impossible to visit Glacier National Park without catching a glimpse of it. Plus, there’s plenty to do in the area. Whether you’re looking to hike, fish, or enjoy the best photography spot, this is the perfect place to do it. So if you’re planning a trip to Glacier National Park, make sure to put Lake McDonald at the top of your list. You won’t regret it.
Lake McDonald – How do I get there?
So how do I get to Lake McDonald? Understandably, driving in a new area can be nerve-wracking. Luckily, it is quite easy to get to the park. West Glacier entrance is located right off of US-2 no matter which way you decide to come from. From there West Glacier Road will take you to the crossroads of Going to the Sun Road and Camas Road. Voila, you made it!
Flying can save a ton of time. For those looking to get as close as possible, there are two recommended airports the first is Glacier Park International Airport, and the second is Bozeman International Airport.
Kalispell Glacier Park International Airport
The closest airport to Glacier National Park is Kalispell Glacier Park International Airport. Flying into this airport will save you a ton of time even compared to Bozeman International Airport. However, this is a small airport so the tickets can get pricey. The drive to Glacier is a mere 31-minute drive making it a great place to start your adventure.
As far as car rental goes there are a few places to choose from. The closest to the airport include Thrifty and Enterprise. There are more car rental places around town but getting to them can be challenging and will take more time out of your day.
Bozeman International Airport
The largest airport closest to Glacier National Park is Bozeman International Airport. The prices here will be cheaper than those at Kalispell Glacier Park International Airport due to its size. The caveat is that the park is 4 hours and 48 minutes trek. Although the drive can be off-putting to a lot of people the scenery along the drive makes up for the inconvenience.
Car rentals at Bozeman International Airport are just like any other airport. The process is easy and shuttles will be waiting to take you to your rental agency.
Lake McDonald Falls
The falls are situated on Lake McDonald Creek and vary in height from small to medium in size. Lake McDonald Falls is one of the most popular attractions in Glacier National Park, and the convenient pull-off next to the falls makes it easy to enjoy the natural beauty of the waterfalls. Although the falls are not exceptionally tall, the large volume of water flowing over them creates a magnificent sight. Visitors to Lake McDonald Falls can take in the stunning views from the pull-off or take a short hike to get a closer look at the falls. Either way, Lake McDonald Falls is sure to impress.
East Lake McDonald Falls
Motorists traveling along Going to the Sun Road has the easiest access to this side of Lake McDonald Falls. The scene from this side has trees partially blocking the view making it hard to get the perfect view. The east side is still well worth checking out though.
West Lake McDonald Falls
A bridge connects the two sides of the creek making easy access for anyone. However, the hikers get it best on this side. The creek features plenty of cascades that are best viewed on foot. On the west side of Lake McDonald Falls, the creek bank can be reached giving an unobstructed view of the powerful falls.
Lake McDonald Boat Tour Gives A Whole New Perspective.
Anyone can see the stunning mountainous landscape from the comfort of land. But experiencing the vistas from a Lake McDonald boat tour? Not to mention, the vast knowledge of the crew that will be bestowed onto you. This journey is bound to be a memorable one.
How long is the Lake McDonald boat tour?
Finding time to enjoy a boat tour can be challenging. Luckily the tour only lasts 1 hour. Long enough to be fulfilling and short enough that it won’t take away your time from the rest of the park.
Lake McDonald Boat Tour Departure times
- 11:00 AM
- 1:30 PM
- 3:00 PM
- 5:30 PM
- 7:00 PM
Lake McDonald Boat Tour Cost
- Adult – $18.25
- Children (4-12) – $9.25 (under 4 free)
Tickets for the Lake McDonald boat tour can be bought online or in person, but it is strongly recommended to buy tickets online ahead of time. While tickets can be bought in person up to 3 days ahead, only 50% will be available with the other 50% being for online reservations only. So if you’re planning to visit Lake McDonald, be sure to book your tickets early!
What Can I expect to see on the Lake McDonald Boat Tour?
Being the biggest lake in Glacier National National Park, Lake McDonald has a lot to offer. Wildlife such as elk and bears are often seen roaming the shores of this alpine lake. Bald Eagles can even be seen soaring up above. However, mountain views are the real show stoppers. Catch a gaze up at Stanton Mountain, and with as little as a head turn marvel at the towering peaks of Mt. Brown. On a clear day glimpses of Edwards Mountain, Mt. Vaught, Mt. Cannon, and even Mt. Grinell can be seen!
What should I bring with me on the Lake McDonald Boat Tour?
Not much is needed for your Lake McDonald boat tour. Some recommendations though include binoculars to spot wildlife better, a sweatshirt for the open water wind, your phone for photography, and of course yourself! The only thing not recommended to bring on the Lake McDonald boat tour is bear spray. This is to ensure nobody accidentally gets sprayed out on the water. Plus the chance of a bear being in the middle of the lake is practically non-existent.
Lake McDonald Hikes: What trails can I walk?
The Lake McDonald Trail is the perfect hike for anyone who wants to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the shore of a beautiful lake. The trail is adjacent to the west side of the lake and it encompasses everything you could want in a lakeside hike. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous, and you’re likely to see some amazing wildlife along the way. Bears, elk, and Bald Eagles are all known to frequent the area, so keep your eyes peeled! The hike itself is just over 13 miles long, so it’s perfect for a day trip. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a casual walker, you’re sure to enjoy the Lake McDonald Trail.
Lake McDonald Trail
Upper McDonald Creek
Upper Lake McDonald Trail is a relatively short hike at 5.2 miles out and back. It offers views of Lake McDonald, and Lake McDonald Falls. Upper Lake McDonald Trail is a great way to take in all the sights and sounds of nature without having to commit to a long hike. This trail is perfect for families with young children or for those who want to enjoy a short, leisurely hike. However, don’t let the short distance fool you – Upper Lake McDonald Trail packs a punch when it comes to scenic views. Hikers will be treated to spectacular views of the large alpine lake, as well as an up-close look at Lake McDonald Falls. Upper Lake McDonald Trail is also a great place to see wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for bears, elk, and other animals that call this area home
Lake McDonald Lodging: Where should I stay?
Lodging at Lake McDonald is plentiful. There are a few places to choose from including the two most popular, Lake McDonald Lodge, and Motel Lake McDonald. Both offer great views of the lake and easy access to all of the amenities that the lake has to offer. No matter what your lodging preference, there is sure to be a perfect fit for you.
Lake McDonald Lodge is a historic lodge located in Glacier National Park. It was built in 1913 and is the second oldest lodge in the park. The lodge is situated on the shore of Lake McDonald offering stunning views. Offering a variety of accommodations, including hotel rooms, cabins, and suites, restaurant, bar, and gift shop, it is the perfect place to enjoy your stay. Lake McDonald Lodge is open from mid-May to late September.
Motel Lake McDonald is the perfect place to stay when exploring Glacier National Park. It’s centrally located, so you can easily get to all the major attractions. And it’s much cheaper than staying at some of the other places. Motel Lake McDonald has all the amenities you need. Plus, the staff is friendly and helpful, and they’ll make sure you have everything you need. So if you’re looking for a place to stay when exploring Glacier National Park, Motel Lake McDonald is a perfect choice.
Lake McDonald Campgrounds – I’d rather rough it!
Camping in Glacier National Park is an unforgettable experience. There are plenty of opportunities to pitch a tent and enjoy the great outdoors. Lake McDonald is beautiful and there are plenty of activities to keep people busy, including hiking, fishing, and swimming. Camping in Glacier National Park is a great way to experience the park and get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s also more cost-effective than staying in a hotel, and more authentic than staying in a cabin or condo. So if you’re looking for an amazing camping experience, Glacier National Park is the place to go!
Fish Creek Campground
Fish Creek Campground is the perfect place to camp if you’re looking for a breathtaking view. The campsites directly on Lake McDonald are a must when booking your campsite – you’ll be able to fall asleep to the sound of the waves and wake up to stunning sunrises over the water. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even go for a swim! The lakeside campsites are the same price as all the other sites too, so you might as well go big and book one of those. You won’t regret it.
Being the largest campground in Glacier National Park, Apgar Campground is a great base of operations for exploring the park. Apgar Village is located right next to the campground, making it easy to re-up on supplies, and many trailheads stem from the vicinity. With so many options for exploration right at your fingertips, Apgar Campground is the perfect place to set up camp while visiting Glacier National Park.
Sprague Creek Campground
Sprague Creek Campground is a smaller, more intimate campsite that offers a higher level of privacy for its guests. It is located on the northeast side of Lake McDonald and offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains. This is a strictly tent-only campsite, but it does have running water and flushable toilets. Sprague Creek Campground is the perfect place for those who want to get away from it all and enjoy a more private camping experience.
Lake McDonald Backcountry Camping
Lake McDonald backcountry camping is for the true adventurers. Pack up your gear and get hiking to the west side of the lake to the designated camping area and have at it! You are visiting one of the most beautiful places in the world and backcountry camping is the best way to experience it. Be sure to get your permits before heading out.
If you are looking for a place to see some of the most beautiful colors in the world, look no further than Lake McDonald. The rocks here are like nothing else on earth and the falls provide a great opportunity to see more of the park’s natural wonders. Once you’ve had your fill of lakeside views, be sure to take advantage of one of the many boat tours available or explore by foot. With so much to do and such incredible scenery, it would be hard not to love spending time at this amazing spot in Glacier National Park. Have you been to Lake McDonald? What was your favorite part?
Can you swim in Lake McDonald?
Yes, You can swim in Lake McDonald. However, the water is very cold, so be prepared!
Can you take rocks from Lake McDonald?
No, you can not take rocks from Lake McDonald. You can not take anything from the park.
Why is Lake McDonald Famous?
Lake McDonald is famous because it is the largest lake in Glacier National Park and is very easily accessible compared to other lakes in the park. It also features rainbow rocks formed over millions of years.
Are there any fish in Lake McDonald?
Yes, there are fish in Lake McDonald. The fish types include small cutthroat and rainbow trout, a few large bull trout, and lots of lake trout
Can you see the northern lights at Lake McDonald?
Yes, you can see the northern lights at Lake McDonald if you are lucky enough.
How deep is Lake McDonald?
Lake McDonald is 464′ deep in its deepest spot.
How cold is Lake McDonald?
Lake McDonald never gets above 50°F. If you’re going for a swim, expect it to be very cold!