McDonald Falls

Glacier National Park / Lake McDonald, Montana, USA

About McDonald Falls

Hiking Distance: roadside
Suggested Time:

Date first visited: 2010-09-24
Date last visited: 2017-08-05

Waterfall Latitude: 48.63968
Waterfall Longitude: -113.86510

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McDonald Falls was one of two roadside waterfalls that Julie and I encountered while briefly touring the western side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. We thought the scenery on this side of the park was less dramatic than the east side (at least closer to Lake McDonald), and we felt the same way about the waterfalls here as well. Nonetheless, it seemed like it was still quite popular here as it seemed to have a bit more traffic than the east side. Over the years, I suspect that the reason why was because the Avalanche Creek Trail leading up to the scenic Avalanche Lake was wildly popular. One of these days, I’m going to do that hike to see for myself why the place is so popular.

Anyways, there was a narrow viewing area for this falls that was accessed via short stairs descending from the road, but it seemed like the views were obstructed no matter where we stood. It turned out that the best spot to view McDonald Falls (at least in my mind) was not even from the narrow lookout area. It was from the road before descending the stairs (though that depended on how thick the obstructing vegetation was).

Glacier_NP_17_185_08052017 - This was the context of the short trail and roadside pullout by the McDonald Falls
Glacier_NP_17_186_08052017 - Looking in the other direction towards the pullout by a porta-potty right at the McDonald Falls view
Glacier_NP_17_191_08052017 - Contextual look at McDonald Falls with backing mountains as seen in August 2017
Glacier_NP_312_09242010 - The official viewing area for the falls as seen in September 2010 when the falls was in high flow
Glacier_NP_311_09242010 - This was our view of the falls from that official viewing area


From the West Glacier turnoff for Glacier National Park, drive east for a couple of miles to a three-way junction, then turn right to get onto the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Continue east on the road for roughly 11 miles as the road skirts the eastern shores of Lake McDonald. There’s a large pullout area on the west side of the road.

For context, West Glacier was 50 miles (2 hours) west of St Mary via the Going-to-the-Sun Road over Logan Pass, but since it was closed during our visit, we had to take the Roosevelt Highway to the south, which made the drive 89 miles (also 2 hours), but significantly less scenic. In addition, West Glacier was 33 miles (45 minutes drive) northeast of Kalispell and 136 miles (2.5 hours drive) north of Missoula.

Video showing about as much of McDonald Falls as I could see through the foliage

Right to left sweep starting at the falls and ending downstream

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Tagged with: glacier, kalispell, flathead, montana, waterfall, rocky mountains, going-to-the-sun, lake mcdonald, mcdonald creek, apgar

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