Trail

McDonald Creek Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Whitefish, MT
Length: 5.00 mi.
Type: Out & Back

About This Trail

[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

ACTIVITIES: Hiking, splashing, animal viewing, fishing

LENGTH OF HIKE: 5 miles

OUT AND BACK OR LOOP: Out and back

DIFFICULTY OF TERRAIN: Easy

ELEVATION GAIN: 282 feet

PARKING FEE/PASS: Park entrance fee

CHANGING TABLE: No

NURSING BENCHES: No

DOGS ALLOWED: No

BIKES/HORSES/MOTORS ON TRAIL: Horseback riding

CELL RECEPTION: Spotty

DRINKING WATER AVAILABLE: No

POTENTIAL CHILD OR BABY HAZARDS: Bears

GEAR SUGGESTIONS: Hiking poles, bear spray

Glacier is absolutely beautiful with scenic mountain moments around every bend. The sheer size of the mountains and vast array of trails, creeks, and alpine lakes make it seem like a lot to cover, but if you select your trails wisely, you can
cover a lot of ground with baby in tow. Family’s favorites in the park
included: McDonald Creek, Avalanche Lake, Rocky Point, and St. Mary/Virginia Falls also Hidden Lake at Logan’s Pass, where you can see wildlife, wildflowers, melting snow patches, and you can walk through an alpine meadow.

Visitors have reported seeing Columbian ground squirrels, a marmot and bighorn sheep along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Glacier National Park and the surrounding area have been home to humans for as far back as 10,000 years. In more recent history, the region was home to the Blackfeet, Bitterroot Salish, Upper Pend D’Orielle, and Kootenai tribes, who used the plentiful landscape for hunting, fishing, ceremonies, and gathering plants.
The landscape feels sacred, thanks to mountains jutting up toward the sky and big animals roaming freely in spite of the area’s popularity on the national park  circuit. The Blackfeet call this land “Backbone of the World” and the “shining
mountains,” which is not surprising considering the park is over a million acres and has around 150 peaks over 8,000 feet tall.

No matter where you go in Glacier, you can’t go wrong for capturing beautiful scenic mountain moments wherever you look, but you may find that this park can feel limited for little ones because it’s so vast. If you pick your trails wisely, you’ll still experience all the vastness Glacier has to offer without feeling limited with new little walkers.

One easy trail they really enjoy is McDonald Creek. With many spots along the way to stop and nurse, change a diaper, or for adventurous toddlers and kids to climb rocks and trees. If you go all the way to the end of the trail, you move inland away from the creek and through a beautifully secluded and peaceful forest. There are several waterfalls along the way and overlooks to view the creek as it winds through the mountains.

The bridge is a gathering spot, as there are several big rocks to hang out on and have a picnic, as well as a giant fallen tree that the kids will enjoy climbing on. The less crowded spots are just past the bridge as the trail continues up along the creek. A bit farther and you can even access a small beach-like area that is nice and secluded, a perfect place for lunch, swimming, and skipping rocks. This trail also intersects a horse trail, so that is another fun thing for little ones to look out for. Keep your eyes open for fish in the creek and chipmunks along the trail. Other wildlife you can expect to see regularly are deer, hawks, and signs of beavers and bears.

Most of the trail is level along the creek with lots of fun things to look at and explore, trees to climb, rocks to skip, and benches for resting. As for the rocks to skip, and benches for resting. As for the crowds? Parking is at the trailhead, down by the north part of the lake. There is plenty of parking whether late July or early August. There is also parking by the bridge in the middle of the trail, so that may get full as the bridge is also a viewpoint for people who don’t hike the trail.

Consider parking at the trailhead and hiking the whole trail for the best experience. You can also walk down to the north part of the lake from the trailhead and actually walk out toward the lake, which is fun for the kids.

INSIDER’S TIP
To avoid the crowds, definitely go past the bridge where the trail narrows. It goes through a beautiful forest and has more secluded spots to access the creek.

Share This Trail

Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, and Summer
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 282 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains No
Bathrooms No
Cell reception Spotty
Pet friendly No
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby Yes
Emergency support
within 5 miles
No

Trail highlights

Creek / River, Lake, Natural Play Area, Rockclimbing, Viewpoint, Waterfall, and Wildlife Viewing

WHY IT’S A FAVORITE
“I loved McDonald Creek best because there were so many waterfalls, and the trail winds along the creek at the upper end of Lake McDonald. All of the running water helped get Baby Izzy to sleep. We also found a great rock to change him at the viewpoint. We hiked that one twice and walked along the lake, too. Great views of the surrounding mountains. It was beautiful!” —ANGELA MALSON

Fee & Parking Details

Fee : $35.00

$35 entrance fee to the Glacier National Park (March 2021)

Trail Contributor

[Total: 0    Average: 0/5]

Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.

Weather

Trail Map