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Stop and smell the cedar
About 4 miles north of Lake McDonald Lodge is the Trail of the Cedars. This is a self-guided nature trail that forms a loop through an old-growth forest in the bottom of Avalanche Creek. Avalanche Gorge is at the crux of the loop, where the creek passes through red argillite rock walls. The northern leg of the trail follows a boardwalk, while the southern leg is paved. Benches are conveniently placed for those wanting to just sit and admire the beauty. The entire loop is wheelchair accessible.
The Trailhead is located along Going to the Sun Road just east of the Avalanche Creek Campground. Allow an hour to enjoy the interpretive signs along this trail through the serene forest. Near the footbridge over Avalanche Creek is Avalanche Creek Canyon and provides a spectacular scene.
If you look closely as you are walking on the boardwalk, you will see beautiful ferns and devil's club, moss on the cliff, tiny waterfalls, and more. It is a forest of 200-foot high western red cedar and hemlock. It is a wonderfully rich ecological environment. It is difficult to photograph so you'll need your flash. One of the more interesting signs talks about the cedar's resistance to fire.
From the footbridge area, you can access the hike to Avalanche Lake. The lake is rimmed with steep cliffs on three sides with numerous waterfalls cascading down from the hanging cirque valley formed by Sperry Glacier, which can not be seen from the lake.
The Lake McDonald Lodge was started in 1895 as a hunting lodge. The lodge is similar to the others in and just outside the park, aging but filled with rustic charm and a lovely fireplace in the lobby. At the bottom of the stairs is a boat rental dock for the fisherman. The lake holds 17 kinds of cold-water fish, primarily varieties of trout. Various programs are available at the lodge, from ranger-led activities to boat tours on the lake.
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