Johns Lake Loop

Distance: 1.9 miles

Glacier National Park, near West Glacier in Glacier Natl Park, MT

Sacred Dancing Cascade

Sacred Dancing Cascade


This nice hike near the head of Lake Mc Donald passes peaceful John’s Lake and then wanders by Sacred Dancing Cascade and McDonald Falls along McDonald Creek. Great hike for families or anyone looking for an easy stroll near the Lake McDonald Lodge.

  • Distance: 1.9 miles (Loop)
  • Elevation: 3,150-ft. at Trailhead
    Maximum elevation - 3,360-ft.
  • Elevation Gain: 210-ft.
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Basecamp: Lake McDonald
  • Region: Glacier Natl Park, MT


Trail Description - Johns Lake Loop

From the parking area (see driving directions below) the trail ascends east on moderately-easy grades through a forest of hemlocks and red cedars. At 0.2 miles turn left at the junction on the Avalanche Lake trail toward Johns Lake. A short distance beyond the McDonald Creek Cutoff Trail branches left. Bear right here.

Past a small pond views open through the trees to Johns Lake on the left (west) at 0.4 miles. A short spur trail leads to the lake’s swampy eastern shore. The lovely little timber-lined lake is adorn with lily pads. On a still day Mount Stanton (7,750-ft.) and Mount Vaught (8,850-ft.), rising to the northwest, are perfectly reflected in the lake’s waters.

After enjoying the views, retrace your steps to the main trail. The trail now heads north through trees to the east of the lake and soon reaches a junction with the Avalanche Trail, branching right. Bear left at the junction on the trail heading toward the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Follow the trail as it descends on easy grades through the trees to a crossing of the Going-to-the-Sun Road at 0.75 miles.

Carefully cross the road. Here a paved path turns right toward the Sacred Dancing Cascade parking lot and then drops down to the McDonald Creek shore. The flat rocks along the shore are a great place to view the beautiful falls, relax and enjoy a picnic.

Continue the hike by crossing the bridge over McDonald Creek. On the far side of the creek turn left (downstream) on the McDonald Creek Trail. Openings along the way offer fine views of the creek. Ignore the trail branching right at 1.1 miles. Instead stay on the path along the creek.

At 1.3 miles reach the overlook above dramatic McDonald Falls. Early in the season a wall of whitewater roars over a rock ledge. You’ll most likely hear the falls before you see it. Use care at the overlook. The rocks can be quite slippery when wet.

Beyond the falls the trail briefly travels along the creek and the curves to the right, traveling through trees to the North Shore Lake McDonald Road. Turn left on the trail traveling alongside the road. At 1.6 miles reach a bridge over McDonald Creek. Cross the bridge, which features nice views of the delta where the creek spills into Lake McDonald.

On the far side of the bridge, cross to the right side of the road. Here the trail briefly travels along the road before branching right and heading through trees back to the Going-to-the-Sun Road at 1.9 mile. Carefully cross the road to the Johns Lake parking area.

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile for the Johns Lake Loop hike

Driving Directions

From West Glacier: From the junction of US-2 and the Going-to-the-Sun Road, turn northwest on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and follow the road for 2.0 miles to a junction with the Apgar Visitor Center. Turn right at the junction to stay on Going-to-the-Sun Road. Continue for 10.2 miles to a signed Johns Lake parking lot on the right (east) side of the road. If the parking lot is full continue for 0.8 miles up the road and park in the Sacred Dancing Cascade parking lot on the west side of the road.


Trail Resources