McDonald Creek Trail [CLOSED]

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Glacier National Park

McDonald Creek Trail is a 5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Essex, Montana that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 5.0 miles Elevation Gain: 213 feet Route Type: Out & Back

kid friendly

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

walking

bird watching

running

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

over grown

closed

no dogs

This trail is experiencing full or partial closure due to COVID-19. Please see the open trails nearby for alternate hiking options. As of June 2019, the road across the river was closed. You may park at the walking bridge.

hiking
8 months ago

Great short hike. Smelled a bear when we were walking through the mossy area towards the end, saw a deer about halfway, no other wildlife. Definitely continue hiking the extra bit to the cascades. You can get great pictures of the water and the mountain. We didn’t see anyone else on the trail, only the beginning.

hiking
8 months ago

Great easy stroll through mostly flat trail with cedar debris that pads the ground. It mostly follows the creek with some great water views, including some falls. We came back and crossed the foot bridge, then finished by crossing the road and doing part of the St John's Lake Loop.

hiking
snow
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

Nice easy trail for most anyone. Saw a nice 7 point buck eating moss. Great views of cascading falls. Lots of good pictures. Recommend this trail for the nice views of the river and falls.

hiking
muddy
8 months ago

Good for stretching the legs. I agree this is more like 6 mile return. As others have suggested carry on further up the trail to enjoy the cascades. Very well marked trail a little muddy in places. No real climbs. Not a lot of wildlife on view but pleasent enough especially when the trail is close to the creek. The road to the trail head is closed so park at the bays next to the gate.

hiking
9 months ago

Pretty views and easy walking.

hiking
9 months ago

Good hike for just getting out to move around some. Kids liked skipping rocks in to the river. Enjoyable if you’re looking to fill some time or just want to go for an easy walk.

hiking
off trail
9 months ago

Best hike of the trip. Almost nobody on the trail, lots of quiet shaded forest sections with no road noise. The track is not accurate, the actual hike is closer to three miles each way.

hiking
9 months ago

Great trail to stretch your legs! Nice scenery with gorgeous cascades at the end.

hiking
bugs
9 months ago

Nice and easy. As someone mentioned already, don't skip the falls after right past the end of the trail. Saw a cowerdly black bear around that part

hiking
bugs
9 months ago

hiking
9 months ago

Easy trail along the creek. If you’re looking for something manageable after a more strenuous hike, this is it. Road is closed but you can park at top of road - just don’t block gate. From there it’s about 1/4 mile to trail start and easily marked. You will want your bear gear. Saw bear scat (ranger confirmed) but no bear. All Trails map ends across from an overlook but you can go about another 1/10th a mile further and I would recommend you do for a spectacular water fall - it’s quite the gusher and a lovely low roar. Most of the trail is in the shade so comfortable but you’ll want to bring sunscreen and snacks so you can lounge on the boulders and just enjoy the scenery

hiking
9 months ago

Quick easy hikes with nice views. Great one to do if looks like rain.

hiking
10 months ago

This is a family friendly hike on level ground that provides views of Lake McDonald as well as following McDonald Creek. There are two small waterfalls that provide a great spot for a family picture.

hiking
10 months ago

Great trail with plenty of shade and breathtaking views of the river. Lots of spots to put your feet in as well as several beautiful cascades. Also worked for our kids (9,6) due to limited climbing, some gentle up and downs through forested area of trail. More like 7 miles as reported by other reviewers.

hiking
10 months ago

Fun hike. Lots of shade and places to stop. Mosquitoes were dense in the beginning but cleared up a half mile in. Didn’t run into too many people. Trail can get pretty dusty in spots.

hiking
10 months ago

Nice trail, if you’re looking for something relatively easy this is it. Beautiful views as most of the hike is along the river. We hiked past the bridge where most people were. A little further and the “water falls” get a lot bigger. The majority of the trail is in the shade. Do the whole trail, as the ending is worth it. Also, there are many places where you can get into the river to cool off. Went on a Friday around 11am and there was plenty of parking and not a lot of people.

hiking
10 months ago

Great trail to get our feet wet on at Glacier (both figuratively and literally). Was the first hike we did and the entire family loved it. Fairly easy with some nice scenery going along MacDonald Creek. Didn’t see any one on the “out” portion except at the two bridges. Passed five groups of hikers on the “back” portion which was around noon. Not much wildlife but nice nature views of a stream, rapids and small falls.

hiking
10 months ago

Loved this trail. Super easy walk. We tracked it longer than 5 miles but went all the way to the end of the trail instead of stopping at the bridge where most did. Was closer to 7 miles. Trail gets a little secluded after passing the bridge.

hiking
10 months ago

Great trail. Wonderful views, but it Is longer than the 5 miles round trip. Closer to 7 miles.

hiking
10 months ago

Very beautiful trail along the river. I don’t know where it got the name McDonald “Creek”! We used it as a nice easy walk, the day after the Highline Trail!

hiking
10 months ago

This is an easy hike. It is a nice warm up. You follow the river for the most part. There is a short section the veers away from the water, but most of the hike is very picturesque.

hiking
bugs
11 months ago

We really enjoyed this hike! Simple and easy. The views of the river are gorgeous. We used this trail as a restful walk between strenuous hikes. Hiked on 6/17/19

I parked at the closed road, and after checking the posted trail closures, I walked beyond the gate and across the vehicle bridge to reach the true trailhead for McDonald Creek, which was open according to NPS information. The trail stretched east from the head of Lake McDonald on the north side of the creek. The path takes you through breathtaking old growth Cedars and Hemlocks lining the rushing turquoise waters of Creek. I was surprised to be alone for most of the 5 mile trek as this trail is a popular one on the westside of Glacier. I passed beautiful cascades and finally reached an outlet from the main waterway that is calm and still. I had hoped to see a moose or other wildlife in this area but all was quiet. I was a little nervous to be alone in such a secluded area so I beat a hasty retreat back down the trail, calling "hey bear" all the way. Otherwise, a very well maintained trail with little challenge. The scenery made the trip worth it, though.

hiking
bugs
11 months ago

hiking
11 months ago

Great trail that is easy for all levels of hikers. It mostly follows the river, but winds back into the forest some. The signs can be a little confusing because you end up following the Johns creek loop signs for part of it. We were lucky enough to see 3 moose swimming and eating in a swampy/pond area about halfway down the trail to the right, so keep an eye out for them around there!

hiking
Mon Jun 03 2019

Great short hike that was fun and quick. Fantastic views of the river. Don’t need to take much. Only wildlife sightings were young mule deer bucks. The road across the river was closed. We parked at the walking bridge and the looped south then north.

hiking
Sat Jun 01 2019

Beautiful along the River. So many gorgeous sights. We didn’t go all the way down the trail because we didn’t know where it ended and it started to go away from the river and into the woods for a bit. People in front of us saw a moose!

Thu May 16 2019

Great one for kids. Not too steep and easy to manage terrain. Saw lots of evidence of wildlife. Beautiful falls at the end.

hiking
Sun Oct 07 2018

Sadly, this trail is closed until some future date. Apparently the park service or the forest service is concerned about "fire weakened trees" falling. In addition, the road to the trailhead is closed at Going to the Sun Road, requiring a short 1/4 mile hike. I was disappointed since I wanted to get a few quick hikes in Montana. There was no indication as to when this trail will be reopened. I suspect that many of the trails in this area are presently afflicted in a similar manner.

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