On our trip to Glacier National Park we tried a lot of kid friendly hikes. One of our favorites was Johns Lake Loop. The great thing about this trail is that it is pretty quiet. We hiked this trail in July and only saw a few other people along the way. It also passes a waterfall, crosses the river on some pretty cool bridges twice, and walks by a gentle little lake nestled down in the trees. Johns Lake Loop starts at the north end of Lake McDonald and runs about two miles around the loop.
- Rating: Easy
- Distance: 1.8 miles roundtrip
- Elevation Gain: 225 feet
- Fees: Glacier NPS fee
To access the hike, drive 1.3 miles past the McDonald Lake Lodge. There is a small pullout on the east side of the road, as well as a sign for Johns Lake Loop. We hiked the loop counterclockwise, which seemed to work really well. There are also a few junctions that you might need help with, so watch for complete directions below. There are signs at every junction, so make sure to double check the signs.
From the parking lot, there is a sign for the beginning of Johns Lake Loop. There is also a trail across the Going to the Sun Road. That is the way you will return to your car. Start hiking by the sign into the forest. There is a short climb at the beginning, but it isn’t too steep.
After only a few dozen yards, the trail splits. Take the left fork. Shortly thereafter, it briefly crosses a horse trail. There is a sign to help you stay on the correct trail, which is a left. In fact, the entire loop is signed pretty well, so it’s difficult to get lost.
The trail cuts through thick, straight trees, and there is full shade for almost all of the hike. It is really peaceful at the foot of this mossy old forest, and the trail was almost deserted. After about a half mile Johns Lake appears through the trees. It’s difficult to get too close to the lake because of the marshy ground and thick trees, but it’s possible. We saw two ruddy ducks on the surface, though others have reported moose.
After a few moments at the lake, continue down the trail though the forest. It winds through the trees and soon arrives at Going to the Sun Road, though not where the car is parked. The trail crosses the busy road, and turns to the right on the other side. Make sure to hold little ones hands because there are many cars moving fast.
Once across the road, the trail heads down to a beautiful bridge that overlooks Sacred Dancing Cascade. The water is a beautiful turquoise color, and you can look down the river, as well as enjoy the falls from the bridge. This is the highlight of the loop.
Across the river, the trail forks. Johns Lake Loop goes left along the riverside and eventually comes to a second waterfall. This one is a bit frustrating because it is difficult to get a good view of McDonald Falls. Standing right next to it you can hear the roar and rush of the water, but there is no good vantage point.
The trail continues along the river until it comes to another road. Turn left and follow the road to a large bridge. Vehicles cross this bridge, but there is a footpath on the right side. We saw a deer, a yellow-rumped warbler, and a chipmunk from the bridge. We also got a decent view of the waterfall, though it was far away, and behind us, the river emptied into Lake McDonald.
The last stretch of the hike is a bit tricky. Stick to the right side of the road. The trail runs right along the road almost all the way back to Going to the Sun Road. Then right before the stop sign, the trail turns and takes you through the trees to your car. We loved this hike because of the bridges and waterfalls, but also for the serenity, which is increasingly hard to find in our National Parks.
We used the website Hiking in Glacier to help us with the junctions on the trails in Glacier National Park.
For more hiking ideas in Glacier, check out our list of Family Friendly hikes in Glacier.