Travel by Any Means Necessary

Glacier National Park: Kayaking Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald

I have wanted to visit Glacier National Park since I saw a picture of Lake McDonald in textbook for my college geography class (yes, this is the same textbook that made me want to see the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone, too). I have been dreaming about getting one of those iconic shots of the lake where you can see the rocks through the crystal clear water and the mountains in the distance ever since then. But, when we stopped at the first overlook the water was covered with this yellow pollen (you can kind of see it in the bottom right cover of this photo) that prevented me from seeing through the water as I had hoped.

The next morning, we headed back to the park early. We headed to the watercraft inspection station to have our kayak inspected so we could head out on this beautiful body of water. To prevent “aquatic hitchhikers” all watercraft must be inspected before you are able to launch in any of the lakes in the park. From everything we read, this should not be a difficult process as long as your boat is dry. That was not our experience at all. The ranger inspecting our kayak wanted it to be completely dry and devoid of all dirt and sand. This probably wouldn’t be a probably with many hard-sided kayaks, especially not the sit-on-top kind, but our Sea Eagle inflatable is not easy to completely dry and near impossible to rid of all sand. Luckily, the rangers provided us with a handheld wet/dry vac and some towels. After that process, the ranger gave us a tag that was good for that day and that body of water only. If we were planning on returning the next day, we would’ve had to do it again.

Kayak on Lake McDonaldAfter that process, we inflated the kayak and hit the water. It was a beautiful paddle, and even though there are kayaks for rent in Apgar Village, we were the only ones on the water. We paddled about half of the lake’s ten miles, before heading back to the shore for lunch. If you enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding, I highly recommend getting out on the water at Glacier National Park and Lake McDonald is probably the most iconic lake in the park for a paddle!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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  1. Morgan

    Hi! Can you give me more information on where you parked/put in at Lake McDonald? I am planning a trip for the end of this year and can’t seem to find specific places you can put in at.

    • Ashleigh

      There is a parking lot with a boat launch near Apgar Village, close to where the Kayak rentals are on Lake View Dr. You will need to get your boat inspected first. There is an inspection station across the street from the boat launch. I hope that helps.

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