Sacred Dancing Cascade, Montana

Jason Gass
Last Updated: February 27th, 2023

The Going-to-the-Sun Road offers visitors to Glacier National Park a great way to see many of the most amazing sights in the park, from the comfort of their car.

While convenient, the Going-to-the-Sun road doesn’t give visitors the same experience as a nice, peaceful hike.

One of the most beautiful sights along the Going-to-the-Sun Road is the Sacred Dancing Cascade. This small but beautiful waterfall on McDonald Creek is easily viewed from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, but there is just something magical about experiencing these falls from the trail.

McDonald Lake and this specific area of the Park are considered to be sacred places, important to the Kootenai Indians, who held ceremonies on the lake and along McDonald Creek. Sacred Dancing Cascade sits on McDonald Creek just above McDonald Lake.

From McDonald Lake you’ll use the John’s Lake Loop to access the Sacred Dancing Cascade. The loop takes you along the shore of tiny John’s Lake, and eventually connects with the McDonald Creek Cutoff.

This trail takes you along McDonald Creek to a nice footbridge over the creek. From this footbridge, you can view the Cascade. 

The trail is a fairly easy 5.6-mile hike from McDonald Lake. This trail is perfect for all levels of hikers.

The parking area off of the Going-to-the-Sun Road is small, with only spaces for about 8 cars, so you’ll want to arrive early for easy access and easy parking.

sacred dancing cascade
Image: Shutterbug Fotos

Sacred Dancing Cascade Statistics

  • Elevation: 3,248 feet 
  • Height: Unknown
  • Trailhead: Upper McDonald Creek
  • Season (when can it be accessed): Year-Round, with some winter closures.

Recreational Activities Near Sacred Dancing Cascade

Glacier National Park has plenty of great recreational activities for the whole family to enjoy. There is an entrance fee for the park, but once you are in the park you’ll find plenty of great things to do.


Hiking is the most popular recreational activity in Glacier National Park. There are hundreds of hiking trails within the park.

The trails range from short, family-friendly hikes to hikes that take multiple days and cross mountains and high alpine passes. The one thing that is the same with all hikes in Glacier National Park is that they all come with amazing views.

The McDonald Lake area has numerous trailheads that will lead visitors to a variety of destinations. From this area, you’ll have views of some of the most iconic mountains and lakes in Glacier National Park.


There are numerous campgrounds within Glacier National Park. Many of the campgrounds offer camping spaces for both tents and RVs.

In the more popular places in the park, the campgrounds have plenty of amenities to make your stay more comfortable. These campgrounds can be hectic and most require that you make reservations in advance of your stay.

If you are looking for a more peaceful camping experience, and you are comfortable with backcountry hiking, the park offers plenty of remote camping sites that are only accessible by hiking. I

f you are thinking about these camping sites, you’ll want to plan ahead, and make sure that you are prepared for the challenges of backpacking and backcountry camping.

It is important to remember that Glacier National Park is home to bears, so you’ll also want to be familiar with back-country camping and hiking precautions in bear country.


McDonald Lake and McDonald Creek offer some great opportunities for fishing in Glacier National Park. You can also enjoy fishing in John’s Lake which is accessible from the McDonald Creek and John’s Lake Loop trails. 

Many of the lakes and streams in Glacier National Park are home to Montana’s amazing trout species. Many people come to Montana and Glacier National Park just to try their hands at fishing some of the most pristine and remarkable rivers and lakes in the United States.

Before you head out fishing in Glacier National Park, you’ll want to check out fishing regulations in the park on the Glacier National Park website. Then, head to to purchase your Montana fishing license. All visitors to Montana that wish to fish, need to have a valid Montana fishing license.

Trail Routes Near Sacred Dancing Cascade

McDonald Creek

Another relatively short hike is the McDonald Creek Trail which follows along John’s Lake. This short trail actually makes up a portion of the John’s Lake Loop trail.

This 1.9-mile trail starts just off the Going-to-the-Sun Road and wanders a short distance through the forest before you reach a nice footbridge. 

The footbridge crosses McDonald Creek. On the other side of the creek you can connect with the Upper McDonald Creek Trail and travel along another portion of the John’s Lake loop, or you can turn around and head back to the parking area where you started. 

From the footbridge, you’ll have outstanding views of the Sacred Dancing Cascade. If you want to view more waterfalls, take the Upper McDonald Creek trail, which passes by McDonald Falls before ending at the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

John’s Lake Loop

John’s Lake loop is an easy 1.9-mile hike that starts just off the Going-to-the-Sun road, and passes by Lake McDonald and John’s Lake.

This is a fairly busy trail because it is quite easy and is a nice hike if you need to stretch your legs after spending the day in the car. 

The views on this trail are nice, and it is a great trail for wildflowers and wildlife viewing. Part of the loop follows along McDonald Creek which is a very pretty creek that flows into lake McDonald.

One thing to be aware of on this trail is that it does cross the Going-to-the-Sun Road a couple of times, which can be very busy, especially in the summer months.

dancing cascade
Image: John Manard

Stewart Motel to Avalanche Creek Campground

Start this hike from the parking lot of the Stewart Motel. Here you’ll have plenty of space to park and enjoy the views of Lake McDonald.

Though this trail is 12.0 miles, out and back, it is a fairly easy-to-manage trail. It is considered to be a moderately easy trail and has minimal elevation gain over the 12-mile hike.

The alternate starting point for this hike is at the Avalanche Creek Campground. From this trailhead, you’ll have to battle the horse tours that travel along the trail for the first mile or so, but you’ll have a generally peaceful hike after that. 

Stanton Mountain

One of the more challenging trails in Glacier National Park, this 7.5-mile, out and back trail takes you from the shore of Lake McDonald to the summit of Stanton Mountain.

Though the trail isn’t terribly long, this hike is challenging for most hikers thanks to almost 4,500 feet of elevation gain.

You’ll make a few stream crossings along this trail, which are the highlights of the trail until you reach higher elevations. Otherwise, the trail is mostly through dense pine forests.

This trail does pass through a burn scar, and at the junction, with the Trout Lake trail, many hikers bail from the Stanton Lake trail because the trail is faint and covered by numerous downed trees.

However, if you are adventurous this trail offers you spectacular views of Lake McDonald, Rogers Lake, Trout Lake, and many of the other mountains in the area.

flathead county
Image: John Manard

West Lakes Trail

In the McDonald Lake area, this is one of the more difficult hikes. This trail is a whopping 20.1 miles, out and back trail that climbs up Stanton Mountain and into a beautiful glacial valley filled with three scenic lakes. 

Trout Lake is the largest of the lakes and the first that you’ll pass on this trail. The lake is known for having frequent bear sightings, so make sure that you carry bear spray and brush up on your bear country hiking skills. 

There are campgrounds on this trail at Arrow Lake and Camas Lake. These remote campsites provide minimal amenities but do have amazing views of Heavens Peak, Mount Vaught, and Stanton Mountain.

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About The Author

Jason Gass

Jason Gass is a Colorado based freelance writer and blogger whose goal is to share a good cup of coffee and great stories around a campfire with close friends. When he’s not working, he spends most of his time traveling, searching for the best breweries, and road-tripping in his teardrop trailer with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

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