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article imagePhoto Essay — Glacier Park's Trail of the Cedars hike Special

By Elizabeth Batt     Sep 14, 2012 in Travel
West Glacier - Just east of the Avalanche Creek Campground in Glacier National Park is the Trail of the Cedars. Although at just 0.8 of a mile it can hardly be called a hike, this canopied stroll is one of the prettiest in the park.
With barely an incline and a mixture of boardwalk and paved path, the Trail of the Cedars is one of the easiest to navigate. The looping trail sweeps through rich forests of cedar, hemlock and larch, and winds across Avalanche Gorge, a fierce creek whose waters spew through red argillite rock.
The inviting boardwalk is hard to resist sparking the desire to explore where it leads.
The inviting boardwalk is hard to resist sparking the desire to explore where it leads.
The Cherokee people believed that the Creator created a new tree to hold the spirits of their ancestors. This tree was named a-tsi-na tlu-gv (ah-see-na loo-guh), or the cedar tree. When you gaze upon it standing in the forest they said, remember that if you are Tsalagi, you are looking upon your ancestor.
The Cherokee people believe that cedar trees hold the spirits of their ancestors.
The Cherokee people believe that cedar trees hold the spirits of their ancestors.
Giant cedar trees nourished by the constantly moist forest floor, bear deep-seated roots that have melded into pathways.
Gnarled roots are caked within a packed forest floor showing centuries of growth. The oldest Cedar T...
Gnarled roots are caked within a packed forest floor showing centuries of growth. The oldest Cedar Trees are in Becharri, Northern Lebanon. Between 1000 and 2000 years old, they are some of the oldest trees on earth.
Meanwhile, the boardwalk continues to beckon.
Breaks in the canopy allow the sunlight to filter through.
Breaks in the canopy allow the sunlight to filter through.
Hollowed out trees, tall enough to encase a body show how relatively undisturbed the flora is in this area.
A hollowed-out cedar presents a great photo opportunity  provided you don t mind the bugs.
A hollowed-out cedar presents a great photo opportunity, provided you don't mind the bugs.
Occasionally, the trees break, allowing a magnificent glimpse of the scenery shielded from human eyes by the dense canopy.
When the massive cedars generously grant an opening  it s to view something spectacular.
When the massive cedars generously grant an opening, it's to view something spectacular.
Prior to reaching Avalanche Gorge, the Trail of the Cedars reveals a challenge. With an elevation climb of 500 feet, this two-mile hike to Avalanche Lake, offers a distraction for stronger legs.
The boardwalk breaks to the right for those seeking more of a challenge.
The boardwalk breaks to the right for those seeking more of a challenge.
Those visitors choosing to press on with the easier amble, the moss-covered rocks oozing water, offer an ethereal glimpse into a potential fairyland.
 I can almost see the leprechaun   said one visitor.
"I can almost see the leprechaun," said one visitor.
Toppled trees remain where they fall, offering a glimpse of the extensive root system of a smaller cedar tree.
Up close  the tree s roots resemble the snake-headed monster from Greek mythology  the Gorgon Medusa...
Up close, the tree's roots resemble the snake-headed monster from Greek mythology, the Gorgon Medusa.
The epicenter of the Trail of the Cedars and the final stop before the loop winds back to the road is Avalanche Gorge. Its myriad of colors enhanced by the light in parts and glossy moss-stippled argillite rock in others, is as beautiful as its gushing waters are loud.
With the hot summer this year the stunted water flow did nothing to diminish its lethal beauty. Slippery rocks combined with fast flows have been the downfall of several visitors enticed into having a closer look.
After visiting the gorge last April, we were able to witness the spring runoff at the height of its power.
The almost deafening roar of the creek at peak flow means you hear the gorge-filled creek long befor...
The almost deafening roar of the creek at peak flow means you hear the gorge-filled creek long before you see it.
The gorge has been tamed by September after the long  hot summer.
The gorge has been tamed by September after the long, hot summer.
Crystal glacier waters at the base of the gorge  are revealed only by the bubbles that dot the surfa...
Crystal glacier waters at the base of the gorge, are revealed only by the bubbles that dot the surface. This glimpse of the creek bed is rarely afforded, and comes on the tail end of a long, hot summer.
The Trail of the Cedars is an easy afternoon stroll located along Going to the Sun Road just east of the Avalanche Creek Campground. Even with photo opportunities, the hike should take no longer than an hour. A parking area across the street grants immediate access to the trail head which is one of the first areas to open in the park after the winter, and the last to close.
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