Trail of Cedars Restored in Effort to Expand Accessibility in Glacier Park

Popular pathway near Avalanche was closed last week for paving project

By Justin Franz
Crews resurface the Trail of the Cedars in Glacier National Park on Sept. 24, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

During the peak of summer tourism, more than 1,000 people a day hike the one-mile round trip through the Trail of Cedars near the Avalanche Lake trailhead. Unlike several other trails in the park, this old growth forest provides easy access.

In order to ensure that level, the National Park Service teamed up with the Glacier National Park Conservancy to re-pave part of the trail this month. Part of the trail is paved while the other portion is a boardwalk.

“It was not a smooth surface anymore,” said Jack Gordon, landscape architect and special populations coordinator for Glacier. “There were so many holes and pot holes.”

The trail was one of the first handicap accessible trails in the park, but it had since deteriorated to where it no longer meets federal standards. It has been repaved with a sustainable non-asphalt polymer pavement that Gordon said should last longer and may become the new standard for accessible trails in the park. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certified material can also be colored to match the surrounding landscape. Also, unlike traditional asphalt, which needs time to set, the trail was reopened immediately after the new pavement was put down.

To help cover the cost of the project, the conservancy included the trail restoration in its 2015 fundraising field guide. The conservancy raised $30,000 for the re-paving project and John and Sarah Graves of Whitefish covered much of it. John said the Trail of the Cedars is a special place for his family and that he wanted to ensure that future generations could continue to enjoy it. The Graves have also fully funded the efforts to increase the accessibility of the bathroom and comfort station at the Avalanche Trailhead.

“We are very pleased to help make certain that everyone who desires, regardless of whatever physical challenges they may struggle with, has the opportunity to experience the wonderment and renewal of spirit that Sarah and I experience whenever we walk the Trail of the Cedars,” he said.

HK Contractors, who has also done a majority of the work on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and Valley Fence also donated time, labor and equipment to help with the Trail of the Cedars paving project.

Gordon said if the non-asphalt polymer pavement is successful it might be deployed on other trails in the park, including the one that loops Swiftcurrent Lake at Many Glacier.

Mark Preiss, chief executive officer of the conservancy, said his group of excited to help expand trail access in the park.

“There is a lot of places in Glacier National Park’s landscape where providing access to all people is tough so we have to look for opportunities like this whenever we can,” he said.

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