Taking a Lake McDonald Boat Tour is a great way to relax and enjoy Glacier National Park. What makes this tour special is that you get a chance to get feel the breeze in your hair while enjoying the sights this amazing place has to offer. Another huge benefit is that the person who has spent their time driving the Going-to-the-Sun Highway and spending most of their time focusing on the road can now sit back and relax and take in some of the sights that Glacier has to offer.
The sweeping mountain views makes it easy for everyone to enjoy its crystal clear waters, epic views of the mountains and learn more about the park from the tour guide on the boat.
The Lake McDonald Boat Tour starts off at the Historic Lake McDonald Lodge. You simply walk out of the lodge and down some stairs and board the historic Desmet. The Desmet was built in 1930 by Captain Swanson for the Glacier Park transport company.
The Desmet was originally used to carry passengers on Lake McDonald which she continues to do today.
It is easy to see that this boat has been very well maintained and still provides an amazing opportunity to enjoy a day on the lake on this 57-foot carvel planked launch with cedar on an oak frame. The Desmet is authorized by the U.S. Coast Guard to carry 70 passengers so make sure to get there early to get your tickets.
Lake McDonald Boat Tour
Lake McDonald is a stunning 1.5 miles wide 10-mile long bathtub shaped lake. The Average depth is 458 feet with the deepest point at 472 feet deep.
The lakes balmy 40-degree water is enough for most people to think twice about diving in. Having said that, I have seen several people jumping into the lake after a long day of hiking in the summer.
One cool thing to know is all 168 lakes in Glacier National Park combined do not equal the size of Lake McDonald.
The 60-minute boat tour of Lake McDonald is a leisurely cruise that includes learning more about the history of the area and watching for wildlife.
I would highly suggest bringing binoculars to check out the Bald Eagles along the shoreline. We also heard that they see bear and moose on the boat rides but we did not see any on our trip.
The boat has covered seating on the main floor with the option for a few people to go up on the top deck. There is seating at the back of the boat that is covered while still being open and great for photos.
The inside seats are near windows so you may find that you can’t turn all the way around to get photos.
We sat at the back of the boat and loved having a great view of the entire lake even in a thunderstorm.
Depending on the time of day you are heading out you may need layers for the cool morning breeze or in the evening when the sun goes down.
It poured the second half of our boat ride and we were really happy to have sweaters with us. The wind was howling and it was chilly but so worth it being out on the water.
Things to know when planning a Lake McDonald Boat Tour
You will want to make reservations as soon as you know when you can take the boat tour.
50% of the tickets are available online for reservations while the other tickets can be purchased in person up to 3 days ahead of time in the park.
Tour Length – 1 hour
- Adults: $18.25
- Children (ages 4-12): $9.25
- Children under 4: Free
There are no restrooms on the boat so make sure to use the restrooms in the Lake McDonald Lodge before your tour.
You will not need your bear spray on the boat so you may want to leave it in the car. They ask that all bear spray be left in the car or put in a closed backpack so there is less chance of anyone getting sprayed while on a boat on the middle of a lake.
Glacier Park Boat Company has a really cool kids passport that is also great for adults! You can get a stamp for each boat tour that you take. A fun way to remember each of the boat tours and see more information about the boats.
There are several opportunities for boat tours at Glacier National Park. Boat tours are also available at :
- Two Medicine
- Many Glacier
- St Mary Lake at Rising Sun
There is also boat tours available through the Waterton Shoreline Cruise Company in neighboring Waterton Lakes National Park In Canada. The boat tours take you to the northernmost part of Glacier National Park to Goat Haunt (May need a passport to regain entry). If you are up for an adventure, You may wish to take the Crypt Lake hike which has been named one of the top 20 most thrilling hikes by National Geographic.
I hope this article helps you plan a Lake McDonald Boat Tour or any other boat tour you want to take while exploring Glacier National Park. Make sure to check out my site for more great information about Glacier National Park and surrounding National Parks in Montana like: