One of the most famous roads in the Rocky Mountains is the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. The road is reached shortly after entering the Park at the West Glacier Entrance. Above Lake McDonald, you will drive past McDonald Creek. It is beautiful, but it is generally bereft of trout with the exception of a few migratory fish. Lake McDonald Lodge and the trailhead to Snyder Lake is a distance of nine miles; the Avalanche Lake Trailhead is 14.7 miles; Packer's Roost (Mineral Creek) is 20.8 miles, and St. Mary's Park Entrance is 48 miles.
General location: Just inside the West Glacier Entrance from Lake McDonald to the Middle Fork of the Flathead River
Access: The creek, as the outlet of Lake McDonald, may be easily accessed at Apgar, or just after entering the Park, turn left at the Glacier Institute sign, and then turn right towards the horse rentals and follow the signs to the Quarter-Circle Bridge.
Maps: USGS Glacier National Park (ISBN 0-607-32671-9); Montana Atlas and Gazetteer, p.83 (ISBN 0-89933-226-9)
Fishing species: brook trout, bull trout, cutthroat, lake trout, rainbow trout, whitefish
Special restrictions: "Catch-and-release fishing only with single hooks: Fish caught in Lower McDonald Creek (from the Quarter Circle Bridge and upstream, extending into Lake McDonald for a radius of 300 feet) must be handled carefully and released immediately to the stream or lake. No fish of any species may be in possession at any time along this stream/lake." -Park handout
McDonald Creek, draining McDonald Lake and entering the Middle Fork of the Flathead River, receives a great deal of fishing pressure because of its accessibility and scenic allure. To protect the cutthroat populations, the Park established catch-and-release fishing restrictions using single hooks between Lake McDonald and the Quarter-Circle Bridge. Slow, clear water provides a challenge for those fly fishers who enjoy delicate casting with long leaders and small tippets.
McDonald Creek above the lake, with the exception of the inlet, holds few fish and is a waste of time fishing unless you take the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the Packer's Roost area, which is approximately 20.8 miles. Even in this area the fishing is rated fair to poor.