Icebergs & Views at Iceberg Lake

Yellow Columbine along the Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Yellow Columbine along the Iceberg Lake Trail

As many of you know, I’m not huge into alpine lakes.  They’re nice enough if they have a good view around them, but a lake for a lake’s sake is not my idea of fun.  (But maybe that’s because I can walk to a huge lake any time I feel like it?)  At any rate, on our visit to Glacier National Park last summer, the day was forecasted to be cloudy.  So why not spend a cloudy day hiking to a lake?  That way, if the mountains were socked in, at least we’d still get the lake.  And so, without really deciding to do so, we set off for Iceberg Lake.

 

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 10.1 miles Trail Type: Out & back Elevation Gain: 2,058ft. Pets: No Fees: $35/vehicle

 



 

Hiking down to Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Hiking down to Iceberg Lake

The good news is that Iceberg Lake really is a worthwhile destination.  The views along the trail are pretty spectacular and the lake itself is set in a sheer rocky cirque, which adds to the sense of drama.  And did I mention that there are icebergs galore in the lake?  It’s no wonder this is often cited as one of the best hikes in Glacier!

The Ice Wall illuminated by the early morning sun, Glacier National Park, Montana

The Ice Wall illuminated by the early morning sun

Our only real mistake was that we didn’t park at the trailhead.  There is room for about a dozen cars right next to the Iceberg Lake Trailhead.  I didn’t know it was there, so, despite the fact that there were only four or so cars at the trailhead, we parked in the large parking area by the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn not far from the sign for Swiftcurrent Pass.  If the trailhead parking is full – and it fills up fairly quickly – there still might be space in the larger parking lot.  It will add about 0.5 miles to the hike overall.

Wildflowers and waterfalls in the Iceberg Lake Outlet

Wildflowers and waterfalls in the Iceberg Lake Outlet

To get to the trailhead, and the trailhead parking, follow the Iceberg-Ptarmigan sign toward the cabins (a right turn after passing the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn aka a gift shop).  Take an immediate left and stay left to the trailhead, which is signed for Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Tunnel.

Peek-a-boo views to sunny peaks along the Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Peek-a-boo views to sunny peaks

Almost at once, the trail splits.  Turn right toward Iceberg Lake among other destinations.  Less than a half mile (but a steep climb) later, the trail will junction a second time; turn left to follow the sign toward Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Tunnel.

Hiking in quasi-sunshine in the meadows along the Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Hiking in quasi-sunshine in the meadows

The path levels out in hillside meadows.  The views are spectacular of the peaks around Swiftcurrent Pass and the Ice Wall.  The day was cloudy where we were, but both the Pass and the Wall were in sunshine – making for some pretty striking photographic opportunities.

Peaks around the Swiftcurrent Glacier as seen from the meadows along the Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Peaks around the Swiftcurrent Glacier as seen from the meadows

Continue as the trail winds generally upward through the meadows and then through the forest.  A short trail to a toilet branches right at mile 2.75 (not the worst toilet I’ve seen, but definitely not the best either).  Hiking along the main trail for another 0.1 miles will bring you to Ptarmigan Falls.

About the best a 7ft. person could see of Ptarmigan Falls - we held the camera as high as we could reach and hoped for a good outcome. Glacier National Park, Montana

About the best a 7ft. person could see of Ptarmigan Falls – we held the camera as high as we could reach and hoped for a good outcome

I don’t know why they make such a big deal about Ptarmigan Falls, because to be honest, you can’t see it.  You get one peek-a-boo view well before you get to the bridge.  Otherwise, all you can do is hear that Ptarmigan Falls exists (well, you can see the brink from a few places, but that’s not seeing the falls to me).  Much more exciting is the bridge across Ptarmigan Creek – and that’s not exciting, just pretty with a little waterfall upstream.

The little waterfall near the Iceberg Lake Trail above Ptarmigan Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana

The little waterfall above Ptarmigan Falls

Less than a quarter mile beyond the bridge over Ptarmigan Creek, the trail to the Ptarmigan Tunnel forks right (the junction is well-marked).  All other things being equal, we would have been hiking to the tunnel.  But since it was still iced in per the park rangers, we reluctantly turned left toward Iceberg Lake.

Hiking into the upper meadow section of the Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Hiking into the upper meadow section of the trail

For the next 2 miles, the trail passes through some of the best scenery on the trail (at least in my humble opinion).  Once it finally breaks out of the forest, the views open up toward the Ice Wall, the cirque surrounding Iceberg Lake, and the various meadows and mountains near the trail.  It was glorious hiking on a somewhat sunlit morning with only a few people on the trail (be prepared for crowds by noon).

Beautiful views of the meadows and cirque around Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Beautiful views of the meadows and cirque

The wildflowers were out in places, making the trail even more special.  I especially enjoyed the beargrass and the few Western Columbine flowers, but I also saw paintbrush, subalpine spiraea, arnica, and glacier lilies, among others.  The views toward the waterfall in Iceberg Lake’s outlet were also very nice.

Closeup of the outlet waterfalls. The Iceberg Lake Trail just doesn't take you close to good views of the waterfalls! Glacier National Park, Montana

Closeup of the outlet waterfalls. The Iceberg Lake Trail just doesn’t take you close to good views of the waterfalls!

Eventually, the trail crosses over Iceberg Lake’s outlet.  There are signs everywhere in this area saying to stay on the trail.  Use your best judgment as to which is the right trail.  The important thing is to not deviate from the trail heading to Iceberg Lake.

Meadows near Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

The meadows on the final ascent – in this photo, we’re hiking back toward the outlet crossing

About 5.0 miles from the trailhead, a sign will point toward a second pit toilet (much nicer than the one down below).  A hitchrack is nearby; horses are not allowed at Iceberg Lake.

Just before the final descent to Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Just before the final descent to the lake

The trail crests the hill above the lake right about the junction for the pit toilet, so it’s just a quick 0.25 mile ramble down to the lakeshore.  The views are pretty good over the lake during the descent.

Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Iceberg Lake

The lakeshore itself is usually overrun.  You can probably find a little solitude by walking right or left along the lakeshore and doing a little bushwhacking to a quieter portion of the shoreline.  Most people don’t get further than the first rocky beach.

One of my favorite icebergs in Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

One of my favorite icebergs in the lake

We bushwacked right and had lunch sitting on rocks with icebergs floating a few feet away.  How cool is that?

Odd-shaped iceberg in Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Odd-shaped iceberg – the icebergs move, so you get different views of different ones if you sit for a while

Retrace your steps to return to the parking area.  Because we had started are hike about 7am, we had the “joy” of fighting the crowds the whole way back.  But really, the views and the icebergs made it so worth it!

Mt. Wilbur and meadows along the Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Mt. Wilbur and meadows along the trail

Round Trip Trail Length: 10.1 miles from the trailhead (add 0.5 miles if you park in the Swiftcurrent parking lot)

Total Elevation Gain: 2,058ft. (4,927ft. to 6,156ft.)

Facilities: Two pit toilets along the trail.  The trailhead also has restrooms (walk into the campground) and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (snack bar and gift shop).  Visitor services, campground (usually full), lodge, cabins, etc. are located nearby.

Fees: $35/vehicle/week.  National Park & Federal Recreational Lands Passes and Glacier Annual Passes also accepted.

Trail Notes: The trail is long enough (10 miles isn’t exactly short) but the lack of significant elevation gain and the lower elevation than the hikes up at Logan Pass make it easier than some other trails.  I would highly recommend a side-trek up to Ptarmigan Tunnel (5 mile RT extra) if you have the time – or maybe it would be better to hike it on its own day if you don’t want a 15 mile day hike!

Beargrass along the lower reaches of the Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Beargrass along the lower reaches of the trail

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

Subalpine Spiraea along the Iceberg Lake Trail below Mount Wilber and the Ice Wall, Glacier National Park, Montana

Subalpine Spiraea along the trail

GPS Coordinates for Iceberg Lake

Trailhead: 48.7978333°, -113.6778167° (N48° 47.870′ W113° 40.669′ / 48°47’52.2000″, -113°40’40.1400″) (4,957ft.) (0.0) (end 10.59)

Trailhead: 48.7995000°, -113.6791667° (N48° 47.970′ W113° 40.750′ / 48°47’58.2000″, -113°40’45.0000″) (4,966ft.) (0.17)

Real Trailhead: 48.7997333°, -113.6793167° (N48° 47.984′ W113° 40.759′ / 48°47’59.0400″, -113°40’45.5400″) (4,969ft.) (0.20) (Return 10.42)

Trail Junction: 48.8000000°, -113.6792333° (N48° 48.000′ W113° 40.754′ / 48°48’00.0000″, -113°40’45.2400″) (4,979ft.) (0.24)

Trail Junction: 48.8025500°, -113.6798833° (N48° 48.153′ W113° 40.793′ / 48°48’09.1800″, -113°40’47.5800″) (5,139ft.) (0.48)

Toilet Junction: 48.8205333°, -113.7116833° (N48° 49.232′ W113° 42.701′ / 48°49’13.9200″, -113°42’42.0600″) (5,669ft.) (2.73)

Little waterfall along the Iceberg Lake Trail in the lower meadows, Glacier National Park, Montana

Little waterfall along the trail in the lower meadows

Ptarmigan Falls: 48.8216500°, -113.7115667° (N48° 49.299′ W113° 42.694′ / 48°49’17.9400″, -113°42’41.6400″) (5,694ft.) (2.84)

Ptarmigan Pass Trail Junction: 48.8223333°, -113.7131833° (N48° 49.340′ W113° 42.791′ / 48°49’20.4000″, -113°42’47.4600″) (3.02)

Toilet Junction: 48.8171000°, -113.7408500° (N48° 49.026′ W113° 44.451′ / 48°49’01.5600″, -113°44’27.0600″) (6,128f.) (5.02)

Iceberg Lake: 48.8156167°, -113.7421333° (N48° 48.937′ W113° 44.528′ / 48°48’56.2200″, -113°44’31.6800″) (6,073ft.) (5.25)

Cloudy trail but the Ice Wall was sunny, Iceberg Lake Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Cloudy trail but the Ice Wall was sunny

GPS, etc.

The gpx file for Iceberg Lake can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPX File size: 178.8 KB Downloaded 13 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Beargrass below the Ice Wall, Glacier National Park, Montana

Beargrass below the Ice Wall

Getting to the Iceberg Lake Trailhead

From St. Mary, drive north on US-89N for 8.5 miles.  Turn left in Babb, following signs for Many Glacier.  After 7.5 miles, enter Glacier National Park and the road will improve.  Drive another 4.8 miles to the end of the road by the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn (which is actually a gift shop).  Turn right about halfway down the parking lot, following the sign for Iceberg-Ptarmigan Trailhead.  Take an immediate left and drive 0.1 miles to the trailhead.  The parking area here is small and can only accommodate about a dozen cars.  You can also park by the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, but despite the fact that the lot is large, it usually fills up by 10am or noon during the summer season (weekdays and weekend days similarly).

Closer to the true color of Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Closer to the true color of Iceberg Lake

From the north, drive about 10 miles south of the Canadian border to the town of Babb.  Turn right, following the sign for Many Glacier, and follow the directions above to the trailhead.

The Ice Wall, Glacier National Park, Montana

The Ice Wall

Road note: As of summer 2019, the road to Many Glacier is one of the worst I’ve seen as a thoroughfare into a national park.  It’s literally riddled with potholes.  So slow down and use care; the people around you will be swerving to try and avoid the gaping holes in the road.

Visual trail map and elevation profile for the trail to Iceberg Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

Visual trail map and elevation profile for the trail to Iceberg Lake

Zoom map out to browse nearby hikes & places of interest

 

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