When visiting Glacier National Park, plan to spend at least 2 days in the northern part of Glacier National Park. The northern section of the park is designated as Many Glacier. This area encompasses the Swiftcurrent Lake area, which is where the Many glacier Hotel is situated at. The views of the mountains and lake are absolutely stunning especially during sunrise and sunset.
Lodging and Eatery: When staying in the Northern Glacier National Park area, try to get a room at the historic Many Glacier hotel. If the hotel is full, try the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn instead. Because we planned this last minute, we were lucky enough to be able to get a room at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. The rooms were a bit limited on amenities, but for 1 night, it was not too bad, considering the location and proximity of the hotel. As far as places to eat, I would recommend eating lunch at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and dinner at the Ptarmigan Room at Many Glacier Hotel. Because the Many Glacier Hotel is right on Swiftcurrent Lake, the restaurant is situated at the perfect spot on the 2nd level, giving you the best waterfront views of the lake. We were lucky enough to be seated right next to the window. Keep in mind that during summer months, the sun does not set until 11pm. Since the Restaurant closes at 9:30pm, make sure to arrive just around 9pm to be able to get the best views of sunsets during dinner. If you prefer, the Many Glacier hotel has many benches and seating along the beach and upstairs area for sunset and sunrise viewing. Grab an early dinner and find yourself a place to sit during sunset. You can grab a cup of coffee after dinner, downstairs in the gift shop before you settle down to find your perfect spot.
Suggested Itinerary and Points of Interest:
Iceberg Lake – Have you ever wanted to jump in a lake full of giant chunks of icebergs? If so, consider taking a day hike to Iceberg Lake. The trail head starts just past the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, but don’t park at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn near the front desk like we did. Considering the trail to Iceberg Lake is 9.8 miles, parking near the front desk of Swiftcurrent Motor Inn will add another half mile to your hike. Instead, drive past the front desk and veer right. You’ll see a road going towards some cabins. Just beyond that is the trail head to Iceberg – Ptarmigan Trail. Park here, and this will save you half mile of walking. I know half a mile doesn’t sound like much, but half a mile is a big difference when it comes to achy feet. Take the Iceberg – Ptarmigan Trail down until you’ve reach the Ptarmigan Falls (about 2.5 miles in). Although this falls is quite impressive, the trees and surround shrubbery blocks your view of the falls altogether.
The first quarter mile of the hike is the most difficult, gaining about 800 feet, but overall this hike pretty much levels out, and majority of the hike is considered an easy stroll. The only difficult part of this hike is the distance of the hike. Normally, this hike would be a walk in the park for me, but at 5 miles in, my feet were pretty much aching from my new inserts. This was my first time using my ‘low arches’ inserts inside my hiking boots, and boy was that a mistake! Adding the inserts into my Merrell hiking boots caused my toes to push into the end of the boot. I didn’t realize that the inserts caused my boots to be too small. At mile 8, my toes were pretty much completely bruised and every step caused excruciating pain. Taking out the inserts cause even more pain, because although my toes were no longer rubbing against the foot of the shoe, the arches on my left foot was starting to cause a problem. My advice if you’re going to take this 9.8 mile hike, is to make sure you have shoes that are comfortable. The hike is not difficult at all, but the distance is definitely the challenge if you’re not wearing the right footwear. My once comfortable Merrell’s have sudden become the root of all my problems during this hike. At mile 4.7, you’ll get your first glimpse of a small lake on your right as soon as you cross a bridge.
As you approach the end of your almost 5 mile journey, you begin to see the rock-face wall closer and closer, until it is right in front of you. Just beyond that you come face to face with the amazing Iceberg Lake. The water was crystal clear, and the water temperature was beyond freezing. This hike took us a total of 6 hours to complete, with plenty of stops for photos as well as staying at Iceburg Lake for about an hour before heading back.
Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier – If you’re not too tired for another day hike, try the Grinnell Glacier Hike. If you plan on hiking the whole way, it’s about a 11 mile hike. You have the option to take a shuttle boat across 2 different lakes to shave 3.4 miles off your hike. This would be ideal if you had another full day in the Many Glacier Area. We, unfortunately, didn’t have the luxury of doing the boat shuttle due to the late start of the shuttles. We started our day bright and early, as soon as the sun was out at 6am. The boat tours didn’t start until 9am, so we decided to hike our way to Grinnell Lake. The trail head is at the end of the parking lot at Many Glacier Hotel. While hiking at 6am, the trails were isolated. We didn’t see a single person until we were on our way back out. I guess people were late risers here since they got 18 hours of daylight during the summer months. The landscape was gorgeous at sunrise, we were amazed that we got the entire trail to ourselves.
Take the Loop trail along the Swiftcurrent Lake. Along the way, you’ll past Stump Lake and Josephine Lake before you’ll reach Grinnell Lake. You’ll have 2 options, either take the trail that takes you along the East side of the lakes or the trail that takes you along the West side of the lakes. The entire loop is a 7.5 mile hike. Taking the West side of the lake will give you higher viewpoints of the lake, while taking the East side will get you closer to the lakes itself. The West side of the trail has more changes in elevation than the East side. The East side is fairly flat. We ended up taking the shorter route of the 2 to get to Grinnell Lake which is the East side, and came back to Many Glacier via the West side. The short 3 mile to Grinnell Lake only took about 1 hour to get to. The hike was more like a walk. The trail is well maintained, with plenty of signs pointing to the right directions. Just before getting to Grinnell Lake there is a mini suspension bridge that you must cross. Shortly after crossing the bridge, you’ll arrive at Grinnell Lake. Such an amazing place to have to ourselves.
If you’re up for it, back track to the junction at the edge of Josephine Lake and take the Grinnell Glacier Trail to get an amazing view of Grinnell Glacier. Be on the look out for bears. This is a prime area for wildlife. If you, on the other hand, don’t feel up for it, head back towards the suspension bridge and look for the Hidden Falls instead. From the bridge look on the right. There’s a short half mile hike that will get you to this hidden gem: