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The Iceberg Lake Hike In Glacier National Park

The Iceberg Lake Hike in Glacier National Park

On a busy trip to St. Mary and Glacier National Park in Montana, John and I squeezed in the Iceberg Lake hike in the Many Glacier area of the park. We did it in mid-September when the colours had started to change and after the summer crowds had left. The Iceberg Lake hike is 9.8 miles round trip and the elevation gain is a very manageable 1,275 feet or 389 metres.

Excellent signage along the Iceberg Lake trail

Excellent signage along the Iceberg Lake trail

Finding the trailhead for the Iceberg Lake hike

From St. Mary, Montana drive 9 miles north to Babb. Turn west onto Route 3 and follow it for 12 miles. The winding, narrow road is in bad shape with lots of broken pavement – though in 2020 it’s supposed to be getting a complete face-lift.

Look for the trailhead for Iceberg Lake hike behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. It’s very well signed.

Map of the Iceberg Lake trail

Map of the Iceberg Lake trail

Great views on the Iceberg Lake trail out of the trees

Great views on the Iceberg Lake trail when you’re out of the trees

Route description of the Iceberg Lake hike

The first part of the hike is the steepest on the trail. Over just a quarter of a mile it climbs 200 feet. But for the rest of the hike it moderates and it’s not until you’re on the descent that you really notice how much you climbed. However, compared to most mountain hikes of this calibre, the elevation gain is modest.

At the first fork on the trail, bear left. In no time you’re into open terrain with beautiful mountain views. Continue for a total of 2.6 miles to reach Ptarmigan Falls, crossing numerous streams along the way. The only real wooded sections of the hike are immediately at the beginning of the hike and in the middle section before the falls.

Ptarmigan Falls is a nice place for a break. Hang out on the rocks, have a snack or soak your feet in the water on a hot summer’s day.

Look for a trail junction at Ptarmigan Falls. Stay left and head west to continue to Iceberg Lake. It’s another 2.3 miles to reach the lake and the views are terrific. You don’t see Iceberg Lake itself until the last minute as it sits tucked behind a knoll and beneath the cliffs of Iceberg Peak and Mt. Wilbur. Here’s a detailed map.

The trail ends at Iceberg Lake. In mid-September it didn’t have a single iceberg in it but if you visit earlier in the season, you can expect to see a lake with both icebergs and bergy bits.

The wind blew up on our arrival and the rain started so it got incredibly cold quickly – true hypothermia weather. We had a fast lunch huddled under some trees before starting our descent. On a nice day I could see hanging out by the lake for an hour or two. All told it took us about four hours round-trip to hike.

Don’t forget your 10 hiking essentials and bear spray. This is grizzly country you’re in – and so you do need to be very bear aware. We didn’t so much as see bear scat but you never know when a bear is going to pop onto the trail, especially in berry season.

View over Ptarmigan Falls

View over Ptarmigan Falls

Ptarmigan Falls is a pretty area to have a break

Ptarmigan Falls is a pretty area to have a break

Looking down the valley towards the Many Glacier area

Looking down the valley towards the Many Glacier area

Iceberg Lake is at the base of the mountains ahead

Iceberg Lake trail with the lake hidden from view until the last minute of hiking

Spectacular Iceberg Lake even on a foggy day

Spectacular Iceberg Lake – even on a foggy day

Mixed, moody weather on the hike out

Mixed, moody weather on the hike out

Fall is a beautiful time to do the Iceberg Lake hike

Fall is a beautiful time to do the Iceberg Lake hike

Further reading on things to do in and near Glacier National Park, Montana

For more information on Glacier National Park, visit their website.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Iceberg Lake Hike

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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