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Spectacular Iceberg Lake
Spectacular Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake Hike in Glacier National Park

A gorgeous hike to a lake sometimes filed with mini icebergs

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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. The lake itself is a magnificent colour of blue and well worth the effort to get there.

Iceberg Lake hike summary

  • The Iceberg Lake hike in Glacier National Park is 9.8 miles round trip with 1275 feet of elevation gain.
  • The hike is known for its outstanding views, a beautiful lake and wildflowers in the summer.
  • The hike is in a popular area for hiking so chances are that you’ll run into other people.
  • The hike is a moderate one that will take you 4 – 5 hours to complete.
  • The best time to hike the trail is from mid to late June through to October.
  • The hike to Iceberg Lake is considered to be one of the top 10 hikes in the park.
  • In the summer months you should be able to see small “icebergs” in the lake.
  • To get to the trailhead drive theMany Glacier Road to the parking lot at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.
  • Look for Mount Wilbur to the south and Iceberg Peak to the west of Iceberg Lake. Iceberg Peak towers more than 3,000 feet above the lake.
  • Iceberg Lake is too cold for safe swimming.
  • There is no camping immediately around Iceberg Lake.
Excellent signage along the Iceberg Lake trail
Excellent signage along the Iceberg Lake trail

Iceberg Lake hike trailhead location

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

Where to stay nearby

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St. Mary is a 21 mile drive away via Babb and a great place to overnight with its location at the east entrance to the Going-to-the-Sun Road. I’d recommend a stay at the cute Tiny Homes in St. Mary Village.

The Tiny Home has everything you need
The Tiny Home has everything you need for a very comfortable stay

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

I highly recommend the book Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park by Erik Molvar.

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

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The hike to Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana - one of the best in the Many Glacier area

 

 

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