Glacier National Park (GNP) is called the ‘crown of the continent’ for a reason. GNP is impossibly scenic, with every turn in the trail providing an amazing view of mountains, jagged peaks, waterfalls, glacier-carved valleys, lakes, wildlife, and, of course, glaciers. The 1.4 million acre park contains some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the west. These are the views you will never forget! Of the estimated 150 glaciers which existed in the park during the mid-19th century, only 25 active glaciers remained by 2010. Scientists estimate that all the active glaciers may disappear by 2030 if current climate patterns persist.
Hike Distance: 9.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,275 feet
Iceberg Lake Hike in the Many Glaciers area was our last hike in the park. The trail begins behind the cabins near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. The first 0.2 miles was uphill but it quickly mellowed out to a nice gradual ascent hugging the side of Henkel Mountain. Unfortunately we spent the first 30 minutes of the hike in low clouds.
When the clouds lifted and it warmed up, we started to see the surrounding landscape. Mt Wilbur at an elevation of 9,326 feet was the first to appear. This peak rises over 4,500 feet above Swiftwater Lake.
We found this sign on a trail adjacent to Iceberg Lake Trail. Once again time to speak loudly, bang the bear bells and have the bear spray handy.
The early morning clouds continued to hang over the valley floor.
Even though we had a way to go, we could see the ridge line of Mt Wilbur extending from the peak and forming a glacial cirque. Geology 101: Iceberg Lake lies in a 'cirque' which is a bowl shaped valley formed by glacial erosion typically surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs.
The terrain alternated between forest and alpine meadows until we reached the head of the valley.
The colorful grasses and ground cover were a sure sign of fall approaching.
A few remaining wildflowers were still in bloom.
Geology 101 Lesson 2: The Ptarmigan Wall, which towers 1,500 feet above the trail, consists of a narrow, pinnacle-studded ridge guarded by sheer cliffs on either side. The wall is known as an arête, defined as a thin ridge of rock separating two valleys that have been carved by glaciers. In this case, the Ptarmigan Wall separates the Many Glacier valley from the Belly River valley.
The trail began a gradual descent as it crossed Iceberg Creek.
Shortly after the crossing, we reached a small beautiful glacial lake.
Our first view of Iceberg Lake surrounded by the 3,000 foot cliffs. Snow still clung to the ledges and along the base of the lake.
It was tough to get a good picture of the entire lake. It was like taking a picture in an opera house.
Even though the weather was great, it wasn't very crowded and was easy to find an isolated lunch spot.
Time to head back and wrap up this amazing trip to GNP.
With perfect hiking weather, we took our time going back and appreciated the scenery. Here's a great view of the Ptarmigan Wall.
Here is the last picture of Glacier National Park. The trip and over 38 miles of hiking was everything we had hoped for and more.