Iceberg Lake

Glacier National Park (USA)

Hike to a quintessential glacial lake!

Hiking Moderate

Distance
16 km
Ascent
468 m
Descent
468 m
Duration
3-4 hrs
Low Point
1.5 km
High Point
1.9 km
Gradient
Iceberg Lake Map

This hike is in the Many Glacier region of Glacier National Park. The trailhead is located at the end of Hwy 3. just past the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Description

The first 2.7 miles is on the shared Iceberg-Ptarmigan Trail, a well-defined, gently-graded approach. This trail is commonly frequented by Glacier's grizzly bears, so check with the rangers before setting out. At 2.7 miles, the shared trail splits; continue straight for Iceberg Lake.

Starting the hike early makes it possible to avoid many of the hikers heading up the Iceberg-Ptarmigan Trail, but since Iceberg Lake is an extremely popular destination, do expect to be joined by others eager to experience its beauty.

The Iceberg-Ptarmigan Trail breaks into the open early on, providing good views, then travels up through a lovely pine forest before passing by Ptarmigan Falls on a nice footbridge. Take some time to enjoy the falls before continuing on to the well-signed intersection with the Ptarmigan Trail.

The Iceberg Trail maintains its gentle ascent, which makes it easy to gaze at the spectacular scenery along the way. In the fall, there may even be a fresh dusting of snow on Grinnell Point, Mt. Grinnell, and Mt. Wilbur to intensify their visual splendor.

Up ahead, the dramatic cirque makes the location of Iceberg Lake easy to identify, though it is still 2 miles away. The remainder of the trek is positively captivating every step of the way; it is well worth stopping often just to soak in the grandeur.

After crossing Iceberg Creek at about 4.5 miles, the trail passes by a meadow and the lake's outlet. Keep going for another 1/10th mile to arrive at the shores of Iceberg Lake. It is impossible to overstate the magnificence of the glacial-blue color, particularly on a calm day when the reflections of the steep, snowy wall above are replicated on the lake's surface.

This is such a magical place, it is well-worth spending considerable time exploring the shoreline and even getting up higher for a bird's-eye view via one of the social trails ascending from the shore. During the summer, Iceberg Lake is known for remnants of the previous winter's ice still floating around.

After soaking in every bit of the cobalt water's enchantment, turn around to start back to the trailhead. Fortunately, the return trip is no less enchanting, with mountain ash framing nearly every view.

Since the Ptarmigan Tunnel and Iceberg Lake routes share the first 2.7 miles of trail, it is possible for strong hikers to combine them for a 17.5-mile “two-fer” by hiking first to the tunnel, then turning toward Iceberg Lake on the return. Due to the mellow nature of both hikes, the mileage is considerable, but the effort is not outrageous.

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September

Features

  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area