Glacier National Park – Grinnell Glacier

Glacier National Park – Grinnell Glacier

Location:  Montana, Glacier National Park, Many Glacier
Distance & Gain: 12.3 Miles, 2,200 feet
Difficulty:  Moderately Strenuous
Type: Out and Back
Season: Summer, Fall
Date Hiked: September 17, 2018
Permits and Fees: Park Entrance Fee ($35, good for 7 days)
Description: An amazing trail that climbs up to Grinnell Glacier, with great views of Grinnell Lake, Angels Wing, and Mount Gould.  My favorite hike out of Many Glacier.

Woke early on Monday morning and geared up in the parking lot at the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead, getting on the trail by 8:15 AM.  The trailhead was conveniently near the Many Glacier Campground, minimizing drive time (I probably could have walked from my campsite), so I took my time to eat a breakfast and pack a nice lunch at the van.

The first couple miles of this trail were flat and easy.  It was a quiet morning, with a few other parties making their way around the Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes.

The Morning Eagle on Josephine Lake

During the summer, the Park Service provides boat shuttles across the lakes, cutting the trail distance down by a couple miles.  The service ended the previous weekend however, so I was on foot through here.  Still, the trail along the lakes is a nice walk, with pretty views of the water along the way.

Josephine Lake

Fall colors were out in Glacier National Park, as was well evidenced along the shores of Josephine Lake.

A morning greeting from a moose at the upper end of Josephine Lake

Took a break near the far end of Josephine Lake, where the trail begins to ascend toward Grinnell Lake.  While eating a bar, a moose came out of the trees looking for breakfast along the shoreline.  So cool!

Angels Wing over Grinnell Lake

From Josephine Lake, the trail started to climb high, with excellent views of Grinnell Lake and Angels Wing.  Angels Wing is a really cool formation with a massive wall over Grinnell Lake.  So amazing!

Eagle Falls

There was a beautiful view of of the Cataract Creek valley as well, with an amazing vantage on Eagle Falls.  The Piegan Pass trail come through this valley, and can be faintly seen off to the left.  I’d like to check that trail out sometime.

Grinnell Falls

Eventually Grinnell Falls came into view, with the Salamander Glacier sitting high above.  The trail would climb along the wall on the right from here, topping out on the rock shelf below the Salamander Glacier.  The Grinnell Glacier, while still hidden from this vantage, sits along the rock shelf there.

The Salamander Glacier over the Grinnell Glacier Trail

Nearing the top here, with closer views of the Salamander Glacier.  We’d had questionable weather most of morning, but we were starting to get a few breaks in the clouds now, with pretty bits of sun filtering across everything.

Grinnell Falls

As I climbed higher, I got some views looking down over Grinnell Falls.

Bighorn Sheep

Right before the top, I was treated to a nice group of bighorn sheep just off the trail.  I joined in with all the other hikers for nearly 20 minutes of photos.  Must be rough having a pack of paparazzi photographing your every move.

Upper Grinnell Lake and the Grinnell Glacier

At the top, the Grinnell Glacier and Upper Grinnel Lake comes into full view.  What a pretty place!  I ate my lunch at Upper Grinnell Lake, enjoying a bagel, apple and some honey roasted peanuts.  There were a few people hanging out, but lots of space to spread out and enjoy the view.  The lake was very beautiful, and across the water there was a tiny falls from the Salamander Glacier melt.

The Grinnell Glacier

Spent a couple hours, poking around the rocks and doing a short off-trail climb above the lake.  The lake was absolutely gorgeous.  The water was a brilliant blue with glacial flour, and parts of the glacier were calving off into the lake, creating little icebergs that would float out over the water.   The surrounding rocks looked like temples high above.  It was an amazing place, and very inspiring.

Grizzly Bear on the Grinnell Glacier

While I was climbing above the lake, a grizzly appeared on the glacier.  I kept my distance while he poked around the crevasses.  What a creature!  Where does this bear go at night?  What does he see when all the tourists are gone?  What it this bears life?

Looking down on Grinnell Lake and Josephine Lake

After a couple hours exploring the lake, I began my descent back to the Many Glacier area.  On my way down, I had pretty views of the Grinnell and Josephine Lakes valley.

Mountain Goat having a meal on the side of the trail

I passed more wildlife on my way, this time a mountain goat grazing in the meadow by the trail.

Allen Mountain

Across the valley, the sun was coming out on Allen Mountain.

Altyn Peak over Swiftcurrent Lake

Came back into Swiftcurrent Lake around 5:30 PM, with nice views of the Many Glacier Hotel below Altyn Peak.  It was a short walk back to the van from here, which I drove over to the Hotel afterwards, fixing a bowl of hot beans in the parking lot before retiring to my campsite to download pics and sleep.

Overall, I loved this hike and would probably rate it as my favorite out of Many Glacier.  Upper Grinnell Lake, and the glacier above it were incredibly pretty and well worth the climb.  I also saw many animals along the way, with a spectacular view of a grizzly on the glacier.  The trail itself was long, but amazing in its own right, artfully carved into the cliffs with spectacular views along nearly its entire length.  If there is one trail I would recommend out of Many Glacier, it would be this one.

Additional Information

The National Park Service has lots of useful information for Glacier National Park on their website, including camping, fees, permits and regulations.

Glacier National Park – General Information

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