Hike To Iceberg Lake In Glacier National Park

The Iceberg Lake hiking trail is easily one of the best hikes you can do in Glacier National Park. Why is that you ask? Because this hiking trail is full of beauty almost the entire way up!

Iceberg Lake Hike In Glacier National Park, Montana

The first portion of the trail offers spectacular mountain views where you will witness the majestic peaks of Mount Wilbur, Mount Grinnell, and Swiftcurrent Mountain. About half way along the trail you’ll come across Ptarmigan Falls which sits under a heavily forested area that is ideal for taking a quick break and to get out of the sun.

Finally, you’ll reach Iceberg Lake, a stunning alpine lake with the most brilliant turquoise-colored water that is guaranteed to take your breath away. Iceberg Lake is nestled at the base of an enormous cirque with towering mountain walls so tall that you’ll have a hard time capturing them in a photograph.

This icy-cold, teal lake is famous for its floating icebergs (hence the name) which add to the dramatic scenery here. The best time to be able to see Iceberg Lake with floating icebergs is spring and early summer before they melt away.

Iceberg Lake Trail Details

  • Distance: 9.6 miles return
  • Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Strenuous
  • Length of Time: 5 hours
  • Trailhead: Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead
  • Location: Many Glacier

Where Does The Iceberg Lake Trail Start?

The hike to Iceberg Lake begins at the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead which you can find behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. There is a small parking lot however it does get full very quickly early in the morning.

If this parking lot is full when you arrive, you will need to park in the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot which is much larger, although it can fill up quickly too, particularly on weekends.

Are There Bears On The Iceberg Lake Trail?

The Many Glacier area in general is prime grizzly bear habitat. Every year when we visit this side of the park, we always see several grizzlies alongside the road as we head into Many Glacier. Usually they are wandering beside Lake Sherburne or on the opposite side of the lake high on the rocks walls.

The Iceberg Lake Trail and Ptarmigan Trail in particular are known to be a favorite place for grizzly bears to forage. Another well-known location for grizzly sightings is just behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn which is where the hike to Iceberg Lake begins. This is mainly because the bear’s preferred food source, huckleberries, are abundant in these areas.

In fact, there were so many grizzly bears roaming Many Glacier Campground the last time we were in the park of summer 2021 that the park rangers had to kick all of the campers out of the campground! The campers were not even allowed to sleep in their vehicles!!

Hike To Iceberg Lake In Glacier National Park

We had so many anxiety-inducing bear encounters like this grizzly bear encounter on the Grinnell Glacier Trail that we were relieved to not come across any on this hike. However, even though we didn’t see any on the Iceberg Lake Trail does not mean they weren’t there. Several hikers told us that they had encounters, though most of the sightings were on the Ptarmigan Trail.

Because Many Glacier has a large population of grizzly bears, hiking trails are frequently closed due to bear activity. Always check the status of a trail (whether it’s open or closed) with a ranger or online before proceeding.

Also, be sure to carry bear spray with you and make a lot of noise while you’re hiking to alert any bears of your presence. If possible, hike in groups of three or more.

Is The Hike To Iceberg Lake Hard?

Iceberg Lake In Many Glacier

The hike to Iceberg Lake is rated moderate, although if you don’t hike much and consider yourself unfit, you may find this trail strenuous. Although this hike is quite long at almost ten miles return trip, it is not a technical hike so even if you are a beginner hiker, you can complete the trail with a little persistence. There are only a few portions of the trail with steep incline but most of the incline is gradual. Just be sure to allow yourself plenty of time.

What To Expect On The Iceberg Lake Trail

Begin the hike to Iceberg Lake at the Iceberg Ptarmigan Trailhead which is located behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. The first 2.7 miles of the Iceberg Lake Trail is shared with the Ptarmigan Trail. Ambitious hikers will tackle both trails together, hiking to Ptarmigan Tunnel first and then Iceberg Lake.

We only hiked to Iceberg Lake but had someone given us the suggestion to do both hikes in one trip or at the very least hike up and see the lake on the Ptarmigan Trail (which is supposedly spectacular), we would have, but at the time it hadn’t occurred to us to do both.

I thought I would mention this so that you can consider doing both of these hikes in one long day hike, that is if you’re up for the challenge. If you’re anything like us, you’ll try to pack as many hikes into your trip as possible. To complete both trails you are looking at 14.8 miles roundtrip. Okay, back to the Iceberg Lake Trail!

Want more hiking inspiration for your trip to Glacier? Here are 17 of the best hikes in Glacier National Park that cover West Glacier, Many Glacier, Going-To-The-Sun Road, and Two Medicine!

The first section of the Iceberg Lake Trail is incredible. It passes through open terrain that offers spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. This first stretch has a somewhat steep climb, but the higher you get, the better the views get. Be sure to take some time to stop and take in some of the beauty.

Some of the mountains that you’ll see while hiking along the beginning section of the Iceberg Lake Trail include Mount Grinnell which stands at 8,851 feet, and Swiftcurrent Mountain which is 8,436 feet tall, when you look southwest. Looking west you’ll see Mount Wilbur (9,321 feet), and northwest is the Ptarmigan Wall.

As you proceed further along the trail, you will enter dense forest and the views will disappear.

Ptarmigan Falls

At about 2.5 miles you’ll come to a small clearing that overlooks Ptarmigan Falls. Because there are so many towering trees in this area, it is impossible to see the waterfall in its entirety.

Above Ptarmigan Falls is a rocky area that is fun to stop and explore. There are several small pools that are filled with beautiful colored rocks that we found fascinating. Be sure to stop here and check out the scenery before continuing your hike.

Also, if you need a quick break, this is a great spot to do so! Especially in summer as it is nice and shady here. Otherwise, save your lunch for your final destination.

Shortly after crossing a footbridge over Ptarmigan Creek you will come across the Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Trail junction. Ptarmigan Trail continues towards the right which leads hikers first to Ptarmigan Lake and then Ptarmigan Tunnel. For Iceberg Lake, you should keep going straight ahead.

Not too far from the Iceberg Lake Trail junction, the hiking trail emerges from the forest. At this point you’ll be able to see the cirque that surrounds Iceberg Lake. The trail heading towards the cirque seems to get narrower and narrower from this point.

Eventually, the hiking trail begins to run alongside and right beneath Ptarmigan Wall. Ptarmigan Wall, with its jagged, shark-like teeth, is what’s known as an arête. An arête is a knife-edge ridge that separates (or once separated) two adjacent glaciers. Another example of an arête in Glacier National Park is the Garden Wall which you can see from the Going-To-The-Sun Road and the Highline Trail.

Reaching Iceberg Lake

You are almost there! The trail now travels through a beautiful alpine meadow filled with colorful wildflowers. You will come across a footbridge over Iceberg Creek which you will cross, then continue through the pretty meadow.

While walking through the meadow, you’ll see glimpses of glistening aquamarine water peeking through from behind the shrubs. And then the meadow ends where Iceberg Lake lies, nestled under a lofty, steep-sided rock wall.

The lake’s teal waters are so vivid in color, it almost seems unbelievable.

You’ll quickly realize why this is one of the top hikes in Glacier National Park. Iceberg Lake is indeed one of the most stunning lakes in Glacier!

The Iceberg Lake hike is quite popular, therefore you can expect there to be quite a few hikers at the end of the trail. This is especially the case if you make it up to the lake earlier in the day.

Most hikers will spend thirty to sixty minutes soaking in the magnificent scenery, and enjoying their packed lunch. Some hikers will even brave the lake’s chilly waters for an extremely refreshing dip! I recommend you do the same!!!

Because we started this hike fairly late in the day (we drove over from West Glacier the same day we hiked to Iceberg Lake), we didn’t reach Iceberg Lake until very late in the afternoon. This had some positives and some negatives.

Hiking later in the day meant there was less people on the trail, therefore less people up at the lake. When we reached the end of the trail, there were several hikers enjoying the view but they soon left leaving only myself and Jamie.

While it was really cool and unbelievably lucky to have the place all to ourselves, it was also a little creepy knowing that there were more than likely grizzly bears lurking around somewhere nearby.

This definitely felt a little unsettling knowing that if something unfortunate happened, there would be nobody around to get help. The sun was also beginning to set and we were getting worried, so after having our lunch quickly, and taking some EPIC photos, we hurriedly made our way back down.

Hike To Iceberg Lake In Glacier National Park
Hiking To Iceberg Lake In Glacier National Park
Hike To Iceberg Lake In Glacier National Park

Although we are very comfortable hiking in the dark in most other places, Glacier National Park is definitely not one of them! Many parts along the Iceberg Lake Trail are lined with huckleberry bushes and we wanted to get past them as quick as we could.

Of course, we hiked the entire way back down with the music cranked to maximum volume on our JBL Bluetooth speaker. We listened to the same album twice, and sang the whole way back down just in case. It was quite the experience! Fortunately we made it back to our car before nightfall.

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  1. This is such a fun hike. There is always a lot of wildlife around as well. I’m looking forward to getting out that way again in the future.

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