Distance: 17km roundtrip
Elevation gain: 488m
Location: Glacier National Park, Montana
I visited Glacier National Park for four days in August 2016. Grinnell Glacier is located in the Many Glaciers section of Glacier National Park, which is otherwise known as prime grizzly bear territory. Since this is one of the most popular trails in the park, it is heavily trafficked by hikers. So we weren’t too concerned about encountering a bear.
There are two options to hike to Grinnell Glacier. The shorter option is to take two shuttle boats, one across Swiftcurrent Lake and the other across Lake Josephine, to shave off about 5.5km of the entire hike. All for a fee of course ($13 for a one-way trip and $26 for a roundtrip). The second option is to just hike around both lakes.
Given that it was a pleasant day outside and the terrain around the two lakes has minimal elevation gain, we opted for the latter.
The first portion of the trail meanders through the forest. The trail then opens up into the valley and hugs the shoreline of the two glacier fed turquoise lakes. After passing by Lake Josephine, there is a junction in the trail – you can hike down to Grinnell Lake up to Grinnell Glacier. For those going to the glacier, this is where the ascent begins.
The elevation gain for the first stretch is quite gradual. The sweeping vistas into the valley only get better the further you proceed.
Towards the end of the trail, there is a rest area with benches and a pit toilet.
The final stretch of the trail was the steepest, but the most rewarding as the view from up top is the best. Sure, the glacier isn’t nearly as impressive as in former years (it has shrunk to barely anything), but the iceberg lagoon was stunning.
This seemed like the perfect place to take a break and eat our lunch. As an added bonus, we got to watch these two guys hop across some of the icebergs for a “cool” picture. One of them even took a polar dip into the lagoon.
On our return journey, we encountered this massive bighorn sheep who was blocking the path. A group of us slowly followed him (from a safe distance of course) for at least 20 minutes or so until we could find a spot to safely pass him.
Talk about a hike with a view.
To read more about my adventures in Glacier National Park, click here.