Glacier National Park: Grinell Glacier Trail

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On our last day in Glacier National Park, we decided to explore the Many Glacier Valley. We parked in the lot for the Many Glacier Hotel since we planned on touring the historic lodge in the afternoon. From the lot, we followed the horse trail over the road and picked up the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail around the head of the lake.

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This short scrubby trail led to the Grinell Glacier Trail head. That parking lot was already starting to get full at 8:30 AM. The hike to Grinell Glacier is one of the most popular in the park.

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I’d already checked online and warned my family that we would not be able to go all the way to the Glacier. It was the last week of June, but the trail is not usually cleared of snow and ice at the top until late July.

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There were signs at the trail head saying basically the same thing, so we were mentally prepared to have a nice hike along the first two lakes and then go left at the fork towards Grinell Lake instead of bearing right to the steep trail to the glacier.

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The first two miles were relatively flat, travelling up the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake and then Josephine Lake. When we reached the end of Swiftcurrent Lake. we looked back to see Many Glacier Hotel against the mountains where we’d started.

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Then a gradual incline took us to a path above Josephine Lake through fields of wildflowers. We passed an inlet with an iceberg floating in it.

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When we got to the fork, we saw young people descending from the glacier trail. They confirmed that we could not get all the way to the glacier, but that we could get to a great overlook of Grinnell Lake by following the glacier trail for 10 minutes.

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Ten minutes turned out to be a steep, slippery, rocky climb of about a mile and maybe 45 minutes in the world of adults who have a less limited concept of time passage. Tall steps were carved into the rock in places and in others, little waterfalls rained down on us, cooling us off.

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The view of Grinell Lake from the overlook is breathtaking. The color of the water is the most vibrant of the three lakes in the valley because it is the closest to the glaciers and receives the glacial flour runoff first.

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At about the three and half mile mark, there was a ranger making sure that no hikers tried to go past the signs and risk traversing the ice covered cliffs.

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As we headed back down the trail, we had to break the news to hopeful hikers on the ascent that they wouldn’t be able to go all the way to the glacier.

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When we got to the start of Swiftcurrent Lake, we decided to hike the other shore back to Many Glacier Hotel. We were rewarded with some different scenes of canoes on the lake with Grinnell Point rising above it.

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Location: 1 Rte 3, Browning, MT 59417

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/11/1910

Date of my visit: 6/27/2018

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