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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Swiftcurrent Pass, MT

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Guide 8 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List MT > North Central
4.8 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,944 feet
Elevation Gain 2,246 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,367 feet
Avg Time One Way 4-5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.89
Interest Historic, Seasonal Waterfall, Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
56  2018-08-01 tibber
58  2018-07-31
Granite Park Chalet to Swiftcurrent Lookout
17  2017-07-16
The Highline Trail - Garden Wall
23  2017-06-18 Uncharted
37  2016-08-08 Lucyan
13  2016-07-22 uphill_junkie
4  2012-09-15 gummo
8  2011-08-16 writelots
Page 1,  2
Author writelots
author avatar Guides 19
Routes 39
Photos 5,577
Trips 337 map ( 3,894 miles )
Age 46 Female Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Sep, Jul, Aug
Seasons   Summer to Autumn
Sun  6:14am - 6:44pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Spectacular views and a candy bar, too!
by writelots

Likely In-Season!
This hike description details the trail starting at Granite Park Chalet and ending at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking area, therefore the description will be given going downhill. It makes a beautiful semi-loop (with a shuttle) when hiked with the Highline Trail - however we were not able to complete the loop in this way due to record snowpacks in winter 201l. Instead, we began the hike on "The Loop" (officially called the Granite Park Trail).

While Granite Park Chalet is given as the "destination" on the Highline-Swiftcurrent loop, there is no reason to pick a single spot as a destination. These trails are their own reason for hiking: spectacular vistas, abundant wildlife, incalculable wildflowers and the park's namesake geological formations. The hike from the Chalet over Swiftcurrent Pass and down the Devil's Elbow is one of the most remarkable trails you'll find anywhere - and any distance you go, you're guaranteed to see something spectacular.

The trail begins just east of the Granite Park Chalet, at the junction of the Loop and Highline trails. It heads up the gentle rise behind the Chalet, slowly rising out of Granite Park itself amid fields of glacier lilies and tall evergreens. Soon you will get to a point where you can look back for an excellent view of the Chalet and Bear Valley below it.

In a little over a mile is a small spur trail branching off to the north heading up to Swiftcurrent Lookout. This trail climbs another 1600' in only 1.4 miles to the Swifcurrent Lookout on Swiftcurrent Mountain. The lookout was built in 1934 after wildfires devastated the area east of the pass. As with so many Lookouts, the view is supposed to be magnificent. In a few hundred yards the trail reaches the summit of Swiftcurrent Pass. The views from the pass summit itself are not that great - it's a gentle, forested pass marked by a rather large rock cairn. However, as you continue on the trail, now heading gradually down hill, views east into the Swiftcurrent valley open up, and following a small use trail to the southeast will bring you to a spectacular point with views of the shimmering lakes in the U-shaped valley as well as the Swiftcurrent Glacier high above (although the feature was hidden in the snow when we visited).

From here, the hike begins its descent in earnest. Early in the season, snowfields will be common here, many of them steep and leading to precipitous falls. It's a good idea to carry traction devices just in case when snow may be encountered. The benefit to these snowy times, however, are the spectacular waterfalls created by the melt in this steep valley. About a half an hour from the pass the trail wraps around the ridgeline it has been descending and if you're alert you'll catch a view of Windmaker Lake: this is the only point of the trail where you'll see this small, glacial gem. From here, the trail wraps back around to the southern face of the ridge and faces what hikers call the "Devil's Elbow", one long, gradual switchback carved into the rocky slope of the valley. If you've got vertigo, look out - although the trail is wide and the tread is clean, it's a long, long way down. (When we hiked this section, the elbow bent back right at a massive waterfall). Water coming down this wall is almost all melting off of the Swiftcurrent Glacier, which is spectacular in it's own right, but also contributes to the mystical cloudy blue of the glacial lakes.

From the elbow, the descent gradually begins to smooth out until the trail reaches the head of Bullhead Lake. Through this area, the trail crosses and recrosses the meandering forks of Swiftcurrent Creek, and we found numerous small footbridges to help us keep our feet dry. The lake itself is described as "two lakes in one", connected by a short stretch of the Swiftcurrent Creek. The best photosof these lakes are from above, though, so make sure not to miss that opportunity when you have it.

The area between Bullhead Lake and Red Rock Falls is a literal walk in the park. It is chock full of wildflowers and vistas, with more footbridges and even one suspension bridge to keep even the most jaded hiker entertained. The hike description from Redrock Falls to Swiftcurrent Motor Inn can be found here. Finishing at the parking area, you can look back to the entire hike from the pass and marvel at the kind of engineering that brought a trail to such a seemingly impossible location.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2011-08-16 writelots
  • goat haunt map st mary map mcdonald map
    area related

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Swiftcurrent Pass
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This was one of my last hikes in Glacier and one of my more ambitious. I started at Logan Pass and then took the Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet, and then Swiftcurrent Pass and the lookout. I returned the same route and also made a detour up the steep, but short Glacier Overlook Trail on the way to Granite.

The hike was Glacier at its finest. The Highline Trail was one great view after another, highlighted by the ever present Heaven's Peak, the Glacier Overlook Trail and the bumper crop of bear grass along the trail. Granite Chalet was an interesting place and very scenic, but nothing overly exciting. Switfcurrent Pass was windy and the summit and lookout even windier, but the views superb and some of the best in that area of the park. I returned the same route I took to the lookout tower and finished up pretty quickly thanks to the downhills and nice trail.
Swiftcurrent Pass
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Decided to take a jaunt on part of the Swiftcurrent Trail from the campground to just meander. Saw a baby moose and its mommy!!! Wahoo! Also saw a grizzly - thankfully from afar - which is exactly what I was hoping for! :lol:
Swiftcurrent Pass
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Swiftcurrent Day - Monday, July 25

-Woke up to a cloudy morning but nice enough temperatures. We had huckleberry oatmeal for breakfast and shared some with one of our hosts. The fellow I heard mention this trail was open was going to go up with us as far as the Pass and then he and his buddy were going to go up to the Summit and the Lookout Tower. We managed to persuade two of the other guests, Ginny of Seeley Lake and Daria to come along for the ride rather than just go down The Loop.

-We headed up the snow above the Chalet a little before 9AM. On this west side we got to see a lot more Glacier Lily fields as we hiked in and out of the snow. Of course the vistas were STUNning! :y: The trail would disappear in the snow a couple different times as we made our ascent. Some of the snowfields were quite long and since Wendy's shoes seemed to prefer slipping and sliding, she put on her yak trax.

Once again, I was surprised at how quickly the other hikers ascended to the Pass. Why would you go so quickly when you basically had all day? The views were just so incredible; unless they were trying to go fast so the bears :scared: wouldn't catch them ;) . And yes, it crossed my mind many times when I was at the back of the pack because you know what they say in bear country, "you just gotta be faster than whoever you're hiking with".

-At about 9:30 we came to the junction with the Swiftcurrent Lookout Tower (the Swiftcurrent Summit is the only summit in the Park that has a trail to it) where they had a sign posted: Leaving food unattended is a violation. Leaving packs is not advised. Violators will be fined.

-500 feet or so from the Chalet we arrived at the Pass where there is huge cairn that also symbolizes the Continental Divide. It was about here that the skies were getting a little greyer and wetter. We would also be crossing some larger exposed snow fields (and by exposed, I mean to bears 8-[ altho if you slipped, you could take a long ride) so Wendy started singing the Bear Scat (see video). As we started our descent toward the Overlook (altho, at the time we didn't know we would be going there) the views of the Swiftcurrent Valley opened up to the point where you could see six lakes (Bullhead, Red Rock, Fishercap, a bit of Swiftcurrent, Sherburne and Duck).

-We're hiking along and then I see the guys who had hiked ahead of us. I figured they had gone up the Lookout trail but apparently they had hiked ahead to the Overlook and came back to greet us to make sure we saw it. :thanx: I didn't know it was there as the trail goes right by so I was glad they stayed to share it with us. It would have been nice if the weather had cooperated a little more but I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that despite the weather, we still had AWEsome views of Swiftcurrent Glacier, its lake filled valley and many, many waterfalls. :y:

-Of course, I was in full-on Tibbermode but because of the worsening weather we decided to hurry and get in a group shot. While Wendy had the camera poised up on some rocks, a chipmunk went right up to it, looked in the lens and played around it for a bit. I tried to get a pic but the lowlight and zoom made it difficult so I only got one decent photo. However, what is even funnier is that when Wendy got home and was looking at the photos, the group photo was just a picture of the ground :sl: ... I'm thinkin' the chipmunk got his revenge. VIDEO:

-The weather more or less chased us on our way down the pass. We did get a little lost once when we came to an end of a long downhill snow field. It was only momentary because when we walked over to this one area, it was straight down so we knew we had to go the other way. It's funny as when you are crossing these large snow fields, you have two goals: don't fall and get to solid ground. So when we hit solid ground we didn't think logically as to where the trail would go... oh, wait, what trail? :? because there wasn't one as whatever trail there was, it was covered in snow. We paralleled the snow field back toward the mountain and found the trail fairly quickly after crossing over some more water a couple times.

-While we thot this was the one scary part we had heard about from the other hikers; guess what chipmunk breath ;) , we would be wrong. As we continued the descent east, you could look over the side and see where the trail was. Little did we know what was going to be around the corner. And believe it or not, the other guys were still hanging out at the Overlook. I wonder if they could see us?

As we got closer (now heading west on the 3rd switchback) it dawned on us, "Yep, THIS is what they were talking about". They had already told us to go high as we had to traverse a snowfield over a flowing waterfall :scared: . And really, it wouldn't have been so bad except the angle and the slipperiness of the snow. Normally I would try to film this type of thing while I was doing it but NOT today. No one had any problems crossing but I know I was hanging on for dear life and taking really small and sure steps. After all, I still have miles of trails to hike and thousands of photos to take :D .

-We were making our way along the cliff when the sun decided to put in a showing for awhile. Pretty soon your brief view of the intimate and very blue Windmaker Lake comes into focus. We stopped at an Overlook with 6/7 lakes in view (Windmaker, 2 lakes of Bullhead, Red Rock, Fishercap, Swiftcurrent and Sherburne). And finally, Wendy got to see her first hoary marmots. There were a couple of them. They were scurrying ahead on the trail. I managed to get a zoom photo because as usual I was behind a bit.

Just before Devil's Elbow, several runners :o passed us. OMG. I would like to have watched them run the top part of this trail; especially over the snow bridge. And where did they come from? They had to come from The Loop as there isn't any other access at this time. After I caught my breath from that flurry of activity, we stopped at the Devil's Elbow to take in the up-close view of one of the many waterfalls. I wish we would have spent a little more time here.

-At the Devil's Elbow you switchback east again. As we continued down I found myself constantly looking back and noticing so many waterfalls. And tall ones at that. Plus the sun was still out so I could get a clearer look at all this magnificence. :DANCE: And of course, there is still this lovely view in front of me as you can see 4 or 5 lakes that would change their colors with the sky. And now, we were getting back into bear country so we needed to pay attention. Ginny could do this incredible whistle that got everyone's attention and she would let that fly when you least expected it :gun: , but this was a good thing!

-We took a snack break where we had a great overview of the lakes and then the trail switched west again. Trust me Johnr1, these switchbacks are necessary so that you get a chance to check out the landscape as it changes between each one; especially with the weather pattern we were experiencing this day (see the videos). We finally reached Swiftcurrent Creek a little before noon and it was flowing high and fast. Fortunately, all of the crossings have decent-sized rocks or side by side 2x4s thrown across for us to use. There were a couple areas where the creek had blown its banks too. The weather was still holding pretty good at this point.

-You continue walking along the creek until you get closer to Bullhead Lake. I don't know about you but I love hiking along and over creeks! :DANCE: When we got to Bullhead, it did start to rain but not hard. This is a pretty double lake but you only get to hike by it for a short time. This is where we started running into other folks on the trail as otherwise, we had spent, more or less, the first 4 1/2 miles with the trail just for us. Next up, we were back at Red Rock Falls where we had been just two days ago. By the time we rounded Red Rock Lake, the rain was slight at best and by the time we left Many Glacier, the sun was out.

We got to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn around 1:45 and we were famished so we headed right for the restaurant. We also had to figure out how we would get our vehicle which was still back at The Loop parking lot :-k . I had hoped there would be an earlier shuttle since we got done a lot earlier than we thought but the next shuttle wasn't until 4:45. Several months ago Wendy had told me a story about how her friend Sarah was able to get them an unanticipated ride back to a TH to pick up a vehicle so, being as I was the host, I went into "SarahMode".

Lo and behold, at the table next to us was, yep, you guessed it, Jennifer and her family (see The Loop trip report for the first part of the "Jennifer" story). They had hiked down The Loop and were getting some food before checking out. I asked them if they could take one or all of us over to the St Mary's Visitor Center where we could get a shuttle to the Rising Sun to get Wendy and Gary's truck.
Since they were leaving the Park that day enroute toward their home in Indiana, they thot about it but couldn't see how they could make it work. However, they spotted the other couple that had come down The Loop from the Chalet at the table behind us. So over I went and asked them if they could somehow accomodate us.

It turns out they were staying the nite before a backpacking trip in the Belly River area so the wife offered to drive us over to the Visitors Center :thanx:. Ginny and Daria arrived and managed to persuade this fellow hiker to take them as well. So at about 2:45 the five of us piled in her car with our gear and got our ride to the Visitors Center.

Now, we would just have to wait for the next shuttle to get to the Rising Sun. My only concern was we didn't have our Park Pass with us and usually to get on the entrance shuttle, you have to show your park pass which we didn't have because we didn't anticipate we would be coming down via the Swiftcurrent Trail. I explained the situation to the entrance ranger :-({|= and she said just to get on the bus when it came.
As we are waiting, I decide to call my boss as this is another place where you can get some cell reception. While I'm talking to him, Wendy and I must have noticed at the same time that our St Mary boat captain had just pulled into the parking lot and we both yell, "GRAHAM".

Graham had just come back from purchasing groceries clear in Cut Bank (not sure why he shopped there instead of closer in Browning). He agreed to take us to the Rising Sun (that's where his lodging was) for a 4-pack of beer and I offered him my piece of pizza. So he moved all of the groceries to the trunk and we all piled in his car for our ride:thanx:. We dropped off Gary and then Wendy and I, along with Ginny and Daria headed up the Going to the Sun back to The Loop parking lot on the west side arriving at 5:30.

If we had taken the shuttle, we would have just gotten home by the time the shuttle would have left St Mary's Visitor Center; and that was after following an insanely slow and middle of the road driver :tt: all the way back to Logan Pass Visitor's Center. Wendy and I stopped at the Visitors Center for about 15 minutes to look around and check out the grafitti on the snow that was still piled high around the center. The trail to Hidden Lake was still 100% snowcovered... and it's July 26. VIDEO of our drive from Many Glacier to The Loop to Logan Pass and Visitor Center

By the time we got back to the Rising Sun, we were hungry again so we just ate at Two Dog Flats. I had an emu burger. It was pretty good. We closed our last evening at Glacier Park sitting in King Gilbert with a nice cup of tea.

The last day in Glacier we went to Lake McDonald and that is where I will file my last trip report for our 2011 GNP Adventure.

Swiftcurrent Pass
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Wow, this is probably my fav trail in my fav National Park! :y: So to avoid the permit system we just day hiked with our overnight backpacks from Logans Pass over Swiftcurrent Pass and stayed the night down that the walk-in sites at Many Glacier campground. :) I thought the views from the Going-to-the-Sun Road were absolutely amazing, but the views while hiking below the garden wall just blow that away! :o Waterfalls everywhere, glaciers & snowfields on nearby mountains, lush valleys below, loads of wildlife, dark intimidating mountain peaks... We took the steep sidetrip up that Grinnell Glacier overlook trail to soak in the equally amazing views of that valley, lakes, and glacier on the other side of the ridge. Took a quick break in the chalet as a rainstorm blew in before throwing on our minimal raingear and heading over the foggy Swiftcurrent Pass. Once down from the pass a bit, we dropped below the clouds and out of the rain to see the sweet Swiftcurrent Glacier with a handful of cascading waterfalls running below it down to the amazing valley with a few deep blue lakes lining the valley floor. :o Ohh snap, can hiking get any better than this?!? Once down in the valley floor and past the lakes, it was kinna a dull stroll thru the forrest a few miles to the campground and hordes of people... Found a walk-in site and hit the restaurant for dinner. Wow, those Montana-raised, free grazing, open range cattle make some of the best burgers ever! :D I think more backpacking trips should overnight near restaurants! :lol:

Permit $$

Glacier National Park
$30 per car(week), $12 bike/foot(week), $50 annual View Current Entrance Fees

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
The beginning of this hike is a backcountry trailhead, accessible from the Highline Trail or the "Loop" trail off of the "Going to the Sun Highway" in Glacier National Park.

The three most popular places to access Glacier are from St. Mary, East Glacier and West Glacier, Montana. St. Mary is located on Highway 89, one mile east of the Going to the Sun Highway. East Glacier is just east of the park at the junction of Highways 2 and 49. West Glacier is the western entrance to the park and is on US Highway 2, north of Kalispell

Within Glacier National Park, there is a free shuttle service that takes you along "Going to the Sun Highway".
page created by writelots on Aug 16 2011 4:53 pm
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