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Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail, MT

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Guide 13 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List MT > North Central
5 of 5 by 11
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Distance Round Trip 12.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,962 feet
Elevation Gain 1,714 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,441 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 25.01
Interest Perennial Waterfall & Perennial Creek
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
8  2017-07-02 friendofThunderg
35  2017-06-17 Uncharted
24  2016-08-09 Lucyan
16  2016-07-20 uphill_junkie
92  2014-07-21 tibber
9  2012-09-12 gummo
23  2011-07-14 seattlehiker
11  2010-08-18 gummo
Page 1,  2
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep
Sun  6:20am - 6:35pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Likely In-Season!
Three Hikes in One:

BOTH 12.8mi RT 2441 AEG

Like the Grinnell Glacier Hike in this Many Glacier Section of Glacier NP, the Iceberg Lake Hike is very popular. In my opinion, doing "both" the Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Lake hike equals twice the fun and scenic beauty. These two Alpine Lake hikes begin and end from the same TH and take the same trail in paralleling Iceberg Creek/Ptarmigan Creek for 2.8mls before the trail intersection(Left for 1.9mls to Iceberg Lake at 6100' or Right for 1.7mls to Ptarmigan Lake at 6655'). Roaring Ptarmigan Falls comes into view over a bridge crossing at 2.6mls in. The views begin at the TH and before long there is a panoramic look up the Swiftcurrent Creek Valley all the way to Swiftcurrent Pass at 7195'. Bighorn Sheep, an occasional Bear, and the beautiful and unusual Glacier White Mountain Goats may be seen along these trails and at these two lake destinations.

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2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot
  • goat haunt map st mary map mcdonald map
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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
Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail
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Another popular trail in Glacier and another early start. When I was not backpacking in the park, I followed a format of popular trail early in the morning to beat the crowds and then a less popular trail for an afternoon hike. This trail and destination did not disappoint and it is easy to see why it is so popular.

The trail to Iceberg Lake is immaculate and even has pit toilets a few miles in. I hiked this trail with my friend from Hidden Lake and we were the first ones to arrive at the lake thanks to an early start. There were fresh bear prints in the snow on the way to the lake and we saw the source on the way back, a grizzly mom and cub, however, they were so far away, it was hardly much of a viewing experience. The lake was full of floating icebergs, as one might expect and extremely scenic, however, I found the hike into the lake's cirque to be just as rewarding. The Ptarmigan Tunnel was closed at the time of this hike due to snow.
Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail
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To my loyal, devoted and patient fans: I know, I've deprived you the last couple months of seeing my ho-hum posts of cycling to and from work (well, Mark's work anyway) in Tucson, and the good ol' Rillito river path runs! Alas, I thought I'd bring you something new and different by traveling to other states that don't begin with an A, and aren't 1000 degrees in the summer! :D So get ready to have your socks knocked off with some amazing pics and some fun triplogs of hikes the Tug-man (all except Montana for him) and I did! Yes, there will be the good old fashioned boring ones thrown in there as well (c'mon, I've got 2 full months to post still!!! With the exception of all the travel time - 2 weeks, to be exact - it's a long drive across the country and back!), but, I promise to give the goods on the fun ones. :) This will be a slow process...... :roll:

The previous paragraph was to see if anyone is actually paying attention, cuz let's face it, most aren't. :lol: :lol: :lol: This is really for my own record keeping benefits to keep track of myself and how lazy my ass is being or not! ;) And some people like looking at beautiful pics, which I do have!

But anywhoo, I digress! This hike was the first I got to do when arriving in Glacier. It was just a tease and a preview for the following day's hike to the glacier. Didn't get a campsite until after 6 pm. Luckily it's light until 10 or a bit later, so still time for a quick jaunt from the campsite. Luckily again the TH is right near the campground we scored a site in!
Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail
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since getting to Grinnell Glacier was not viable yet due to a late snow storm; this hike was the next best option that also fit in with my schedule to meet the plane in GTF at 7:15PM (3 hr drive from Many Glacier). I had done this hike with Ambika in 2010 on July 19; so it's 4 years later almost to the day. Once again it started off the same way in the weather dept from the Rising Sun with a drive in drizzling rain and by the time the hike started at 8:30, the sun was on its way out. There were about a dozen of us on this ranger-guided hike with 47-year veteran Ranger Bob Schultz (lives in OR, summers as a Glacier ranger).

So up the couple of hills we went, gets the lungs to goin' that's for sure : rambo : . It was green and the air was crisp but before you know it, you have big views of Mount Grinnell flanking you to the south, the cloud topped Swiftcurrent and Wilbur Mountains in front with Altyn flanking you to the north. Soon the wildflowers became more numerous as well. I wasn't sure how fast Ranger Bob would move the group as they were diverse in age so I was prepared to do a lot of hike-by shooting with my camera.

Ranger Bob was very good at stopping and hitting different topics about this area and the park and the geology.
From Wikipedia: The Lewis Overthrust started during the formation of the Rocky Mountains 170 million years ago as a result of colliding tectonic plates. Stresses on the continental plates pushed a huge rock wedge eastward more than 50 miles. The rock wedge, which was several miles thick and several hundred miles long,consisted of Proterozoicrock formations. The underlying layer consisted of softer, Cretaceous age rocks
that were over 1,400 million years younger than the overthrust layer.
There is no where else on earth like this that expose older earth from 1.5 BILLION years ago. He covered the geology in two sessions. I got some of it on the video as well. FYI Ranger Bob is a now a retired teacher.

From there we continued up the trail with smaller stops to point out flora or other areas of interest. The Ptarmigan Wall started to get larger and larger. We stumbled on two hikers that were trying to watch a grizzly bear way below. I did spot him and watched for a bit but he was kind of in and out of cover. Didn't think for some reason to try and zoom in to see if I could get a pic :doh: . Finally we moved on getting closer to the forested section. We had most of the elevation out of the way now. Ranger Bob showed us where there had been a rock/gravel fall that fortunately a bunch of other than rangers were able to clear; it was fairly significant.

We later passed by a couple spots where he showed us that bears had been digging and rolling around just off the trail. We eventually reach Ptarmigan Falls which is really hard to see because of trees in the way so it's a bit tricky to get any kind of pictures of it. We rested here before heading up the trail, past the Ptarmigan intersection (I was surprised there is only 10 miles :o to Belly River Ranger Station from here (but includes 1200 elev gain in a couple miles); seems like it should be much further), and up and out of the forest and into the exposed area with little to no tree cover.

As we made our way, you could see an avalanche area down to the south of us. That wasn't like that in 2010. It wiped a pretty good swath and looks like it came off these small cliffs by the waterfall area by Wilbur Creek. A little further along we could see good stretches of beargrass above us :D . Next we saw high above some goats up at a base in the Ptarmigan Wall. Some were near an alcove, a few were wandering around. And then we came upon a snowfield to cross. Ranger Bob told us the Lake had just uncovered itself last week. They had a major snow storm in late June. It's always fun to walk on some snow.

As we finished off the last hill, admired "NOT Iceberg Lake" and the newly minted Glacier Lilies, we got to see Iceberg Lake. You could see little icebergs better from up here than when you get down to the lake as the bergs were toward the back of the lake. Moments after getting there we got to watch three crazy guys jump in Iceberg Lake (I got it on video). And yes, they said it was freezing (they all three dove in). Fortunately it was a nice day and not too windy so they could recover quicker.

We had a nice lunch watching the sun dance on the lake and the icebergs :DANCE: . It was lovely to enjoy it as in 2010, it was windy and cold; we didn't stay as long. We headed back with mostly sunny skies. I went ahead a bit as I wanted to get some pics of some new flowers I hadn't seen before that Ranger Bob had pointed out to me. Apparently there was a line at the outhouse as it seemed a long time before they finally joined up with me. Meanwhile I had seen a photographer down on his belly taking pictures across the Glacier Lily field to the Not Iceberg Lake so I tried it too.

When we came upon the snowfield a person had told us someone had fallen thru :o . You could sure see the hole that was now partially blocked by a big tree branch. A ranger had helped to retrieve the person though it wasn't too deep but running water was at the bottom. The hike back was beautiful and the weather was so pleasant. When you looked back you could now see the tops of the mountains. And the beargrass was truly prolific so what a treat!

We did encounter another ranger just before our stop at Ptarmigan Falls who said a bear had been spotted and he needed to get a notice up regarding the trail being "bear frequented". At the Ptarmigan Falls rest stop, one of the hikers picked up some sharp objects; they were all over the area and come to find out, they were porcupine quills 8) .

We stopped a couple more times along the way to do some flora ID and hear some more bear stories plus eat a few huckleberries. :DANCE: Not nearly enuf for me but heh, gotta leave some for the bears. We encountered many hikers on our way back, both coming and going. When Ambika and I hiked it in 2010, I don't remember they're being so many folks on the trail. They were all ages, some better prepared than others.

Next it was off to get a sandwich and chips to have for supper while driving to Gt Falls. I got an unexpected surprise as in their little lunch room area, they had... wait for it... HUCKLEBERRY SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM!!! :y: My last moments at Glacier Park eating soft serve Huckleberry Ice Cream... what can I say.

I did take a different route back to Browning. I had heard about this Duck Lake Road :-k and attempted to take it on the way in but ended up on Starr School Rd which hooks up with 89 at Cut Bank Creek on the south side of St Mary. The strangest thing is all the many years, decades actually, we've come to Glacier we always used Hiwy 89 which is a tough little narrow and windy road and with the RV/trailer sight-seeing traffic, it can be a pain :x when all you want to do is get there.

Well Duck Lake Road outside of Babb is wide open, nice and next to no traffic... just you and the cows and horses; altho I did see a small herd of bison up on a hillside. And Duck Lake is nothing like I thot it would be as it is a large plains lake somewhat surrounded by fir trees.

6 videos for this hike, 3 going - 3 heading back: (includes drive to the hike) (includes geology talk) (finally make it to the Lake, includes goats) (at the Lake including the 3 who jumped in and then hiking back to just past the snowfield) (hiking back including some waterfall action)
Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail
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After backpacking into Many Glacier, we took a sidetrip to hit these two amazingly beautiful lakes. :y: We first took the trail to Ptarmigan tunnel and once you get above the tress, the views down canyon, of the pass, and the lake are rather breathtaking. :o We took the trail up to and thru the tunnel while wondering why they didn't just build the trail over the pass until we popped out the other side which quickly drops off with the trail blasted into the side and soon realized why they did what they did. Again the views down this other canyon are quite amazing and we took the trail at least another half mile away from the tunnel to get a better view up that Belly River canyon and Ahern Glacier up above. We turned around and hike back thru the tunnel and down to the juction, but this time we took the comparatively mellow hike up to that equally beautiful Iceberg Lake. :D We saw a large bull moose on the way up and this easier hike also meant it's quite popular. Some crazy people like my buddy went swimming in the frigid lake, but soaking my feet was cold enough for me. :o After grabbing some lunch and soaking in the amazing views, we turned around and hike back to the campground...
Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail
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:y: Amazing trail with great wildflowers. Not the year of the beargrass in the park but we saw quite a bit along this trail (nothing substatial on highline/loop/hiddenlake overlook, st Mary/Virginia falls). Good wildlife sightings as well
Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail
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As we drove up the Many Glacier road it was raining heavily off and on. We wondered if we were going to have to find a Plan B. As we got closer we decided to go for it. The trail to Iceberg Lake begins in the Many Glacier Valley located on the east side of the Continental Divide, to the north of St. Mary. From the TH at the back of the Swift Current Motor Inn complex (marked with a TH sign), the Ptarmigan Trail climbs about 200 yards. We stopped at the first clearing to shed our jackets as it looked like the rain was going to hold off. I knew the climb was short and indeed it was. Once you finished that first climb, it was pretty clear sailing as far as any steep elevation.

At the top of this climb the terrain opens up with great views and the wildflowers start popping up along the trail and beyond. Mt. Wilbur is directly in front of you and the Ptarmigan Wall to the west. Mt. Henkel rises above the trail to the right (north) of you. Within 1/2 hour we run into our first big wildlife in the park: 3 deer. I tried my whistling technique :whistle: to get their attention so that they would stop eating long enough for us to get some photos. Ambika was in front so she got pretty close to them. This closeness with the wildlife would be her forte for our time in GNP.

After about a mile and a half, the trail begins to enter some scattered forests. It seemed like it took longer to get to Ptarmigan Falls and the bridge that crosses Ptarmigan Creek than I thot... maybe it had something to do with all those photo opportunities :D . The variety of wildflowers is simply outstanding. You can sit on some nice flat rocks just above the creek/waterfalls to have a snack and take photos. This marks the 1/2-way point of the hike. The waterfalls were very nice but hard to photograph from above. As you were rounding the bend coming up the trees blocked a clear view of the Falls.

In a short while you get to the junction with the trail to Ptarmigan Lake/Tunnel. We took the Iceberg Lake Trail. From there you start slowly gaining more elevation. We also finally got to see a nice big patch of beargrass. It is my understanding that last year was a good year for the beargrass; not so much this year unfortunately. It was great to take our time and soak in the surroundings as we worked our way up to Iceberg Lake. Off to our left (south) there was a nice set of cascading waterfalls coming down from Iceberg Creek.

The Iceberg Lake Trail continues through scattered forest terrain for about another half mile before it opens up to reveal the magnificent Ptarmigan Wall that rises almost 3000 feet. The grandeur is all around you. It's difficult to take it all in because it's just so magnificent :worthy: . As you get closer you get a good look at Mt. Wilbur to the left (south), Iceberg Peak in front of you and to the east the route you just traversed. You eventually get to a little bridge (5 2x4-like wood plank bridge) that cross Iceberg Creek. What I liked about this is you look slightly to the NE down the creek to a negative edge as it dropped down the side of the mountain. We also saw what I thot were "pixel" (Ambika's adjective) mountain goats but when I reviewed my pics at home, they were actually mountain sheep.

Now you have another couple short steep sections before you reach what I call the Iceberg Lake Overlook. We learned we had just missed a momma bear and her cubs at the bridge and a couple people had actually been held up as they made their way. Ambika set up her tripod and took some photos including a "wendy" before we made our way down to the lake shore to enjoy our lunch. It was a bit nippy up here but we had a great box lunch that we bot from the Rising Sun Two Dog Flats Cafe. The sun didn't cooperate too much while we were here and the icebergs weren't floating out in the middle but nonetheless, it was so wonderful to enjoy such a unique area :y: .

As we made our way down we discovered a lot of the flowers were putting their blooms on including the always graceful Glacier Lily. There were just so many different flowers to photograph. It was great fun! We encountered a ranger about 1/2 way back to the Falls. Apparently a hiker had passed out on the trail and they were trying to clear the way for helicopter transport. We passed the fellow and his companions as they were making their way back up the trail to a clearing where he could be airlifted. There was also a ranger coming up on the trail walking two saddled horses. They apparently airlifted the fellow out safely as the ranger and a couple others came back on the trail riding the horses and a couple rangers came back on foot.

It did start to rain as we walked the last mile and 1/2 so we threw on our rain gear. The threatening storm made for some great cloud "drama" as Ambika calls it so I got some more photos looking back (west) toward the Ptarmigan Wall and Iceberg Peak area. The rain was short-lived and we made it to the TH in good shape after enjoying a great time on a terrific trail through some of the most bountiful area of Glaicer Park.

I put in our moving time so that those of you that aren't in "tibbermode" can get an idea of what a normal leisurely hike time would be. With all of our photography and stops we took 9 hours to enjoy this splendid hike. I think the auto AEG is off so I will fix that once I get Scout's official report. Here is a little video I took, mostly of Ptarmigan Falls coming and going and Iceberg Lake:
Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail
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This Independance Day 2008 was our celebration day to finally see some major wildlife that Glacier National Park is known for- "the beautiful and unusual Glacier WHITE MOUNTAIN GOATS and a real, live GRIZZLY BEAR!!

For good reason this very popular hike in the Many Glacier Section of GNP to Iceberg Lake with a last minute decision for a hike to Ptarmigan Lake was a real winner. I knew that HAZ members Crzy4AZ, tibber, and Crocodile Ryan couldn't be wrong in their recommendation for me to do this hike and they weren't!

These hikes start from the same TH located behind the Swiftcurrent Lodge Cabins at 4950'elevation. The views begin just in from the TH and before long there is a panoramic look up the Swiftcurrent Creek Valley all the way to Swiftcurrent Pass at 7195'. These two Alpine Lake hikes parallel Iceberg Creek/Ptarmigan Creek for 2.8mls before the trail intersection("Left" for 1.9mls to Iceberg Lake at 6100' or "Right" for 1.7mls to Ptarmigan Lake at 6655'). Just before this trail intersection at 2.6mls in, roaring Ptarmigan Falls comes into view over a bridge crossing.

This July 4th hike is considered early season in the Many Glacier Section. We encountered snowfields from 5800' for the last 1 mile to Iceberg Lake. Lieing at the bottom south base of dominant Mt. Wilbur at 9311', here was our very 1st view of still snowed-in Iceberg Lake igallery/image_page.php?id=3547 . As we approached the lake and rounded the corner(this pic left side), on a high plateau at the back of the lake here was the very special moment we had been waiting for.. a sighting of the unique and beautiful Glacier WHITE MOUNTAIN GOATS igallery/image_page.php?id=3548 and igallery/image_page.php?id=3549 :GB: We five had a nice lunch break at the lake while enjoying this herd of Glacier Wht Mtn Goats move around on the high plateau above us.

On the way back to our beginning TH, myself and my friend Tom (thanks for all these pics), decided to take the additional 1.7ml one way hike to Ptarmigan Lake. This hike had quite a bit of elevation gain and was mainly in a dense wooded area of lodgepole pines and Douglas firs with some scenic views along the way to the lake at 6655' elevation. Ptarmigan Lake was still frozen solid so it did not make for a great photo opportunity, but the falls that drained the lower end of this lake was a nice one.. igallery/image_page.php?id=3550 I might also mention that this Ptarmigan Lake Trail is a very popular backpack trip that continues past this lake to the popular destination of the Ptarmigan Tunnel and beyond...

One in our group had two friend up from Chandler,AZ, visiting GNP for this July 4th weekend who joined us for the hike to Iceberg Lake. We were all invited to join them for some R&R at the Many Glacier Hotel lounge after the hike. When we all arrived at the hotel parking lot there was a group of people gathered in the lot, looking through a telescope up on the high snowy plateaus above the hotel.. YES, a real-live Glacier GRIZZLY BEAR!! moving around this high plateau above us. Even though it was through a telescope, it really was a great ending to another fun hiking day, our first live sighting of a grizzly bear in Glacier NP and as close as I think I really wanted to come to one in the wild! :D

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
From Saint Mary,MT: Drive 9 miles north on Hwy 89 to Babb,MT; Then Left Turn onto the Glacier NP entrance road to the Many Glacier Area; Continue on the GNP entrance road passing the park entrance/pay station and passing a signed Left turn for the Many Glacier Hotel; Continue going west on this Many Glacier entrance road to its end; Just past the General Store, turn Right on a narrow road that winds around the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn's cabins; Stay left on this road and follow the signs to the Iceberg Lake/Ptarmigan Lake TH parking area;
page created by Grasshopper on Jul 23 2008 1:54 pm
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