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Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake Trail
15 Photosets

mini location map2014-07-21
92 by photographer avatartibber
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Iceberg Lake & Ptarmigan Lake TrailNorth Central, MT
North Central, MT
Hiking avatar Jul 21 2014
Hiking10.27 Miles 1,589 AEG
Hiking10.27 Miles   7 Hrs   44 Mns   2.21 mph
1,589 ft AEG   3 Hrs   5 Mns Break
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
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)
Mountain Goat
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Substantial

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Iceberg Creek Heavy flow Heavy flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Iceberg Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Ptarmigan Creek Heavy flow Heavy flow

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Wilbur Creek Heavy flow Heavy flow
For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination.
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.
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