The Iceberg Lake Trail – also known as the Iceburg Ptarmigan Trail – is a very popular hike in Glacier National Park, located in Montana. The out-and-back hike to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the country is just shy of a 10-mile round trip, and has an elevation gain of around 1,200 feet. The trail is considered a moderate to strenuous hike and takes most people around 4.5-6 hours to complete.
|Hiking Distance||9.8 miles (16 km), round trip|
|Difficulty||Moderate to Strenuous|
|Trail Type||Out and Back|
|Hiking Duration||4.5 – 6 hours|
|Elevation Climb||1,200 feet (366 m)|
|Dogs||No dogs allowed in Glacier NP|
|Fees||Timed Entry Pass Required in Summer|
The trail is what is considered an “out and back” trail, which is where you hike to a spot, explore, then turn around and hike back. The Iceburg Lake Trail has a steady incline the whole way in, being the steepest at the beginning.
This beautiful hike winds through the park’s backcountry, passing Ptarmigan Falls, over Iceburg Creek, all the while offering views of Swiftcurrent Mountain and Mt. Wilbur in the distance. The hike’s highlight is the turquoise colored Iceberg Lake, which is surrounded by towering cliffs and often has floating chunks of ice, from which its name comes from.
How to Get to the Iceburg Lake Trail
The Iceberg Lake Trailhead is located in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park.
The GPS coordinates of the trailhead are 48.79949, -113.67755 (Google Maps Link).
Many Glacier is on the eastern side of the park and can be accessed via the Going-to-the-Sun Road, which is the main road that runs directly through the park.
While you can drive to the trailhead, your best option would be to use the shuttle service the park offers. The bus service from the National Park Service runs from the Apgar Visitor Center to many spots within the park, including the Many Glacier area. You’d want to get off the bus at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn, which is very close to the trailhead.
Timed Entry Passes Needed!
Entry to Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun road is restricted between July and early September. Vehicular entry requires a timed entry pass, which can be purchased on the NPS website. The permit for the Going-to-the-Sun road is valid for 3 days. The North Fork permit is only valid for one day. Visitors staying within the park with lodging, camping, or commercial tour reservations do not need to also purchase a timed entry permit.
When Should You Hike the Iceburg Lake Trail?
The summer months of July and August are the most popular time to visit the park and hike the Iceberg Lake Trail, as the weather is generally warm and stable, and the wildflowers are in full bloom. During the summer, the trail is usually snow-free and accessible.
Unfortunately, these months are also the busiest time of the year. Expect to see plenty of people on this trail and the surrounding areas, especially if you show up later in the day.
Getting there early is always best, typically before 8am. After that, the parking lots at the trailhead will begin to fill up and the trail will become crowded.
Spring (May-June) is also a good time to visit, as the snow is melting and the wildflowers are starting to bloom. The trail will still be covered in snow in May, so be prepared for this if you want to hike this trail then.
Fall (September-October) is also a great time to visit, as the park’s scenery is filled with fall colors and the crowds are thinning out. However, the October weather can be quite unpredictable, with snow storms seemingly coming out of nowhere.
In the winter, the trail is completely covered in deep snow and is not really accessible to the general hiker unless you have show shoes or ski equipment.
Supplies Needed on the Iceburg Lake Trail
Grizzly bears are common along in the park and along this trail, so bear spray is a must. Aside from that, it would be best to dress in layers (for weather changes) and to have sturdy hiking shoes.
There are restrooms and a restaurant at the trailhead at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. On the trail, there are vault toilets located at various points along it as well.
Also along the way are a few picnic areas and a backcountry campsite near Iceburg Lake. However, it requires a backcountry permit, which can be obtained through the park’s website or at one of the visitor centers in the park.
Other Nearby Hiking Trails
- Grinnell Glacier Trail: This is an 11-mile round trip hike that takes you to the Grinnell Glacier, one of the park’s most famous glaciers.
- Cracker Lake Trail: This is a 6.5-mile round trip hike that takes you to Cracker Lake, which is known for its stunning blue-green color.
- Swiftcurrent Pass Trail: This is a 3.5-mile round trip hike that takes you to the top of Swiftcurrent Pass.
- Bullhead Lake Trail: This is a 2.7-mile round trip hike that takes you to Bullhead Lake, also offering great views of the Many Glacier valley.
- Piegan Pass Trail: This is a 9-mile round trip hike that takes you over Piegan Pass.