Iceberg Lake Hike

St. Mary, MT

We stayed an extra day on the east side of Glacier NP to take advantage of beautiful weather and hike to Iceberg Lake.  The trailhead is behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn in the Many Glacier area of the park, about 20 miles from St. Mary.  Fall has come to northern Montana and beautiful views appeared as soon as we got into the Jeep.

Lower St. Mary Lake from the front of our motorhome

The entrance road to Many Glacier

Lake Sherburne

This “little” grizzly enjoyed breakfast near the entrance road

One of the advantages of being in the park late in September is that the crowds have disappeared.  When we drove through the parking lot of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn during our visit a month earlier there was not an empty parking place to be found.  But now we had our choice of almost any slot!   We walked around the Swiftcurrent Inn as workers were boarding it up for the winter and found the trailhead.  The trail to Iceberg Lake is about five miles long with a bit of elevation gain the length of the hike.  Much of the trail runs along open hillsides full of fall color.

The white in the center is our destination

As we approached the end of the trail we came to a nice little lake, but where are the icebergs?  We read that the lake has ice in it until the end of summer but had hoped some of the ice remained.

But wait, the trail continues!  We hiked over a small hill and were rewarded for our efforts with a view of an ice-filled lake.

Iceberg Lake did not disappoint.  It was filled with floating pieces of ice of various sizes.

Lunch with a view

After a very pleasant visit to Iceberg Lake it was time to return back down the trail.

The trailhead is next to the lake in the center of the picture

About halfway back down the trail we passed this warning sign.  It certainly catches your attention, but we made plenty of noise along the trail and had our bear spray handy.

Along the trail we spotted some sheep on the hillside above us.

Can’t see the sheep ? ?

A little zoom may help

A young sentinel keeps watch

We returned safely to the Jeep and headed out of the park.  But even with the small crowds we had to stop for a “bear Jam” along the way.  It seems the Grizzly fellow below was enjoying a meal on the hillside above the road.

We’re very glad to have stayed near Glacier NP one more day, as the hike to Iceberg Lake was outstanding.  In fact, we found many of the hikes on the east side of the park to be outstanding.  The west side of Glacier NP is the most popular and has the most facilities (campgrounds, restaurants, etc.) but if we ever return here we would definitely head back to the east side where there are less people and great hikes!

Well, that’s it for Glacier NP.  Tomorrow we head around to the west side of the park, then to the south for a visit to Polson, MT on the southern shore of Flathead Lake.  More on that later . . .

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34 Responses to Iceberg Lake Hike

  1. Oooooh, I’d love that lake with the icebergs! I’d also love to sit in a grizzly jam as long as I could see the bear!

    • placestheygo says:

      This is the same guy I am sure that we saw coming. He was a few feet off the road coming in and not too far up the hill as we were leaving. So everyone could see him without binoculars. It was fun catching him twice.

  2. Laurel says:

    Another gorgeous hike! Great photo of you with your iceberg souvenir, Pam (did you bring it home?) and fantastic lunch view. Nice shot of that grizzly! Late last September when we were hiking in Yellowstone we were the ONLY people on the trails. We had our big canister of bear spray with us but we tired ourselves out singing and talking the whole way. We did see a couple of grizzlies, but none while hiking (I’m happy to say).

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Laurel:) I couldn’t wait to put the iceberg down. Boy was it cold!

      We tend to try to avoid the crowds so we often are alone on a trail. It does make me nervous but we have our spray and John claps and talks to the bear frequently. I love seeing the bears but not while hiking:)

  3. Suzanne says:

    Oh, that lake is just as gorgeous as I knew it would be. I am sad that I had to miss it, but so grateful I got to see it through your lens! I could have easily spent another week over on the east side. Such a different atmosphere than the west side! I will be back! But for now, thanks for taking me along for the virtual hike.

    • placestheygo says:

      Glad we could help, Suzanne, since you couldn’t make the hike. We really had no idea what we would find so the size of those icebergs in September were a real surprise. Now you will have something to look forward to on your next visit:) Hope things worked out with your car.

  4. Sue says:

    Wow! Once again spectacular pictures, is it the scenery or the photographer….We spent time on the west side of the park, but the east looks like its worth a special trip, thanks for showing it to us. I’m glad you got to see a bear, but from the safety of your jeep. Keep these posts coming.
    Sue

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Sue:) I think it was a combination of fantastic scenery and a wonderful photographer!!!

      We (I) love seeing the bears but as we travel in the Jeep not hiking on the trail:)

  5. Gay says:

    I am so far behind…first off, I so enjoyed the hike to Virginia Falls! Just like you, we kept thinking we were there, but kept on going. What a reward at the end.
    Iceberg Lake will definitely be on the list when we return! I agree with you about the east side of Glacier NP…how does it get any prettier that that?
    We loved Polson…Flathead Lake is really pretty!

    • placestheygo says:

      I had read on another blog, Gay, about how people don’t realize they haven’t reached the Virginia Falls yet. With so many other smaller falls and no sign, you can get confused. We did have a few people ask if it was still ahead. Luckily for us, we were all alone when we got there.

      Iceberg Lake was a great hike. While it was five miles one way, the 1200 foot elevation gain was over the entire five miles so you never felt it. One of our easiest hikes:)

      The Motorcoach Resort was my kind of place. But with the incoming weather we thought we ought to move on. The lake is beautiful and we really loved the airstrip (our son is a pilot). We had a lot of smoke from the wildfires so our view was very hazy but still nice:)

  6. heyduke50 says:

    thanks for letting me tag along for one last hike in Glacier this season…

  7. Tom W says:

    We camped at Glacier a few years ago and loved it. We hiked to Grinnell Glacier an loved it, but the hike you did is on my bucket list. Thanks for this post!

  8. pmbweaver says:

    Awesome. I love those icebergs. How cool.

    What a bonus in seeing the bear so close up and personal. I am sure you two may be moving down the road, but the view will still be gorgeous.

  9. We also did Grinnell but not Iceberg. Have to save something for next time. What a cool hike!
    We liked the east side of Glacier better, too. It was great to stay at Many Glacier and just walk to trailheads.
    Gayle

    • placestheygo says:

      It would be great to stay in the Many Glaciers area but we are a little too large.

      Now you have a good reason to return. I am so glad we decided to stay another day and hike to Iceberg Lake.

  10. Erin says:

    Ice! and bear and sheep sightings … and a view! That’s a great hike in my book.

  11. Sherry says:

    We haven’t gotten back to Glacier since my broken ankle on the west side in 2011 but for sure when we do, I want to do that hike and spend more time on the east side. Late September seems a great time to be there. Any chance of snow in late September? Or are you just lucky this year?

    • placestheygo says:

      Sherry, you would really enjoy the east side of Glacier. I feel the better hikes are from Logan Pass east.

      As for snow, we had snow in Jasper in early Sept. and they got even more in Banff. But you want a little snow. The snow just lit up the mountains with beauty. The snow this year was very unusual and broke several records. September is suppose to be one of the nicest months in Alberta. I read that anytime after Labor Day is great since the kids are back to school. Our temps went from low 30’s to 80. So we had winter, summer, and fall:)

  12. Janna says:

    Stunning photos–it is truly the best time to be in Montana!

  13. Box Canyon Blogger Mark says:

    YIKES!!!

  14. Jodee Gravel says:

    The icebergs! What a great reward for staying the extra day. I wondered if that haziness was from the fires 😦 Safe travels south.

    • placestheygo says:

      I don’t know about the haze, Jodee. I had read a while back that the melting snow can cause a haze effect because of all the water vapor in the air. But I didn’t hear anything about fires anywhere.

      Yes, the lake was a wonderful reward and surprise. We definitely made the right decision to stay another day:)

  15. LuAnn says:

    Another fabulous hike! With all the info you and a few others have given us this summer regarding the Pacific Northwest, Glacier NP, and Canada, I feel like I need to start planning for next year now. Love the photos of the lake with the ice floats and the wildlife. I too love to see grizzlies but much prefer it when they are not on the trail with me.

  16. Pam Leonard says:

    Bear flipping up rocks looking for moths to eat at this time of year if I’m not mistaken. Cool that you caught him doing that!

    • placestheygo says:

      That could be what he was doing, Pam. The hill was pretty barren and just prior to my getting out of the car, he was just walking along. Then, he found something and was doing way too much butt showing:)

  17. Erin says:

    Your comment on my last post prompted me to come back and take another look … and lo and behold, no comment. I wonder what happened, because I know I left one … how could I not, this post has everything I love … ice and wildlife (esp. bears). In many ways, this lake reminds me of Portage Lake in Alaska … although there were a lot fewer bergs in it when we visited in 2010 as compared to 2011.

  18. What a header photo! I wondered if you were going to go back to glorious Glacier after Canada. Who could resist? I remember hearing great things about Iceberg Lake. It looks like it was well worth it. You are going to be so spoiled now after seeing nature at its best. The bear warnings probably would have scared us off. Glad the photos are of ones in a different area and, hopefully, at a safe distance.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Pam! It was so hard to leave the area especially after those two days in Glacier with the beautiful hikes, seeing bears both days, and the fall foliage at its peak. It sure was a wonderful five week trip through the Rockies:)

  19. Wonder what happened to my comment, the bear must have eaten it, glad I came back here. With all your gorgeous hikes and stunning scenery this summer, I would say no need to go to Alaska ! You have seen and done it all! The only time I touched a glacier was on a riverboat ride to a glacier!
    Thank you John and Pam, it will be a while before we get to Montana and or Alberta.

    • placestheygo says:

      Gee, MonaLiza, I’ll have to check the spam folder if your first comment didn’t appear. For quite a while someone else’s comments have been going to spam.

      We were thinking the same thing about not needing to go to Alaska. A caribou is the only wildlife we haven’t seen. And we’ve also added icebergs and huge glaciers to our list of wonders.

      One day you will need to visit this area. You two will love it:)

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