ElevationAscent: 2,528' 771 m
Descent: -2,634' -803 m
High: 7,266' 2,215 m
Low: 4,689' 1,429 m
GradeAvg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 38% (21°)
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“A varied forest and alpine route that travels through a man-made tunnel through a rock wall.”— Jake Bramante
Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The trail spends the first few miles traversing a wonderful hillside meadow. Views are jaw dropping in all directions. Moose frequent the valley below while bighorn sheep and mountain goats are frequently seen above. Bears may be seen anywhere in this area.
As you head up the trail, you begin to get into the forest, limiting views. The trail crosses Ptarmigan Creek at a great little waterfall. Shortly thereafter, the Iceberg Lake Trail breaks off to the east. The Ptarmigan Trail works its way up through a forest carpeted with huckleberry plants and gradually breaks out of the trees. The rock walls on either side escort you up the valley towards the headwall of the valley. Just before you begin the switchbacks up to the tunnel, you pass along Ptarmigan Lake.
You wrap around Ptarmigan Lake along its west shore, then leave the vegetation and work your way up the rocky slopes. Two big switchbacks take you up to the amazing tunnel with epic views getting better with every step.
The tunnel is 250 feet long and is wide and tall enough for horses. The other side of the tunnel opens up to steep red rock cliffs and an amazing view of the Belly River drainage with Elizabeth Lake down at the bottom of the valley. The trail here is hewn from the rocky cliffs and is breathtaking as you descend into the valley. Each step reveals the amazing ridgeline to the northwest including Old Sun Glacier on the Mt. Merritt.
The trail descends through the cliffs turning into a trail along red rock slopes. You get into vegetation which gradually turns into trees. A look up the drainage reveals Ahern Glacier, many more summits and Helen Lake. From here, the trail enters the trees, meets up with the Red Gap Pass Trail, then descends to the foot of Elizabeth Lake where it crosses a footbridge and goes to the campground.
The level trail follows the Belly River downstream through trees. It leaves the river for a short stint, then comes back alongside at the top of the fantastic Dawn Mist Falls. It continues down, wraps around Cosley Ridge, then fords the outlet of Cosley Lake.
This content was created by Jake Bramante of Hike 734. Visit hike734.com for more expert Glacier content and maps that help you decide which trail to hike.
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Land Manager: NPS - Glacier National Park