An incredible out-and-back hike to the most visited glacier in all of Glacier National Park.”
— Jake Bramante
Bring bear spray. The trail has a section that has late season snow chutes with dangerous angles which melts to tricky snow bridges before it opens in early to mid-July.
Grinnell Glacier sees the highest number of visitors of any glacier in Glacier National Park. With abundant scenic views, great opportunities to see a variety of Glacier's megafauna, a mix of environments, and the most beautiful reward waiting at the end of the route, it's no surprise visitors are drawn to this hike.
That being said, the distance and effort needed to complete this route make for a full journey.
Features: Birding — Fall Colors — Lake — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers — Wildlife
Family Friendly: While the full route might be a bit too strenuous for youngsters, there are scenic views to be had along the whole route, and any point can become a turn-around spot.
Dogs: No Dogs
Need to Know
Boat shuttles are available for purchase across both Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, this can shorten the hike by approximately seven miles. Always bring a warm hat and gloves as well as a rain jacket as travel through this area, even on a hot summer day, can change quickly. Make sure that you either purchase or rent bear spray. It can be rented in Apgar Village.
Access the start of this route from the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead parking area, west of Swiftcurrent Lake.
Start out on the first two level miles along Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine’s eastern and northern shores on the appropriately named North Shore Lake Josephine Trail
. Towards the end of Lake Josephine, look for the right-hand turn onto the Grinnell Glacier Trail
. This is where the elevation begins to increase for the next two or so miles.
As you climb up the flanks of Mt. Grinnell, the views keep getting better. From these higher vantage points, there's an increased chance of seeing wildlife in the surrounding meadows and down into the drainages below.
The tall cliffs of Angel Wing rise abruptly to the south while you can begin to see Grinnell Lake's incredible emerald color. This almost artificial hue is due to very small particles of rock that have been ground down by glaciers, that are suspended in the water of the lake. These particles are called "glacial flour." You'll notice the higher up the hike goes, the more vivid the color of the water becomes.
As the trail begins to level out, just below the glacier, there is a nice picnic and sitting area and a pit toilet. Please be sure to pack out any trash. Continue for the last climb up 0.34 miles through the rock until you arrive at Upper Grinnell Lake with Grinnell Glacier
to your left. Straight ahead, Salamander Glacier hugs the cliffs of the Garden Wall.
The Continental Divide runs along the top of the Garden Wall and Going-to-the-Sun Road is just on the other side.
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.
Flora & Fauna
Features many fantastic alpine flowers from the iconic beargrass to the small favorite of the grizzlies, the glacier lily. Alpine birds such as grosbeaks and white-crowned sparrows keep you company through most of the trip. Small mammals such as columbian ground squirrels, marmots, and pikas contrast with the mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, and occasional bear found along the trail.