Super Vacay – A Hike to Iceburg Lake

We made it! Us at Iceberg Lake, courtesy of my mini-tripod.

Keith and Katherine getting ready to head out on the Iceberg Lake trail at Glacier Natn'l Park. Can you tell it's raining?

Our second day at Glacier National Park, Keith and I hit the trail to Iceberg Lake. Originally this was going to be a family hike, but Kris was not so excited by the 4.5-mile length. When she found out that was one way she suggested “Have you and Katherine thought about making that a romantic two-person nine-mile hike?”, and Keith and I took her up on it! After dropping us off at the trailhead, Kris and the girls enjoyed the Many Glacier portion of Glacier NP from the Many Glacier Lodge, with puzzles, a fire, flushing toilets, and cocoa breaks.

The hike ended up being somewhere between 9 and 9.8 miles (different signs/literature said different things), and the weather was sub-optimal with a light drizzle and heavy fog. But that didn’t stop us! We found out this trail had been closed for the past 5 days for highly elevated bear activity, and had just reopened a few hours before we got there. It is apparently fairly common to see grizzlies on the lower slopes while hiking this trail, but we didn’t see any (we did see some bighorns, though…. waaaaay up there).

Keith gesturing to the expanse of nature in what I called "the meadows" portion of the hike.

The total change in elevation is 1200′ for this hike – I think a good third of it was in the first quarter-mile! After that it was a much more gentle grade, with so many different wildflowers that I almost went apoplectic without the ability to photograph any of them! (We agreed that, given the weather, I would only stop on the way back, and then only if the threat of rain had passed). There was one flower in particular that I called “pufferballs”, but I later found out are called Beargrass and are a lily native to Glacier. I did get a few shots on the way back, but I’ll keep flowers out of this tale.

About halfway to the lake we suddenly came upon Ptarmigan Falls. The view was pretty obstructed, so we only took mental photographs. There were a LOT of people on this trail, given that it was a rainy day in an out-of-the-way part of the park.

Iceberg Lake!

When we came into the hollow where the lake was, we knew instantly the hike was more than worth it. The lake is bordered on three sides by mountains, and with the heavy fog it created a kind of cloud ceiling that reached down to the top of the glacier. The far side of the lake appeared to still have ice on it, and floating in the clear aquamarine water were several icebergs of various size. The water was so clear that you could easily see the top and bottom portions of the icebergs. Keith and I pulled out our lunch and sat on a (very cold, somewhat wet) rock to enjoy the view for a while.

A very cheeky Hoary Marmot. (a) he's (she's?) cute; (b) it's fun to say hoary marmot. It just is.

We stalled leaving. Keith hoisted a small iceberg from near the shore, and then I had the bright idea to lift it over my head for my picture with it… the very cold water that gushed down my arm from a hidden reservoir within the iceberg says maybe that wasn’t such a bright idea, after all. There was a very persistently cheeky hoary marmot that kept running around near our feet. Just say “hoary marmot”; isn’t that fun? Eventually we had to leave – our shorts/capris were good for hiking, but kind of cold for loitering, plus we had a ride coming at 4:30.

I'm not actually giving a thumbs up, just hooking my thumbs in the loops of my daypack.

The hike back had more open views, as the fog had abated slightly, but nothing beats the view at the end of the trail.

There are walls of mountain on three sides of the lake, with icebergs from the glacier floating in the beautiful aquamarine water.


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