(For an updated and sunnier version of Grinnell Glacier, click here.)
The Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park contains many classic (and popular) hikes. One of these gems is the hike up to Grinnell Glacier.
Round trip, the hike is about 10 miles long with a gain of about 2,000 feet. It’s completely worth it.
You start at the big Grinnell Glacier trailhead. During the busy summer, the parking lot is frequently full, so get there early. The beginning of the trail is paved and a nice level walk through some trees with views of Swiftcurrent Lake. Accessible to everyone.
It turns into a dirt trail and ends up at the foot of Josephine Lake where you can get a boat ride if you wish. From there the trail begins to climb and trades the trees for views. You get a look up towards Piegan Pass and Cataract Creek enters the base of the valley in some of the best moose habitat you’ll find. In this video, we saw five in one avalanche chute.
The trail hugs Grinnell Mountain and gives you exceptional views of Grinnell Lake and Angel Wing and Mt. Gould towering overhead with the beautiful Grinnell Falls coming from the glacier.
After some more elevation, you find yourself above the cliffs and have a little rest area before the final little push up to Upper Grinnell Lake and the Glacier.
In the early years of the park, the basin was filled with Grinnell Glacier, but it has since receded to two smaller glaciers, Grinnell and Salamander (hanging out on the cliff wall) and a glacial lake called Upper Grinnell Lake. The powdery sediment left over from the glaciers grinding the rocks gives it the unique green color.
Views abound with this trip. It’s also frequented by large game such as moose, bear, bighorn sheep and mountain goats among the cliffs. It can get busy, but it doesn’t disappoint.