(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.
6 responses to “Grinnell Glacier”
[…] On Memorial Day my wife and I headed out to the Many Glacier valley in search of moose. My wife loves moose and, even though I was just there, I wanted to walk the Bullhead Lake trail to see if we could see a moose and check out how fast the snow was melting, besides, she’d never been there. The last time Kristen was in the Many Glacier area, it was for Grinnell Glacier and we saw five moose and two of them were fighting. You can see all of that on the Grinnell Glacier blog post. […]
Two friends and I plan to hike the Grinnell Glacier trail on Sunday, August 12. I have your Day Hikes map and it is great! I am worried that we will get there and find the parking lot full. Another friend said they went there a few years ago but had to leave because parking lot was full. How early do we need to get there? We are staying in Columbia Falls the night before. Maybe we should find a different hotel on the East side? If we get there and find the parking lot full what alternate trail do you suggest for that day? I really want to touch a glacier.
Just get there early! I would leave Columbia Falls at 6am or, like you said, stay over on the east side. There are a few places like the St. Mary KOA and St. Mary Lodge or cabins and rentals at Duck Lake. Those tend to be great options. Grinnell Glacier is your best bet and a great hike. You can do Sperry Glacier as well, but that’s a bigger day hike.
Thank you so much for the info. And I really like your Glacier map. I wish you had one for Olympic National Park. My husband and I will be spending a few days there prior to friends and I heading east to Glacier and Missoula. As to Grinnell, based on advice on a forum board, I had almost changed plans to hiking the High Line trail and relying on the shuttle to avoid parking issues and a shorter driving distance. But I was really wanting to hike Grinnell and it sounds like it is doable. Thanks again.
I’ll be in Olympic this year. You are a year too early. 😉
Is the Grinnell trail doable for kids ages 9 & 10? Or what would be the easiest trail to take them with great views?