Is The Iceberg Lake Trail Difficult To Hike?

iceberg lake

I LOVE hiking. There is no better way, to me, to spend a day then out in nature, hiking mountains and taking in the breathtaking beauty of mother nature. Lucky for us, there are SO many hiking trails in the US, it’s kind of amazing. With 58 National Parks throughout the states, there’s no shortage of beautiful hiking to be done here.The Iceberg Lake Trail is no exception. You’ll find this stunning hike in the Glacier National Park, Montana.

About The Trail

Where do I start the trail from?

The trail starts at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

How long is the trail?

The trail is about 9.6 miles round trip so it’s definitely not for absolute beginners.

How long does it take to hike the Iceberg Lake Trail?

Of course this depends on your fitness level, but on average people spend around 2-3 hours hiking up (enjoying the views as you go of course) and then about 1.5 hours down. If you want to stop for a snack or picnic somewhere along the way then add a little time on for this. Overall, no more than 6 hours for the whole trail.

What is the elevation of the Iceberg Lake Trail?

Overall, the elevation gain is 1,275 feet. You start the trail at just under 5,000 feet and the highest elevation you’ll reach is 6,160 feet! Not bad, aye. The first part of the trail is going to be the toughest, elevation wise, with an increase of almost 200 feet in a quarter mile. But after that it becomes more moderate and your average elevation gain is 263 feet per mile.

iceberg lake

What dangers do I need to be aware of on the trail?

BEARS AND MOOSE! Yeah, there are a LOT of grizzlies around this trail, especially the trail that starts from the Many Glacier Hotel which is why this trail entrance is closed most of the time. But yeah, these bears and moose are no joke so take all the necessary precautions before you think about hiking this trail.

When is the best time to go?

The highest point of this trail is pretty high, so your best months to try and tackle this are July, August and September. June and October can be lovely too but there is a risk that the peak of the trail will be blocked by snow so be prepared for this.

Temperatures average from 50-60 degrees during the summer months but try and hike in October and you’re looking at possible lows of 25 degrees!

Is it good for beginners?

Honestly, beginners could complete this trail if you’re very physically fit but it’s not recommended. It’s classed as a 12.25 on the difficulty scale which means it’s strenuous. With the added danger of bears and moose, no-one should do this trail alone but especially not newbies. If you’re a newbie and adamant you want to attempt this trail, go with a big group!

What should I expect on the trail?

So, you start off at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn where there’s space for 10-15 cars to park for the trail. These will fill up quickly, so unless you’re there nice and early (which is recommended) then you’ll have to park up front of the Inn.

The first quarter of the trail is fairly steep but once you reach the top of this you’ll be at the Ptarmigan Trail junction where you’ll want to take a left. On the next few miles you’ll be graced with breathtaking views of Mount Grinnell, Swiftcurrent Mountain and Mount Wilbur. It really is humbling to be surrounded by such humongous natural features, some over 9,000 feet tall.

About 1.5 miles from the trail head, you’ll pass through a pine forest area. This shady section of the trail will be sorely missed once the heat really starts to beat down. 2.5 miles in there’s a small clearing where you can see Ptarmigan Falls, but this’ll be the best view of it unfortunately.

Continue to a rocky area above the falls and stop for a little snack or just to take in the beauty and fresh air then continue on to the Iceberg Lake and Ptarmigan Trail junction. Soon you’re going to get your first glimpse of the icebergs and Iceberg Lake!

iceberg lake

Follow the trail to the bottom of Ptarmigan Wall, which separates Many Glacier Valley and Belly River Valley. 4.5 miles into the trial, you’ll pass through a glorious alpine meadow and then you’ll reach it. The reason you’ve hiked up 1,275 feet, the magnificent Iceberg Lake. I won’t go into detail because this is something best left as a surprise, but trust me, go see for yourself why so many people want to hike the Iceberg Lake Trail.

What kind of equipment do I need?

The Essentials:

You always want to pack the hiking essentials even if you’re just going for a day hike. You never know what is going to happen so preparing for the worst is the number 1 rule. ALWAYS take more water than you expect to drink and more food than you think you’ll need.

Make sure you have the survival essentials; a knife, a way to make fire, a makeshift shelter if needed, a first aid kit, some form of navigation, a lamp or headlight and sun protection. It may sound like overkill but trust me, if something goes wrong on your hike you’ll thank me!

Bear Bell:

With this being prime bear territory, having a bear bell is an easy way to make constant and consistent noise to ensure they know you’re there and (hopefully) won’t come too close.

Bear Spray:

If they do happen to get a little too close though, you’ll need bear spray. It’s actually a requirement to hike this trail that you take bear spray with you but if you don’t have your own, don’t worry, you can rent some there.


Now the sensible stuff is done, this place is beautiful! You’re definitely going to want to capture some of these moments. With tons of beautiful mountains, trees and wildlife there’s no shortage of places to catch that perfect shot.

What kind of clothing do I need?

• Hiking Boots
• Hiking Pants
• LAYERS! (Short Sleeve Shirt, Long Sleeve Shirt, Fleece)
• Rain Jacket (Just in Case)

Do you need a permit?

No! If you’re just going for a day hike there is not need to purchase a permit for the Iceberg Lake Trail.

There you have it. Pretty much everything you need to know before you attempt to hike the Iceberg Lake Trail. It’s an absolutely stunning hike and one that can be done in just half a day! What better way to spend a weekend? If you’re visiting the Glacier National Park you should consider checking out the Grinnell Glacier too!

Mariska Lee

Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit. She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.

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