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Ptarmigan Trail and Iceberg Lake: Part 1

Ptarmigan trail Glacier National Park heading north with Ptarmigan wall on the left
One full day in Glacier National Park is not enough time. Deciding on one of the many trails for a full day hike was no easy task. I came to the conclusion that seeing a man made feature in Glacier NP that leads through a mountainside to a completely different scenery was the way to go. It also gave a side trail to another unique natural lake that is shaded from the sun, Iceberg Lake, that has large chunks of snow pack floating in it. The total of the two trails added up to being around a 16 mile hike.

Here's a map that I marked up to show the general path taken. The trail started behind the Swiftcurrent Hotel in Many Glacier. The total elevation gain of 2300 feet was a gradual climb with an average of 430 feet per mile to the high point of 7255 feet. It's considered a strenuous trail.

The first people collecting spot on the trail is at the top of Ptarmigan Falls which is just before the two trails split apart from each other at 2.5 miles.

Ptarmigan Falls, Glacier NP

The park unsurprisingly has amazing geology. The variety of colors and types of stones was only shown up by the variety of wildflowers. The park has over 800 different types of wildflowers.

If I had been taking pictures of all the wildflowers; I would have never gotten anywhere along the path. We lost track counting the different types we saw at 50 and continued to see more.

Ptarmigan Lake sits in a cirque, steep-sided valley once holding glaciers at the head of a valley. The hike leads up the far side of the lake with two switchbacks to get to the tunnel.

Just before the lake I got distracted by a marmot on the hillside that I had to get a closer look at. As I got closer I found a juvenile coming out of it's den to check me out.

The park has rodents running all over the place. The most common to see was ground squirrels. Every hundred feet it seemed like one would run across the path.

Squirrels are a tough thing for someone with a mild case of ADD to deal with so constantly. SQUIRREL!!! My voice wasn't the same after the hike.

Bear grass

Ptarmigan wall with a view of the trail between it and the lake. Climbing the switchbacks was the toughest part of the day. Being above 7,000 feet wasn't helping either. Getting to the top and finding the tunnel was a breath of fresh air.

Once on the other side of the tunnel (built in 1930, 250 feet in length) the scenery changed and we found ourselves on the side of a cliff with a chipmunk.

End of Part 1

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