Hiking Glacier National Park
The Grinnell Glacier Trail

Mt. Gould in Glacier Park

Grinnell Glacier Trail

Mid-way up the Grinnell Glacier Trail
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The Grinnell Glacier Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in Glacier National Parks. When hiking the Grinnell Glacier Trail, a hiker will pass by crystal clear mountain lakes, towering mountains and will have the unique opportunity to stand on a glacier if one chooses. The trail runs for 6 miles and has a vertical gain of 1600 feet. The first two miles of the trail are essentially flat. Beyond that, the trail has a gradual incline up to its end. The trail ends at Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier at the base of the continental divide.

View the Grinnell Glaicer Trail Photo Gallery for more pictures

The Grinnell Glacier Trail begins in the Many Glacier Valley. The trailhead is located just down the road from the Many Glacier Hotel at a picnic area. The trail first follows the shoreline of Swiftcurrent Lake for about a half-mile. It soon emerges onto the shores of Lake Josephine. From here, the Grinnell Glacier Trail offers superb views for its entire length.

The trail follows Lake Josephine on the lakes western shoreline, gradually increasing in elevation. Beautiful views of Mount Allen, Lake Josephine and Mount Gould surround the hiker on this section of the Grinnell Glacier Trail. Near the inlet to Lake Josephine, a spur trail leads down to Lake Josephine.

Looking back from the summit of the Grinnell Glacier Trail
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Following this, the trail then begins a gradual but steady ascent towards Upper Grinnell Lake. The trail travels through open countryside, with no obstructions to the incredible views that surround the hiker. For the trails remaining length, a hiker is awarded with stunning views of Lower Grinnell Lake, Angel Wing, Mt. Gould, the continental divide and Grinnell Falls. Mountain goats are commonly seen and bighorn sheep can also be periodically spotted. Since the Grinnell Glacier Trail passes through excellent bear habitat, grizzly bears can frequently be seen below the trail.

The Grinnell Glacier Trail has a "false ending" that some hikers take to be the end of the trail. The trail comes up to a picnic area, complete with a pit toilet and log benches, about a half-mile from the trails end. To view the glacier and Upper Grinnell Lake, make sure you follow the trail up and over the rocky moraine beyond the picnic area. The short climb up over this rocky moraine is rather painful, as it is the steepest part of the whole hike. Thankfully, it is also just .2 miles long.

Once a hiker reaches the end of the trail, they will be rewarded with beautiful views of a retreating glacier and a very cold, glacially fed high alpine lake. Upper Grinnell Lake is a relatively new lake, being formed by the melting waters of the Grinnell Glacier. The Grinnell Glacier has shrunk in size by more than 40% over the past thirty years and continues to shrink. Since Upper Grinnell Lake receives its water from melting glaciers, the water is milky white in color.

In addition to the Grinnell Glacier, two other glaciers are also seen from Upper Grinnell Lake. A long, thin glacier that meanders its way along the continental divide is called the Salamander Glacier. This glacier use to be connected to the Grinnell Glacier, but melting has caused the glaciers to separate. The Gem Glacier, a small, square glacier can also be seen, which lies high along the continental divide by Mt. Gould.

Hikers seeking solitude should avoid the Grinnell Glacier Trail. It is one of the more popular trails in Glacier National Park due to its incredible beauty and its fairly easy ascent. With a vertical rise of only 1600 feet, the Grinnell Glacier Trail provides a relatively easy hike in comparison to many other Glacier National Park trails.

A backcountry campground is located near Lower Grinnell Lake. In addition, the Many Glacier Campground is located near the trailhead, providing a nice spot to camp. For hikers seeking more luxurious accommodations, the Many Glacier Hotel provides all the comforts of home with incredible views of Swiftcurrent Lake and the surrounding mountains.

View the Grinnell Glaicer Trail Photo Gallery for more pictures

Hiking Gear & Equipment Guide for Glacier National Park

Hiking Boots : Buyers guide to getting the right boot for hiking
Hiking Socks : Guide to getting the right sock for hiking
Trekking Poles : Why you should use one when hiking

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