Expert Hiking Guide to Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park

The mere fact you’re looking at this hopefully means Glacier National Park and Iceberg Lake are in your future. Glacier is one of my favorite places on Earth and Iceberg Lake is a fantastic hike. 

It’s not too hard, but the views will wow you and the best part is that you’ll hopefully see some wildlife on the trail. I’m currently 2/2 with some animal interaction. (See the bear photos below.)

Inside, you’ll get my complete hiking guide to Iceberg Lake and the stunning photos you’ve all come to know from my articles. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

Hiking Guide to Iceberg Lake in Montana

Let’s dive into everything that makes this a fantastic hike on the east side of Glacier National Park. 

Hiking Stats

  • Distance: 10 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1,500 feet
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Estimated Time on Trail: 4-6 hours
  • Chance to see bears: High
a hiker on the trail in glacier national park heading towards iceberg lake. he's hiking through a forest
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Trail Report for Iceberg Lake

I’ve done this trail twice. It’s fantastic! The first time was in 2017, and the most recent in 2023. This trail report will be from the 2023 trip as it’s freshest, and we had a cool bear encounter! 

My buddy and I had been up since sunrise, shooting Switchcurrent Lake before doing six total miles on the Grinnell Glacier Trail (we didn’t go to the upper lake). So, we had minorly fatigued legs, but we knew we could have an awesome chance at seeing some grizzlies on the Iceberg Lake Trail. 

Less than a half mile up the trail, we passed a guy who confirmed there were grizzlies ahead. We were stoked! As a photographer and someone who thinks of themselves as a wildlife photographer, I was giddy, and my pace quickened. 

Best hikes in West Glacier
Top Overall Hikes in Glacier National Park

Fifteen minutes later, after using every ounce of hearing, we came to an open aran with waist-high bushes and a crowd on the far side. As we approached, we noticed a Park Ranger there as well. 

And yes, there were bears. 

I pulled out my 150-600mm super-telephoto lens and began scanning the scene for the bear. A collared female brown bear was up the slope, maybe 100-200 feet.

a grizzly bear in glacier looks at the camera
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
a close up shot of a brown bear on the iceberg lake hike
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The bear, hardly noticing us, moseyed along, taking in all the berries it could. A second grizzly appeared further down the trail, which spooked some hikers and had them running towards us. 

After 25 minutes of excitement, we packed up and continued. The trail was bear-free for the rest of the day.

What makes Iceberg Lake so nice is its gentle slope. My brother is a tour guide for Backroads, and they take their clientele on this hike, many of them in their 50s and 60s. So, if you’re active, you can do this regardless of age. 

Around the 4.5-mile mark, you’ll begin to see the giant headwall behind Iceberg Lake. Its size and wingspan are incredible. Then, as you hike closer and closer, it’ll start to tower over you.

Impressive is an understatement. 

the trail leading to iceberg lake
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

With our mid-July arrival, Iceberg Lake had melted, save for a few floating icebergs. (The lake was frozen during my mid-June 2017 trip, and we walked on it.) My buddy and I were both intent on jumping in. I mean, how often do you get to say you swam with icebergs? (Now, swimming is generous here, haha!)

We both took turns and ‘OH BOY,’ it was cold! But it also felt refreshing and made me feel more alive than I had in a while. (Five months earlier, I’d had a bone marrow transplant for my second round of lymphoma.)

Once we warmed up and dried off, we threw on our packs and began the five-mile trek downhill. I was hoping for more grizzlies and even was told someone saw them, but none appeared. 

indian paintbrush flowers in glacier national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Your Guide to Hiking to Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park Permits

In 2024, just like in 2023, the most popular areas of Glacier National Park will be under the reservation system during peak summer days. 

Here’s what you need to know: 

From May 24 through Sept. 8, all vehicles require reservations for the West side of Going to the Sun Road and the North Fork. This applies to all entrances between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Then, on the east side of Glacier National Park, you need a permit to visit the Many Glacier area from July 1 through Sept. 6. The same time applies. 

A change from 2023 is that you do not need a permit to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road up to Logan Pass from St. Mary’s (east side) or to visit the Two Medicine area.

Bear Spray Is Mandatory

Do not hike in Glacier National Park without carrying bear spray. You need to have it, and it is a handy tool if you encounter a scenario where your life is in danger. Make sure it’s easily accessible (don’t have it in your backpack) because you never know if a bear is right around the corner. 

a jagged mountain in the distance with trees in the foreground
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Where is Iceberg Lake located?

Iceberg Lake is located on the northeast side of Glacier National Park in Montana. It sits in the Many Glacier region of the park, which can only be accessed by driving onto its eastern side, which borders the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. 

Top Glacier National Park Photos

Where do you park for the Iceberg Lake hike?

The trailhead is behind the Switcurrent Motor Inn and the Many Glacier Campground. Follow the Many Glacier Road west and then follow directions to Iceberg Lake trailhead. 

How long is the hike to Iceberg Lake?

It’s a 10-mile hike to Iceberg Lake. But don’t let the mileage intimidate you. It’s a mild approach, and the views will distract you throughout the hike. 

I honestly find this trail so nice to hike on that you’ll love every second. The first part is in a forest. Then, it opens up with wild views of the glacial valleys. The last part is through Beargrass with the towering Iceberg Lake wall in front of you. 

white beargrass
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

How Hard is the hike to Iceberg Lake?

This is one of the easier hikes in Glacier National Park. Yes, it’s 10 miles, but only 300 feet of elevation gain per mile, which is on the easier end of hiking ratings. This is a perfect trail for you and your family/friends if you can handle the constant pounding! 

What is the hiking time to the lake?

If you’re going steadily, you should be able to get there in three hours. But, if there’s wildlife, it’ll slow you down (mainly from a viewing perspective). Overall, I would give this trail 5-6 hours, which still allows tons of time to enjoy other areas of this park. 

Tips for hiking to Iceberg Lake in Montana

  • Bring Bear Spray
  • Bring 2-3L of water
  • Hike in a group (though this is a very popular hike, so odds are you’ll be hiking near people)
  • Bring a bathing suit if you’re bold enough to jump in.

Plan an EPIC trip from Glacier to Yellowstone

Are there any bathrooms 

There are no bathrooms on the trail, though there should be a few places around the trailhead with the campground and motel nearby. 

trail views of the glacial valleys in montana
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Are dogs allowed on the trail?

No dogs on the Iceberg Lake or Glacier National Park hiking trails are allowed. There are too many wild animals, and the place is unsuitable for pets. 

When is the best time of year to hike this?

Summer! Anywhere from May through October will be excellent in Glacier. Expect muddier trails in May, with them fully melting out in late June. Then, as you head into the warmer months of July and August, the hiking conditions will be perfect. 

The fall can always be hit or miss, with random snowstorms. Still, you should have solid weather to enjoy your time and battle fewer crowds in September and October. 

Will I have cell service?

You will have either poor or no cell phone service on the hike. I can’t exactly remember, but I feel like I had my phone on airplane mode because it wasn’t working. The east side of Glacier National Park is very remote, with little development outside of the Many Glacier area. 

More Photos From The Iceberg Lake Hike

iceberg lake trail with beargrass on either side
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
a hiker winces from the cold of iceberg lake in montana
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
a family of mountain goats walk along the high cliffs above iceberg lake
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Staying in the Many Glacier Area

This area is slim pickings. You have Many Glacier Hotel, Switftcurrent Motor Inn, and the Many Glacier Campground. 

The Many Glacier Hotel ranges from $500-$800 per night and is constantly booked months (or years) in advance. 

Swiftcurrent Inn is $150 per night and is almost entirely reserved for the summer. 

Lastly, the campground is incredibly sought after as it’s far more economical. 

If you want more options, look at West Glacier. This area is far more commercialized and has 80% of the hotels in the region. It’s also closer to the Kalispell/Whitefish Airport.

What gear to pack for your hike

Need gear? Grab it at REI.com.

What other hikes are nearby?

  • Grinnell Glacier Trail: 10 miles, Moderate to Hard
  • Cracker Lake: 12 miles, Hard
  • Swiftcurrent Pass: 7 miles, Moderate
  • Ptarmigan Lake and Tunnel: 11 miles, Hard
  • Apikuni Falls: 2 miles, Easy
  • Apikuni Mountain: 7 miles, Hard
  • Swiftcurrent Nature Trail: 3 miles, Easy

FAQ: Hiking Iceberg Lake in Glacier

Can you swim in Iceberg Lake?

Yes, you can! It’s frigid – my breath was taken away – but it felt amazing. You’ll probably want to run in to decrease chickening out. 

When does this trail usually open?

Much of that depends on the weather and how much snow they receive. The trailhead’s elevation is 5,000 feet. The trail was fine when I did it in mid-June, but the lake was still iced over. I’m sure you could get here in May, though snow would likely still be on the trail. 

Can you backpack here?

No, you cannot backpack to Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park. See the photo below for where you can camp in Glacier National Park.

Credit: NPS

Are there grizzly bears on this trail?

Yes! This is one of the trails most frequented by bears. They love the bushes that line the trail. Make sure to carry your bear spray and hike with others. 

Does Iceberg Lake still have icebergs? 

Early in summer, you will 100% see icebergs floating in the lake. When we went swimming, a few were floating around us!

a hiker goes into iceberg lake
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What time does the sunset during the summer?

This is one of the best parts about Montana and Glacier National Park during the summer. The sun doesn’t set until 10pm or later, and you’ll have light in the sky until 11pm. You can literally hike from 5am to 10pm and be just fine!

How far of a drive is this from West Glacier?

There are two routes you can take to get from West Glacier to Many Glacier. The first option is to go through Glacier National Park and Logan Pass. This is the shortest and most scenic route but also slow as the drive up the Going-to-the-Sun Road is narrow and winding. When I drove it, I think I was going 25 mph most of the way.

The second option is to go south of the park on Highway 2 and then north on Highway 49 to 89 in the summer or Highway 464 during winter. (This longer route shows 2 hours and 114 miles on Google Maps.)

Speed limits are set high when driving around Montana, but you must be aware of your surroundings as wildlife is prevalent. When going at night, it’s best to stay below the speed limit to protect yourself.

Wrapping Up – Hiking the Iceberg Lake Trail

You’re going to love this hike! Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park is a gem that every hiker should plan to do. You’ll see a diverse landscape, stunning views, and hopefully plenty of wildlife!

Happy trails!

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

Follow on social media: TikTok || Instagram || Facebook || Newsletter

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Bio:

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside