Mileage: 14 miles
Out first full day in the U.S. side of this huge park was a perfect day for hiking, with clear skies, wildlife, wildflowers, and amazing vistas! A short trail not far from our motel led to both the Ptarmigan Tunnel trail and the Iceberg Lake trail.
We selected the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail first. After hiking through a heavily wooded area on a trail common to both of these hikes, steadily gaining elevation, we were treated to spectacular views in all directions before turning toward the Ptarmigan Tunnel, which was a 250-foot passageway dug in 1930 through the long, mountainous ridge named the Ptarmigan Wall to aid hikers and horsemen. This wall was a sheer, vertical cliff which would be a very treacherous and arduous climb. As we approached Ptarmigan Lake, surrounded by this wall, we could see that the trail would take us up the cirque toward the rocky area above the shale, below the top of the saddle.
Often the most stunning views were behind us and today was no exception. As we began to make our way up the cirque our view back down the trail opened to include Ptarmigan Lake and distant mountain peaks!
High up on the Ptarmigan Wall we discovered the tunnel through the sheer mountain wall. It was a little surreal to see the large steel doors and deep tunnel in such a remote place.
Emerging at the far end of the tunnel we had a great panorama of Elizabeth Lake and the Belly River area.
Two other hikers arrived as we were enjoying our mountain-top experience. After chatting for a bit we discovered one of the hikers had hiked every trail in Glacier National Park and had listed these hikes on his website, hike734.com.
We started back down the switchback trail to complete the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail, returning to the original, common path, then started up the second loop, to Iceberg Lake. On the way we were delighted to see wildlife munching on tasty grass as we passed by.
Approaching Iceberg Lake, we were awed by the majestic, circular array of mountain crags that surrounded the lake.
Then, as we came over a rise, there it was, Iceberg Lake! What a sight! The deeply aqua colored lake was dotted with icebergs. Our anticipation mounted as we approached – we could not see the lake until we were almost in it.
Quite a few hikers were gathered along the shore. Some were actually brave enough (crazy enough?) to go for a very quick swim while others relaxed in their own way.
On the return route, the park service had posted a bear warning.
And, as if on cue, we noticed just below us a grizzly bear rooting around for berries. Thankfully, he was much too interested in his berry quest to pay any attention to us.
We returned to the Swiftcurrent motel by mid-afternoon with time still available for more exploration around the area.