Mileage: 14 miles

It 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.


After hiking through a heavily wooded area, steadily gaining elevation, we were treated with spectacular views in all directions before turning off onto a trail toward the Ptarmigan Tunnel, a 250 foot tunnel built in 1930 to aid hikers and horsemen to get through the several mile long, mountainous ridge named the Ptarmigan Wall, a sheer, vertical climb which had been a very treacherous and arduous feat. As we approached a lake surrounded by this wall, Ptarmigan Lake, the route ahead of us became obvious as we looked up the cirque. The tunnel was straight ahead below the top of the saddle beyond the bowl.

ptarmigan cirque 2

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!

down to ptarmigan lake

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.

ptarmigan tunnel

Emerging at the far end of the tunnel we had a great panorama of Elizabeth Lake and the Belly River area.

lake elizabeth
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,

We started back down the switchback trail to complete the  Ptarmigan Wall Trail, returning to the original, common trail, then started up the second loop, this time to Iceberg Lake.  On the way we were delighted to see wildlife munching on tasty grass as we passed by.


As we approached Iceberg Lake, we were awed by the majestic, circular array of mountain crags that surrounded the lake.

heading to iceberg

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 excitement mounted, as we could not see the lake until we were almost in it!

iceberg lake 2

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.

relaxing at iceberg

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.  He, thankfully, was much too interested in his berry quest to pay any attention to us.

grizzley bear

We returned to the Swiftcurrent motel by mid-afternoon, with time still available for more exploration.



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