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Hiking Grinnell Glacier

On a hot summer morning we pulled up to Many Glacier Campground at the start of our vacation hoping to find a spot.

We arrived at 6:15 am. Driving from Cut Bank we passed less than a handful of cars up until the park entrance. The line was ridiculous at the campground, so we left our car at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and began the hike up to Grinnell Glacier.




Elevation Gain
    10.6 Miles

 5 hr


   1,600 ft


Grinnell Glacier is named after the conservationist George Bird Grinnell. From a very early age, George loved studying the behavior of birds in the wild. He first began school in the Audubon's mansion.

John Audubon, famous ornithologist, became a mentor for the young George and likely shaped his life decisions for years to come. George went on to establish the first Audubon Society of New York in 1886. (1)

After graduating from Yale with average grades, George acted on his passion to become a naturalist. He joined several expeditions to the West: the O.C. Marsh expedition in 1870, Black Hills in 1874, and the Harriman Alaska Expedition in 1879.

It was on these missions he began making friendly contacts among Native American tribes. He studied in particular the ways of the Pawnee, Blackfoot, and Cheyenne tribes. George authored many books on the stories and ways of the Native American people. (2)

These missions also taught him the importance of wildlife and preserving animals from
commercial hunting. In 1876 George became the editor of Fish and Stream magazine. He used the magazine as a platform to educate the public about commercial hunting and realistic game laws.

In 1885 he hired professional guide James Schultz to explore parts of present day Glacier National Park. While trekking through Swiftcurrent Valley, he spotted the glacier that now bears his name. (3)

Directions to the Trailhead

The Grinnell Glacier Trail begins in the back of Many Glacier Picnic Area just east of Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Many Glacier Campground. The trailhead is accessible by vehicle if you can find a parking spot. Be sure to arrive early. Click here for directions from Google Maps.

The Trail

The trail from the picnic area actually starts off on the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail for the first .7 miles. The trail crosses Swiftcurrent Creek at 400 meters and continues along the beautiful banks of Swiftcurrent Lake until you come to the fork.

At the fork take a right on the Grinnell Glacier Trail. To the south sits views of Lake Josephine and Mt. Allen. A boat is available at both Lake Josephine and Swifcurrent Lake to shorten the distance of the hike by 3.5 miles.

At approximately 1.7 miles hikers will see a trail to the left branch off towards Lake Josephine. Continue hiking on the same trail to the west always keeping the lake to the south in order to reach Grinnell Glacier.

At 3.6 miles the trail continues to climb and hikers will come across a bend in the trail that allows them to see the pristine alpine Grinnell Lake from above.

At approximately 4.9 hikers will spot a solitary pit toilet. From here Grinnell Glacier is only .4 miles away.

The return trip is 5.3 miles to the parking lot for a total of 10.6 miles. While strenuous, this hike is worth the view and doable at almost any age.

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