Lake Josephine Loop
|Trail Features:||Outstanding Lake Views|
|Trail Location:||Many Glacier Hotel Boat Dock|
|Roundtrip Length:||5.8 Miles|
|Total Elevation Gain:||225 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||78 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||4960 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||6.25 (moderate)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||48.79667|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-113.65815|
The loop hike around Lake Josephine begins from either the boat dock at the Many Glacier Hotel, or from the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead near the Many Glacier Picnic Area. The following describes the hike starting from the Many Glacier Hotel and proceeding in a counter clockwise direction. Since the views from the hotel area are simply spectacular, it would seem to make sense to take advantage of this by seeing them twice – at the beginning, and at the end of your hike. At least that's my thinking!
From the Many Glacier Hotel 7600-foot Grinnell Point will be the prominent mountain standing directly across the lake. Angel Wing will flank it towards the southwest, while 9321-foot Mt. Wilbur sits a little further back towards the west. All three mountains provide the perfect backdrop to Swiftcurrent Lake, which begs to be photographed.
Starting your hike from the hotel, you should begin walking towards the north end of the lake. Although you're never too far away from civilization on this hike, you should still keep in mind that you're traveling in grizzly bear country, and Many Glacier has a fairly high concentration of grizzlies. As you proceed around the north end of the lake, look up towards the slopes of Altyn Peak to scan for grizzlies and bighorn sheep. Early mornings and late afternoons are usually the best times for spotting bears in this area.
As you continue walking along the north shore you'll also be treated to some outstanding views of the Many Glacier Hotel.
At roughly eight-tenths of a mile from the boat dock hikers will reach the parking area for the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead. You should turn left here and walk another 100 yards to reach the loop trail again. As already mentioned, the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead offers hikers another point of entry onto the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail.
From this trailhead the path proceeds through a pleasant forest of pines and aspen trees, with views of Grinnell Point and Mt. Wilbur off to your right.
Roughly a quarter-mile past the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead you'll arrive at a footbridge that crosses over Switftcurrent Creek. The bridge offers outstanding views of Mt. Wilbur towards the west, and Wynn Mountain towards the east.
At roughly 1.7 miles from the Many Glacier Hotel you'll reach the south boat dock. Many hikers take the Chief Two Guns shuttle boat across Swiftcurrent Lake, then board the Morning Eagle to shuttle across Lake Josephine before embarking on the 3.6-mile hike to Grinnell Glacier. To continue the loop hike you should turn right here and make the short climb up and over to the north dock on Lake Josephine.
After soaking in the incredibly beautiful views from the dock, hikers should continue along the North Shore Josephine Lake Trail. This section of trail travels between wooded and open areas that offer outstanding views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Hikers will enjoy stunning views of Angel Wing, Mt. Gould and the Garden Wall. Grinnell Glacier is also visible along this stretch.
At roughly 2.7 miles you'll reach the Grinnell Glacier Trail junction. This trail leads to close-up views of Grinnell Glacier, and is considered to be one of the premier hiking destinations in Glacier National Park. To continue on the loop hike you should stay to the left here.
At roughly 3.1 miles you'll reach another side trail that leads to Grinnell Glacier. From here the trail wraps around the west end of the lake, while passing over a series of boardwalks that protect marshy wetlands. Although you can see moose almost anywhere along this loop, this area is especially good moose habitat.
At just over 3.3 miles hikers will reach the side trail that leads to Hidden Falls and Grinnell Lake. To continue on the loop you should stay to left and head towards the south boat dock area, which is only a short distance away. Once past the dock the trail begins to travel through a heavily wooded forest. Most of this stretch is lined with thimbleberries, so it's important to make a lot of noise to let any bears know that you're passing through their territory.
After walking a little more than a mile past the boat dock hikers will reach a short side trail that leads to a pebble rock beach. The beach offers stunning views of Grinnell Glacier and Grinnell Falls plummeting towards Lake Josephine. This is an outstanding place for an extended break or a picnic lunch. Please note that some of our photos look a little hazy due to the wildfires that were burning in the park during our most recent hike.
At roughly 4.6 miles you'll pass a side trail that leads to the Piegan Pass Trail, and at 4.8 miles will reach the trail that takes you back to Swiftcurrent Lake. Hikers should turn left at this junction. In roughly two-tenths of a mile you'll reach the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail. To continue the loop and proceed towards the Many Glacier Hotel, hikers should turn right here.
Roughly one-quarter of a mile past the junction hikers will pass the Chief Two Guns winter boat house, as well as a private residence for boat employees. As you make your way back to the hotel there will be several short side trails that lead to small beach areas along the lake. Many of these provide excellent views of the surrounding mountains, the Garden Wall, as well as the Many Glacier Hotel. Most of these spots will make for excellent picnic spots, snack breaks, or just another place to soak in the views for a little while longer.
This hike is an excellent hike for anyone in the family. It's mostly flat and has exceptionally beautiful scenery for almost the entire route.