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Ptarmigan Falls

Trail Features: Outstanding views, Waterfalls Ptarmigan Falls
Trail Location: Iceberg Lake Trailhead
Roundtrip Length: 5.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 768 Feet
Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 307 Feet
Highest Elevation: 5733 Feet
Trail Difficulty Rating: 6.54 (moderate)
Parking Lot Latitude 48.79958
Parking Lot Longitude -113.67924

Trail Description:

The hike to Ptarmigan Falls begins behind the cabins near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. There’s enough parking for roughly 10-15 cars in the lot next to the trailhead. However, given the popularity of the area, it's likely the lot will be full, in which case you’ll have to park in front of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. This will add another two-tenths of a mile walk to reach the trailhead.

Mt. WilburJust beyond the Iceberg Lake Trailhead hikers will immediately turn right at a junction to access the short connector trail that leads to the Ptarmigan Trail. This connector trail is a fairly steep climb, gaining roughly 185 feet in only a quarter-of-a-mile. However, once on the Ptarmigan Trail, the gain in elevation is much more moderate.

Upon reaching the Ptarmigan Trail junction, hikers should turn left. A turn to the right will lead you back down to the Many Glacier Hotel.

Along the upper reaches of the connector trail, as well as on the early sections of the Ptarmigan Trail, hikers will have commanding views of 8851-foot Mt. Grinnell and 8436-foot Swiftcurrent Mountain towards the southwest. The dominating feature towards the west is 9321-foot Mt. Wilbur, and lying towards the northwest, in the direction you're heading, is the Ptarmigan Wall.

Ptarmigan FallsThe Many Glacier area, especially the Ptarmigan Trail area, is located in prime bear habitat. The first mile or so past the connector is a haven for grizzly bears. Nearly every time that I've hiked this trail I've spotted at least one along on the hillside. It's extremely important for hikers to make a lot of noise, carry bear spray, and hike in groups in this area. As a result of its location, trails in the Many Glacier area are frequently closed due to bear activity. Therefore, it's always a good idea to check with a ranger on the status of a trail before proceeding on any hike in the park.

The first segment of the hike passes through open terrain that offers grand views of the surrounding mountains. However, as you proceed further along, the trail enters a fairly dense section of pine forest, roughly 1.5 miles from the trailhead.

At 2.5 miles hikers will reach a small clearing overlooking Ptarmigan Falls. Unfortunately this will be the best view of the waterfall you'll have, as steep terrain makes it virtually impossible to get a closer look. Moreover, tree cover blocks a full view of the falls from top to bottom.

Just above Ptarmigan Falls is an open and rocky area that has become a popular spot for a snack break or a rest stop. Beyond this point hikers have the option of visiting other popular destinations in this area, such as Iceberg Lake or Ptarmigan Tunnel.

Moon Glacier National Park: Writer, editor, and avid outdoorswoman Becky Lomax offers an insider's perspective on Glacier National Park. Lomax provides the best ways to enjoy the park's one million acres of wilderness, and gives travelers the tools they need to create a more personal and memorable experience.