Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail
|Trail Features:||Scenic and lake views|
|Trail Location:||Many Glacier Hotel Boat Dock|
|Roundtrip Length:||2.9 Miles|
|Total Elevation Gain:||25 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||17 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||4890 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||2.95 (easy)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||48.79667|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-113.65815|
The Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail loop hike 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 seeing them twice – at the beginning, and at the end of your hike. At least that’s my thinking.
Screaming to be photographed or painted, Grinnell Point directly across the lake, and Mt. Wilbur a little further west, provide the perfect backdrop to Swiftcurrent Lake from the Many Glacier Hotel area.
To start your hike, begin walking towards the north end of the lake from the hotel. Although you’re never too far away from civilization on this hike, you should still keep in mind that you are 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 grizzly bears and bighorn sheep. Early morning and late afternoons are usually the best times for sighting a bear.
Looking towards your left as you proceed along, you’ll also have several outstanding views of the Many Glacier Hotel.
Roughly 0.8 miles from the boat dock you’ll reach the parking area for the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead. Hikers should turn left here, and walk another 100 yards to reach the loop trail again. As mentioned, the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead offers hikers another point of entry onto the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail as well.
From this trailhead the path proceeds through a pleasant forest of pines and aspen trees, with views of Grinnell Point and Mt. Wilbur on your right.
Roughly a quarter mile past the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead you’ll reach a footbridge over Switftcurrent Creek. The bridge offers outstanding views of Mt. Wilbur towards the west, and Wynn Mountain towards the east.
Roughly 1.8 miles from the Many Glacier Hotel you’ll reach the south boat dock. Many hikers take Chief Two Guns across Swiftcurrent Lake, then take another shuttle boat across Lake Josephine, before making the 3.6-mile hike to Grinnell Glacier.
Continuing on the loop hike you’ll reach another footbridge that crosses the channel between Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, roughly 2 miles from the hotel. Although they can be seen anywhere around the lake, this area is especially good habitat for moose. Just beyond the bridge is the South Shore Lake Josephine Trail junction. Turning right here will lead hikers up to Hidden Falls and Grinnell Lake.
Roughly a third-of-a-mile past the junction you’ll reach the Chief Two Guns winter boat house, as well as a private residence for boat employees. As we walked past the residence cabin, which has two big bay windows facing the lake, and a pair of binoculars sitting on the window sill, I thought to myself what person could be so lucky as to live in such a beautiful place as this. Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair!
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. All of these spots will make for excellent picnic spots, snack breaks, or just a place to soak in the views for awhile.
This hike is an excellent option for anyone in the family. It’s completely flat and has exceptionally beautiful scenery.