Grinnell Glacier Trail

MODERATE 446 reviews
#2 of 119 trails in

Grinnell Glacier Trail is a 9.7 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near East Glacier Park, Montana that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from July until September.

DISTANCE
9.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,040 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

birding

camping

fishing

hiking

trail running

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

snow

no dogs

As of June 2018, several users have reported that the trail is closed at the 3.5 mile mark.

hiking
2 hours ago

Grinnel glacier is an awesome hike! Completed on 8/3/18. Definitely my husband and I's favorite hike! It is so worth it to go all the way to grinnel glacier. The views are absolutely breathtaking and it's so cool to see the other lakes along the way! Saw a moose on lower grinnel lake! We started at about 7am and had good parking and very minimal people on the trail. Passed about 300 people on our way down, no joke! Get there early! The parking lot will be full! Definitely a must do!

hiking
8 hours ago

This is one of my favorite trails anywhere - a ton of variety in terrain, scenery, weather, wildlife, and flora. We were dealing with smoke/haze from the Howe Ridge fires on the other side of the park, so I can only imagine how breathtaking the views could be on a bluebird day. The glacier area up top is like nowhere I've been in the states... sort of a Patagonia vibe. Amazing place. We were also lucky enough to see a large female moose wading in Lower Grinnell Lake on our way down (probably around 5:30pm).

Highly recommended, even with the smoke.

hiking
2 days ago

This is an unbelievable hike and is an absolute must do in Glacier Park. As all the hikes we did in this park turned out to be: the trail was longer than All Trails told us it would be. Which the mileage on the signs at the beginning of the trail head was actually accurate to what we ended up recording (not what all trails said it would be). So prepare for longer. This one was 10.6 miles for us.
Seriously though, this trail is unbelievable. Did this one on our 6th day in the park and was better than the Highline trail, avalanche lake, and hidden lake. We saw a huge moose and some bears that day.
DO THIS HIKE EARLY!! We started at 7:30 am and by the time we started heading down, there were TONS of people making their way up. And they were honestly very rude. So avoid the music blaring, ignorant jerks that will bump into you on purpose. Because that's what we got on our way down.

hiking
2 days ago

awesome views. we took boat from lodge to save a few miles; you may want to just walk because tough to get return boat (too crowded). if you wait til 5:15 boat guarantees everyone a ride. but beware, we saw bears over the trail. more than 2 hours from boat dock to glacier lake. eat lunch at the lake, not the 'picnic area' below. pit toilet at boat dock and also at top. saw goats and a moose (and bears from boat). this is harder than iceberg lake trail, but not so cold at the top. awesome and doable trail.

2 days ago

Pictures do not do it justice!!! We hiked from Many Glacier hotel to the Grinnell glacier and back, what a hike!
4 hours there and 2 hours back
Plan for an all day adventure!

hiking
2 days ago

We did this hike yesterday with a 9 and 11 year old. It took us 4 hours to hike up and 2 hours to come down. It was quite a hike up but we took our time and the girls did great. There were a few spots that had sharp drop offs but the trail was wide enough to feel safe. We saw moose and goats on the trail and got lots of great pictures. This hike was the best we did in the park. Iceberg Lake was closed due to bear traffic but we heard this one was even better. It was quite impressive and hard to describe. You have gorgeous views the entire time and all I can say is ... wow! This is what you think of when you think of Glacier ... just stunning!

3 days ago

Great Hike. One of the best.

backpacking
3 days ago

13 hard miles baby!
First hike in Montana. The Grinnell glacier has receded incredibly far. It was basically a thawed out cocktail glass. Incredibly popular hike which can start from the Many Glacier Hotel. There are options to take a boat across the lake shore in the hike. I recommend leaving from the Hotel, walking along the South Shore quietly early morning. You will have to keep your eye out for bear, but if you keep looking to your right you will most likely spot moose. Three moose were spotted in three consecutive lakes on the way to the glacier. The Trail is incredibly popular and crowded. You have to leave early unless you want to be in a parade. I counted 116 people coming up as I was heading down. You will get a good workout out of this. The lunch spot is incredible.

hiking
3 days ago

great and easy hike. A good amount of people on it but good none the less. Don't bother with the boat unless you absolutely need it. Seemed like a waste of time walking past people waiting for it.

hiking
4 days ago

Amazing views on the lakes and the glaciers (What is left....). However the hike is highly crowded making the walk a bit annoying as the path is narrow. It is better to have a early start to avoid flows of’people descending. We arrived at around 09:00 and the parking near the hotel was almost full.

4 days ago

So beautiful. I went around sunset and most of the traffic had subsided. The hike was fun, especially going by a weeping wall and being able to see the glacier in the distance. I saw a mama and baby goat, a moose, a wild chicken thing, and a whole lot of chipmonks and whistlepigs of course! All so charming and cool! I'd say the hike is definitely moderate or easy until you get close to the end and it gets pretty steep. I was walking back in the dark which sort of sucked but overall it was amazing. This is definitely a hike not to miss while you are at Glacier.

hiking
5 days ago

Did this hike on 7/28/18. We started at the Many Glacier hotel. The total hike mile was 7.5 one way, it’s a a moderate to hike trail, beautiful scenery all the way. Go with plenty of water and food. We thought the trail was going to be closed at 3.5 mike like another hiker mentioned but it wasn’t closed when we went. It took us 4 hours to go up but we stopped to take pics and were not in a hurry until we realized that the trail kept going! It seemed like eternity for us but we were not prepared enough. We still made it to the top, we a snack at the edge of the water stayed for 40 min and then descended it took us 3 hours only because one of us was really tired lol and we had to wait some people rush down and take two hours. I had to stop a few times to take a breather. Some part were a bit to narrow for me but two people fit comfortably, I’ve just never done a hike like that! Absolutely beautiful at the top some people even took a quick dip, you have to get out fast because it’s extremely cold. We didn’t prepare enough so for next time we know to bring plenty of water, fruits if it’s a very hot day, put on bug spray because hose flies were a pain in the butt, i killed so many that landed on me and some were massive. We saw two moose near the lake and a mountain goat, at the beginning of the trail a grizzly family was spotted but we could see it only with binoculars.

hiking
6 days ago

Parking available at trailhead (~200 spaces). Situated near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Many Glacier Hotel, this lot fills up fast. Likely full by 07:45.

My father and I departed on the trail around 06:45, a late start considering the traffic this trail receives. The Upper Grinnell Lake Trail is among, if not the, most popular hikes in Glacier National Park. As such, we passed two groups and overtook a third within the first half mile of hiking. We stopped briefly near the first common photo opportunity. Smoke filtered the morning sunlight into a stunning red/orange hue, illuminating the landscape around Swiftcurrent Lake; this is another perk of leaving early.

Similar to many hikes in Glacier- Siyeh Pass, Swiftcurrent Pass, Hidden Lake, etc.- this trail starts off relatively slowly. True beauty first struck around a mile into the trail. Josephine Lake, which has a little pond residing at 1.1 miles, reflected the mountainous terrain with its still, deep blue hues, while its corresponding pond appeared as glass. The photo I snapped there was among the most serene I've ever taken. This serenity was short-lived, however, as three groups overtook us during a subsequent break. Predisposed towards lightly trafficked trails, this caused some unease within my father and I.

Booking it, we presently caught up to these hikers and proceeded to enjoy the ascent in solitude. Thank the lord we did. Indeed, this ascent was undoubtedly the most objectively beautiful climb I've done. El Capitan (Yosemite), Mount Baldy (Maroon Bells), El Montañon (Channel Islands), Steelhead Lake (Ansel Adams Wilderness) offer a mere fraction of the beauty. Hued morning sunlight contrasted with the seemingly impossibly blue waters of Grinnell Lake- wildflowers too!- molded an inspirational sight. My father and I broke often for pictures. I would imagine every existing hiker would do the same.

If we turned back at 3.5 miles, the hike would've already cracked our top five greatest vistas. It seemed impossible that the eponymous area, Grinnell Glacier, could transcend what we had already seen. I pessimistically prepared myself for disappointment. The final ascent, an 0.3 mile stair-assisted climb up 300 feet of terrain, served as a worthy approach to the lake. A flattening area gives way to the entirety of Upper Grinnell Lake, sitting tranquilly in turquoise glory, with streams of water cascading down sheer cliffs. My father and I looked up at the Garden Wall, where we stood a 23 hours previous, and shared an unspoken moment.

At 08:35, we had Upper Grinnell Lake and surroundings to ourselves. There was a couple who fled shortly after our arrival (it was unclear if they had camped the night). Dad splashed near-freezing glacial water on his face and hands, I snapped countless images, the icebergs rippled slightly in the water. Some trekkers emerged over the hill some ten minutes later, but we made the first footprints of the day on glacial icebergs.

In all honesty, I wish we could've forgone the descent down. Whether it be gondola, magic trolley, helicopter, any (safe) alternative to hiking down would've been preferable. This is because an unprecedented mass of humanity, perceivably eclipsing the population of Montana, met us head-on during the descent. It started with fit people, hikers who likely frequent the area. Couples came next. Families emerged. A guided hike, totaling thirty-seven individuals, forced us off the trail for a minute. We stepped off the trail for ascenders literally every thirty seconds, significantly hindering our descent.

There exist few things in this world that could drag a hike as objectively, scenically impeccable as this trail. This wave of trekkers proved to be one. I would suggest an 05:15 start at 20:00 pace to entirely avoid crowds, or a 06:00 start to enjoy the first half with uninterrupted serenity. Make no mistake, these are nice people- we chatted with several fellow trekkers- but after 75 "good morning; almost there; beautiful, isn't it?" tidbits, you inevitably wish for some isolation.

If in Glacier for multiple hikes, Upper Grinnell Lake should certainly be among them. It slides in seamlessly with the Garden Wall trek, complements Swiftcurrent Pass nicely, and showcases a different shade of blue than Siyeh Pass. Be certain to bring bear spray, as wildlife is prevalent on this trail. Leave early, hike quickly, and enjoy the ascent!

hiking
6 days ago

We started this hike around 8:15 and the parking lot was full! The weather was great a bit windy in the morning which kept the bugs away. We ran into tourists doing a ranger hike (about 20 of them!) on the first mile or two. The hike is a gradual incline that does not get strenuous. The views are spectacular the entire trip. Waterfalls, sheep, mountains and lakes! What more could you ask for? Made it to the upper lake (signs call it the Glacier lookout). My boyfriend and I ended up getting engaged as he was scoping out the perfect site!! It sure was amazing! It is heavily trafficked and something that a lot of people could probably do.

hiking
7 days ago

Nice trail with beautiful views of lakes. Lots of uphill and definitely will make you sore. We saw lots of big horn sheep and even had a slightly close encounter with one that came within 5 feet of us. One of the best in Glacier.

8 days ago

nice hike but too much traffic, we wanted to jump in the glacier but it was freezing so we just soaked our feet :D, come super early because than there is problem to find a parking, we arrived at 7.30 and it was almost full ;)

9 days ago

Aug 4, 2018 Beautiful hike! We did it with our kids 10 and 13 and they loved it as well. The last 700 meters was a tough climb but so worth it. We left the lodge about 9:00 and got back about 3:00 however we had a number of stops along the way and a late lunch up at the glacier. We skipped the boat back- from that point it’s a pretty flat walk home so we were fine to do it. Take lots of water, especially if it’s sunny as there wasn’t a ton of shade.

10 days ago

Great hike! Outstanding views the whole way. I took the boat ride so my hike was about 8 miles. If you plan on taking the boat ride, make your reservation ahead of time. I did this hike on 8/1/18. Whole trail was open.

11 days ago

Some info on the boat option to cross Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes.

It’s in high demand. The online tickets for the early morning boats usually sell out weeks or months in advance. Half the boat tickets are only sold at the ticket booth at the dock, and they can be purchased up to 3 days in advance.

We went to the ticket booth on a Tuesday afternoon hoping to get tickets for either the 830 or 900 am boat for Wednesday or Thursday. They were all sold out but we put our names on the waitlist for all four boats.

We ended up trying for the 830 boat on Thursday with the Ranger-led hike. We were the 10th name on the waitlist. Only 2-3 of the 9 names ahead of us showed up so we managed to get on the boat. I’d estimate there were about 10 total seats left for those on the waitlist.

It cut our hike down to 7.5ish miles round trip. The ranger was very nice and knowledgeable, however he stopped the group very frequently to take breaks and talk about vegetation and the formation of the mountains and glaciers. It actually felt like we spent more time standing and talking than hiking. So after about an hour my wife and I decided to move on ahead of the group and finish the hike by ourselves.

If you plan to take the boat back on your return trip to the hotel dock, be warned it’s quite a circus:

1) You can purchase a one way return ticket from the captain even if you did not depart on the boat from the hotel; however, everyone that DID purchase a round trip ticket at the hotel dock will be given boarding priority ahead of you.
2) There will be many many more people wanting to board the return boats than there are seats available, and there is no check in or queue - everyone just finds a rock or log to sit on in the shade, then there’s a mad rush to line up when the boat arrives. You may be the 10th person to arrive and wait at the dock, but 20-30 people may jump ahead of you when the boat comes and you don’t get to board (because there may be people already on the boat that are just going for the tour and do not disembark).
3) If you ride out on the 830am boat, you will be given a special green ticket that guarantees you a spot on the 415pm return boat (priority boarding above all other prospective passengers, even those that purchased a round trip ticket departing at a different time).
4) For the 1145am and 515pm return boats only, they will make as many trips as needed to transport everyone that wants a ride. However, it takes 30 or more minutes to complete one trip, and the boat crew said there can be hundreds of people waiting at 515 for a boat that can hold a max of 49 people, so you may be waiting a very long time.

hiking
11 days ago

Fantastic hike. Great views of Grinnell Lake and the glacier. Definitely recommend.

13 days ago

Had a great hive up this morning. No bear or moose today but we did see a Mountain Goat and her kid in the snow above the pit toilet area. The view are incredible. We were glad we started early (06:30). The trail was really crowded coming down. That might be because Iceberg Lake Trail was closed do to bear traffic. We did see 10 bear the night before just hiking around the area. But Glacier is definitely one of the best parks in the US.

hiking
13 days ago

Hiked this trail on Aug 1 and enjoyed this trail. There are some breathtaking views and the glacier and upper lake views are huge payoffs at the end. Although this is rated ‘moderate’ by All Trails, I’d say the trail rating leans more ‘hard’ as it features several challenging climbs. I say this as an experienced alpine hiker. We walked the lower path on the East side of the lake and saw two sets of cow moose with calves from 25 m away along that path. Bring plenty of water or water treatment capability; temps soared into the upper 80s and my wife and downed 2 x 20 oz containers apiece by summit. We resupplied at some water falls going back down because we had chemical water treatment with us. We saw too many people with insufficient water to get to the top. As many have noted, this is a heavily trafficked trail all day. Consider bringing $15 boat fare per person to boat back to the lodge; will save you 2 miles of walking.

14 days ago

one of the best trails to hike @Glacier National Park

16 days ago

Loved the views and animals we saw on trail (goats and rams). Very steep incline a lot of the time. It was difficult for my 8 year old but she did it. All day hike. Best views.

hiking
16 days ago

Looking to hike this trail in mid August and wondering if the trail is still closed at the 3.5 mile marker.

hiking
17 days ago

Did this hike on 7/27. My boyfriend and I didn't really plan on doing long hikes but after reading reviews we hiked Iceberg Lake on 7/25 and this trail two days later. In other reviews people suggested to do Iceberg first then Grinnell and I absolutely agree. While Iceberg is really pretty, Grinnell was just breathtaking. The trail is flat for about 1.5 miles, then gradual incline with the occasional small, tough, uphill spots. The last .4 miles was pretty hard but the view made it worth it. I have arthritis and asthma so if anyone else is wondering if they can do it, it's hard, but doable and worth it.
Hike over to the glacier too but be careful because you could fall through. There were three scientists taking samples from the glacier while we were up there and they had a permit to be there so just be cautious while walking on it. They kept warning people about falling through and eventually told people to not walk on it. There's a rock on the glacier with a bunch of bones on it which was pretty cool.

hiking
17 days ago

Looking to hike this on 8/6 or 8/13 as I’m solo right now, would like a hiking partner or go with a group! You can email me at meagan.lewi9@gmail.com

hiking
17 days ago

I recommend reserving Glacier Park Boat Rentals for this hike. It cuts your total distance to 3.4 miles. If it doesnt let you reserve it online then dont expect any tickets from the ticket booth as the waiting list is HUGE. Views are stunning throughout the hike & you also get to go under a nice small waterfall. The trail is well marked & dont worry about guided hike unless you dont use GOOGLE & wants the park ranger to tell you all about the hike. Oh....make sure to get there early. (we got there around 6am) The parking lot is reasonable but since hotel staff & guests use the same lot, parking is very limited.

18 days ago

Beautiful views with wildflowers, lakes, waterfalls, Meadows.. At the end, upper grinnell lake and reflections of glaciers in lake are spectacular.. loved this hike!
Hike till upper grinnell lake opened up on 18th July..

18 days ago

Second best hike we did. We left from many glacier lodge and hit glacier lake as well. Once you get to the end of lake Josephine it goes up dramatically! Beautiful views and one tricky pass. The waterfall was rushing hard so we jumped down lower to avoid slippery rocks. Don’t stop at the lower snow station with the pit toilet. Proceed up the steep incline to upper Grinnell lake. AMAZING! If you look up you can see Grinnell and salamander glacier. You may even see a crest where hikers can see down to you from a path on the other side of the garden wall. If you have enough endurance try The Highline and do the upper Grinnell overlook. We had a close encounter with momma and baby goat on the way back. What a day!

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