Hiking Iceberg Lake Trail Glacier National Park

Updated: 6 days ago

Iceberg Lake Trail is located within Glacier National Park which is home to some of the best hiking in the United States.


And Iceberg Lake offers some of the best bang for your buck when it comes to big name day hikes within the park.


While the views along the way aren't much different than other areas of Many Glacier, the payoff once you reach Iceberg Lake will be unlike anything most hikers have had the opportunity to experience elsewhere in Glacier.


Not only are the views of Iceberg Peak and its namesake lake mesmerizing, but you can make your journey here truly unforgettable by taking an icy dip in the turquoise water!


Iceberg Lake Trail Glacier National Park
Iceberg Lake Trail Glacier National Park

I recently had the opportunity to visit Glacier National Park for the second time. We spent the majority of our trip exploring the Many Glacier area of the park where Iceberg Lake resides.


In this guide we'll cover everything you should know before hiking out to Iceberg Lake during your visit to Glacier National Park!


You'll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I'm still happy you're here!

 

Where is Iceberg Lake located?


Glacier National Park is located in northern Montana, near the border with Canada. Iceberg Lake can be accessed via the Many Glacier area of the park which requires you to enter from the east near the town of Babb.


Visitors staying near Whitefish on the western side of the park will need to travel the entirety of Going to the Sun Road.


This drive can take upwards of three hours so plan accordingly based on where you’re staying!


Alternatively you can drive around the exterior of the park but this usually takes longer than cutting directly through and it will be much less scenic.



The Iceberg Lake trailhead is situated behind Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. If you can secure lodging at Many Glacier Hotel or Swiftcurrent Motor Inn it can make hiking in this area much easier. However, both hotels usually sell out a full year in advance and are generally on the expensive side.


What to expect when hiking to Iceberg Lake?


This hike has a steady uphill grade almost the entire way out to Iceberg Lake.


The total out and back length of this hike is about 9.3 miles (roughly 15 km). Given the approximately 1,500 feet (457 meters) of elevation gain, altitude above sea level and distance, this trail is considered moderate in difficulty.


You'll encounter shaded areas, but more than half of this trail is exposed to the sun so plan accordingly.


Mountain views in Montana
The views of mountain wilderness along the way are stunning

Along the way you'll have to make a few small stream crossings but the trail is well maintained and these shouldn't cause you any issues.


The remote location of this trail means you're likely to encounter wildlife along the way. It's not uncommon for this trail to be closed due to bear activity. Be sure to check current trail conditions before heading out for the trailhead.


Whenever hiking in Glacier National Park, be sure to carry bear spray with you.


If you're flying in from out of town you can usually rent bear spray at the Glacier International Airport near the baggage claim.


My biggest bit of advice for someone hiking to Iceberg Lake? Pack a swimsuit!


Or at least, something you don't mind getting wet. There aren't many great places to change out at the lake and you MUST swim in the water!


What is the best time of year to see icebergs floating in Iceberg Lake?


During the winter season Iceberg Lake will completely freeze over as the surrounding mountain ridge line mostly blocks the sun from directly hitting the water.


By mid summer much of the lake will have thawed. As the lake warms icebergs will form from the melting ice and as large pieces fall into the water from the surrounding mountains.



The photos of Iceberg Lake shown in this post were taken during the last week of July.


If you visit too early in the season not only will you risk the lake being frozen, but the trails leading up could also be blocked by snow bridges.


I'd recommend visiting between late July and mid August to have the best shot at seeing large icebergs floating in the lake.


Can you swim in Iceberg Lake?


The best part about the Iceberg Lake hike is that you can swim in the lake. I alluded to this earlier in the post, but wanted to be clear.


There's no better way to cap off your hike than by going for an icy dip.


There aren't many great places to change in privacy at the lake itself so you'll either need to get creative behind a tree or wear something during the hike up.


We arrived in the late afternoon when the lake was less crowded (we passed a TON of people coming down).


The lack of crowds meant we were able to find a somewhat private place near the lake to change into the swimsuits we packed.


Man swimming in Iceberg Lake
You can't hike all this way and not jump in the lake!

If going for a full on swim isn't your thing, you can still roll up your pant legs, kick off your boots and wade out into the water.


The water is FREEZING cold so unless you do this type of thing on the regular don't expect to last long!


How long is the Iceberg Lake hike?


The out and back hike to Iceberg Lake originates behind the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot and is about 9.3 miles long (about 15 km).



I would budget between 4 and 5 hours to knock out this hike depending on your personal fitness level.


Budget additional time for stopping at the lake itself and to take plenty of photos as you go!


Are there bears around Iceberg Lake?


Be sure to bring bear spray as bear activity is common in this area. We encountered a grizzly bear late in the afternoon when returning from the lake.


Fortunately these encounters are usually harmless and we were able to scare it off without incident.


The National Park Service has a guide on bear safety which I would recommend reading before venturing out into Glacier National Park's vast wilderness.


Iceberg Lake is a great place to see wildlife


The Iceberg Lake hike is one of the best opportunities in Glacier National Park to see wildlife given its remote location in the Many Glacier area.


During our trek out to Iceberg Lake we saw a large moose resting in a snow patch in a field visible from the trail.


Moose eating snow
On a hot afternoon this moose took a break in a nearby snow patch to cool off

Near the lake we saw marmots and it wouldn't be unusual to see mountain goats in the area either.


While hiking back to the trailhead starting point we encountered a grizzly bear that crossed the trail from the woods not far behind us.


Encountering wildlife while hiking in the wilderness is exciting, but be sure to keep your distance and research bear safety tips before visiting Glacier National Park.


There are a number of stream crossings along the way


When we hiked out to Iceberg Lake in late July it was brutally hot. The trail is mostly exposed and the sun can really take it out of you.


Along the way you'll cross a number of streams. These can be a great water source for anyone with the proper filtration gear.



For everyone else, the streams offer a source of cold water that's perfect for getting your hair (or hat) wet to cool off.


Dip your hands in, splash some water on your face and enjoy the quick refresh courtesy of mountain snow melt!


Will I have cell phone service at Iceberg Lake?


Cellular service throughout Glacier National Park is hard to come by. Iceberg Lake is located in an extremely remote portion of Many Glacier and it's unlikely you'll have any cell phone service during your hike.


If you're an avid hiker I'd recommend purchasing AllTrails Pro which allows you to download offline maps.


This is something I always utilize on longer hikes or when I know I won't have cellular service.


Not only does it ensure you stay on the right trail, but it's a great way to track and time your hiking activity!


Do I need a reservation for Iceberg Lake?


Hear me out on this. As of my most recent trip to Glacier National Park you only need a timed vehicle reservation to access Going to the Sun Road.


This means you do not need a reservation to enter the Many Glacier area of the park.



If you need to travel across Going to the Sun Road from your lodging to reach Many Glacier, you'll need a reservation to access the road.


Alternatively, you can reach the eastern side of the park from the Whitefish area by going around, but the travel time is longer.


While a reservation currently isn't required to enter the Many Glacier area of the park, this area does fill up and it's common for the Park Service to close the entrance and turn vehicles away later in the day.


Iceberg Lake
The first glimpse of Iceberg Lake from the trail is shown here

Be sure to arrive early in the morning to ensure you can enter Many Glacier and successfully secure parking.


I wouldn't be surprised if in the future the NPS starts requiring timed entry reservations for the Many Glacier area of the park.


I'd recommend checking their website before visiting to ensure you're on top of any entry requirement changes.


Pets aren’t allowed at Iceberg Lake


While pets are permitted inside Glacier National Park, they're not allowed on any of the trails or backcountry. This means pets aren't welcome along the Iceberg Lake trail.


Your furry friend will mostly be confined to your vehicle, parking lots or other developed areas of the park.


Are there bathrooms at Iceberg Lake?


There are three separate opportunities to use a proper bathroom during your hike out to Iceberg Lake.


The best opportunity is at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn which sits near the trailhead where you'll begin your hike.


Your second opportunity will be at a pit toilet near where the trail spurs towards Ptarmigan Tunnel.



Last but not least, and perhaps most conveniently, hikers will find a pit toilet just before reaching Iceberg Lake.


As a pro tip - if the pit toilet is locked from the outside it means there's no one inside. Be sure to lock up after you've used one of these facilities to ensure animals stay out!


What should I pack for Iceberg Lake?


I would classify the difficulty of hiking to Iceberg Lake as moderate. However, given the length, elevation gain, altitude and exposure it's only moderate if you've prepared properly.


You'll be exposed to the sun for at least several hours so bring layers or plenty of sunscreen.


Man hiking to Iceberg Lake
On the trail out to Iceberg Lake

Be sure to bring more than enough water and plenty of salty snacks to keep your energy levels up.


Bear spray is an absolute requirement for this trail. We encountered a grizzly during our hike and the trail is frequently closed due to bear activity.


If you're a novice hiker and just getting into longer day hikes I'd recommend reading my post on day hike essentials. It's a comprehensive packing list that should cover everything you'd need for this hike and more.


When is the best time of day to hike Iceberg Lake?


I'd recommend getting an early morning start out to Iceberg Lake for a number of reasons.


Parking in the Many Glacier area can be a real pain.


If you arrive later in the morning chances are the parking lots will be full which means you'll have to park further away and make up the distance on foot.


Second, the Many Glacier area of the park is subject to entrance closures by the National Park Service rangers if they determine there are too many vehicles in the area.


Don't risk being denied entry because you woke up late!


Getting an early morning start means you'll avoid the harshest sun exposure while hiking up to the lake which is the most rigorous and time consuming leg of this journey.


It will be warmer around midday when you're heading back, but the journey is all downhill from the lake.



Lastly, the trail and lake itself can become busy and congested. After all, this is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier National Park.


While the length may discourage some hikers, the hike is very manageable for anyone with enough food, water and determination.


If you visit late in the day, be prepared to pass (or be passed by) other hikers with regularity.


Is the hike to Iceberg Lake dangerous?


The hike to Iceberg Lake is of moderate difficulty due to its length, moderate elevation gain and height above sea level.


Despite this, there are no technical portions along the trail. The trail is well maintained and there aren't any steep drops like some other trails in Glacier National Park.



Just be mindful that well over 50% of the trail is exposed so you'll need sufficient protection against the sun. Be sure to pack plenty of water and salty snacks.


As previously mentioned in this post bear activity is common around Iceberg Lake. Be sure to have bear spray with you when hiking in the wilderness at all times.


Looking for suggestions on what to pack for hiking?

Chances are if you're visiting Glacier National Park you'll be doing some hiking. If you're doing some hiking you'll want to have the right gear handy in order to have the best experience possible.


For your convenience I've put together an extremely thorough hiking checklist to make sure you don't overlook anything.


That guide is geared towards longer day hikes, so if you're doing something more casual you probably won't need everything on that list. But rest assured you won't overlook a thing!


Check Out Our Timed Entry Reservation Guide


There's one mistake you cannot afford to make when visiting US National Parks. Showing up without a timed entry reservation is a surefire way to blow up what should be an otherwise stress free day exploring some of Americas most beautiful destinations.


If the park you're visiting requires timed entry be sure to check out this guide.


Fortunately - we have put together a guide walking you through that process. We also provide useful tips on how to get the best time slots and what to do if you find yourself without a reservation.


You can access our Timed Entry Reservation Guide here!


Hopefully you found this guide to hiking Iceberg Lake Trail Glacier National Park helpful!