Grinnell Glacier Trail

#1 of 135 trails in Glacier National Park
Grinnell Glacier Trail is a 9.8 mile out and back trail located near East Glacier Park, MT that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, fishing, and fly fishing and is accessible from June until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

9.9 miles 2024 feet Out & Back
camping fishing fly fishing hiking bugs lake river waterfall wild flowers wildlife
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Andrea Peterson

24 Completed11 Reviews

This was my first serious National Park hike! When we went into it, we thought it would be a lot more casual; as other reviewers have said, it's more strenuous than advertised. Here's my blog write-up from just after I hiked it (I was more of a hiking novice then):

"When we got to the trailhead, we were surprised to see that this was not a 7-mile roundtrip hike, but over 11 miles. I was still up for it, despite having had quite the bacchanal the night previous. We set out, passing first through a small bit of forest, complete with lots of ground-covering plants. A book I flipped through before visiting said that Glacier is in a perfect meeting place of four climatic forces, one of which is the warm, moist air from the Pacific northwest coast. This accounts for the leafy green ground cover, like I’m used to seeing on western Oregon hikes, but not very much further inland.

"After we got out of the forest, we started passing along the second lake, and found ourselves in the kind of berry bramble a bear would just love! Having just seen a bear on the side of the road before our hike, that was all our group could talk about. We were… nervous. So every now and then, one of our group would yell, 'HEY BEAR!' At this point, we were on a gradual incline, so gradual that I hadn’t noticed we were going up at all until I realized we weren’t level with the lake anymore.

"Then, we started going up, it started getting hotter and dryer, and we started in on our water. This would eventually become a serious issue for us: we planned on 7 miles’ worth of water… not 11. As we got higher and higher, we started realizing how much of a problem this would be. Also, being the least fit among our group, I was a little miserable with our pace (grueling, for you Oregon Trailers). We got past the second lake and really got up into rockier territory. Fortunately, the rocks were interspersed with a few minor waterfalls, one of which had to be walked under.

"It was around this point that we started seeing all of the wildlife! Lots of big horn sheep were right alongside the trail, and we managed to get a group shot of all of us in front of one on an elevated rock, some 10 yards off the trail. We also saw mountain goats along this particular trail.

"The last major push was a fourth of a mile uphill on rocks. Although I thought I was doing badly, those who had full packs were enjoying themselves even less. Now, we were really getting dry and most of us had hit the halfway point on our water bottles/camelbaks; but we all had to dip into our limited supply at this point. Finally, after we got to the top, we saw it: a glacial lake and plenty of room to sit and eat lunch at the water’s edge.

"The water might as well have been frozen, as far as I was concerned. It was so cold! We dipped our toes in and ate lunch, which we had plenty of food for, but not enough to drink. To the far left, by several hundred feet, was the actual glacier, and in front of us at the center of the far side of the lake was a waterfall coming down what is known as the Garden Wall. On the other side of this wall is where the Going-to-the-Sun Road is, which everyone drives on to see the great sights of Glacier. After Joe managed to get calf-deep in the waters to fish out a chunk of ice (which he threw back) (catch and release style) (you know, like fish), we took a few photos, packed up and decided to leave.

"The hike back down was decidedly less my style. The others were more than willing to rush down at a great pace, so as to get to water as soon as possible. I have had tight calves since I started running, and going downhill was proving particularly difficult. Everyone rushed ahead, and I grew angry with not having water and not getting to stop often. Ultimately, what frustrated me the most was not stopping often, because the sights in Glacier are pretty fantastic and you don’t see stuff like that in everyday life; when you go downhill, you don’t really get to stop and look around, for fear of losing your footing. So I really don’t have photos of the way back.

"In the end, however, I was so glad to have had some of the experiences this hike afforded me. I’ve only been on one longer hike, when I was ten years old, so the distance was pretty awesome. I definitely got to see a glacier. They aren’t as amazing as the ones you see in pictures, especially because of their melting status, but the environs around them are perfect lakes and places for animal life. Getting to see the big horn sheep as close as we did really made the hike for me. All in all, it was a great day to be out!"

Kathy Justesen

3 Completed3 Reviews

Awesome trail, excellent hike fantastic views!!! Loved it!!!

Jeff Brown

17 Completed2 Reviews


Roger Chesser

53 Completed11 Reviews

We took the boat from Many Glacier Hotel across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. On the way back we skipped the boat and walked back along Swiftcurrent Nature Trail to the Hotel. A pretty tough little hike, but the payoff is worth it. While the destination views of Iceberg Lake are better, the views along this trail are superior. We saw a sow grizzly with her two cubs. Highlight of the trip.

Andrew Gilles

13 Completed9 Reviews

An incredibly scenic hike highlighted with a glacier and lake with icebergs floating in it! Plenty of waterfalls, lakes, mountain views, and big horn sheep on the way up. The climb is more strenuous than advertised. Do this hike before it melts!

Don Armenoff

3 Completed3 Reviews

Spectacular views. The hike was a very good mix of strenuous climbs with same flat areas for beautiful scenic views. Again as with our hike to Sperry it's very unfortunate that Grinnell will soon be gone also.

Mary Furman

3 Completed3 Reviews

One of the most spectacular hikes. The trail climbs along ledges and up so steep it gave me vertigo for moments. We climbed in September and still so many beautiful falls--one can only imagine it could be difficult earlier. The glacier , while beautiful is tiny compared to what it was less than 10 years ago.

Amy Perkins

1 Completed1 Reviews

Spectacular views. Well worth it but quite a few people.

Meg Richardson

2 Completed1 Reviews

The most amazing views I have ever seen! If you love nature and hiking this is a must do!!!

Franz Elizondo

1 Completed1 Reviews