How to Hike Glacier’s Iceberg Lake Trail: Quick & Easy Guide

The Iceberg Lake Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Glacier National Park, and for good reason!

This 10-mile round-trip hike traverses through old-growth forests and wildflower meadows, past waterfalls and wildlife, and delivers you to a stunning turquoise lake full of icebergs and surrounded by towering cliffs. 

I have lived in Glacier National Park every summer of my life and grew up following my parents (who happen to be park rangers) on their guided hikes to Iceberg Lake, which means I have hiked the Iceberg Lake trail close to 100 times.

I am here to tell you everything you need to know to complete the Iceberg Lake Trail in Glacier National Park. Keep reading to learn essential information about the trail and tips from a local expert!

View of Iceberg Lake with mountains behind
Woman hiking in mountains

At a Glance

Distance: 9.8 miles round-trip, 4.9 miles one-way

Elevation Gain: 1200 feet

Highest Elevation: 6100 feet

Wildlife Possibilities: Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Moose, Deer, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, Marmots, Columbian Ground Squirrels

Primary Attractions: Turquoise lake filled (seasonally) with large icebergs, expansive mountain views, towering cliffs, wildflowers, wildlife viewing opportunities

Women looking at Iceberg lake with mountains behind


The Iceberg Lake Trail is a 9.8-mile round-trip hike. The one-way distance is approximately 4.9 miles. The first half mile is the most challenging part of the hike! You gain elevation swiftly at the beginning of the trail, so take your time and make sure to rest if you need it. After the initial climb, the trail levels out and becomes much more gradually inclined for the rest of the distance to the lake, so don’t worry!

At nearly 10 miles round-trip, this trail will take the average hiker (walking at 2 mph) five hours to complete. The hike can easily take longer than 5 hours once you factor in the time you might spend stopped taking photos, eating snacks, taking in the views, chatting with other hikers, and observing wildlife.

Wildflowers in mountains
Wildflowers in front of Iceberg Lake

Elevation Gain

From the trailhead to Iceberg Lake, the trail gains approximately 1200 feet of elevation. The first ¼ mile of the trail climbs almost 200 feet, making it the steepest section of trail you will encounter on the hike, by far. Once you’ve made it past that first climb, the trail levels out and the elevation gain is much more gradual for the rest of the hike. You will certainly still notice that you’re walking uphill, but it isn’t nearly as steep. 

The second half of the hike, after you pass Ptarmigan Falls 2.2 miles in, becomes slightly steeper than the previous couple of miles. As you get closer to Iceberg Lake, there is another slightly steeper section of trail as you hike up the hill toward the lake. But worry not! It is absolutely worth every step for the view you get as you look down on Iceberg Lake below you. 


Iceberg Lake is a difficult hike. The National Park Service rates trails in the park as either “easy”, “moderate”, or “difficult”. Iceberg Lake received the “difficult” distinction because of elevation gain and total distance. 

The Iceberg Lake Trail is just shy of 10 miles round-trip. This distance is doable even for folks who are not experienced hikers, but it will not be easy! By the end of the hike, you can expect your knees, hips, and muscles to be feeling the effects of a day on your feet moving through the landscape. Remember, you can always turn back if you are not feeling up to it! It’s better to cut your hike short than to be miserable or, even worse, in need of a rescue. 

During the 4.9 miles up to the lake, the trail gains 1200 feet of elevation. This comes out to roughly 245 feet of elevation gain per mile, which is relatively moderate.

View of valley with mountains behind

Where is it?

The Iceberg Lake Trail is located in the Many Glacier Valley in the northeast corner of Glacier National Park. 

Nearest Towns

Whitefish is roughly 3 hours from Many Glacier 

Kalispell (and the airport) are roughly 3 hours from Many Glacier

East Glacier is 1 hr 15 min away from Many Glacier

Browning is 45 minutes from Many Glacier

St. Mary is 30 minutes from Many Glacier

Babb is 15 minutes from Many Glacier

Trail through pine trees
Map showing how to get to Many Glacier

Getting to Many Glacier

To get to Many Glacier from the east (Great Falls, Cut Bank, Browning), you will drive through Browning and take Highway 464 past Duck Lake and toward Babb. When you reach the junction of Highway 464 and Highway 89, you will turn right to drive toward Babb. As you approach the tiny town of Babb, you will see the Cattle Baron Supper Club in front of you. At this point, turn left onto the Many Glacier Road and drive into the valley!

To get to Many Glacier from the west (Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls), you will take Highway 2. Drive Highway 2 from West Glacier toward the town of East Glacier. From East Glacier, you will continue on Highway 2 until you reach Browning. Once you drive through Browning, take Highway 464 past Duck Lake and toward Babb. When you reach the junction of Highway 464 and Highway 89, you will turn right to drive toward Babb. As you approach the tiny town of Babb, you will see the Cattle Baron Supper Club in front of you. At this point, turn left onto the Many Glacier Road and drive into the valley! 

Getting to the Trailhead

Once you have driven into the Many Glacier Valley, continue driving until the road reaches a dead-end at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. You can drive through the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot and behind the Motor Inn building to reach the trailhead itself. There is very limited parking at the trailhead. Alternatively, you can park in the large Swiftcurrent Motor Inn parking lot and walk to the trailhead. This will only add a few hundred meters to your day of hiking. 

Map showing trails in Many Glacier
View of forest in mountains

Alternate Hikes

Many Glacier is a hiker’s paradise, so there are many other hiking options if Iceberg Lake is not accessible for any reason during your visit. The Iceberg Lake Trail is frequently closed for periods of time during July and August because the trail is a very active bear corridor due to ripe berries and other food sources along the trail. The alternatives listed here are all located in Many Glacier. 

Grinnell Glacier

Trail along mountainside

The Grinnell Glacier Trail is a very scenic but more strenuous alternative to Iceberg Lake. The Grinnell Glacier Trail is a 10.6-mile round-trip hike that gains 1,800 feet of elevation. The views are absolutely spectacular and the experience of hiking to a glacier is very special! If the Iceberg Lake Trial is closed, consider this hike if you are in good shape and confident in your hiking abilities. 

Cracker Lake

The Cracker Lake Trail is a 12-mile round-trip hike that gains 1,400 feet of elevation. The destination is a bright blue lake with a color that is incomparable to anything I have seen. The sheer cliffs of Mt. Siyeh tower 4000 feet above the lake and Siyeh Glacier is visible at the end of the valley. This trail is longer and more difficult (in my opinion) than the Iceberg Lake Trail, but a great alternative if you are feeling ambitious.  

View of Cracker Lake with mountains behind

Bullhead Lake

Women walking in Bullhead Lake

Bullhead Lake is located 3.8 miles down the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail. The hike to Bullhead Lake is 7.6 miles round-trip and gains 425 feet of elevation. If you are looking for a hike that is very beautiful but less strenuous than Iceberg Lake, this is the trail for you! The trail stays relatively level through lodgepole pine forest and aspen groves, and takes you past Fishercap Lake, Redrock Lake, and onto Bullhead Lake–all of which are fantastic places to (potentially) see moose!

Hiking Gear

A good hike starts with good gear! It is important to be prepared for anything, even when you are on a trail that is heavily traveled. My general philosophy is that it is always better to bring too much gear than too little. As a kid growing up in Glacier, I was taught to always hike with enough food, water, and clothing to stay out on the trail overnight. You never know what you might encounter! Check out our recommended gear page for more.

Essential Gear


I hike with a 30-liter backpack on day hikes. Many people hike with a smaller pack between 18-22 liters. The 30-liter pack is simply a matter of preference, but any backpack that is comfortable and can hold the gear you need will do!


Comfortable, supportive, durable shoes are essential if you will be spending a lot of time hiking. I prefer to hike in trail running shoes, but I have also spent a lot of time hiking in boots with better ankle support. Make sure your shoes are broken in before your trip to avoid blisters!

Extra Socks

Wet socks are miserable. Your socks could end up soggy from a water crossing or from sweat, and either way is going to be unpleasant! I always bring an extra pair of socks and I have never regretted it. 

Base Layers

Your hiking clothes should not be cotton! Polyester, nylon, and merino wool make great base layers.

Insulating Layer

A wool or fleece jacket is always nice to have. If you are worried about getting cold, it doesn’t hurt to bring a down jacket with you as well. It tends to be chilly near the lake, so I always bring an insulating layer and normally a light down jacket even on a very hot day. 

Rain Gear

A raincoat and rain pants are non-negotiable items in my hiking pack. If you don’t want to splurge on rain gear, a plastic rain poncho will keep you dry and comfortable in a pinch!


The importance of water while hiking cannot be overstated. I generally bring at least 3 liters of water with me to Iceberg Lake, more if it is hot.


The best thing about hiking is the snacks. Bring lunch and plenty of high-calorie snacks. I personally like to bring a sandwich or wrap for lunch. I supplement with other snacks like a piece of fruit, cheese and crackers, granola bars, meat sticks, and trail mix. 

Basic First Aid Kit

A basic first aid kit can be purchased online or at an in-store outdoor retailer. You can’t be too prepared.

Bear Spray

Bear Spray is essential when hiking in bear country. For more information, check out this article we wrote on bear spray in Glacier!

Toilet Paper

There are two pit toilets along the Iceberg Lake trail, but the availability of toilet paper is unlikely. Bring your own so you aren’t caught in an unfortunate situation. 

Optional Gear

  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Watch
  • Pocket Knife
  • Water Filter
  • Trekking Poles
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra Layers

Thoughts & Recommendations

I absolutely love the Iceberg Lake hike. It is a trail I return to year after year and I appreciate it just as much every time! The destination is obviously incredible, but the hike to get there is just as lovely in my opinion. The views of the Many Glacier Valley from the trail are spectacular, the wildlife viewing opportunities are plentiful, and the wildflowers are stunning. 

Pro Tips

  • Start early! You don’t want to be hiking in the heat of the day, so aim to be on the trail between 7:30 am and 9:00 am. 
  • Bring more water than you think you need. 
  • Put your feet in the water when you get to the lake! It is stunningly cold but very refreshing. Don’t miss Can You Swim in Glacier National Park?
  • Bring snacks that are fun to eat. There’s no point in bringing food if you’re not going to eat it! I don’t usually have much of an appetite when I’m hiking, so I bring foods that I want to eat. My go-to items are peaches, gummy bears, Cheetos, Oreos, meat sticks, and cheese and crackers. Not healthy, but keeps me energized on the trail!
  • Treat yourself to ice cream at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn after your hike. I am not of the belief that you ever have to “earn” ice cream, but if I were, this is a situation where I would say…”you earned it!”

What Else Do I Need to Know?

Planning a vacation shouldn’t be stressful. We created a step-by-step itinerary for Glacier National Park so you can visit the best places at the right times.

Not only that, but we’ll tell you about the park while you drive with our audio guide!   Stop planning and start having the vacation of your dreams now!


GLACIER TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Glacier National Park, check out our Glacier Homepage

THINGS TO DO: Check out what not to miss and other things to do in Glacier including, hiking, and the amazing boat tours. Find out how to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road with our free printable

WHERE TO EAT: Don’t miss the best places to eat in Glacier National Park

WHERE TO STAY: Learn all about where to stay when visiting Glacier

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out which entrance is best for Glacier National Park as well as if you need bear spray while visiting or if swimming is allowed

WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Glacier National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Glacier YouTube Playlist


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