*This 5.4 round trip hike will lead you to one of Glacier National Parks most beautiful waterfalls and mountain sceneries! *Amazing photo opportunities of the mountains and glaciers around you.

...The hike to Ptarmigan Falls begins next to the cabins near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. There’s enough parking for about 10-16 vehicles in the lot next to the trailhead. This is a heavily trafficked area, so extra parking is available in front of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. This is where I parked, so this will add another two-tenths of a mile to your hiking to reach the trailhead.

The trailhead is located in the Northwest corner of the Motor Inn, so once you find the trailhead to Iceberg Lake, follow that all the way (the trail is well marked) until you get to Ptarmigan Falls. You'll gain roughly 185 feet in only a quarter of a mile, but the elevation gain is a bit more moderate as you go. The first segment of the hike passes through open terrain that offers fascinating views of the surrounding mountains. As you proceed further along, the trail enters a fairly dense section of pine forest, roughly 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Along the way hikers will have outstanding views of 8,851-ft. Mt. Grinnell and 8,436-ft. Swiftcurrent Mountain towards the Southwest. The towering mountain towards the West is 9,321-ft. Mt. Wilbur, and sitting in the Northwest (in the direction you're heading) is the Ptarmigan Wall.

At roughly 2.5 miles you'll finally reach an overlook of Ptarmigan Falls. At just about a few hundred feet ahead, there's a steep slightly beaten path on your left-hand side that you can take further down the hillside to get a better view/angle of the falls. Sitting right above Ptarmigan Falls is an open area that has large boulders and a bridge. This has become a popular spot for a snack break and rest for hikers. Beyong this point you have the option of visiting other popular destinations in this area, such as Iceberg Lake and/or Ptarmigan Tunnel. I didn't hike to Ptarmigan Tunnel, but I did hike to Iceberg Lake. It's well worth the extra 2.1 miles if you have the time!!

The Many Glaciers section of the park, especially the Ptarmigan Trail (Iceberg trail), is located in bear habitat. The first mile or so is prime for grizzly bears, so definitely keep an eye out. On the way back from my hike I saw a grizzly way out in the distance. It's extremely important for hikers to make a lot of noise, carry bear spray and hike in groups in this general area. Prior to hiking, check with a ranger on the status of a trail before proceeding on any hike in the park. Remember, be safe, be smart and pack in what you pack out! Happy trails! 

Pack List

  • Hiking boots (GORE-TEX if hiking in snow)
  • Crampons (if hiking in snow)
  • Wool socks
  • Backpack
  • Camera/tripod
  • Snacks/water
  • Hat/bandana/sunglasses
  • Good vibes!
Show More
RT Distance 5.4 Miles
Elevation Gain 768 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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