Rachelle and I are chipping away at the Many Glacier area hikes in East Glacier National Park. This week we hit one of Glacier’s top rated hikes, Grinell Glacier. Pronounced grin-elle. This was the first hike where the scenery on the way was better than the destination. I’ll get to it.
This is one BUSY hike! You can either take a boat from the Many Glacier hotel to a boat landing or park on the way to the Swiftcurrent Inn and it adds about an extra 3 miles onto your trip. It’s worth it because that extra 1.5 miles is flat and very scenic.
But wow! We got there at 10am and there were a lot of people already and there were large group hikes. The hike to Grinell Lake is shorter than to the glacier and flatter and much easier. We decided that would be our husband hike when we someday drag our non hiking husbands with us.
I know this area has a lot of grizzlies but because of the large amount of people, I wouldn’t worry about it on this hike.
As I said, the view along the lake is gorgeous and it’s all flat and easy hiking. Very soon, the trail splits and you can go to Grinell Lake or head up, up, up to Grinell Glacier. I can’t say I wasn’t relieved when the very large and very SLOW group in front of us went to the lake and we headed up.
This entire section of trail (about 4 miles) is all open along the mountainside with no tree cover. It made for very hot, sweaty hiking. I would rate the uphill as difficult but not strenuous and we chatted as we went, passing people or having people overtake us.
At one point we squatted under a scrawny spruce for a water break and tried to rest a little.
I started to call it the death march and was surprised by the lack of water. About 2/3 of the way up though we came upon water, and not just any water. There was a small water fall followed by a cool water wall.
Nice and cooled off after some cool water, we continued up and enjoyed the views of Grinell Lake and the waterfall.
The Faux Glacier
So we came upon a spot on the trail that was full of people sitting down and eating lunch. There were several benches, a pit toilet and straight ahead was a patch of snow. I looked at Rachelle and said “is this the glacier???” People were snapping away and it seemed like it could be the end of the line.
The trail went off and there was a sign that said “Grinell Glacier Overlook 0.4 miles.” I told Rachelle that there was no way that patch of snow could be a glacier and we had to follow the trail.
This section of the trail was STEEP and we were huffing and puffing with tired legs. We were still wondering if this would just take us to an overhead view of the snow patch and Rachelle finally asked if the glacier was up and over the peak to a couple. The woman responded “Yes, you’re almost there and it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!”
Whoa! We both got really excited.
The Real Grinell Glacier
We finally got into view and this is what we saw:
A beautiful mountain lake and a patch of dirty snow. Not to mention TONS of people!
We climbed down to the shore and found a spot on the rock and I soaked my sore feet in the water. Rachelle and I appreciated how beautiful our destination was, but the glacier wasn’t what we expected. It looked like a big dirty patch of snow.
We later learned by eavesdropping on a group (led by the CUTEST ranger I have ever seen! He has been working at GNP every summer since 1967!) that the Grinell Glacier is melting so fast they expect it to be gone soon.
After a long and leisurely lunch we headed back down where I soaked in the views of Grinell Lake! It was stunning!
Rachelle is such a fun hiking buddy because we chat and laugh the entire way and we were back down before I knew it!
I was SO HAPPY to get out and hit the trails! I’m hoping to squeeze in several more in the next month or so.