Written by local author Jean Arthur, Top Trails: Glacier National Park leads visitors to secluded trails and unique settings while providing details of current and past human activity, wildlife movement, and geologic changes that altered the landscape and created America's tenth national park. The unique approach of Top Trails: Glacier National Park reveals the best trails that wind alongside sensitive meadows and climb above crystalline lakes and leads hikers to backcountry respites unique to Glacier. The guide also traces outlaws, poachers, and mining ventures that occurred inside the current park boundary.
About the Author
Jean Arthur hiked 400 miles of Glacier's trails during 2012 and 2013, retracing routes she's been hiking for 30 years, and spent hours with park historians, Blackfeet Indian guides, and in libraries among historic collections of Glacier's artifacts. She lives in Bozeman, MT.
Read an Excerpt
Sample Trail from Chapter 6 MANY GLACIER
Trail #35 Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail
Trail Use: Day hike, Child-friendly
Length: 2.4-mile loop, 2-3 hours
Vertical Feet: ±24'
Difficulty: Level 2
Trail Type: Loop
Surface Type: Dirt & gravel
Start & End Coordinates:
Boat Dock & Rental Canoes
The trail opens with road access into Many Glacier Valley, usually May through October, although in early spring, snow and mud cover portions of the trail. Pay attention to trail closures and postings for grizzly bear activity.
FINDING THE TRAIL
From the Many Glacier Road/Glacier Rte. 3, at 0.40 miles west of the Many Glacier Hotel turn off, you will see the trailhead. Park here. Swiftcurrent Lake Trail begins on Grinnell Glacier Trail, on the southern-most point of the horseshoe-shaped picnic loop at a wide graveled area. (Many Glacier Hotel guests can enter the loop trail from the hotel beach.) This description is for a counter-clockwise loop hike.
Incredible views with every blink reward hikers on this route circumnavigating the aquamarine Swiftcurrent Lake. Aspen groves give way to evergreens, riparian areas, and a pebbled beach. While the Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail is a pleasant 2.4-mile loop, it is easy to add an additional 0.80 mile with a spur trail to Lake Josephine and significantly different views. The trails are well marked; however, pay close attention at each junction to be sure you don't miss a turn. National Park Service pamphlets are available at the trailhead for a small donation, and they provide useful and interesting details of the Many Glacier Valley.
As you cross the Swiftcurrent Creek footbridge, look upstream for views of Mount Wilbur and Bishop's Cap along the Continental Divide. The trail leads southward into the forest of lodgepole pine and subalpine fir. A look to the east across the lake provides exquisite views of Many Glacier Hotel. You might see the horse concession cowboys on the hill behind the hotel heading out on trailrides to Cracker Lake, another lovely Glacier route, but best via horseback because of the high traffic of outfitter's steeds. You can see 9,376-foot Allen Mountain to the south and 8,404-foot Mount Wynn directly east.
The trail paralleling Swiftcurrent Lake's west shore is relatively flat. You might see moose in or near the shallow water of the one-and-one-half-mile lake as a bull or cow and calf submerge for underwater sedges. Snowberry, serviceberry, thimbleberry, and huckleberry bushes fill the understory, as do lavender aster and queencup flowers.
As you round the southern end of the lake, the view changes from the lake and hotel backdrop of Atlyn Peak, to a vista of the lake and Lewis Range. The pyramid-shaped Grinnell Point is closest to the lake's west shore. Behind Grinnell Point are (as you look left to right) 8,851-foot Mount Gould, 9,321-foot Mount Wilbur, the Garden Wall, and 8,770-foot Mount Henkel.
The trail leads northward past a few hotel-employee cabins and the boathouse for Chief Two Guns tour boat before reaching the Many Glacier Hotel beach and boat dock.
The final stretch of the loop includes a "must stop" for ice cream at Heidi's Snack Shop and Espresso Stand, in Many Glacier Lodge's basement, before tackling the pebble beach walk and, momentarily, the shoulder of street as you cross over Swift Current Falls. The trail again hugs the shoreline heading westward and parallels Many Glacier Road to return to the trailhead. Look up northward to Altyn Peak's shoulder for wildlife, as bears and bighorn sheep often graze here.
1. 00 Start from the picnic & day-parking area along Many Glacier Road/Glacier Rte. 3.
2. 0.20 Footbridge over Swiftcurrent Creek
3. 0.70 Boatdock & Lake Josephine spur trail
4. 0.85 Footbridge, then Lake Josephine Loop Trail junction; stay left, heading north.
5. 1.4 Boatdock & beach in front of Many Glacier Hotel
6. 1.79 Bridge over Swiftcurrent Falls
7. 2.4 Trailhead, parking & picnic area
Moose munch underwater vegetation and willows, seemingly oblivious to humans; however, these mammals are unpredictable, can be dangerous, and are best observed from a distance or from the deck of the Many Glacier Hotel.
The Blackfeet called this area Waterfalls, or Ohpskunakaxi. The Blackfeet term for lots of ice or many glaciers is akokokutoi.
The chalet-style Many Glacier Hotel, built by the Great Northern Railway on the eastern shore of Swiftcurrent Lake, opened July 2, 1915. The hotel opens June-September each year.
Table of Contents
Glacier National Park Map
Glacier National Park Trails Table
Using Top Trails
Organization of Top Trails
Choosing a Trail
Introduction to Glacier National Park
Geography & Topography
When to Go
Weather & Seasons
On the Trail
Have a Plan
Carry the Essentials
West Side Trails: Lake McDonald & The North Fork
1. Trail of the Cedars
2. Avalanche Lake Trail
3. Fish Lake Trail
4. Going To The Sun Cross-Country Ski & Snowshoe Trail
5. Gunsight Pass Trail to Sperry Chalet
6. Mount Brown Lookout Trail
7. Snyder Lake Trail
8. Fish Lake Trail
9. Huckleberry Mountain Lookout Trail
10. Apgar Lookout Trail
The Greater North Fork
11. Akokala Lake Trail
12. Quartz Lake & Lower Quartz Lake Trail
13. Logging Lake Trail
14. Boulder Pass Trail to Hole-in-the-Wall
15. Brown Pass Trail to Waterton, Canada
Logan Pass & St. Mary's
16. Hidden Lake
17. Highline Trail along the Garden Wall
18. Loop Trail to Granite Park Chalet
19. Siyeh Bend Trail to Jackson Glacier Overlook
20. Beaver Pond Trail
21. Otokomi Lake Trail
22. Siyeh Pass Trail
23. Piegan Pass
24. Sun Point to Reynolds Creek
25. St. Mary Falls Trail to Virginia Falls & Baring Falls
26. Gunsight Pass Trail to Gunsight Lake & Florence Falls
27. Autumn Creek Trail
28. Firebrand Pass & Ole Lake
29. Scenic Point Trail
30. Running Eagle Falls Nature Trail
31. Upper Two Medicine Lake Trail & Twin Falls
32. Dawson Pass Trail & Pitamakin Pass
33. Two Medicine Pass Trail to Cobalt Lake
34. Appekunny Falls Trail
35. Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail
36. Grinnell Glacier & Grinnell Lake Trail
37. Iceberg Lake Trail
38. Ptarmigan Lake & Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail
Canada: Waterton Lakes National Park
39. Bertha Lake Trail
40. Crypt Lake
41. Cameron Lake
Appendix 1: Top-Rated Trails
Appendix 2: Governing Agencies & Nonprofit Organizations
Appendix 3: Maps, Books, & Internet Resources
Appendix 4: Outdoor Gear, Supplies & Food
About the Author
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