Many Glacier Area, Glacier National Park

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It will take some effort for many visitors to get to Many Glacier. It’s on the east side of the park, and if Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed, it’s a very long drive around on US 2. But, those who sacrifice the travel time and effort will get to enjoy one of the most beautiful corners of this incredible national park. Many great hikes begin from the Many Glacier area, and you can spend some time in the historic Many Glacier Hotel.

My Visit

On this trip, in late June, 2014, the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park quickly became my favorite.  I didn’t get to visit it on my previous trip, back in 2006, so this area was all-new to me.  That’s one of the benefits of Going-to-the-Sun Road being closed so late into early summer — you get to discover new places which are, arguably, just as extraordinary as the Logan Pass area.

Once you’ve driven a few miles from US 89 on a very bumpy (although mostly paved) road, you’ll arrive at the entrance to the park.  This part of the road skirts the edge of Lake Sherburne.

There are many places along the edge of the road that allow you to walk down to the edge of the lake for a view of the surrounding mountains.  Lake Sherburne is a man-made reservoir, and you’ll pass the dam that impounds Swiftcurrent Creek, just outside the park boundary.

If you don’t feel like taking a hike, that’s okay.  You’ll still be treated to extraordinary views along the side of the road.  As you stare down the valley, Mount Grinnell is the most prominent feature.  It’s right in the middle of everything, and it’s magnificent.

It’s even prettier when you put a scenic waterfall right in front of it.  Swiftcurrent Falls is easy to access from the road, or from Many Glacier Hotel.  Speaking of which…

this is Many Glacier Hotel.  This historic chalet-style lodge opened in 1915.  Inside, you’ll find 215 rooms, and the best options for eating and souvenir-buying in this section of the park.

You’ll also find a cavernous lobby with comfy chairs, perfect for relaxing after a hike.

The ceiling soars above you, supported by the trunks of massive trees, now used as columns and beams.  That pipe in the middle is the chimney from the grand fireplace.

I got a snack here, and sat in the lobby while resting up from my hike on the Grinnell Glacier Trail.  The break gave me the energy to tackle the Ptarmigan Falls trail, later in the afternoon.

Outside the hotel, you’re likely to see one (or more) of the red “jammer” buses which cruise around the park.   The classic open-topped buses were built in the 1930’s by the White Motor Company, and recently refurbished with the help of a $6 million donation from Ford.  Tours ranged in price from $40 to $86 during 2014.

If you do decide to tackle a trail, this portion of the park offers some excellent options.  First on your list…

… should be the Grinnell Glacier Trail.  A hike to the end and back will cover 7.6 miles — although you can take a couple of scenic boat rides to shorten the hike.  During my visit in late June, an upper portion of the trail was still snow-covered, providing me a great excuse to not hike the entire way.  Even with the hike shortened, it still provided the kind of postcard-worthy views that constantly left my eyes widened in wonder.  I’ve written about this entire hike on a separate page.

The Grinnell Glacier Trail occupied my late morning and early afternoon…

… while the hike up to Ptarmigan Falls filled the early evening.  This trail was also shortened, thanks to a raging river and a failing bridge.  Had the bridge been open, and if I had started earlier in the day, I could have hiked this trail all the way to Ptarmigan Tunnel.  When it’s open, it allows hikers to pass from one valley to the next, without the difficult climb up and over a rocky cliff.  You can read about my hike to Ptarmigan Falls on a separate page.

The Ptarmigan Falls/Tunnel trail also provides you with an interesting view of Mount Grinnell.  From here, you get to see it from the side, and it’s especially dramatic when illuminated in the evening hours. Fortunately, in late June, the days are very long, and this “golden hour” of sunlight lasts a very long time!

There are a few other attractions in Many Glacier that are on my list for my next visit.  Among them:

  • Redrock Falls — a 4.2 mile round-trip leads to this scenic waterfall.  The trailhead is located at the very end of the road.  If you kept hiking beyond the falls, you’d eventually reach the Garden Wall.  Going-to-the-Sun Road is on the other side.
  • Apikuni Falls — this is a fairly easy hike to a waterfall on the north side of the road into Many Glacier. The hike is 1.7 miles, round-trip.
  • Iceberg Lake — if the bridge near Ptarmigan Falls had been open, I could have continued on to Iceberg Lake.  Just beyond the bridge, the trail splits — one way is Ptarmigan Tunnel, the other is Iceberg Lake.  Both are similar hiking distances.

The Bottom Line

I wish I had an extra day to spend in Many Glacier.  This is one of my favorite parts of the park, and it’s unquestionably at the top of my list, if Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed.  Make it a priority to get to Many Glacier, and try to spend at least one full day here.

Location

The Many Glacier section of Glacier National Park is accessed by one road, which connects to the outside world via US 89 at Babb, Montana.

From the west side of Glacier, take Going-to-the-Sun Road across Logan Pass. At St. Mary, turn north on US 89, then at Babb, turn left and drive 11 miles into the park.

If Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed, you will need to take US 2 around the southern side of Glacier National Park. At East Glacier Park Village, take Montana 49 north, then US 89 north to Babb.

If you’re coming from Canada, take Alberta 6 south, cross the border, then continue on Montana 17 to US 89 south to Babb.

Drivelapse Video

Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive into Many Glacier…

…and out of Many Glacier:

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