Swiftcurrent Lake & Lake Josephine Hiking Loop

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Two lakes near the end of the road in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park provide an easy, scenic hike.  You can loop around Swiftcurrent Lake for a short hike, or circle Lake Josephine as well — or do a figure-8 around the two lakes.  The north-shore portions of these two trails also carry foot traffic on the excellent Grinnell Glacier Trail.

My Visit

On this hike, my goal was to walk as far out the Grinnell Glacier Trail as I could (it was closed by snow before the end).  But, in the process, I ended up covering a good portion of the loop trails around Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.  I’ll talk more about the Grinnell Glacier Trail on a separate page — but if you’re hiking that trail, you’ll start here too.

The trailhead is located at a large parking and picnic area, just before the end of the road into Many Glacier.  You’ll see Swiftcurrent Lake on the left, followed shortly by the parking area.

As you start the hike, you’ll be headed through the woods for a few minutes.

Before long, you catch a glimpse of the dramatic surroundings at a footbridge that crosses Swiftcurrent Creek.  This creek feeds into the lake, just a short distance downstream.  On the bridge, you have a great view of the mountain peaks to the west, like Mount Wilbur, which is partially enshrouded in clouds.

It’s quite a treat when the trail reaches the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake.  Allen Mountain runs along the lake’s southeast side (at this spot, we’re on the north side).

Visitors who want to enjoy the lake without a hike can take a boat across Swiftcurrent Lake, then walk over to Lake Josephine and board another boat.

I ended up on the trail between the two lakes at the same time as everyone who had taken the boat.  Thankfully, the crowd was just transferring to the next dock, so the crowd didn’t last for long.

Once you’ve left the crowds behind at the Josephine Lake dock, you still have quite a bit of hiking ahead.  The end of the Grinnell Glacier trail is nearly 5 miles away, and Grinnell Lake is a more manageable 2.6 miles.  But you don’t have to go to either of these destinations if you don’t want to, because from here on, the hike along Josephine Lake is spectacular.

Every stretch of the trail is photo-worthy.  At times, you’ll be hiking directly towards Grinnell Point — a spiked-up peak along the longer ridge that forms Mount Grinnell.

Further up the valley, you’ll start seeing the mountains along the Continental Divide, that make up part of Glacier’s famous “Garden Wall”.

Sometimes the lake sneaks into the picture…

… and at other times, you’ll be treated to wildflowers.  I think I arrived before the peak of wildflower season.  I was there in late June, but you’ll probably see even more flowers in July.

At this junction, I continued on up the Grinnell Glacier Trail for a while.  I’ve covered that part of the trail on a separate page.  It’s worth it to go as far up this trail as you can.  The scenery behind you is just a tantalizing preview of some extraordinary views up ahead.

When I reached this junction on the way back down the trail, I took the shortcut down to the bottom of the valley, to continue the loop around Lake Josephine.

From the Grinnell Glacier Trail junction, you can see the lower end of the Lake Josephine loop.  A footbridge takes you across Grinnell Creek.  Take the shortcut down the hill…

… and you’ll cross that bridge…

… along with some boardwalks.  This is a nice, peaceful part of the hike, because fewer hikers spend the time and effort to walk through here.

At the southwest end of the lake, you have a nice view up the valley, towards the road and the hotel.

From here, you have the option of hiking out to Grinnell Lake.  It would add about a 1.8 miles to your hike.

I figured the nice scenery would continue on the southeastern side of the lake — especially since the midday sun would be favorable.  Instead…

… I discovered that the southeast side of Lake Josephine looks a lot like this, for the entire length of the trail.  The path swings away from the lakeshore and stays amongst the trees for quite a while.

There is one nice break in the trees, near the end of Lake Josephine.  This spot is almost at Stump Lake, a tiny lake along the creek that connects Lake Josephine with Swiftcurrent Lake.

Since the far side of Lake Josephine wasn’t very exciting, I chose to cross back over and finish the hike on the north side of Swiftcurrent Lake.  Another footbridge takes you across the creek.

If I had stayed on the south side of Swiftcurrent Lake, I would have needed to hike further.  That side of the trail passes by the hotel first.  Then, I’d have to hike along the road to get back to the parking area.

Be sure to catch a nice view of the Many Glacier Hotel in the distance, before the trail returns to the trees, for the final distance back to the trailhead.

The Bottom Line

The loops around Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine make for a nice, easy hike, with some impressive views.  If you have the physical ability and the time, try to continue on up the Grinnell Glacier and/or Grinnell Lake trails, for even better views.

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.

The trailhead for the Grinnell Glacier/Swiftcurrent Lake/Lake Josephine hikes will be on the left (south) side of the road, shortly before you arrive at the end of the road.  Alternatively, you can begin and end your loop hike at the Many Glacier Hotel.

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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