Hiking Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Redrock Falls

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You’ll find some of the best scenery in Glacier National Park on the east side, at Many Glacier.  There are several nice hikes here, but if you’re looking for something that’s easy and rewarding, you should check out the first couple of miles of the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail.  A mostly-level hike takes you to Redrock Falls, where you can enjoy the scenery while the sound of crashing water takes away the worries of the world.

Location

The Swiftcurrent Pass Trail begins at the end of the road in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park.  You can access Many Glacier from US 89, on the east side of Glacier.

My Visit

I’ve visited Many Glacier before and hiked a couple of excellent (but challenging) trails in this area: Grinnell Glacier Trail and Ptarmigan Tunnel (at least, the first part of it).  On this day, I had hoped to finish what I had started on my previous visit, and make it all the way to the Ptarmigan Tunnel.  But, after an exhausting day on the Highline-Loop Trail the previous day, that created no fewer than a half-dozen blisters on my feet, I opted for something less challenging and set a course for Redrock Falls.

But first, let’s get the lay of the land.  On your way into Many Glacier, you’ll be driving past Lake Sherburne, which is fed by Swiftcurrent Creek.  The views from the road are quite nice.

You should also stop at the Many Glacier Hotel, just to take in this view, looking across Swiftcurrent Lake.  From the hotel parking lot, you can take a hike around Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, and connect with the Grinnell Glacier Trail.

Since I had explored that area before, I headed on to the end of the road…

… where the Swiftcurrent Pass trail begins.  Yes, the entire hike up to the pass is grueling, but the first two miles is quite easy.

It’s easy unless something gets in your way.  You know, like a bear.  Can you see him back there?

How about now?

The trail was pretty crowded on the day that I hiked it, but at this moment, I had separated nicely from the groups of people ahead of me and behind me.  When I spotted the bear, I stopped in my tracks.  It was only about 20 feet off the trail on my right, slightly uphill.  I stopped the oncoming traffic, but before long, a big crowd of hikers had gathered around me for a look.  The bear was minding its own business, but it was getting closer to the trail, and nobody was following proper bear etiquette.  One woman even came running toward the bear, carrying bear spray.  That is not what you’re supposed to do.

As I started to imagine that woman setting off the bear spray and coating everyone in the crowd with a cloud of pepper, I decided it was time to get the heck out of there.

Aside from a few glimpses of the surrounding mountains, most of the two-mile hike out to the falls was shrouded in trees.

The view opened up as I reached the edge of Redrock Lake, which is just below Redrock Falls.  The lake itself wasn’t especially picturesque at this time of day, but the surrounding mountains were impressive.

Redrock Falls

When you reach the falls, there are plenty of places to climb around and explore, and with any luck, you’ll be able to find an unoccupied space to relax.  Even though the trail had been pretty crowded, there wasn’t a huge crowd here.  Maybe the bear had eaten them.

That cloud did everything it could to give me a nice picture.

It’s easy to climb up to the top of Redrock Falls and occupy the best seat in the house for a while.  Here, the falls are crashing below your dangling feet, and the Many Glacier Valley stretches out in front of you.

While I turned around at Redrock Falls, the trail continues to Swiftcurrent Pass. But, it isn’t all uphill. You should be able to hike another mile or two and visit Bullhead Lake, before the steepest part of the climb begins. Once you reach the switchbacks, there’s a 2,000-foot elevation gain before you reach Swiftcurrent Pass.

On my way back from Redrock Falls, I decided to hike out a short side-trail to Fishercap Lake.  I wasn’t expecting much…

… but when I arrived, there were a lot of people standing in total silence, taking a lot of pictures.

See that little dot in the middle of the lake?

That’s nothing little at all.  A very big bull moose was casually wading in the middle of the lake, occasionally dipping his horns below the surface, then shaking off the water.  Cameras clicked, but no one spoke, as we all watched this incredible scene.

Yes, we all watched, including this deer, who at any other time would have probably been the center of attention.  Sorry, but moose trumps deer.

I rattled through a couple hundred shots before the moose decided to put an end to the show.  He nonchalantly trotted out of the water and quickly disappeared into the brush at the end of the lake.  It’s amazing how quickly something that big can vanish.

Once he was gone, there wasn’t much else to see at Fishercap Lake, so I headed back to the trailhead.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a time-lapse look at the drive into Many Glacier:

The Bottom Line

Redrock Falls is a great destination if you’re looking to put a little more than four miles on the pedometer, and you enjoy waterfalls. The hike gets even better when you cross paths with a moose and a bear.

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