To get to the beginning of the trail, it starts behind the cabins near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. In the parking lot near the trail head there are 10-15 parking spots for cars. This trail is usually very busy so all of the spots are usually taken. In this case, you will need to park in front of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. If you have to do this, it will only add another two-tenths of a mile to your hike.
A little after passing the Iceberg Lake Trailhead, you will immediately turn right at a junction to access the short connector trail that leads to the Ptarmigan Trail. This connector is a steep climb where the trail gains 185 feet in only a quarter-of-a-mile. Once you reach the Ptarmigan Trail, the elevation gain is much more moderate.
You should turn left once you reach the Ptarmigan Trail Junction if you wish to continue onto the trail. A turn to the right will take you back down to the Many Glacier Hotel.
As you are on the connector trail, as well as many parts of the Ptarmigan Trail, you will be have incredible views of 8851-foot Mount Grinnell and 8436-foot Swiftcurrent Mountain towards the southwest. If you look towards the west you will be able to see 9321-foot Mount Wilbur and if you look directly northwest, the direction are traveling, you will be able to see the Ptarmigan Wall.
The Ptarmigan Trail area is prime bear habitat. The first mile is where most of the encounters take place. According to Hikinginglacier, many people have encountered bears every time they have gone hiking on that trail. It is always a good idea to be extra prepared and carry bear spray with you. It is also a good idea to travel in large groups and make a lot of noise while hiking so the bears will know you’re coming and will avoid contact. Unfortunately, several trails in the Many Glacier area occasionally have to be closed due to bear activity.
The first part of the trail passes through open terrain that has a lot of beautiful views of the mountains, but around 1.5 miles from the trailhead, the trail goes right through a very dense area of a pine forrest.
After hiking for around 2.5 miles, you will be able to see the best view possible of the waterfall. The steep terrain makes it extremely difficult to get a closer view as well as the many trees that block the view.
Directly above Ptarmigan falls, there is an open and rocky area that has become a popular rest and lunch spot for hikers.
After passing the falls, you will cross a footbridge over Ptarmigan Creek. After hiking for another tenth-of-a-mile, you’ll reach the Iceberg Lake Trail Junction. The trail continues on to the right and takes you up to Ptarmigan Lake and Ptarmigan Tunnel. If you wish to continue on to the Iceberg Lake you should go straight.
After hiking for three miles from the trailhead, you will finally come out of the forest again, which is where you will see your first good view of the Lake. If you look to the left, you will notice a cirque with a couple of large snowfields lying on the cliff walls. There is a basin just below the snowfields, which is where Iceberg Lake is located.
Soon after, the trail hits the bottom of Ptarmigan Wall and starts heading in the west/south-west direction. The Ptarmigan Wall is over 1500 feet above the trail and is known as an arête, which means a thin ridge separating two valleys that have been carved by glaciers. Ptarmigan Wall separates the Many Glacier valley from the Belly River valley.
4.5 miles from the trailhead is when you will cross a footbridge over Iceberg Creek. Then you will begin walking through an incredibly beautiful alpine meadow that has a wide variety of wildflowers. You will continue to follow the trail, which turns into a climb for about two-tenths of a mile. Once you reach the top of this small rise, there is only a short distance down to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes in Glacier National Park. Although this hike is very popular, once you reach the lake you will understand why where are so many people.
Iceberg Lake has an elevation of 6094 feet and is surrounded by Mt. Wilbur in the south and the Continental Divide in the West. The lake does not receive much sunshine due to the surrounding trees that tower around 3000 feet above the water. The little amount of sunlight allows snow and ice to accumulate on the water and the surrounding cliffs.