Why is everyone smiling? The magic of Iceberg Lake

“Isn’t life good?”

This from a complete stranger deep in the mountains of Montana.

I didn’t miss a beat. “Amazing,” I responded.

Considering the surroundings, our mutual effusiveness didn’t seem strange in the least. At that moment, we were passing through a meadow bordered on each side by hundreds of beargrass blooms. The spiky white flowers cascaded down the valley on one side and up the mountain slope on the other. For a moment, I felt transported to a 3-D scene from “Avatar.”

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We weren’t the only happy hikers. Although I passed by a few who were struggling with the fairly strenuous hike, most of the people I encountered appeared a little astonished at their good fortune.

It was my first trip to Glacier National Park, and to say I was impressed with the hiking trails is a bit of an understatement. I ended up doing the Iceberg Lake Trail twice, and I enjoyed it even more the second day.

The great views just didn’t stop. After a steep section just above the trailhead at the Swiftcurrent Lodge, the trail opens up with startlingly close-up views of nearby peaks, Grinnell, Swiftcurrent, and Wilbur. Wildflowers of all hues vie for attention. Along its nearly five-mile route, the trail transitions from sweeping views to dense vegetation, and back to open views again.

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The trail was fairly busy on the days I hiked, but I still felt a little isolated through the forested areas – especially considering the warnings I had heard about the Iceberg route being prime bear country. Most hikers were wearing bells to ward off the bears, and I took to clapping loudly through the treed areas.

I didn’t spot any bears along the way, although other hikers pointed out moose, mountain goats, and grouse in the distance.

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About halfway along the route, the trail crosses the beautiful Ptarmigan waterfall – a lovely spot to stop for a rest – and soon after, the fields of beargrass come into view.

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At just under five miles, the trail rises toward the snow-covered cirque that surrounds Iceberg Lake. After passing over a ridge, the lake comes into view. When I visited in mid-July, small bergs of ice floated on the surface – a lovely contrast to the blue-tinted water from the glacier. I arrived at about noon, and the boulders around the lake were fairly crowded with hikers eating their lunches.

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The park offers ranger-led hikes to Iceberg Lake most summer days, and I had intended to join one of those groups. But after arriving a little late on the first morning, I set out on my own, and I thoroughly enjoyed the solo hike.

The trail is rated as strenuous, and there are sections that are steep. Overall, it climbs about 1,275 feet. And at nearly 10 miles round-trip, the route is fairly long. But in terms of payoff vs. effort, I would say Iceberg Trail is a splendid bargain.

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3 Comments on “Why is everyone smiling? The magic of Iceberg Lake

  1. That is amazing. The flowers, then the snow then that blue blue water – wow. And that’s ice on the sides of the inside of the lake?? Sweet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Dreaming big for 2017 | NearandFarAZ

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