Many Glacier located in the northeastern corner of the park is often referred to as the heart of Glacier. The hike to Grinnell Glacier is one of the more popular all-day hikes in Many Glacier comprising roughly 10-12 miles round-trip and classified as moderately strenuous.
The glaciers have been receding over the years and some scientists are predicting that there will be no more glaciers in Glacier National Park by 2020. Even without this dire prediction we knew that had to get close to or even touch a glacier.
We arrived at the hotel parking lot in Many Glacier at 8:30 with the intention of taking the boat from the dock of Swiftcurrent Lake. With Skyler remaining in camp at Two Medicine we knew we might be pressed for time or she would have to cross her paws waiting to be let out. The boat ride takes approximately 2-2.5 miles off of the hike by transporting you down Swiftcurrent Lake where you disembark and hike about a quarter mile to get on another boat across Lake Josephine. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately, for a couple of reasons, as we were to later learn) the boats were fully booked with a wait list. When we discovered that the boat trip or the hike by foot was the same time-wise, it was an easy choice to head on out.
After 45 minutes we were well down the trail catching glimpses of the boat making its way only slightly ahead of us. It turned out to be a good warm-up for the elevation gain to come and we got out ahead of the boatload of passengers. The trail traversed the cliff side towards the top and at one point we had to navigate through and under a waterfall. Fresh bear scat on the trail kept us on our toes and hyperaware to our surroundings. When we spotted Grinnell Lake from above we quickened our pace to the glacier. A small herd of bighorn sheep greeted us at the trail-end and we discovered a marmot spread eagle on the ice. It was not long after that we held a piece of glacial ice in our hands!
On the hike back, less than a mile from the trailhead, we discovered the real reason for missing out on the boat tour: a moose not more than 25 feet off the trail going for an afternoon swim!
It was a perfect end to a spectacularly stunning hike.
Up Next: Waterton Lakes National Park