Where We Be
The hike to Grinnell Glacier starts in a particularly
fun way -- with a scenic cruise across two lakes
Hike to Grinnell Glacier -- Glacier NP
The hike to Grinnell Glacier makes for a full and
satisfying day. It combines a scenic boat tour,
an alpine hike, and a good chance of spotting
grizzlies. We spied a mama grizzly and her two
cubs during our hike.

Our day began with an 8:30 am boat ride starting
from the dock at Many Glacier Hotel ($25 pp).
Two boats take you across Switftcurrent Lake
and Josephine Lake, with a quarter-mile hike in
between. The second boat drops you off at the
trailhead for the steep hike up to Grinnell
Glacier (or an easier hike to Grinnell Lake). The
trail to the glacier is 7.6 miles round trip, with
1,840 feet of elevation gain. The hike is tough
but gorgeous, with tremendous views of
glacially blue Grinnell Lake far below. Three
glaciers -- Gem, Salamander, and Grinnell -- are
also visible, all much reduced in size from the
oldest photos taken of them in the early 1900s.

This is the first time we've gone on a ranger led
hike. We enjoyed the ranger's insights on alpine
plants and animals, and it was a comfort having
him around once the grizzly and her two cubs
were sighted. We watched from a safe distance
as the mama charged down a steep slope
towards the trail, apparently in an attempt to
scatter any hikers who might be walking along
it! Thankfully no one was in her way, but what a
sight to see her barreling downhill! She began
ambling along the trail in our direction -- but
luckily after a few moments she turned off-trail
and led her two cubs further downhill to forage.
We spent nearly two hours at the top hanging out with the ranger and a member of our group
who was a geology expert. Together we hiked about a mile down to the lake's outlet stream.
One reason for the extended hike was the chance to see these circular fossils of stromatolites – one of the most ancient life forms
on earth. They're largely responsible for creating the oxygen in our planet’s atmosphere – and thus largely responsible for us!
Stromatolites still exist today in places like Shark Bay, Australia. Their circular forms are etched right into the glaciered
bedrock at Upper Grinnell Lake. The ranger said they remind him of the swirls in Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”
We also absolutely loved this slab of yellow glacial rock at
Upper Grinnell Lake covered with what looks like calligraphy
After our return cruise to Many Glacier Hotel, we drove back to our campground
and celebrated with some huckleberry ice cream at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn
You have to pass quite close to these falls to get by them. The trail is narrow
enough that the young girl at right looks a little uncertain about proceeding.
In the background behind the ranger you can see
the section of trail that the grizzly bear family crossed
This mountain goat is very close to the trail at Grinnell Lake
and doesn't seem overly concerned about our big group
Near the top you get a glorious view looking back down the valley
at a string of three lakes -- Grinnell, Josephine, and Sherburne
Ah! The top at last! This is Upper Grinnell Lake,
somber and cold, with glaciers hanging above it.
A steep uphill climb eventually brings us
to this fantastic overlook of Grinnell Lake
A quarter-mile hike up and over a hill brings us to
Josephine Lake, where we catch our second boat
The early morning sun brightens the shore
but leaves the mountains in shade
Our ranger-led hike begins with an easy walk around the lake,
but then the fun begins -- steep switchbacks heading up, up, up
Our first-ever grizzly sighting while on a hike. We watched the
grizzly and her two cubs foraging in a meadow below the trail.
As we hiked out we were able to cautiously pause on the trail to observe the
grizzly and her cubs in the meadow below. Obviously this is prime grizzly habitat.