The Many Glacier region is considered by some to be the heart of Glacier National Park, and is a favorite destination for visitors and locals alike.

A veritable hiker’s paradise, many of the park’s most striking peaks encircle the magical Many Glacier and St. Mary valleys, making them both destination playgrounds for novice climbers, seasoned mountaineers, casual hikers, and wildlife watchers. This region’s vast network of trails leads to glimmering lakes and waterfalls accessible to hikers and climbers of all abilities, and wildlife abound.

Several gorgeous valleys radiate from Swiftcurrent Lake, the centerpiece of the valley, around which visitors will find all manner of opportunities for eating, sleeping and entertainment.

The historic Many Glacier Hotel sits on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake, and from its decks guests will be treated to views of the prominent Grinnell Point, which rises directly from the lakeshores opposite of the hotel’s grand deck.

Late spring and early summer brings bighorn sheep, and both grizzly and black bears can be spotted feasting on huckleberries on the slopes above the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.

Prior to his death in 2004, J. Gordon Edwards, the “patron saint of climbing” in Glacier Park who pioneered numerous routes to the spectacular summits, could frequently be found in the area telling stories or offering route beta to other climbing enthusiasts, and his book, “A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park,” remains a valuable tome to navigate these rugged mountains.


1. Swiftcurent Lake Nature Trail

This flat 3-mile loop hike begins from the boat dock at the Many Glacier Hotel, or from the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead near the Many Glacier picnic area, depending on the direction you choose to walk.

Starting from the hotel, hikers will enjoy the views of Grinnell Point while walking toward the north end of the lake, and continue along the north shore until you reach the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead then turn left.

As you make your way back to the hotel, embark on some of the side trails leading to small beach areas along Swiftcurent Lake, which make for a perfect picnic spot, or just a place to enjoy the views.

2. Virginia Falls

If you like chasing waterfalls, this 3.6-mile round-trip hike will lead you to one of the park’s classic, multi-tiered cascades.

Located just off of the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the trailhead is about 10 miles from the St. Mary Entrance Station.

After less than a mile, hikers will encounter the St. Mary River and, soon after, the thunderous crashing of St. Mary Falls, which is 35-feet high with three tiers of cascading water.

At 1.7 miles, hikers will reach the Virginia Falls Viewpoint trail junction, and should take the right fork to visit the upper falls, arguably the most impressive in Glacier National Park.

3. Grinnell Glacier

Visit one of the last glaciers in the park before it disappears. Grinnell Glacier is one of the most prominent glaciers remaining as it rests on the north side of Mount Gould in the Many Glacier region.

The easiest way to reach the glacier is to take a ride across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine, two scenic floats that are worth the trip on their own.

If you take the boats, the round trip hike is a much more manageable 7.6 miles, but fit hikers might forsake the boat ride and embark on an 11-mile day hike.

Follow the trail to the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead and start climbing. Not too far up you’ll start seeing the glaciers painting the side of the mountain, as well as an idyllic waterfall. Remember this is prime grizzly bear country, so always be prepared.

Bucket List

Many Glacier Hotel

This century-old, Swiss-influenced ramble of a hotel includes more than 200 rooms, and stands as a natural wonder in its own right. Although crews will be working throughout the summer to complete the hotel’s final phase of upgrades, it is well worth a visit.

Perched like a treasure in the valley’s rocky palm, a jagged skyline of peaks embraces the hotel in all directions while simultaneously dwarfing the historic building’s sprawling breadth, as well as the guests who occupy it. The National Park Service awarded a $13.56 million contract this year to correct remaining health and safety concerns within the National Historic Landmark site, representing the final two phases of a seven-phase plan rolled out over the past 15 years, with major components completed in 2005 and 2012.

During the summer of 2016, approximately half of the Many Glacier Hotel’s 211 rooms will be closed due to the construction. The affected rooms are located above the lobby and within Annex II. Additionally, the lobby spaces — including the deck and lake level areas — will be under construction and inaccessible.