Grinnell Lake is stunning and worth a visit.
It’s less popular than the Grinnell Glacier Trail — many people want to get up close and personal with a glacier. But I think Grinnell Lake made for a fantastic little hike and one I’m glad we did.
Grinnell Lake Hike
Hiked: Early July
Best time to hike: June-October
Accessibility: The road to the Many Glacier area was under construction during our visit and involved about 40 minutes on gravel road. However, it was doable with a sedan.
Length & elevation: 3 miles, 220 feet elevation gain
Crowds: Moderately trafficked
Trail views: Mountains, waterfalls, streams, lakes
Parking was easy – there is a large parking lot at the Many Glacier Hotel where you can park for this hike. Alternatively, if you’re staying at the Many Glacier campground, you can also add on the walk from the campground directly to the trailhead (adds about 1 mile to your distance on either end of the trail).
There are a couple of ways to hike to Grinnell Lake. One is directly from the Many Glacier Hotel area; this makes for a 7.1 mile hike. The other way, and the way we chose to hike here, is through combining the Glacier Boat Tour with the hike. We elected to do the hike/boat ride combination, which also meant that we got to go on a guided hike – the only one we did in the park.
The boat ride is brief and broken into two parts: the first across Swiftcurrent Lake, and the second across Lake Josephine. You walk the .2 miles between the two lakes to get between the two boats. Altogether it takes maybe 30 minutes.
When we finished the second boat ride, there was the option to return immediately, hike on your own, or hike with the boat captain. We went with the group hike option alongside another 30 or so people, and proceeded to walk through the forest to first a waterfall and then Grinnell Lake.
The trail was shaded, flat, and forested. It was an easy trail but hot in the afternoon sun. Oftentimes, moose are spotted along the trail; our guide was surprised that there were none when we hiked here, but also noted moose are more active in the mornings.
We headed up to Hidden Waterfall, a very brief side trail, to check out the falls before moving on to the lake. There was a pit toilet available for use as well prior to the waterfalls.
The lake itself is amazing. It was one of those hikes that felt like it was too easy for how great a reward is at the end! The waters are incredibly blue and the lake is surrounded by mountains and snowfields with snow melt forming mini waterfalls. You’d better believe that the water itself was freezing!
This hike was perfect for a gentle afternoon activity, and would be great for families and individuals with knee pain. It was a great use of a couple hours on our first day in the Many Glacier area. On the boat ride back, we even got to see both a black bear and a grizzly bear on and near the Grinnell Glacier trail.