You know…twenty years from now, maybe even ten years from now my kids may not have the opportunity to see a Glacier like I have. Heck, they may think I lived in the ice age when I tell them I hiked to a Glacier back in my twenties. So, let’s talk a little bit about glaciers themselves as well as my experience of hiking to a glacier.
Let’s go back to the basics and talk about what even is a Glacier? Well, glaciers are something that formed many, many years ago. They are made up of fallen snow which has accumulated over a long period of time. The snow is then compressed into large, thick masses of ice which is formed from the continuous snowfall at higher elevations. Since, the snow never had a chance to fully melt it remains in place and just keeps building up. As global warming has continued to occur-masses of ice fall off or melt off from these glaciers and return create small lakes or rivers. Some of these lakes even have icebergs in them-like the one I visited!
I visited Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana in late September. I took a trip to this National Park with my husband and father-in-law and this specific hike had been on my bucket list for awhile. I was so curious to see what a melting Glacier may even look like. Like most glaciers in Montana, Grinnell Glacier is melting. When Glacier National Park first opened there were 150 known glaciers-now there are only 30 glaciers left in this park. Grinnell Glacier, being one of the few glaciers left, is located in Many Glacier. Per The Glacier National Park book, written by Becky Lomax, “the ice field reached its peak size around 1850, when it filled the entire hanging valley under Mount Gould and connected with Salamander Glacier. Lateral moraines mark it’s original size. By 1930, the glacier receded, separating from Salamander and forming a lake at its snout. Today, the ice has thinned and shrunk considerably.”
The Grinnell Glacier hike is known as the most accessible glacier in the park, but it is not a hike for the weary. The hike is 11 miles out and back with an elevation gain of 1,619 ft. Most of this elevation occurs within two miles-talk about exhausting. However, it is so worth it at the end! The hike begins right down the road from the stunning Many Glacier Lodge. Side note: if you have time definitely check out this lodge. Maybe for a little breakfast or dinner? It is GORGEOUS! Begin by following alongside of Swift current Lake and then again alongside Lake Josephine. Don’t forget to stop and breath in the fresh air next to these two beautiful lakes! There are quite a few lookout points on the way. Oh and don’t forget your bear spray!
When you begin to near the end of Lake Josephine, the trail will diverge uphill. If you go downhill though it will lead you to the Lake Josephine boat dock, which I will tell you about later. You will begin to hike through beautiful mountain ranges and eventually be able to see the turquoise water of Grinnell Lake. Keep on hiking up along the trail that is very clearly marked. You may pass a few waterfalls along the way depending on the season. Eventually, you will near the end of the hike up to the glacier. There will be outhouses for you to use at this point before you make the last trek up. You will climb up the moraine and at the top be rewarded with a stunning view!
You will come over a ridge and see one of the most magnificent sites you have ever seen. The bluest of blue waters filled with icebergs and the glacier off to the left will surround you. Take a seat on the flat moraines, eat your lunch, and soak it all in! Who knows-you may never be able to see a glacier ten years from now. As tempting as it may be, do not climb on the icebergs or the glacier’s ice as there are many deadly hidden crevices. Not only is it dangerous, but it does not help with preventing the glaciers from melting. So, don’t do it 🙂
Obviously the way back down is usually easier-considering it is downhill. But, if you are tired of hiking and want to cut off the last 2.5 miles on your way back then listen to this. You can hop on a boat shuttle at the Lake Josephine boat dock. It will take you across Lake Josephine, then you will hike about 5 minutes and hop on another boat across swift current lake to finally end up at Many Glacier Lodge. You can purchase tickets ahead of time for full price or just arrive at the Lake Josephine boat dock and purchase a one way ticket for half the price.
Alright, enough about this beautiful hike. I could go on and on about why I think you should add it to your bucket list, but let’s talk about how you can prevent glaciers from melting. We want the next generation to be able to enjoy these beautiful sights as well. Right? Unfortunately, humans have become dependent on the burning of fossil fuels which, only increases the rate of global warming. We should be using alternative energy sources and decreasing our carbon footprints.
So, how can you do this at home? It’s simple. If you have a house with a pool, use solar panels to trap the heat from the sun and convert it into energy to heat your pool. Choose an electric car over a gas fueled car. Walk, bike, or carpool to work and try to decrease your amount of driving time. Take shorter showers, don’t use house lights when they aren’t needed, hang laundry outside, unplug electronics when not being used. This is only a small list of what can be done. If we all make these small changes it can help make a big impact on our world and eventually maybe even help prevent these glaciers from melting, so that one day your kids can visit a glacier too.