Grinnell Lake Loop

An ideal hike for fall, when the trails are emptier than during the chaotic days of summer

By Molly Priddy
Lake Josephine in Glacier National Park on Sept. 10, 2016. Molly Priddy | Flathead Beacon

The number of hiking days left in Glacier National Park this year is anybody’s guess, but the leaves are already beginning to turn just weeks after Labor Day.

It’s time for fall exploration in Glacier, when the trails are emptier than during the chaotic days of summer and suddenly parking spots open up throughout the park. On the park’s east side, the Many Glacier Hotel stands sentinel on Swiftcurrent Lake, and marks the starting point for an easy autumn hike to Grinnell Lake.

Following along the borders of lakes Swiftcurrent, Josephine, and eventually Grinnell, this mostly flat endeavor is 3.4 miles one way. Towering mountains and blue-green alpine lakes provide the views, while potential moose and bear sightings are likelier than in other parts of the park.

Take the southern path first, then on your way back, cross the wetland boardwalk to the north side of the lakes for a different vista.

Normally, hikers could opt to take Glacier Park Boat Company vessels across Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes, but the boat company closed up shop on Sept. 18, so plan accordingly.

Be bear aware while in Glacier Park, especially in the fall. Carry bear spray and don’t hike alone. For more information, visit

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