Tag Archives: Iceberg Lake

The Cold Hard Truth About Iceberg Lake

The Story Behind The Name

The 3,000 foot drop from Iceberg Peak to Iceberg Lake

The 3,000 foot drop from Iceberg Peak to Iceberg Lake

If you have never hiked to Iceberg Lake you have robbed yourself of one of the best hikes in Glacier.  Believe it or not I saw Iceberg Lake from the summit of Iceberg Peak before I saw it from the shoreline.  Both views are amazing.

So here is how this lake got its name.  Better yet here is the story about who named the lake.

What They Called It.

Iceberg Lake was called “Ice Lake” by the Blackfeet.  James W. Schultz recorded that information in his book Signposts of Adventure (1926).

The History

Schultz wrote that Rising Wolf (aka Hugh Monroe) and his son Little Wolf “discovered” and named the lake in the 1850s.  He also notes that the lake had been “visited in the past by hunters of the mountain tribes such as Snakes, Kootenai and Stonies.”

Give credit to the Blackfeet Nation for naming Iceberg Lake.  Their name was simple and has stood the test of time.

This was my view from lunch near Iceberg Lake

This was my view from lunch near Iceberg Lake

What Schultz wrote is a bit confusing.  How could the lake have been discovered by Monroe if someone has already been there?  I don’t make this stuff up, that’s what Schultz wrote.

In addition to Hugh Monroe seeing it in the 1850s; George Bird Grinnell visited in 1887 and saw the lake and a glacier as well.  At that time the ice in Iceberg Lake came from Iceberg Glacier, since that time it has become a snowfield.

This is one of the most popular trail hikes in the park.  Hikers enjoy vistas around every corner and are amazed at the sights from the shore of Iceberg Lake.  The published elevation gain is 1,400 feet and the trail distance is 4.8 miles from the trailhead.

Now for a bit of a geology lesson.

George C. Ruhle described Iceberg Lake in his Guide to Glacier National Park in this way, “Iceberg Lake completely fills the floor of its cirque; vertical walls that rise more than 3,000 feet above the surface of the water enclose three sides.  Formerly, a small glacier crowded its upper end, with a wall of 75 feet high pushed out into the lake.”

Iceberg Lake from the trail.

Iceberg Lake from the trail.

Ruhle explained why there are large rocks and a small ridge along the shoreline.  He wrote, “As the lake freezes and it grows colder, the cover of the ice contracts so that more water appears and freezes along the edges.  When the temperature grows warmer again and the ice expands, it shoves up rocks which are frozen to it, forming the little ridge near the shore.”


  • Take some time and make this trip.
  • Bring a lunch and some friends.
  • Bring your swimming suit, if you dare.  Surely, someone from out of state will make a spectacle of themselves and stand on an iceberg.  It is an unwritten law.  You might be in position for a great story.
  • Be ready to share the trail and play nice with others.  It is a VERY popular trail destination.
  • Carry Bear Deterrent Spray.
  • There is an outhouse along the trail before reaching Ptarmigan Falls.
  • Make a plan for an alternate hike if the trail is closed for bears.

I prefer to see it from the Continental Divide and Iceberg Peak.  Volume 3 of Climb Glacier National Park can help you reach the summit.  You may just prefer to see it from the trail.  See Volume 3 information.

What piece of Glacier National Park real estate do you want to learn more about?

Send me a message and I will get to work.

Thanks for joining in for this small bit of fun history about Glacier National Park.

Not all of it is true, but it is interesting.



Hanna, W. L., Montana’s Many-Splendored Glacierland: All You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Glacier Park, Seattle, Superior, 1976

Ruhle, George C., Guide to Glacier, John W. Forney Publisher, Revised Edition 1963

Schultz, W. R., Signposts of Adventure, Glacier National Park As the Indians Know It, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1926

© Montana Outdoor Guidebooks, 2014