Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail Glacier National Park ~ a slow hiker's guide™


Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail

Unique view trail through Ptarmigan Tunnel

A slow hikers guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers
Available on iBooks wildflower book cover

A slow hiker's guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers

Whitefish Pilot article on my Wildflower Guide.

Always check the status of the Tunnel Doors before starting on this trail. With the budget cutbacks you can no longer rely on Glacier Parks Trail Status Page, another gift from Congress. There is a Ranger Station located across from the entrance to the Many Glacier campground they are open from 7 am to 5 pm every day. If the Ranger Station is closed for the season than the tunnel will also be closed. Tunnel usually opens mid to late July. The hike is not worth the effort when the tunnel is closed.

This is a great view hike but is much more difficult than the Iceberg Lake Trail which it shares the first half of the trail with until just after Ptarmigan Falls.

The view on the far side of the tunnel is worth the hike

Ptarmagin Tunnel Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

Ptarmigan Tunnel Altitude Profile

Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail is one of those trails that I will hike again and again. It is a tough trail, but it is worth it. Words cannot express the feeling you get after coming out of tunnel into the Belly River Valley.

Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail shares the first half of it's trail with the Iceberg Lake Trail. Iceberg Lake Trail is a heavily traveled trail with a moderate ascent, Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail after the split from Iceberg Lake Trail, starts going up! Eventually you arrive at Ptarmigan Lake located at the base of Ptarmigan Wall. Before the trail reaches Ptarmigan Lake it comes to a series of small, scenic falls. If you are lucky the shoreline will be covered with wildflowers. The lake is a good place to rest as the next part of the trail is up a steep scree slope. Big Horn Sheep can often be seen on these slopes. the first time I hiked to Ptarmigan Tunnel there were Big Horn ewes on the slope, luckily I made it to the far side of the tunnel before a small group on horseback made it to the tunnel. This was actually the first time that I had encountered a private group on horseback in Glacier Park. In Yellowstone it is a fairly common occurrence.
There can be snow cover in late July on this trail. From Ptarmigan Lake the trail starts up a series of switch backs on a scree slope. I was unable to see the tunnel from the lake, your eyes may be better then mine. The first time I did this trail I was very lucky to have several able body hikers, including my future son-in-law who had just climbed Denali. Once again I was carrying too much camera gear, so I grabbed onto my son-in-law's backpack when we got to the scree slope. When it got really bad one of my daughters would push while he pulled. It was worth the effort! From Ptarmigan Lake to the tunnel is a mass of broken rock that has over the centuries flaked off Ptarmigan Wall forming a talus slope. After passing through the tunnel you are on a trail which was carved out of the side of the mountain, providing your first view of the Belly River Valley and Elizabeth Lake. After walking down the trail from the tunnel a short distance you can see the Old Sun Glacier off to the northwest.

Ptarmagin Tunnel trail elizabeth lake belly  river valley glacier national park  © Shawn Coggins falls below ptarmagin lake glacier national park

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