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Glacier National Park Glaciers:
Where To See Them


Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park from the summit of Dragons Tail.

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GLACIER NATIONAL PARK GLACIERS:
WHERE TO SEE THEM


Glacier National Park glaciers are fascinating and beautiful.  However, most Glacier Park glaciers cannot be seen from the major roads of Glacier Park. Fortunately there are a handful of Glacier Park glaciers that you can see from some of the major roads, such as Jackson Glacier, Blackfoot Glacier, Salamander Glacier and Old Sun Glacier.  However, MOST Glacier National Park glaciers can only be viewed from trails or summits.  Our goal on this page is to show you the trails that provides views of Glacier Park glaciers, as well as the vantage points along the roadways where you can view some of these great icons of Glacier Park.


Sperry Glacier as viewed from Mount Gould, August 6, 2018


Jackson Glacier as viewed from Piegan Pass Trail.

Glacier National Park is home to approximately 26 alpine glaciers, most of which can only be seen from a back country trail.  From the Going To The Sun Road, which is the only road that takes visitors entirely through the park, Jackson Glacier and Blackfoot Glacier are the only glaciers that can be seen from the highway.  The Jackson Glacier Overlook along the east side of the Going To The Sun Road is the best vantage point to see both of these famous Glacier Park glaciers.


Sexton Glacier near Siyeh Pass Trail, 07/29/18.

Where To Find Glacier National Park Glaciers
Glacier National Park Glaciers are all known as Alpine Glaciers or Cirque Glaciers.  These glaciers rest in shadowed cirques (basins) and shadowed north faces and east faces of Glacier Park mountains, typically between 7,000 to 8,500 vertical feet above sea level.  These Glacier Park glaciers are quite small when compared to the gigantic Valley Glaciers that carved the Glacier Park landscape that we see today.  These huge rivers of ice were up to a mile thick, and they literally carved out all the vast U-shaped valleys found throughout Glacier Park as well as cut the sides of the mountains, created sharp, jagged peaks found throughout the area.  These monstrous Valley Glaciers have come and gone many, many times through many Ice Ages, the last being about 10,000 years ago.  


Pumpelly Glacier as viewed from Dawson-Pitamakan Pass Loop Trail.

Brief Geological History of Glacier National Park Glaciers
Approximately 7,000 years ago, 3,000 years after the last major Ice Age and following the retreat of the Valley Glaciers, the smaller Alpine Glaciers formed in the shaded areas of steep walls facing the north and east, typically in the cirques or basins left behind by the Valley Glaciers.  These Alpine Glaciers have ever since been growing and shrinking over and over again.  The actual landscaping caused by these small glaciers are far less noticeable and notable compared to their larger cousins, the Valley Glaciers of the past.  Since 1850, which marked the end of the Little Ice Age, these relatively small Alpine Glaciers have been slowly shrinking.  Of the approximate 150 glaciers documented in 1850, there are now 35 alpine glaciers remaining, with about 26 still active.


Grinnell Glacier, Gem Glacier and Salamander Glacier as viewed from the Grinnell Glacier Overlook on the Highline Trail.

Permanent Snow Fields
Of the Glacier National Park glaciers that are no longer active, or the ones that are no longer even on the list of Glacier Park glaciers, a permanent snow field still remains where they once were actively grinding rock.  
A classic example of this is the permanent snow field just above the Logan Pass Visitor Center along the Hidden Lake Trail.  This large snow field lies just below Clements Mountain, facing the Visitor Center.  Up until the 1930's, it was an active glacier.

Another example of a past Glacier National Park glacier becoming a permanent snow field is the snow field directly below the summit of Grizzly Mountain in the Two Medicine Area.  This permanent snow field was once an active glacier that expired in 1880.  Even though this mass of snow and ice is no longer actively grinding rock, a permanent snow field remains.


Shannon on Boulder Glacier with seasonal snow on top, along the Boulder Pass Trail.

About the Name "Glacier" National Park
Glacier Park was named for not only the present alpine glaciers of today, but was also named for the stellar glaciation caused by the massive Valley Glaciers of the past.  The make-up of the rock and how these rocks were uplifted prior to the glaciation, led to some of the most classic glacial landscapes in the entire world.  No matter where you look in Glacier Park, there is glaring evidence of past ice ages.  Horns, aretes, hanging canyons, cirques, glacier lakes and U-shaped valleys all are the remains of these gigantic rivers of ice that sculpted this area.  


This is a classic example of the extreme glaciation made by the gigantic Valley Glaciers of the past Ice Ages.  Mount Siyeh appears to be cut in half by ice!  The sheer North Face wall this mile thick glacier created is the tallest wall in the Continental United States, being over 4,000 feet high. Siyeh Glacier is visible in the lower right corner of the photo.

LIST OF GLACIER NATIONAL PARK GLACIERS
Below is a list of Glacier Park Glaciers in alphabetical order.  There are about 35 named Glacier Park Glaciers, and 26 of them are considered active by the new guidelines defining what is and what is not a glacier.
Agassiz Glacier 
Ahern Glacier 
Baby Glacier
Blackfoot Glacier
Boulder Glacier
Carter Glacier
Chaney Glacier
Dixon Glacier
Gem Glacier
Grinnell Glacier 
Harris Glacier
Harrison Glacier
Herbst Glacier
Hudson Glacier
Ipasha Glacier
Jackson Glacier
Kintla Glacier
Logan Glacier
Lupfer Glacier
Miche Wabun Glacier
North Swiftcurrent Glacier
Old Sun Glacier
Piegan Glacier
Pumpelly Glacier
Pumpkin Glacier
Rainbow Glacier
Red Eagle Glacier
Salamander Glacier
Sexton Glacier
Shepard Glacier
Siyeh Glacier
Sperry Glacier
Swiftcurrent Glacier
Thunderbird Glacier
Two Ocean Glacier
Vulture Glacier
Weasel Collar Glacier
Whitecrow Glacier

Glacier National Park Glaciers Visible From a Road
Of the above list of Glacier Park glaciers, the glaciers that can be easily viewed from a road is:
Jackson Glacier (Jackson Glacier Overlook, Going To The Sun Road)
Blackfoot Glacier (Jackson Glacier Overlook, Going To The Sun Road)
Old Sun Glacier (U.S. Highway 89 between St. Mary and Babb)
Gem Glacier (Many Glacier Road)
Salamander Glacier (Many Glacier Road)
Small portion of Grinnell Glacier (Many Glacier Road)
North Swiftcurrent Glacier (Many Glacier Road)


This is the view of Jackson Glacier from the Jackson Glacier Overlook along the Going To The Sun Road.


Old Sun Glacier as viewed from U.S. Highway 89 between St. Mary and Babb.

Now while driving down the west side of the Going To The Sun Road,  if you look carefully far to the west along the eastern slopes of the remote Livingston Range of Glacier Park, you will be able to spot some glaciers amongst the many snow fields, but we don't count these glaciers as "easily seen from the road" as they are so far away you can barely see them.

Glacier National Park Glaciers You Can Hike Close To
Grinnell Glacier (Grinnell Glacier Trail, Many Glacier Area)
Gem Glacier (Grinnell Glacier Trail, Many Glacier Area)
Salamander Glacier (Grinnell Glacier Trail)
Swiftcurrent Glacier (Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Many Glacier Area)
North Swiftcurrent Glacier (Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Swiftcurrent Mountain Lookout Trail)
Sexton Glacier (Siyeh Pass Trail)
Boulder Glacier (Boulder Pass Trail)
Sperry Glacier (Sperry Glacier Trail)


Swiftcurrent Glacier as viewed from the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail.

Glacier National Park Glaciers You Can Hike Directly On Using an Established Hiking Trail (no bushwacking required)
Grinnell Glacier (Grinnell Glacier Trail)
Sperry Glacier (Sperry Glacier Trail)


Hiking on the Sperry Glacier via the Sperry Glacier Trail.


The Grinnell Glacier Trail takes you directly to the foot of Grinnell Glacier.


Hiker walking on Grinnell Glacier after getting there via the Grinnell Glacier Trail.

Glacier National Park Glaciers You Can Hike Directly To Via Short Bushwacks Off Established HikingTrails
Sexton Glacier (Siyeh Pass Trail)
Boulder Glacier (Boulder Pass Trail)
Jackson Glacier (Jackson Glacier Spur Trail off Gunsight Pass Trail)
Blackfoot Glacier (Jackson Glacier Spur Trail off Gunsight Pass Trail)


Sexton Glacier near the Siyeh Pass Trail.

Great Views of Glacier Park Glaciers from Major Hiking Trails
Jackson Glacier (Gunsight Pass Trail)
Blackfoot Glacier (Gunsight Pass Trail)
Sperry Glacier (Hidden Lake Overlook along Hidden Lake Trail, and Sperry Glacier Trail)
Sexton Glacier (Siyeh Pass Trail)
Piegan Glacier (Siyeh Pass Trail, Piegan Pass Trail)
Grinnell Glacier (Grinnell Glacier Trail, Grinnell Glacier Overlook on Highline Trail)
Salamander Glacier (Grinnell Glacier Trail, Grinnell Glacier Overlook on Highline Trail)
Gem Glacier (Grinnell Glacier Trail, Grinnell Glacier Overlook on Highline Trail)
Agassiz Glacier (East Side Boulder Pass on the Boulder Pass Trail)
Old Sun Glacier (Red Gap Pass Trail, Ptarmigan Trail, Elizabeth/Helen Lake Trail)
Ahern Glacier (Red Gap Pass Trail, Elizabeth/Helen Lake Trail)
Vulture Glacier (Highline Trail)
Rainbow Glacier (Highline Trail)
Pumpelly Glacier (Dawson Pass Trail, Dawson-Pitimakan Pass Loop Trail)
Logan Glacier (Dawson Pass Trail, Dawson-Pitamakan Pass Loop Trail)
Harrison Glacier (Dawson Pass Trail, Dawson-Pitamakan Pass Loop Trail)
Lupfer Glacier (Dawson Pass Trail, Dawson-Pitamakan Pass Loop Trail)
Kintla Glacier (Boulder Pass Trail at Upper Kintla Lake)
Boulder Glacier (Boulder Pass on the Boulder Pass Trail)
Thunderbird Glacier (Boulder Pass Trail)
Red Eagle Glacier (Red Eagle Lake Trail)
Siyeh Glacier (Cracker Lake Trail, Many Glacier Area)
Swiftcurrent Glacier (Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Swiftcurrent Mountain Summit and Lookout)
North Swiftcurrent Glacier (Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Swiftcurrent Mountain Summit and Lookout)
Whitecrow Glacier (Stoney Indian Pass Trail)
Shepard Glacier (Stoney Indian Pass Trail)


Blackfoot Glacier as viewed from the Piegan Pass Trail.


Shepard Glacier as viewed from Sue Lake Overlook.


Old Sun Glacier as viewed from Ptarmigan Trail near the Ptarmigan Tunnel.


Piegan Glacier from the summit of Piegan Mountain. This glacier can also be easily seen from the Piegan Pass Trail and Siyeh Pass Trail.


Vulture Glacier as viewed from the Highline Trail near the Granite Park Chalet.

Seasonal Snow Versus An Actual Glacier Park Glacier
Glacier Park receives an outrageous amount of seasonal snowfall each year, which slowly melts throughout the summer, feeding the streams, rivers and lakes.  In fact, 2017-2018 marked a near record snow year, breaking a 30 year record.  Hundreds of inches of snow cover the high country, so when visitors begin arriving in Glacier Park in late June or early July, it's really hard to tell which are Glacier National Park glaciers and which are seasonal snow fields.  And of course these Glacier Park glaciers are covered in hundreds of inches of season snow, masking their true footprint.  


Grinnell Glacier and Salamander Glacier, as viewed from the Grinnell Glacier Overlook along the Highline Trail, combined with a lot of seasonal snow.

When Is The Best Time To See The True Size of a Glacier National Park Glacier?
If you're really interest in seeing the size of the actual glaciers rather than a combination of seasonal snow and glacial ice, the best time to do this is early October, just before the snow storms once again begin slamming and covering the area.  Early October is when most of the seasonal snow is gone, leaving the Glacier National Park glaciers uncovered, allowing you to easily see the glaciers' true size. (See photo below)
View from Jackson Glacier Overlook on Going To The Sun Road


Now if you're lucky, during a low snow year and when the summer is warmer than a typical year, then even in late August enough seasonal snow has melted off to expose most of the Glacier Park glaciers, allowing you to see their true size. (See photo above)



Warning: Hiking on a glacier is extremely dangerous and we do not recommend it!


View of Agassiz Glacier on Kintla Peak from above Boulder Pass.


View of Grinnell Glacier and Salamander Glacier from the summit of Mount Gould.


Crevasses on Grinnell Glacier.


View of Sperry Glacier from Bearhat Mountain summit.


Mountain Goats on Piegan Glacier.


View of Jackson Glacier and Blackfoot Glacier from the summit of Mount Jackson.


Several of the numerous glaciers found in the Livingston Range of Glacier National Park.


Blackfoot Glacier, 07/29/18.

Grinnell Glacier, Gem Glacier and Salamander Glacier as viewed from the Grinnell Glacier Trail.

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