“A run up to a unique 250-foot tunnel through a sheer, rock wall with incredible views on each side.
— Jake Bramante
Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The 250-foot, constructed tunnel, known as Ptarmigan Tunnel
, goes from one stunning view, through the sheer ridge of Ptarmigan Wall, to another stunning view on the other side.
Tunnel opens around July 17 each year. Bring bear spray.
Need to Know
Always bring a warm hat and gloves as well as a rain jacket as travel through this area, even on a hot summer day, can change quickly. Make sure that you either purchase or rent bear spray. It can be rented in Apgar Village.
Trail is busy, especially to the Iceberg Lake junction, so an early start helps you get in front of groups of hikers.
The Ptarmigan Trail
shares a trailhead as well as its first 2.7 miles with the Iceberg Lake Trail
(both can be paired for a longer day). Although the first two-tenths of a mile climb at a fairly steep grade, the trail quickly flattens out, becoming a nice, gradual incline taking you to broad meadows. Keep an eye on the meadows along the slopes above and below the trail, as this area is frequented by bighorn sheep and grizzlies. Occasionally, you can see mountain goats in the rockier cliffs higher up.
The trail heads into the forest with scattered views as you go by Ptarmigan Falls at mile 2.6, which you can see through the vegetation. The Iceberg Lake Trail
splits off just after Ptarmigan Falls. The trail continues and gets steep once again. Huckleberries are plentiful here, and black bears are not uncommon, so be prepared. At a little over 1.6 miles from the junction, you'll reach Ptarmigan Lake. You'll see the two switchbacks up on the slope to the tunnel. There is definitely more than a little work ahead of you, but once you reach the tunnel it will all be worth it.
The views looking back down the drainage over the lake are fantastic. The views on the other side of the tunnel are even more breathtaking. The trail on the other side was hewn from the red rocks and offers staggering views onto Elizabeth Lake and the Belly River drainage. It’s time to turn around, enjoy the views looking into Many Glacier, and drop back down to your vehicle.
This content was created by Jake Bramante of Hike 734. Visithike734.com
for more expert Glacier content and maps that help you decide which trail to run.
Flora & Fauna
Meadows house numerous flowers with the forest dotted with others. Huckleberries are plentiful as you head up the drainage to the tunnel. Moose can be seen in the drainages below the trail feeding on willows while grizzlies and bighorn sheep graze in the meadows. Mountain goats can be seen in the cliffs above. Near the tunnel, look across the rocky slopes below the cliffs for bighorn sheep.