Situated in Montana’s Glacier National Park, Swiftcurrent Lake is, wait for it- a glacier-fed lake. Located in the stunning Many Glacier region of Yellowstone Park, this body of water rises above the nearby Lake Sherburne.
Since the Grinnell Glacier has been receding for several years, Swiftcurrent relies on meltwater to power its currents.
One of Swiftcurrent’s most notable features is its proximity to the Many Glacier Hotel. This lakefront hotel is the park’s largest lodging facility.
Constructed in 1915, this hotel is a popular destination for tourists. The lake has very little fishing pressure, so most visitors enjoy activities like hiking or kayaking while staying at the hotel.
Things to Do at Swiftcurrent Lake
Unlike the other lakes in Glacier National Park, this one gets a lot of attention. Swiftcurrent Lake is mostly used for recreational purposes.
Most visitors rent boats and canoes near the hotel to explore the lake, which is stunningly clear and rich with life. You can also enjoy one of the picturesque boat rides offered at the lake every day.
From hiking to camping and wildlife-watching, you will never run out of things to do at Swiftcurrent Lake. Here are some of the top highlights to look forward to when you visit this scenic destination:
Several of Glacier Park’s best hiking paths begin at the edge of Swiftcurrent Lake, just minutes from the hotel docks. A simple loop trail circles the lake and is flat and pleasant to hike.
The Swiftcurrent Nature Trail loop has a total length of two and a half miles, and each turn reveals a stunning vista.
Snow-capped mountains create an almost uninterrupted backdrop to the lake, which is framed by Mount Gould and Allen Mountain. The little alpine pastures are splashed with a riot of color in the early summer when native wildflowers bloom.
Hikers can spot a bear or a herd of bighorn sheep perched high above them if they have a decent pair of binoculars.
Visitors to Lake Josephine can take a short diversion at the end of the lake. For those looking for a more challenging hike, the Grinnell Lake Trail diverges off the main path to the lake. If you stay on the nature loop, you’ll get a full circle tour of the lake, with several photo opportunities galore.
These are solely paths for those who enjoy walking. Horseback riding is permitted on other trails that begin near the Many Glaciers Hotel. Within the park, guided horseback rides are available.
Watch Out for Bear Sightings!
Grizzly bears thrive in Glacier National Park. The park is thought to have the highest density of grizzly bears per square mile in the country.
It’s common for routes to be closed when bear presence is high, but bears can show up anywhere. Bear spray and a wide berth are advised by rangers.
If trekking isn’t your thing, you can always go for a boat tour. At the edge of the lake, some hundred yards away, tourists can take a popular boat cruise to see yet another gorgeous lake. Typically, the 1.5-hour tour includes a visit to two lakes.
Take in the breathtaking vistas of Lake Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lake. You can also rent canoes, kayaks, and rowboats at the Many Glacier Hotel if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the glacier area.
When you go on an early morning tour, you’re more likely to spot bighorn sheep, moose, and even grizzly bears. Before the wind picks up, the water is dotted with dimpled rings left by the rising trout.
All of nature’s splendor is in full view, owing to the crisp, clean air. It is no wonder that the image of Swiftcurrent Lake lingers in the minds of tourists long after they’ve returned home.
Swiftcurrent is windy, but not nearly as much as other parts of Many Glacier. That includes the wind-lashed Lake Sherburne below, where it seems as if the wind never ceases. Even in the face of moderate gusts, casting at Swiftcurrent Lake is a breeze.
To cast far from the bank, you’ll want to use a long, light-action spinning rod with a 2-to-4-pound test monofilament line. Nine-foot-six-weight fly fishing rods with sinking tip lines are also a good choice.
If you want to go fishing in Glacier National Park, you don’t need a fishing license. However, to enter the park, you must pay a fee. At any of the gates at park access points, visitors can pay for park entry.
When park personnel isn’t around, use the provided envelopes to drop off payments. You can also purchase an annual pass.
Fly-fishing Swiftcurrent Lake requires a single pole and flies or lures that are tied into the fly-line. Bait fishing is permitted in the creek from Swiftcurrent Lake’s discharge to the huge waterfall a few hundred yards downstream.
Perhaps the rules makers assume these fish won’t make it across the rapids anyway. Visitors to the park are not allowed to wear waders with felt soles or lead fishing equipment.
The Many Glacier Campground, just up the road from the hotel on Swiftcurrent Lake, is the valley’s only other camping option.
Campgrounds near the hotel fill up fast, so more adventurous campers like to head for the backcountry campgrounds around Lake Josephine, which are less accessible.
Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge, a short drive away, has rustic cottages, a motel, and a campsite all under one roof.
This campground, close to the Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge on the Swiftcurrent Trail, eventually leads hikers to Swiftcurrent Pass. Here visitors can take in views of the Continental Divide and Granite Park Chalet.
Another trail takes hikers up to Piegan Pass and other noteworthy locations within the national park itself.
Lodging and Amenities
At the heart of Glacier Park is the magnificent Many Glaciers Valley. Lodging at the Many Glaciers Hotel, which has a view of Swiftcurrent Lake, gives guests a taste of Glacier National Park’s early 1900s beginnings.
Guests are often surprised to learn that the hotel’s rooms don’t have televisions or air-conditioning units, which are considered “modern” luxuries.
You won’t miss them either because breathtaking scenery is right outside your window, and the elevation helps to keep the temperature cool even during the height of summer.
Other Nearby Towns and Lodging Options
A small drive from Many Glaciers Valley is Glacier National Park, which shares its eastern border with the Blackfeet Reservation. The little villages of Babb and Saint Marys, which lie just outside the park, do have a few services.
In these communities, you’ll find a few guest ranches, tiny motels, and bed-and-breakfasts that can accommodate visitors.
Tourists are welcome at the eateries in the area, and nearby supermarkets sell basic necessities like food, supplies, and groceries.
The scenic ‘Going-To-The-Sun Road‘ that runs through the park is not to be missed. The west end of Glacier Park is home to more private enterprises.
Can You Swim in Swiftcurrent Lake?
The water of Swiftcurrent Lake is so frigid that there are no beaches for swimming in the summer months.
During the winter, the park’s buildings and services are closed, but the trails are still available, even if they are impassable owing to heavy snow. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular winter activities for frequent tourists.