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Swiftcurrent Falls, Montana

Swiftcurrent Falls is located within Montana’s Glacier National Park in Glacier County. The falls are not always immediately obvious to some visitors looking for huge, cascading drops—but as it turns out the Swiftcurrent Falls is classed as one of the major waterfalls in the Many Glacier areas of the park, accessible off Highway 89 at Babb.

What the 70-foot, multi-layered Swiftcurrent Falls lacks in size it more than makes up for with its impressively high flow, which cascades down tiers and drops set amidst some of the best views in the park.

Swiftcurrent Lake is often seen in pictures of the falls and its outflow is the point of origin. The almost triangular peak of Mount Grinnell also often shows up as the backdrop of the falls, as does the nearby Many Glacier Hotel which is a popular jumping-off point from which to scramble up to them.

swiftcurrent falls

The History of the Swiftcurrent Falls in Montana

There seems to be little recorded history around the discovery or naming of the falls aside from the fact that they may have previously gone by the name of McDermott Falls in the early 1900s. The lake was formally renamed Swiftcurrent sometime later.

Swiftcurrent Lake

swiftcurrent lake

The pristine alpine lake that the falls drain from adds to the appearance of this whole area in ways you’ve never imagined before.

The incredibly fetching, clear pale blue and highly serene-looking waters of the lake are one of the main features of this amazingly scenic area.

The mountains provide the 3,000-foot-plus elevated surrounding backdrop to the lake at yet more depth to this fantastic naturally-formed scenery.

Many photographers will head to the region of the lake and the falls at peak times like sunrise and sunset to capture some impressive shots.

Like the majority of the alpine water bodies in and around the region, Swiftcurrent Lake provides a multitude of recreation opportunities to suit anyone from families to intrepid explorers.

The lake perimeter is dotted with trail options for either short wanders or longer hikes. There is of course plenty of activity in and around the water, and a variety of seasonal Ranger Programs are also offered.

Hiking the around the Swiftcurrent Falls

The Swiftcurrent Falls Trail in Glacier National Park is often listed as one of, if not the best waterfall hikes in the entire state. This is a nice and easy 2.6-mile hike that takes you along and around the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail.

The route starts out at the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead and leads you around the lake and past the Many Glacier Hotel. For those staying in the hotel or its adjacent campground, this is an easy hike from which to access the falls.

You can get to this point from Route 3, by turning onto the road for the Many Glacier Hotel. You should notice the small parking areas off the road on either side of the bridge. It’s also worth noting that some areas here are privately owned.

Extra parking spots up near the hotel are usually available from which point it is just a brief walk down a paved road to the trailhead.

The trail starts past a hill just across the bridge over the Swiftcurrent River from Route 3, although it is not clearly marked. If you follow the trail you will come to a picnic area, and from here the route is obvious. The trail virtually parallels the river and comes with some amazing scenery.

On this hike, you’ll be able to take in the amazingly beautiful and fresh alpine forests and spruce trees. A footbridge over Swiftcurrent Creek also features on this route, providing you with some exceptional views.  

Staying at Many Glacier

The Many Glacier area is undoubtedly one of the park’s most popular spots. It comes surrounded by the grandest of mountains, the most pristine of lakes, and terrain that is just tailor-made for all kinds of hiking, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, and plenty more besides.

You can actually see the Swiftcurrent Falls from the road at the junction with the hotel.

The Many Glacier Hotel and its accompanying Swiftcurrent Inn have become somewhat iconic lodging points within the national park.

Needless to say, both the hotel and the campground tend to fill up very quickly with many explorers booking up to a year in advance of their visit.

This spot also serves as a useful hub for many of the hiking trails leading up and around the mountains.

grinnell lake

Being Prepared for the Falls at Certain Times of the Year

When you consider that the Many Glacier Area is pretty much right up against the Continental Divide’s eastern side, meaning high winds and thunderstorms come frequently.

With that in mind, it pays to be prepared when traveling to regions such as this during certain periods. Layers of protection that can be adjusted accordingly are the most common recommendation for the unpredictable weather when winter comes briskly and often overstays its welcome.

But of course, this is all part of the Glacier National Park experience in which the Swiftcurrent Falls play a major role.

Conclusion

The Swiftcurrent Falls and their surrounding environment are located in a region with some of the most stunning, naturally-formed outdoor scenery in the world.

Along with the lake and the other surrounding landmarks around the falls, the terrain is the type that features in the dreams of many travelers and explorers.

Whether you are specifically a lover of waterfalls and other stunning natural water features, or just an outdoor type—you’ll be sure to find the Swiftcurrent Falls one of the national park’s most impressive features, although perhaps in more subtle ways than some of the others.

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