The Swiftcurrent Pass hike is a wonderful day out, with a trail that keeps you guessing. There is the option of a linear hike to Granite Park Chalet and down to the loop on Going-to-the-Sun road, though carefully confirm transportation if you’re not doing a car shuttle.
Head into Many Glacier Area on the pock-marked road, remaining watchful for animals – bears here are likely in early summer. Park anywhere near the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn.
|When to do|
June through September
Out and back
Yet another wonderful hike in the Many Glacier area. This takes you out along a pleasant river, past some lakes that often have game and then up the grueling pass, where options for more exploration abound! The path is well traveled and clear.
Head to the far (western) end of the parking lot in front of Swiftcurrent Motor Lodge. If you’ve been camping in the Many Glacier campground then you are very lucky and can reward yourself with coffee from the Gift Shop beside the Motel office first.
Follow a well-defined path, and almost immediately you will cross a bridge over Wilbur Creek. There is a path down through the forest on your right to Fishercap Lake, however we prefer to continue straight ahead. Travel on the (sometimes) redrock path. After 2.5km you will come to the lovely Redrock Lake, flanked by Grinnell Mountain and Grinnell Point towering over it. The lake is fed at the far end by Swiftcurrent Creek and it’s easy to see where the lake gets the name – the lovely rock that takes on a magical hue early and late in the day.
A bit farther on, at roughly 3.0km from the start, you will come to Redrock Falls. While not the massive falls seen elsewhere in the park, these are beautiful and a good place for a break.
From here, continue 2.5km through a mix of forest and shrubs up to and beside Bullhead Lake. There are views in all directions at times, with Mount Wilbur on your right, Mount Swiftcurrent dead ahead and Mount Grinnell on your left.
You will pass a suspension bridge, which is really bouncy, just before reaching the viewpoint for Bullhead Lake (5.5km from start), a point with some large rocks and a perfect place to take a rest. Look carefully across the lake here, as moose often spend a quiet morning on the far shores. You may even see a bull moose if you’re lucky.
Continue ahead along the path. Cross and re-cross a few streams on rocks before arriving at the base of the switchbacks, which is roughly 6.4km from the start. Looking up, you may be wondering where the heck the path is going. We won’t spoil it for you, however prepare yourself for another man-made trail along the ledges for which Glacier should be famous. There is no scrambling and the path is wide, though we’ve seen hikers turn back. The exposure on this route is okay.
Head up the side of a green hillside along seven switchbacks. This is great for incredible wildflowers early in the summer. You’ll then spend the next 1.4km on rocky terrain, though the route is absolutely incredible. Cross the upper reaches of Swiftcurrent Creek at 9.1km, and look back into the forest for your final ascent to the Pass.
Keep looking back and see the chain of lakes, stretching back to Lake Sherburne.
After such a wonderful hike, the pass is anti-climactic. A partially destroyed Cairn marks the pass. Continue along another 400m and you will get some spectacular views as you approach the Highline Trail and Granite Park Chalet. You can see Heavens Peak, Mount Cannon, Mount Oberline as well as the areas west of Logan Pass.
If you can, reserve a night at Granite Park Chalet (1.5km away). This is a wonderful old chalet and operates like a hostel – with incredible views. Book well in advance. From here, you can explore Swiftcurrent Fire Lookout, which is another 375m of elevation and boasts beautiful views. You can also make this a circuit by walking back along the Highline Trail, ending up at the Logan Pass Visitor Centre – though that is a roughly 30.0km day!
For most of us, we return the way we came. This is a rare hike where the return trail provides new, stunning views.
Plan early and reserve a night at Granite Park Chalet to allow for two days and return via the Highline Trail.
Go past Swiftcurrent Pass to get some magnificent views!
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