Ptamigan Tunnel has a lot going on for just one hike – you have lakes, mountain views, a glacier, and a 250′ tunnel! This hike is located in the Many Glacier region of Glacier National Park, and it’s one of the most popular hikes. It shares the same trailhead as Iceberg Lake for about 2.5 miles before branching off, and can be combined with Iceberg for a roundtrip of 15 miles, (it’s only 10.7 miles on it’s own).
When you emerge from the tunnel, the views will take your breath away, (above picture). You look across the expanse of red rock down into Elizabeth Lake and the Belly River region of the park. In the far left peak, (Mount Merrit) of the above photo you see Old Sun Glacier in the distance.
You actually hike another quarter of a mile after the tunnel to see the glacier view, (the glacier isn’t visible from just outside the tunnel and most people miss the view). This little tidbit of info wasn’t listed in any of the hiking descriptions we looked at, (we heard it from a local) and we were so glad we went a little farther because it was the best view from the entire hike!
The trail works itself steadily upward through the forest for a ways before the views start. The trail grade was deceptive because it didn’t seem super steep, but it was definitely taxing my legs! Maybe it was because we had already hiked to Iceberg Lake that day, or that I’m out of shape that the trail seemed tiring, but you definitely want to account for a slower pace if you’re thinking of doing both hikes in the same day.
This is a beautiful red rock waterfall right before you reach Ptarmigan Lake.
Ptarmigan Lake has a stunning glacial color that changes depending on what angle you’re looking at it.
Here’s a view looking down from the tunnel at Ptarmigan Lake. By the time we got to the tunnel, it was later in the day, and this shot was taken pointing right into the sun. I found most of the views to be great even later in the day, and you definitely want to go to Iceberg first because by early afternoon the mountain cirque is already 100% shaded.
I’ll leave you with a couple of shots from the way back down. Isn’t the red rock trail stunning?
6 thoughts on “Ptarmigan Tunnel”
If I was only going to do 1 hike out of the 2, would you pick this one or iceberg?
It’s really hard to pick between the 2, but I think I’d lean towards Iceberg as you mentioned in another post you had younger children. Ptarmigan seems longer and has more elevation gain, but you can’t go wrong with the views either way. For some reason everyone goes to Iceberg, but Ptarmigan has fantastic views as well with Ptarmigan Lake and then when you go through the tunnel there’s the view out the other side which is also gorgeous!
wow, those colors are stunning! i’m glad to know about this hike!
It’s a great hike – one of the best in Glacier!
Question: is the rock red because of oxidized iron minerals?
I’ve never seen something quite like it. It’s stunning!
The red rock is caused by oxidezed iron minerals – you see it in certain areas of Glacier and Waterton National Parks. I think it really adds a special element to the hiking in this area! In Waterton there’s an entire red rock canyon, it’s really goregeous!