There are numerous glacial lakes in Glacier National Park to enjoy and the Glacier Park Boat Company offers a variety of scenic boat tours on five of the larger lakes; Lake McDonald, Saint Mary Lake, Two Medicine Lake, plus a dual lake tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine in the Many Glacier area. Our personal favorites are the tours on Two Medicine Lake and the dual lake tour on Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine.
You can catch the Two Medicine boat tour on the northeast shore of Two Medicine Lake near the Two Medicine Campground and Camp store (roughly an hour’s drive from Smoky Bear Ranch). There you’ll climb aboard the Sinapah, an historic old wooden vessel. The first part of the tour takes you along the northwest side of the lake as the guide draws your attention to points of interest, and explains how Two Medicine Lake got its name from the Blackfeet Indian Tribe. When you dock at the head of the lake, you can remain on the boat and continue your tour along the southeast side of the lake or you can disembark to hike on your own, or with a guide.
The short hike of 0.9 miles into Twin Falls – a pair of falls separated by an island in mid-stream – is well worth the experience. The guided hike will take roughly 2½ hours or you can take the 2.2 mile hike through sparse forests to the foot of Upper Two Medicine Lake. Upper Two Medicine Lake is surrounded by sheer peaks; Pumpelly Rilla, Mount Helen, Lone Walker Mountain, and Mount Rockwell. It’s a good lake for fishing and there is a back-country campground at the foot of the lake if you want to make it an overnight trip. Once you return from your hike(s), you climb back onto the Sinapah to complete your tour along the southeast side of Two Medicine Lake.
The boat tour on the lakes at Many Glacier start at the Many Glacier Hotel on the northeast end of Swiftcurrent Lake, roughly a 3 hour drive from Smoky Bear Ranch. There you will climb aboard the Chief Two Guns for your tour along the northwest side of Swiftcurrent Lake. At the head of Swiftcurrent Lake you will disembark for a short ¼ mile hike over the hill to Lake Josephine where you will board the Morning Eagle. The Morning Eagle will take you along the northwest side to the head of Lake Josephine. There you can stay on the boat and complete the tour along the southeast sides of both Lake Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lake, or you can disembark to do a hike on your own, or with a guide.
This is a short 0.8 mile hike to Grinnell Lake, which sits at the base of Grinnell Falls cascading down from Grinnell Glacier above. You can do this hike on your own or with a guide, or you can take the 7-mile round trip hike to Grinnell Glacier – a moderate hike with a 1600 foot elevation gain over 3½ miles. Once the trail to Grinnell Glacier opens – usually around the middle of July – Glacier Park Boat Company offers hikers only early departure with a guided hike from the head of Lake Josephine up to Grinnell Glacier. You’ll want to arrive back to the head of Lake Josephine to catch the last boat, otherwise you can hike the 2.5 miles back to Many Glacier Hotel.
Answers to common questions:
- It is recommended you arrive 20 minutes to contend with potentially busy parking
- Although you don’t require a fishing license in Glacier Park, there are regulations you should become familiar with (visit any Ranger station)
- Cell phone reception is sparse at best
- Firearms are not permitted on boat tours
- Glaciers can be seen on the St. Mary Tour and the Many Glacier Tour
- Early tours during the day allow for more hiking time
- To ensure you don’t miss out, reservations are highly encouraged
- There are no restrooms on the boats
- Certain one-way tours are available, check ahead time if this is something that interests you
- Dogs are not permitted on the tours (exceptions are made for service dogs)
- Multiple same-day tours are possible with careful planning
- Although hiking boots are not mandatory, weather plays a role on what you should wear (good running shoes at a minimum)
Please visit the Glacier Park Boat Company website for more information.
Enjoy your adventure and don’t forget your bear spray – bears are known to inhabit these regions.