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Home » Adventures » Glacier Highline Trail » Ptarmigan Tunnel

Ptarmigan Tunnel and Iceberg Lake

Route I hiked this day

Route I hiked this day

I continued from Cosley Lake, passing near Belly River Ranger Station, and heading up the valley towards Elizabeth Lake. This trail had been the start of my CDT expedition, although upon passing Dawson Mist Falls I had no recollection of previously seeing this beauty. The tall cascade should have been memorable though, and I found it unlikely that last time I skipped the fifty yard side trail to see it. I even became a little concerned this was the wrong trail, although my path was later proved correct. [Ed. note: After going back and checking my CDT photos, I did visit the falls then and am just losing my mind.]

I gazed across the gorgeous Elizabeth Lake before climbing high above the water on the way to Ptarmigan Tunnel. This valley was beautiful with the razor thin peak of the Continental Divide, a couple hanging glaciers high up on the ridge, and forest and lakes below. The last stretch to the tunnel cut along a sheer rock shelf chiseled and blasted into the cliff. Ptarmigan Tunnel was unique in its location but not that interesting in and of itself. It made passage to the far side much easier though, where I met all the tourists on day hikes. Even this late in the season the trail was quite busy.

Elizabeth Lake

Descending from the artificial pass, I took the side trail to Iceberg Lake. No spot was available to hang my pack, and I did not trust the tourists not to disturb it anyway, so I carried all my gear for the four mile round trip walk to the lake. Iceberg Lake was very impressive, tucked in a cirque under towering, vertical walls. Its name was accurate too, as large chunks of ice still floated within even in September. They were not big enough to sink the Titanic, but their gnarly formations stacked up near the shore.

My day ended at Many Glacier in some civilization, but unfortunately the trail rumor about the restaurant were true — closed for the season. So instead of a large pizza I ate yet another dinner courtesy of Knorr. At least the campground had solid bathrooms with flush toilets and running water.

The narrow trail hanging along the cliff of Ptarmigan Wall
Iceberg Lake