Swiftcurrent Falls

Glacier National Park / Many Glacier Valley / Glacier County, Montana, USA

Rating: 2     Difficulty: 1
Swiftcurrent Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Swiftcurrent Falls was a waterfall that we didn't realize was a major waterfall in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park. In fact, we had initially lumped it in with the other waterfalls on our Many Glacier Waterfalls page until we re-evaluated the literature and realized that it was indeed a legitimate waterfall that ought to have its own page. Heck, we were probably lucky that we even spotted let alone recognized this waterfall as there were no signs indicating its presence, and some scrambling was necessary to even get the views you see pictured at the top of this page. Nonetheless, I knew deep down that my mixed feelings about lumping it into that general page was not a fluke, because I sensed that something wasn't right. The falls was simply too significant to be counted as a run-of-the-mill no-name waterfall.

Besides its impressively high flow and multi-tiered cascade, we thought it was this waterfall's scenic backdrop that was what made it stand out. That was because it was backed by the triangular peak of Mt Grinnell, which was one of the signature mountains in the Many Glacier area as it was kind of reminiscent of how Mitre Peak towered over the Milford Sound in New Zealand. Thus, it made for an excellent photo subject and I'd bet there would be numerous professional photographers who have utilized this waterfall for their own money shots.

The way we got close to Swiftcurrent Falls was twofold. On the one hand, we were able to park at a pullout (see directions below), then follow some of the scrambling trails closer to the Swiftcurrent Creek. Another way we did it (and perhaps the more sanctioned way given how much wider the trails were) was to come in from the spur road leading to the Many Glacier Hotel. There was a wide trail to the left of a private residence that briefly meandered through a small grove of trees before emerging in a more open area where we had the option of standing on a rock outcrop to look back towards the falls or scramble down to a ledge below for a closer and more intimate view of the falls. Either way, the walk should take no more than 15 minutes round trip.

Finally, as you can see from the photos on this page, if the weather is sunny, the best time of day to photograph this east-facing waterfall was in the morning. By the afternoon, the sun would be against you. There were also some upper tiers of Swiftcurrent Falls, but to get in front of those, you'd have to cross the bridge over Swiftcurrent Creek (at the mouth of Swiftcurrent Lake) and scramble along some rock outcrops along the northern banks of Swiftcurrent Creek.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Many Glacier Hotel was a historic attraction in and of itself as it had pretty decent food, boat tour and shuttle services (need to book in advance though), and had before-and-after photos of glaciersMany Glacier Hotel was a historic attraction in and of itself as it had pretty decent food, boat tour and shuttle services (need to book in advance though), and had before-and-after photos of glaciers
Morning view over the reflective Swiftcurrent Lake framed by the Many Glacier Hotel and Mt Grinnell as seen from near the bridge over Swiftcurrent CreekMorning view over the reflective Swiftcurrent Lake framed by the Many Glacier Hotel and Mt Grinnell as seen from near the bridge over Swiftcurrent Creek
In our 2010 visit to Glacier National Park (including the Many Glacier Valley), we stayed off the Hwy 89 near Going-to-the-Sun Road, and we were getting these surreal sunrisesIn our 2010 visit to Glacier National Park (including the Many Glacier Valley), we stayed off the Hwy 89 near Going-to-the-Sun Road, and we were getting these surreal sunrises
Following Lake Sherburne as we were entering Many Glacier ValleyFollowing Lake Sherburne as we were entering Many Glacier Valley

Looking across the top of Swiftcurrent Falls (its uppermost tier) from the bridge over Swiftcurrent CreekLooking across the top of Swiftcurrent Falls (its uppermost tier) from the bridge over Swiftcurrent Creek

Looking back over the bridge traversing Swiftcurrent Creek with part of the uppermost drop of Swiftcurrent Falls seen belowLooking back over the bridge traversing Swiftcurrent Creek with part of the uppermost drop of the falls seen below

Contextual view of the uppermost drop of Swiftcurrent Falls as seen from an outcrop behind the private residenceContextual view of the uppermost drop of the falls as seen from an outcrop behind the private residence

The short trail to the best views of Swiftcurrent Falls began just to the left of this private residenceThe short trail to the best views of the falls began just to the left of this private residence

On the wide trail leading further downstream alongside the southern banks of Swiftcurrent CreekOn the wide trail leading further downstream alongside the southern banks of Swiftcurrent Creek

After re-emerging from the trees, we got to a part where the nearest pullout on Many Glacier Road had a 'social trail' joining up with the wider trail belowAfter re-emerging from the trees, we got to a part where the nearest pullout on Many Glacier Road had a "social trail" joining up with the wider trail below

Closer look at Swiftcurrent Falls from a lower ledgeCloser look at the falls from a lower ledge

Portrait look back at Swiftcurrent Falls and Mt Grinnell from the rock outcrop seen in the early morningPortrait look back at Swiftcurrent Falls and Mt Grinnell from the rock outcrop seen in the early morning

This was the view of Swiftcurrent Falls and Mt Grinnell back in September 2010, which seemed to have a lot more volume than it did in our second visit in August 2010This was the view of Swiftcurrent Falls and Mt Grinnell back in September 2010, which seemed to have a lot more volume than it did in our second visit in August 2010

Looking downstream from the informal outcrop with a view of Swiftcurrent FallsLooking downstream from the informal outcrop with a view of the falls

Contextual look at the gorge containing Swiftcurrent Creek backed by Mt GrinnellContextual look at the gorge containing Swiftcurrent Creek backed by Mt Grinnell

Back at the spur road leading back to Many Glacier HotelBack at the spur road leading back to Many Glacier Hotel

Julie and Tahia managed to scramble to this view of the upper drop of Swiftcurrent Falls (something that I managed to miss)Julie and Tahia managed to scramble to this view of the upper drop of Swiftcurrent Falls (something that I managed to miss)

Looking far off in the distance towards some thin cascades tumbling beneath where I believe Iceberg Lake is supposed to beLooking far off in the distance towards some thin cascades tumbling beneath where I believe Iceberg Lake is supposed to be


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Checking out the falls from a couple of different informal viewing spots


Checking out the uppermost drop of Swiftcurrent Falls


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We spotted Swiftcurrent Falls at a roadside pullout roughly 11.3 miles (over 20 minutes drive) west of the turnoff for the Many Glacier Road along the US89 just south of Babb. It was a short distance before the turnoff (on the left) for Many Glacier Hotel. We were also able to hike to the falls after parking the car at the Many Glacier Hotel, which was towards the end of the aforementioned spur road (roughly a half-mile further than the aforementioned pullout). We have to warn you that Many Glacier Road was pretty rough with potholes and hastily patched sections of water damage, which further reinforced our suspicion that Glacier National Park was really hurting for funds to keep up with maintenance.

For context, Babb is about 8.5 miles (over 10 minutes drive) north of St Mary and a little over 10 miles south of the US-Canada border on Hwy 89.

For additional context, Babb was 209 miles (3.5 hours drive) north of Helena. Across the US-Canada border, Babb was 38 miles (an hour drive; not counting border delays) southeast of Waterton and 171 miles (under 3 hours) south of Calgary.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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RELATED PAGES



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