Swiftcurrent Falls

Glacier National Park / Many Glacier, Montana, USA

About Swiftcurrent Falls


Hiking Distance: roadside to 1/2-mile round trip (depends on where you park)
Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Date first visited: 2010-09-23
Date last visited: 2017-08-07

Waterfall Latitude: 48.80015
Waterfall Longitude: -113.65478

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 dismissed it as a run-of-the-mill cascade to be lumped in with the other waterfalls on our Many Glacier Waterfalls page until we re-evaluated the literature years later.

Swiftcurrent_Falls_022_08072017 - Swiftcurrent Falls backed by Mt Grinnell
Swiftcurrent Falls backed by Mt Grinnell

That was when we realized that it was indeed a legitimate waterfall that ought to have its own page.

After our first trip to Glacier National Park in late September 2010, I bought a Mapsource map of the North Central states and it even identified the Swiftcurrent Falls by name.

In hindsight, we were probably lucky that we even spotted (let alone recognized) this waterfall as there were no signs indicating its presence.

Plus, we had to do some scrambling to even get the views you see pictured above.

Swiftcurrent Falls and its dramatic backdrop

Swiftcurrent_Falls_038_08072017 - The dramatic scenery around Swiftcurrent Lake, which was the source of the Swiftcurrent Falls
The dramatic scenery around Swiftcurrent Lake, which was the source of the Swiftcurrent Falls

Nonetheless, Swiftcurrent Falls’ impressively high flow and multi-tiered cascade draining Swiftcurrent Lake combined with its scenic backdrop were what made it stand out in our minds.

The triangular peak of Mt Grinnell backing the Swiftcurrent Falls and Swiftcurrent Lake was one of the signature mountains of the Many Glacier area.

It kind of reminded me 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.

Scrambling close to Swiftcurrent Falls

Glacier_NP_017_09232010 - Context of Swiftcurrent Falls backed by Mt Grinnell and the mountains closer to the Grinnell Glacier behind it as seen from the Many Glacier Road during our first visit back in late September 2010
Context of Swiftcurrent Falls backed by Mt Grinnell and the mountains closer to the Grinnell Glacier behind it as seen from the Many Glacier Road during our first visit back in late September 2010

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.

At this open area, we had the option of standing on a rock outcrop to look back towards the Swiftcurrent Falls backed by Mt Grinnell, or we could scramble down to a ledge below for a closer and more intimate view of the falls.

Swiftcurrent_Falls_076_08072017 - Mt Grinnell behind Swiftcurrent Falls becomes harder to see against the afternoon sun
Mt Grinnell behind Swiftcurrent Falls becomes harder to see against the afternoon sun

Either way, the overall walk should take no more than 15 minutes round trip from the Many Glacier Hotel.

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 tiers, you’d have to cross the bridge over Swiftcurrent Creek (at the mouth of Swiftcurrent Lake).

Then, you’d have to scramble along some rock outcrops along the northern banks of Swiftcurrent Creek.

Authorities

Swiftcurrent Falls resides in Glacier National Park near St Mary in Glacier County, Montana. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Glacier_NP_008_09232010 - Following Lake Sherburne as we were entering Many Glacier Valley, where Swiftcurrent Falls resided in
Swiftcurrent_Falls_001_08072017 - Looking across the top of Swiftcurrent Falls (its uppermost tier) from the bridge over Swiftcurrent Creek
Swiftcurrent_Falls_002_08072017 - Looking back over the bridge spanning Swiftcurrent Creek (at the mouth of Swiftcurrent Lake) right at the brink of Swiftcurrent Falls
Swiftcurrent_Falls_003_08072017 - Looking back over the bridge traversing Swiftcurrent Creek with part of the uppermost drop of Swiftcurrent Falls seen below
Swiftcurrent_Falls_036_08072017 - The short trail to the best views of Swiftcurrent Falls began just to the left of this private residence near the turnoff for the Many Glacier Hotel
Swiftcurrent_Falls_008_08072017 - Portrait look back at Swiftcurrent Falls and Mt Grinnell from the rock outcrop seen in the early morning
Swiftcurrent_Falls_009_08072017 - Broad morning look at the upper part of Swiftcurrent Falls backed by Mt Grinnell and other mountains as seen from the end of the scramble for a closer look
Swiftcurrent_Falls_016_08072017 - The panorama downstream from the informal outcrop viewing spot for Swiftcurrent Falls, but it was against the morning sun
Swiftcurrent_Falls_018_08072017 - Contextual look at the gorge containing Swiftcurrent Creek backed by Mt Grinnell, but this was from the trail away from the scramble
Swiftcurrent_Falls_019_08072017 - Looking towards the rocky area that you can scramble carefully to for a decent look at the Swiftcurrent Falls
Swiftcurrent_Falls_020_08072017 - Context of Swiftcurrent Creek looking downstream towards the rest of Many Glacier Valley against the morning sun
Swiftcurrent_Falls_025_08072017 - Broad look back at the upper half of Swiftcurrent Falls from lower down the scrambling 'path' so Mt Grinnell was more hidden
Swiftcurrent_Falls_033_08072017 - Returning on the trail that we took, which paralleled the Many Glacier Road en route to a better look at the Swiftcurrent Falls
Swiftcurrent_Falls_034_08072017 - Back at the spur road leading back to Many Glacier Hotel
Swiftcurrent_Falls_001_jx_08072017 - Julie and Tahia managed to scramble to this view of the upper drop of Swiftcurrent Falls (something that I managed to miss)
Many_Glacier_Hotel_044_08072017 - Looking far off in the distance towards some thin cascades tumbling beneath where I believe Iceberg Lake is supposed to be
Swiftcurrent_Falls_053_08072017 - Contextual view of the uppermost drop of Swiftcurrent Falls as seen from an outcrop behind the private residence
Swiftcurrent_Falls_055_08072017 - Broad view across the uppermost tier of Swiftcurrent Falls and the bridge separating the Swiftcurrent Creek from Swiftcurrent Lake
Swiftcurrent_Falls_060_08072017 - Back on the wide trail leading further downstream alongside the southern banks of Swiftcurrent Creek when I came back in the afternoon
Swiftcurrent_Falls_061_08072017 - Briefly the trail went between these trees en route to a decent look at the Swiftcurrent Falls
Swiftcurrent_Falls_062_08072017 - 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 below and ultimately to the view of Swiftcurrent Falls
Swiftcurrent_Falls_063_08072017 - Looking downstream from Swiftcurrent Falls with afternoon thunderclouds looming overhead
Swiftcurrent_Falls_068_08072017 - Focused afternoon look at the Swiftcurrent Falls with even lighting due to the afternoon thunderclouds threatening to dump their load
Swiftcurrent_Falls_087_08072017 - Looking down over the brink of the uppermost drop of Swiftcurrent Falls from the bridge across Swiftcurrent Creek
Glacier_NP_019_09232010 - Context of the Swiftcurrent Falls and the backing mountains from our first trip back in September 2010 when the Many Glacier Hotel was closed for the season
Glacier_NP_026_09232010 - 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 2010
Glacier_NP_044_09232010 - Mountains and Swiftcurrent Lake as seen from Many Glacier Hotel after it had closed for the season during our first visit back in late September 2010

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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.

Many_Glacier_Hotel_055_08072017 - The parking situation at the Many Glacier Hotel, which was near the Swiftcurrent Falls
The parking situation at the Many Glacier Hotel, which was near the Swiftcurrent Falls

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.

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


Checking out the uppermost drop of Swiftcurrent Falls

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: glacier, national park, many glacier, babb, montana, waterfall, rocky mountains, canadian rockies, st mary, swiftcurrent lake, grinnell



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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