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: -113.65978

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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.

Glacier_NP_008_09232010 - Following Lake Sherburne as we were entering Many Glacier Valley
Swiftcurrent_Falls_001_08072017 - Looking across the top of Swiftcurrent Falls (its uppermost tier) from the bridge over Swiftcurrent Creek
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_053_08072017 - Contextual view of the uppermost drop of Swiftcurrent Falls as seen from an outcrop behind the private residence
Swiftcurrent_Falls_036_08072017 - The short trail to the best views of Swiftcurrent Falls began just to the left of this private residence
Swiftcurrent_Falls_060_08072017 - On the wide trail leading further downstream alongside the southern banks of Swiftcurrent Creek
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
Swiftcurrent_Falls_022_08072017 - Closer look at Swiftcurrent Falls from a lower ledge
Swiftcurrent_Falls_008_08072017 - Portrait look back at Swiftcurrent Falls and Mt Grinnell from the rock outcrop seen in the early morning
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
Swiftcurrent_Falls_016_08072017 - Looking downstream from the informal outcrop with a view of Swiftcurrent Falls
Swiftcurrent_Falls_018_08072017 - Contextual look at the gorge containing Swiftcurrent Creek backed by Mt Grinnell
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

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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. 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

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



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