On location: Glacier Park’s Iceberg Lake

I used Glacier National Park’s Iceberg Lake in “High Country Painter,” of the three short stories in my family-oriented e-book/audio book Emily’s Stories.

Where Is It?

icebergmapIceberg Lake is a 5.9- mile hike from Many Glacier Hotel on the east side of Montana’s Glacier National Park. The lake, which is frozen over during the winter months, is named for the chunks of ice that float in it throughout the summer. It’s one of the most popular trails in the area.

En route to the lake from the hotel, the elevation increases 1,200 feet, however most of the uphill sections of the trail are gradual. For those who haven’t yet gotten used to the elevation or long walks, the hike provides a half-day of exercise.

In his book The Best of Glacier National Park, Alan Leftbridge lists Iceberg Lake as one as one of Glacier’s seven best day hikes. His level of difficulty for the hike is moderate. Hiking in Glacier calls the hike strenuous. (I guess it depends of whether or not one is out of shape!) If you don’t have a hiking guidebook, this web site provides a good overview of the trip.

How I Used it In the Story

Trail to Iceberg Lake - Photo by GlacierGuyMT
Trail to Iceberg Lake – Photo by GlacierGuyMT

Young Emily Walker and her family travel from Florida to Glacier National Park for a family vacation. She accompanies her father on the hike while her mother spends the day around  the hotel. Since she occasionally talks to birds and spirits, she knows something unusual will happen at the lake.

Why I Used the Lake

Iceberg Lake
Iceberg Lake

Emily and her father are used to the sinkhole lakes and blackwater rivers in the Florida Panhandle. I wanted to put them into a new environment. The arête in the picture is called the Garden Wall and it not only provides a lot of ice and snow to look at, but frequent mountain goats as well.

The lake sits in a cirque, a carved-out bowl left by ancient glaciers, and since it’s such a popular spot, hikers will  almost always find ground squirrels and chipmunks there begging for food. The lake sits in bear country, so it’s always good to check with the rangers for to see if there have been any grizzly bears in the area before you begin your hike.

The hike also features many wild flowers as well as some very different views of the mountains than one sees from the hotel. There are good views of many rock formations and other features of glaciation,

The first mile of the hike is on the paved road that connects the hotel complex to the camp store and the campground; park your car at the store to save a bit of walking.

Excerpt from Emily’s Stories

Available on Kindle and as an audio book
Available on Kindle and as an audio book

The horizon was hidden by a grey wall of rock which, according to the pack, also concealed incoming storms; now, carrying rain jackets on a sunny day made sense. By the time they passed the noisy waterfall and strolled through lacey-white bear grass (without bears) and scattered Indian paintbrush that gentled the grey rock (“limestone,” her dad said, descriptively), Emily was ready for lunch.

Deep snow lay hard-packed around the lake’s far shore where the limestone wall created a playground for mountain goats running across their grey and white world as nimbly as Southern chameleons ran along the Walters’ brick house. Sunny Florida was, as advertised, sunny and hot, but here deep summer had only melted the ice off half of the lake’s surface.

“I am astonished,” said Emily, dropping her knapsack on the ground and running down to the water. The water was as cold as it looked.

“Punkin, ‘astonished’ is a new word for you,” her dad said. He knelt down and splashed water over his

Summing Everything Up

My teenaged protagonist talks to birds and spirits, so her stories are always set outdoors. Like other visitors to the hotel, the hike to the lake is one she would probably take. It provides great scenery for Emily to experience with her father as long with the possibility a bear might appear.

I worked at the hotel as a bellman for two summers and walked up to this lake many times. Using it in the story is an example of a writer writing what he knows.



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