Angel Wing, dwarfed by Mount Gould
, is often overlooked. It is located near a common tourist destination, Grinnell Glacier, but few climb it. It is not difficult to reach the summit from the west side. Althought not one of the more notable climbs in the park, it is very enjoyable, and, depending on how fast you hike and how early you start, there should be time to see some of the other attractions in this part of Glacier National Park.
The trails leading to Angel Wing start either at the Many Glacier Hotel
or the picnic area just down the road from the hotel. If you do not mind a hike in, the trail starts from the picnic area, otherwise you can shorten the hike by taking boats across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. For maps and information on the many Glacier area go to Glacier National Park's Trip planning page
The first step is getting around or across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. There are 2 options, walking or taking a boat.
Option 1: Boat
There is a boat that leaves from the Many Glacier Hotel and makes several trips across the lakes each day during the summer months. It crosses to the opposite end of Swiftcurrent Lake where everyone must walk under a mile to Lake Josephine to board the boat that will take you across the second lake.
Note: there are disadvantages to taking the boat. It only runs certain times of the day, does not allow for a very early start and does not reduce the elevation gain.
Once on shore, there is a trail that goes around the southwest end of the lake*, where the trail to Grinnell Glacier starts. Follow the trail until you reach Grinnell Glacier.
Option 2: Hike
Instead of turning into the Many Glacier Hotel parking lot, continue along the road until you come to a parking/ picnicing area on the left side of the road. The trailhead to Grinnell Glacier starts here. Follow the trail along Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. As you near the end of Lake Josephine, look for a fork in the trail. The right trail will take you up to the glacier and eventually Angel Wing. The left trail leads to the boat and the Hidden falls and Grinnell Lake trails. Continue following the trail until you reach Grinnell Glacier.
Once at Grinnell Glacier:
Continue following the trails to the left along upper Grinell Lake and cross the stream right where it meets the Lake. It is useful to have a hiking pole here to make the crossing more stable. After this there is no more trail. From there, make your way toward the saddle between Gould and Angel Wing. It is very convinient to follow the rock here but you will have to leave the rock and make a steep descent to cross a couple snowfields. On the other side of one snowfield, you will have to climb up rock, some of which is loose, and may cause you to slide down if you don't move fast enough. Maneuvering on the rock near the snowfields may be difficult but it is not technical. Crossing the snow does not require crampons, kicking steps into the snow suffices, but it does require comfort with snow crossing and it is always good to be cautious.
As you near the saddle, and the terrain becomes more even, look for a convinient place to start going up the mountain. There is no trail and you may ascend wherever you wish just keep in mind that you should look ahead to avoid unexpectedly coming into cliffs or a steeper slope than you expected. These can be avoided if you coose your route wisely.
There is a large cairn on the summit that you can't miss, it can even be seen as a small speck from the Grinnell Glacier trail. Just beyond the cairn are steep cliffs that drop down to Grinnell Lake. Once you've reached the top, enjoy the solitude and the great view of the surrounding area, especially looking back down on Grinnell Glacier and across to The Salamander.
*this trail is partially boardwalk
National Park Entrance Fees
apply in Glacier National Park.
There are also camping
fees when using these resources.
Just a few pictures from and of the summit.
When starting the trail in the early morning, don't be surprised to nearly run into a moose or other wildlife, even if you aren't the first on the trail. Angel Wing is a good place to see mountain goats and big horn sheep. You may also see Grizzlys, hares, chipmunks, among other animals, while on the trail.
Here are some examples of the Wildlife you might encounter.
Wild flowers (and other vegitation) along the trail
When To Climb
The best time to climb is from July through early september. Late July and early August are the best times to go if you want to see the wildflowers in bloom.
For current conditions, check the webcam
, and road closings
Also check out the following:
Since the climb isn't difficult and may not take all day, it may be fun to see some other parts of the Many Glacier area. Once you've made it back to the fork in the trail near the end of Lake Josephine, if you hike around the end of the lake, you will find a trail to Grinnell lake. Also, just before reaching a wooden bridge that only 1 person may cross at a time, there is a marker for the trail to the hidden falls which are worth a look.
I would advise getting and early start. If you are on the trail by 6am, you can make a lot of progress before the sunshine gets too warm. There is not much shade once you start gaining elevation more quickly, near the end of Lake Josephine. Also, an early start will allow you to appreciate the trail without being surrounded by tourists. A large amount of tourists can be found at Upper Grinell Lake in the afternoon.
There are numerous campgrounds available within Glacier National Park, some of which take reservations. There are also many campgrounds and motels just outside the Park, click here
for information about lodging in Montana. You may want to check out the current Glacier National Park campground status and information. Also, Glacier National Park does have Backcountry Campsites