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Ptarmigan Tunnel, West Glacier

#9 of 9 in Outdoors in West Glacier
Hiking Trail · Hidden Gem · Nature / Park
The Ptarmigan Tunnel was built in 1930 through the Ptarmigan Wall at an elevation of 7,200 feet (2,200 m) in Glacier National Park, near Many Glacier, in Montana, US. The 250-foot (76 m) manmade tunnel allows hikers to avoid a strenuous climb over very steep terrain between Many Glacier and the Belly River valley. Two opposing steel jackhammers drilling from either side of the tunnel and a series of ten-hole rounds of dynamite gradually broke through the mountain in less than three months.

A wide area, originally for guide and tourist horses, extends from each portal with a masonry retaining wall. Natural rock lines the interior walls. Heavy iron doors were hung across the tunnel adits during the summer of 1975. They remain open from mid-July until October 1, weather permitting. Designed by Ole Westman, this trail tunnel embodies exceptional qualities of landscape architecture and engineering in a pedestrian-scaled tunnel, cut through a sheer mountain wall.
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Ptarmigan Tunnel reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
13 reviews
  • We were so sad that the smoke/haze prevented great views. But it was still worth it. 14 miles hike from Many Glacier lodge, shorter if you start at Swift current. Final push past the lake was hard...  more »
  • Great hike. First 2/3rds is through fields and woods, but then breaks open. It's this section that makes the trip worth it, but the view on the far side of the tunnel is exceptional! There's a...  more »
  • This is a great hike and destination. The difference between the 2 valleys that the tunnel connects is a big contrast. Even the temperature was much cooler on the far side. Make sure to walk past the tunnel a little ways down to see the valley and more glaciers on the left side.
  • Beautiful vistas in 2 very different drainages in GNP, afforded by a quick jaunt through the tunnel itself. It is a long hike with a moderate elevation gains, but definitely worth it. En route one with passes by the beautiful Ptarmigan Lake at the upper cirque, just before the final switchbacks up to the tunnel. Plan on a longer day, especially if planning to hit up the tunnel, then scoot out to Iceberg Lake (you're already most of the way there at the trail fork, why not???).

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