LENGTH 7.9 mi (longer if you start at the visitor center)
DIFFICULTY Moderate to Difficult
DATE July 1, 2017
MAIN FEATURES Beargrass, wide mountain views, Hoary Marmot and Sheep
My day started at 5am. Made a pot of coffee and relaxed on the Brownie’s Hostel porch with a mountain view for a good hour or so. Today’s bible verse “Every time I think of you, I give my thanks to God.” Phil 1:3. Many people and wonderful things to be thankful for this morning.
The Scouts got on the road by 8 or 9, and we drove the short drive down to Two Medicine for our first day in the park. We were undecided on whether to hit the Two Medicine Lake Trail (7.5 mi 500ft elevation gain/loss) or the Scenic Point Trail (2,300ft elevation gain/loss). We mulled around the parking lot at the visitor center looking at maps for a bit and decided to GO BIG our first day! Scenic Point it is! We walked up the road to the trailhead not realizing that there was another parking lot…so if you do this hike, park up the road at the trailhead parking lot and save your feet for the trail.
The trail starts with about a mile of Pine forest and tremendous amounts of blooming beargrass! The heavenly, honey-smell and clouds of pollen suspended in the sunlight were pure beauty. I remember seeing beargrass here and there last time we were here but not in the thickness we experienced today. What a treat!
We were on the look out for bears…but being a group of 18 on the trail, I’m sure they heard us coming and ran off. During this thick part of the hike you will pass a creek, start to gain a little elevation and see the waterfall at the rock overlook. The end of the forest was a good place to stop, check shoelaces, get water, take a whole bunch of pictures and get ready for the climb.
After the overlook of the waterfall, it’s a steep climb. Definitely steeper than anything we flatlanders are used to! It was hot out and our late start meant that we were out in the heat of the mid day sun. This part of the trail has zero shade, and I had wished that we were on it a little earlier in the day. I also wished I had brought my umbrella, the sun was blazing. We pressed on and were rewarded very quickly with views of the valley and a little hint of Two Medicine Lake.
In order to stay together during this very challenging part of the hike, we promoted our slower paced hikers up to the front as needed. This almost always annoys the less patient hikers, but it really is the best plan for keeping a big group with varying skills and paces together. We try to practice this on our training hikes ahead of time and it’s done with encouragement, never as a punishment or to make someone feel bad. We worked together to continue up the trail, and met a few dry white twisted trees. They looked like they were from a fairy tale. I’m not sure if they were part of a fire or they just mysteriously withered up in the heat. It was all very dry on this part of the trail, with welcome splashes of color from several varieties of wildflowers. I have not had time to look them up, but think I recognized primrose, yellow columbine, yarrow to name a few. This was another good place to grab water, a photo and check in on how everyone was doing.
We continued up a few switch backs to a spot where there were more white twisted trees. “A MONKEY!” someone cried! We all had to look and see this mountain monkey! What we saw was our first Hoary Marmot! Then two more popped up! They know you have food…just like monkeys, and were very eager for us to drop a morsel. We all got a chuckle at these little guys and from here on out, I will always think of them as Mountain Monkeys! I will also ALWAYS think of this video.
We stopped often to take on the almost unbelievable views and didn’t want to rush through the beauty of the landscape. Hiking during mid day above the treeline also left us hot, dry, and a few sunburned. So, the breaks were welcomed.
We continued up through the mountain wild flowers with a few false summits. More bleached gnarly trees and scree…and up up up we go! I thought this was the most mentally challenging part of the hike, due to heat, switchbacks and looking for the top of this mountain!
On our way up, we met and mother/daughter duo that saw a Grizzly Bear on their way up by the creek/waterfall area and I hoped we wouldn’t meet it on the way down!
We reached what we determined was the summit – 7,500 ft! At 2,300 ft elevation gain, that’s about 5x more than the highest point in MN! After 3-4 uphill hours on the trail, we celebrated, took lots of pictures and rested a bit! Up here we could see Two Medicine Lake as well as Lower Two Medicine on the East side. If you want to continue to East Glacier, it’s about a 10 mile trip total.
As tempting as the hike back home to East Glacier was, we ate lunch while enjoying the panoramic view, saving our last bits of water for the trip back down the way we came. I wished I’d brought 3L. Unfortunately, we realized that this saddle was not actually the end of the scenic point when someone passed us and kept walking. It was still about a 1/2 mile or more away! The Scouts took a vote and decided that this would be our scenic point, spent a little more time enjoying the view and tore back down the trail like wild mountain goats!
We all made it down in about 2 hours, including the time that we spent hung up in what I would call a sheep-jam. In the spot where the Mountain Monkeys were previously hanging out, was a group of 3-4 Ewes with their young. Possibly Dall Sheep, still shedding their winter coats. Half of our group passed without issue, the other half got stuck behind them, waiting for the protective mamas to let them pass. The babies were frisky and unafraid and they all took their time while we enjoyed watching them.
Made it down the trail and back in to beargrass nirvana with only one tiny little blister and a couple of achy toenails.
Besides the satisfaction of completing this 2,300 ft elevation gain and scoring some sweet views:
- Huckleberry ice cream at the visitor center
- Nice cold filtered water to refill your bottles
- Dipping your toes in freezing Two Medicine Lake!