Serious Hiking

Sandy has lots of energy as we start out in bright sunshine

It was time to leave Kalispell for the east side of Glacier NP. Our next three nights would be at St. Mary Lodge, just outside the east entrance to the park in...wait for it...St. Mary, Montana. I had booked all of the lodgings for our trip online months ago. Checking the reservations that morning just before we left Kalispell I noticed that in St. Mary I had reserved super deluxe rooms. Somehow I goofed. They were very expensive. All I could think was that for what the room costs it better be good. Lodging on the east side of Glacier NP is limited. At least we had something.

My plan was to drive around the southern edge of the park on US2. That way we didn't have to deal with the construction on Going-to-the-Sun road. It was about thirty miles farther but would give us an idea of what the southern part of the park was like. I had picked out a hike to a lookout at the very southernmost point of the park. The weather forecast was for thundershowers arriving by noon. With an early start I thought we might get our hike in before the bad weather moved in. But the next morning when we got up it was already overcast. So I figured we were busted for hiking.

Two Medicine Lake and peaks beyond

We took our time leaving. With the combination of bad weather and my mistake on the reservations I was in a bad mood (just ask Sandy). But as we drove to the east we started to leave the clouds behind. By the time we crossed the continental divide we had nothing but blue skies. I hadn't done any research on backup hikes but Sandy studied the guide book while we were driving. She came up with an east side hike which was on the way to our destination. She picked the Scenic Point Trail which went to a high point in the Two Medicine area of the park.

We got to the trailhead and were on the trail before eleven. The hike wasn't real long - just under four miles each way. But there was a lot of elevation gain - over 2300 feet. That meant that we had a lot of work ahead of us. The trail started through forest but emerged onto open hillside in less than a mile. The rest of the route was on open slopes. It was quite warm and we were working hard with all the elevation that we had to gain. We took our time and as we climbed the views got better and better. We had a great view of Rising Wolf Mountain across the valley. As we climbed higher we could see farther up the valley to more spectacular peaks beyond Two Medicine Lake.

View from the 7522 foot summit of Scenic Point

The guidebook said that there were seventeen switchbacks to reach a saddle below the summit. I counted as we climbed and it was indeed that many. We were slow but we actually passed three parties on the way up while no one passed us. We usually aren't the jocks on any trail. The guide said the view from the saddle was as good as from the summit. It was easy to see why since the summit was behind and away from the rest of the mountains. But since the hike had not been that long we hiked the extra mile to the top. The trail ended at the edge of a two thousand foot cliff which dropped down to Lower Two Medicine Lake. The view from the top did include the prarie extending out of sight to the east. The change from limitless plains to rugged mountains was very dramatic. After a snack on top we started down. There was some breeze but it was warm hiking down in the bright sun. We took our time. As we got lower some clouds began to appear.

It's a long way back down to the car

By the time we reached our car we were hot and thirsty. The cold drinks that Sandy had stashed in the cooler tasted really good. The clouds had moved in by now and the weather was definitely deteriorating fast. We were glad we weren't any of the people that we had passed on the way down who were still going up.

From the trailhead it was about a forty five minute drive to St. Mary. About the time we got there a big thunderstorm hit. Now we were really glad we had made it down early. We checked into the lodge, got cleaned up and went to dinner. The lodge is all there is to St. Mary so that was our only choice. But the restaurant had a lot of good items on the menu so dinner was nice. The storm passed after only an hour and the sun came out again. The forecast for the next day and for many days out was for sunny weather. We had three nights in St. Mary and it provides access to some of the best hiking territory in Glacier National Park. We had a great hike on the east side to start and were looking for more the next few days.