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Backpacker Magazine – June 2011

National Parks: Glacier

Rule #1 when planning a hike through this iconic park: Let your ambition match the scenery.

by: Casey Lyons

The Highline Trail (Josh Miller)
Photo by Joshmiller_GlacierNPhighlinetrail_-7-Edit_445x260
The Highline Trail (Josh Miller)
Mountain Goats Above Treeline (Pat & Chuck Blackley)
Mountain Goats Above Treeline (Pat & Chuck Blackley)
Along The Highline Trail (Bret Edge)
Along The Highline Trail (Bret Edge)
Dawn Mist Falls (Michael Wegryn)
Dawn Mist Falls (Michael Wegryn)
Cosley Ridge (Michael Wegryn)
Cosley Ridge (Michael Wegryn)
Descent From Swifcurrent Pass (Michael Wegryn)
Descent From Swifcurrent Pass (Michael Wegryn)
Mt. Morgan And Oldman Lake (WildWestPhotos.com)
Mt. Morgan And Oldman Lake (WildWestPhotos.com)
Pitamakan Pass (Michael Wegryn)
Pitamakan Pass (Michael Wegryn)

BEST WEEKEND: St. Mary Lake to Two Medicine Lake
Pack maximum Glacier highlights—densely stacked peaks, jewel-like turquoise pools, and blinding-white waterfalls—into three days with this 36.1-mile point-to-point from St. Mary to Two Medicine. Park at Two Medicine ranger station and grab the East Side Shuttle ($20/person, June 3 to September 25 ) to Saint Mary. Ask the driver to stop at the Red Eagle trailhead. Ascend gradually and cross bridged streams as you enter the wide valley between Red Eagle Creek and Curly Bear Mountain. Camp in a clearing among the pines at the inlet of Red Eagle Lake (mile nine).

Next day, head south, crossing a suspension bridge (removed seasonally by late September) over the roaring falls at Red Eagle Gorge. In fall, the high whine of bugling elk fills the meadow between Hudson Creek and Split Top Mountain. Lunch facing Medicine Owl Peak, Amphitheater Mountain, and Mt. James, each taller than 8,000 feet. By late September, Amphitheater’s horizontal striations fill with lines of snow so thin they look pen drawn.

Begin the waterfall-laced climb to Triple Divide Pass, and emerge above treeline at mile 16.1. Look west to Triple Divide Peak’s cleft ridge. This is one of just two peaks in North America (the other is Snow Dome, in Canada’s Jasper National Park) that route water to three different watersheds—the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic (via Hudson Bay).

Descend east for one of the weekend’s finest views: a thin waterfall plunging 1,600 feet to the turquoise surface of Medicine Grizzly Lake. Spend night two along the bank of Morning Star Lake. Next day, pass a string of sapphire lakes to 7,731-foot Pitamakan Pass, then traverse a series of ledges to Dawson Pass. Descend to No Name Lake (another good camp), then continue 5.7 miles to end at Two Medicine. Trip ID 1061479



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