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Backpacker Magazine – June 2003

Glacier National Park

3 hidden hikes in our readers' favorite backpacking park

by: Eric Hansen

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For backpackers, Glacier is the deep end of the pool. It's a dazzling, exhilarating place that's a little scary, a bit mysterious, and completely intoxicating in its raw wildness. Grizzly lurk there, winds howl through the jagged mountains, vast glaciers offer a humbling sense of scale. Most visitors hang tight to the wall, catching hanging gardens, and tumbling snowmelt. You, on the other hand, must dive deeper into the park's million-acre backcountry. Your reward will be the hike of a lifetime in a wilderness without peer in the Lower 48. Ancient icefields, turquoise lakes, and wildflower-filled meadows await. Solitude beckons, with adventure close behind. Take a deep breath--it's time to take the plunge.

Mokowanis Lake

Spend years scanning the map and you won't find a more inspiring basecamp than Mokowanis Lake. Picture a quiet spur trail leading to a deep cirque surrounded by sheer rock walls and plunging waterfalls. This camp puts you in position to explore the source of those falls, the Sue Lake Bench, one of Glacier's most magical high balconies.

All this can be reached by a majestic, 15-mile trek along the Belly and Mokowanis Rivers. The route begins with broad views of the Rocky Mountains rising abruptly over the forested foothills, then follows glacier-tinged snowmelt through a corridor lined by some of the park's tallest peaks.

On your layover day, take the Stoney Indian Pass Trail past the thundering Mokowanis Cascades. Above Paiota Falls, turn south, off-trail, to a green ramp rising eastward from the base of Raven Quiver Falls. Ascend that gentle slope to the plateau above the falls, and wander the treeline terraces of Sue Lake's shores. Here, stone spires fill the skyline while Chaney Glacier's runoff plunges thousands of feet to color Margaret Lake strikingly blue.

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