Trip Report: Winter Exploration of Two Medicine Lake Area in East Glacier National Park
I've just returned from one of the most enchanting and action-packed adventures of the first winter season in my new home of Whitefish, Montana, near Glacier National Park. 3 days in rugged, remote, majestic, and sacred East Glacier in winter is a rare treat. It had everything one might wish for - bright sun, full moon, and whiteout blizzards; total air stillness and 80+ m/h winds; high peak summits and visits to the ancient sacred grounds of the area’s Indigenous Tribes; crossings of high snowfields and miles of tedious and exhausting traverses through dense forests on snowshoes pulling a sled; an encounter with a large herd of Bighorn Sheep and a mystery of the snow footprints of a lonely man and a pack of wolfs. And every minute, in every direction, the views take your breath away.
Getting there was relatively easy - a 5.5 mile approach on snowshoes in perfect weather under blue skies, pulling a sled with all of winter camping supplies. This has been the way most of my winter adventures have begun this season, since the roads that lead the park tend to close for the winter. In a plot twist, this time the first 2 miles of the road were freshly plowed, so my companion Greg (who is also the owner of Glacier Adventure Guides) attached a DIY board on wheels to the bottom of the sleds to get them rolling on asphalt. On the way back 48 hour later, the road was hardly recognizable with over a foot of fresh snow, and a raging blizzard. You can easily figure out which pics belong to which leg of the trip ;)
My beautiful NAMMATJ 3 GT tent by Hilliberg is a Denali-worthy winter palace that was put to its first real test on this trip and came out with flying colors. We built the basecamp in a perfect campsite at Two Medicine lake campground. The site was carefully chosen by Greg to be well protected from the winds by the forest and the river bank. Greg has mastered the art of winter survival in the Glacier National Park over the years, and we certainly needed his craft this time. On the first night, the sustained winds of 80 m/h and gusts over 100 m/h howled non-stop right over our heads. I've been in awe at the safety and comfort of my tent that night. The second night started with a warm torrential downpour from 6:00pm - 11:00pm, which switched to hail and then snow blizzard with temperature drops to single digits for the rest of the night. Here is my red buddy, before and after.
East Glacier is a far more remote and wild place than it's touristy cousin, West Glacier. Two Medicine lake is a gorgeous and special place with majestic lakes, rivers and rugged peaks surrounding it. It’s also a gateway to the high country deeper in the park.
Located at 7,565 ft., Scenic Point is a 2,000 ft climb in less than 3 miles from the majestic Two Medicine lake below. In summer time, it's a well-established trail that any reasonably fit person can do. In winter time, it's a rare treat to summit it, as we did.
Scenic Point and the whole Two Medicine area are sacred, holy places of the Blackfeet Nation, whose reservation sits along the eastern border of Glacier National Park. The Nation has used the area for religious and cultural events for centuries and refers to the Rocky Mountains of Glacier as “The Backbone of the World.” It was an honor and privilege to travel in their ancestral lands.
Please, go to the Blackfeet Nation’s website to learn more about their history and on your next visit to Glacier, consider a tour by Glacier Sun Tours. They are independently owned and operated by Blackfeet and Assinniboine Souix members, Ed and Toni DesRosier, and the tours focus on Montana and Glacier's Indigenous People, their culture, and their history.
Victoria is the lead architect, investor, and product tester at RightOnTrek. After a long stint as a Silicon Valley executive, she relocated to Whitefish, MT to be closer to the wild spaces she loves and to set up RightOnTrek’s homebase of operations. Victoria is always planning another wilderness adventure - stay tuned to see where she heads next!
Have any questions, comments, or have your own favorite spot in Glacier National Park that we should cover? Leave a comment below or email our blog moderator, Steven, at firstname.lastname@example.org.