Medicine Grizzly Lake
|Trail Features:||Subalpine lake, Scenic views, Wildflowers|
|Trail Location:||Cut Bank|
|Roundtrip Length:||12.4 Miles|
|Total Elevation Gain:||625 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||101 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||5651 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||13.65 (strenuous)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||48.60242|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-113.38355|
The hike to Medicine Grizzly Lake begins from Cut Bank on the east side of Glacier National Park. To reach the trailhead drive 16 miles north of East Glacier, or 13.8 miles south of St. Mary, and turn onto Cut Bank Road heading westbound. Drive another 5 miles to the end of the gravel road, just past the ranger residence building, and into the small parking area just off the side of the road. The hike begins from the Pitamakan Pass Trailhead.
Looking towards the south, Mad Wolf Mountain and Bad Marriage Mountain will be the dominating features during the early segments of the hike.
Less than a quarter mile from the trailhead hikers will reach the North Fork of Cut Bank Creek, and will more or less follow it for the next several miles. Shortly after reaching the creek you may notice a section that flows through a large flat area choked with willows. This area, in addition to a few other locations further up the trail, is prime moose habitat. Wolves are also known to frequent this area of the park as well.
During the early portions of the trail hikers will also pass through several patches of thimbleberries, huckleberries, and other edible (but not so tasty) wild berries. Throughout the entire hike the trail meanders through pine forests and open meadows that feature several varieties of beautiful wildflowers. This part of Glacier National Park is also prime grizzly bear habitat, so it's important to make a lot of noise, carry bear spray, and travel in groups of three or more.
For the most part the trail is relatively flat; however, there are a couple of short climbs you’ll have to tackle along the way.
Roughly 4 miles from the trailhead you’ll reach the Triple Divide Trail junction. Turn right here to continue on towards Medicine Grizzly Lake. From this point forward you’ll more or less follow Atlantic Creek all the way to your destination. Just beyond the junction is the Atlantic Creek Campground, which contains four individual campsites.
Three-quarters of a mile beyond the junction hikers will reach the Medicine Grizzly Trail, which forks off to the left. Continuing along the main trail would take you to the top of Triple Divide Pass, a climb of almost 1900 feet from this point.
Just prior to reaching the lake, roughly 5.5 miles from the trailhead, you’ll pass through a huge meadow that features a carpet of wildflowers, as well as commanding views of the Medicine Grizzly Lake basin area.
At 6.2 miles you’ll finally arrive at the northeastern shore of Medicine Grizzly Lake. According to Through The Years In Glacier National Park, the lake is named for the legendary "Medicine Grizzly" which inhabited Cut Bank Valley, and whose story is told in Walter McClintock's "Old North Trail." The bear was reportedly killed by Chance Beebe, a U.S. Biological Survey hunter from Columbia Falls, and one of the first rangers in Glacier National Park.
The lake sits in a large basin below the Continental Divide, and is surrounded by 9375-foot Mount James towards the north, 8020-foot Triple Divide Peak and Triple Divide Pass towards the northwest, and 8569-foot Razoredge Mountain towards the southwest. Look closely and you’ll see at least five waterfalls cascading hundreds of feet down these mountains as they make their way towards the lake.
Triple Divide Peak has the distinction of marking the spot where water flowing off the various sides of the mountain eventually reaches the Atlantic, Pacific, or Arctic Oceans. It’s the only such place in North America, and the reason George Bird Grinnell referred to Glacier as the "Crown of the Continent.”