Two Medicine Pass
|Trail Features:||Outstanding Views, Alpine Lake|
|Trail Location:||Two Medicine (South Shore Trailhead)|
|Roundtrip Length:||14.2 Miles|
|Total Elevation Gain:||2410 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||339 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||7555 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||19.02 (strenuous)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||48.48381|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-113.36954|
The hike to Two Medicine Pass begins from the South Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine Lake. Just going to the trailhead is a worthwhile experience. The views from the eastern shore of the lake, with Painted Tepee Peak, Sinopah Mountain, Lone Walker Mountain and Flinsch Peak forming a picture perfect backdrop, is one of the most beautiful scenes in Glacier National Park.
At just over a quarter-of-a-mile from the trailhead hikers will reach the side trail to Paradise Point, a small beach area that offers commanding views of Two Medicine Lake and Rising Wolf Mountain.Roughly one-half mile from the trailhead hikers will arrive at the first in a series of small beaver ponds. This area, over the next quarter-mile or so, is prime habitat for moose, which are frequently seen foraging around the ponds, especially in the mornings and late afternoons. Beyond the ponds the trail continues traveling through a montane forest of lodgepole pine and Douglass fir, with several small and large meadows interspersed along the way. On our most recent hike we saw a bull moose foraging in the woods just below Rockwell Falls.
At 1.1 miles hikers will cross over Aster Creek, and in a short distance will reach the side trail that leads to Aster Falls and Aster Park Overlook. To continue on towards Rockwell Falls you should proceed straight ahead at this junction.
At roughly 2.3 miles from the trailhead hikers will reach the suspension footbridge over Paradise Creek. Some people may be a little nervous about walking across rickety suspension bridges. However, to get across without incident, simply walk slowly, stay towards the middle and keep both hands on the railings as you proceed across the bridge.
At 2.6 miles you'll reach the South Shore Trail and Two Medicine Pass Trail junction. Turning right onto the South Shore Trail will lead you to the boat dock on the western shore of Two Medicine Lake where you'll have the option of taking the shuttle boat back to the trailhead, for a fee. This trail also leads to Twin Falls and Upper Two Medicine Lake. To continue on towards Two Medicine Pass hikers should turn left onto the Two Medicine Pass Trail.
Up to this point the trail has been traveling in the general direction of 8271-foot Sinopah Mountain. The trail now begins heading southward, and in the general direction of 7650-foot Painted Tepee Peak.
At just under 3.5 miles you'll cross another footbridge. The trail then makes a turn towards the right, and in a very short distance you'll arrive near the base of Rockwell Falls.
Rockwell Falls actually consists of two separate falls. The waterfall most visible from the trail drops roughly 30 or 40 feet. There's another fall, roughly equal in height, located about 100 feet behind the main falls. Due to the angle and the trees, this waterfall is a little more difficult to see. However, if you don't mind a little bushwhacking, you'll have access to a better viewpoint further up the trail.
Up to this point hikers have only seen a gradual rise in elevation. Once past the falls, however, the trail begins climbing a series of switchbacks that lead hikers into the glacially-carved, U-shaped valley between Painted Tepee Peak and Sinopah Mountain. You can see this geological history from the trailhead (see the photograph near the top).
Just above the falls the trail also passes through an extended patch of huckleberries. This is a good place to make a lot of noise to let any bears know you're passing through their territory. If your timing's right and the berries are ripe, this is also a good place to grab a tasty snack.
As you climb higher the trail passes into the subalpine zone, characterized by dwarf trees, beautiful meadows and numerous wildflowers.
At just over 5.5 miles from the trailhead, after making a short, but relatively steep climb, the trail reaches the side path to Cobalt Lake. From here it's only a short walk down to the northern shore of the lake. In my opinion the views are much better from the southern and eastern shores of the lake, located just beyond the Cobalt Lake Backcountry Campground (two campsites). For photographers, 9272-foot Mt. Rockwell and Sinopah Mountain form a much more scenic backdrop behind the lake.
After soaking in the views from Cobalt Lake the main trail continues to climb towards Two Medicine Pass. Over the course of the next 1.4 miles you'll climb more than 950 feet to reach the pass. As you proceed higher Two Medicine Lake will become visible in the valley far below.
Just before reaching the pass we came upon a large herd of bighorn sheep, by far the largest herd we've ever seen. There were at least three dozen sheep in the vicinity, mostly ewes and juveniles, but also a few rams. Several sheep were grazing near the trail, essentially blocking our path for several minutes. As we watched a couple of the juveniles began to approach us. We weren't sure if they were somehow conditioned to humans, or if we were the first humans they had ever seen, and were simply being curious. When they got a little too curious, approaching to within only a few yards, we simply clapped our hands loudly and the entire herd scattered.
At 6.7 miles hikers will reach the saddle between Mt. Rockwell and the ridge, or headwall, above Cobalt Lake. From the saddle the trails climbs another 200 feet to reach the high point along the ridge. This is where we ended our hike. After three consecutive days of 14+ mile hikes, we were completely exhausted. Technically the pass is roughly eight-tenths of a mile beyond this point. If you wish to continue the trail traverses along the flat ridge before tracking over the low summit of Chief Lodgepole Peak. Once on the southeastern side of the peak the trail crosses over Two Medicine Pass before dropping rapidly into the Upper Park Creek valley. Besides exhaustion our rationale was that the views from the pass would not be much different than what we were already seeing. Needless to say, but the views on both sides of the ridge were simply outstanding. The photo below shows the panoramic views you'll enjoy looking towards Two Medicine Lake. The rise along the ridge to the immediate left of the hiker is Chief Lodgepole Peak. Further along that same ridge, towards the middle of the photo is Painted Tepee Peak. The mountain on the left is Sinopah Mountain.
On the opposite side of the ridge you'll enjoy commanding views of the Park Creek Valley area. Looking from left to right in the photo below is Eagle Ribs Mountain, Mt. Despair, the Park Creek Valley, Statuary Mountain, Church Butte, Vigil Peak and Battlement Mountain. The red-colored mountain on the far right is the southern flank of Mt. Rockwell.
Hikers should note that gale force winds are relatively common atop Two Medicine Pass. Though there are steeps drop-offs on both sides of the ridge, the ridge itself is at least 30-40 yards wide.