I arrived in Glacier National Park in September 2018 for a week-long camping adventure. Upon my arrival, I learned that almost all campgrounds and trails at the west side of the park had closed down due to wildfires. This forced me to improvise and go elsewhere in the park. I was recommended Two Medicine Lake and its campground at the east side of Glacier National Park. This last-minute change turned out to be great and was one of my favorite experiences during my stay in the United States.
About the Two Medicine Lake Campground
Two Medicine Campground is located approximately 11 miles from East Glacier Village and sits by beautiful Two Medicine Lake, surrounded by a mountainous landscape. The campground has basic facilities such as flush toilets and garbage disposal. During the high season, a campground store sells food and gifts. Since this is bear country, any food and toiletries will have to be stored in food lockers which are scattered around the campsite. Several rangers maintain the campground and are happy to give advice or answer your questions. I’ll discuss my favorite experiences at and around this campground below.
1. Hike to Aster Falls and Aster Park Viewpoint
This trail is only 2 miles (3.2 km) long and is a good introduction to the park, climbing only 670 feet (204 m). It starts at the South Shore Trailhead. At only a short distance from the trailhead, you’ll find a turnoff to Paradise Point, where you’ll find a small beach area with good lake views. A bit further down, you’ll see plenty of evidence of beaver activity and you might even spot a moose. We saw one standing in one of the many beaver ponds.
Continuing, you’ll cross Aster Creek to reach Aster Falls. After a quick stop, the trail starts climbing rather steeply until the forest opens up and you reach the Aster Park Viewpoint, This location provides panoramic views over the valley and Rising Wolf Mountain.
2. Hike to Oldman Lake
The trail to Oldman Lake is beautiful but moderate to difficult due to its length and steady altitude gain. The trailhead is located at the north shore of Two Medicine Lake. Cross the bridge and go right at the junction, heading towards Pitamakan Pass. The views will certainly not disappoint — the landscape varies between pine forest and meadows while you skirt Rising Wolf Mountain. After approximately 6 miles (10 km) you’ll reach the turnoff for Oldman lake. Pass the small campground to reach your destination: a beautiful lake surrounded by steep mountain slopes.
3. Hike the Dawson-Pitamakan pass loop
This popular loop is a demanding day hike, but without doubt the most stunning one in this area. The total length of the trail is approximately 14 miles (22 km) and you will have to leave early to get the most out of your day. I would recommend going counterclockwise; this means you start walking along Pitamakan Pass and return along Dawson Pass. I say this because the ascent to the top of Pitamakan Pass is rather steep with lots of switchbacks, and I’d rather go up than down on steep trails. Once you reach the knife-edge ridge atop Pitamakan Pass, you are rewarded with stunning views into several valleys with lots of lakes.
Continue on Dawson Pass to get more amazing valley views. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep! Once you start your descent into the valley, you can make a quick stop at No Name Lake before heading back towards Two Medicine Lake. Here, you can either take a boat back to the campground or make your way back along the lake shore.
4. Take a boat tour on Two Medicine Lake
A tour company runs a fleet of boats on Two Medicine Lake, and not only for the purpose of taking people from either side of the lake to the other. They also offer tours which last from an hour to a couple of hours, depending on if a walk is included or not. I would recommend hopping by their office near the lake if you are interested in taking one of these tours.
5. Gaze at the stars!
If you’ve been hiking around the park all day and return to the campsite, you might not feel like staying up until long after dark. It’s worth it though, especially if you don’t get to enjoy dark skies where you normally live. The heavens that cover Glacier suffer minimal light pollution and are excellent for stargazing. The mountains and lake are excellent subjects for photography, too!
I hope this post convinced you to visit this beautiful area. More information about the Two Medicine area can be found on this map. Make sure to also check the NPS website for current alerts and updates.