I regret not staying somewhere on the east side of Glacier National Park. Yes, there are a lot more a amenities on the west side, but the east harbors far more beauty and seclusion. By the time we make it Two Medicine, I feel pangs and wished I picked an accommodation closer to this area.
Two Medicine valley contains a string of three main lakes, and even though glaciers departed this area nearly 150 years ago, they left their footprints in the form of plunging valleys, half-open steep-sided hollows filled with blue lakes, and craggy spires.
Two Medicine History
The name, Two Medicine, comes from quite a few legends. One story says that two sun dance lodge sat on either side of Two Medicine Creek. One story tells of two Piegan tribes who planned to meet for a medicine ceremony in the valley. Failing to find each other, they both celebrated independently. Regardless of how the area got its name, many tribes of the First Peoples found it sacred.
Sadly, famished and almost decimated as a nation, the Blackfeet traded part of their reservation land from the Continental Divide to the current reservation boundary. In 1896, they sold their land for $1.5 million to the federal government.
Two Medicine Valley
We come in from Columbia Falls via highway 2 and then highway 49 through East Glacier Park, which touts some of the best huckleberry confections in Montana. We then take the turn off along 2 Medicine Road, which runs along the shore of Lower Two Medicine Lake.
Steep and towering mountains flank the upper half of Lower Two Medicine. I can see that the only way to reach the shore from the main road is to hike down. A lack of boat access keeps the lake quite and the waters calm and blue.
Without direct access from Going-To-The-Sun Road, I can tell that our visit will be less crowded than with the other portions of the park. Furthermore, on this side of the continental divide, I can already tell from the environment that Two Medicines gets less water than her Western sister-lakes. Compared to the lush and evergreen forests of the west, the east-side vegetation grows lower to the ground. With a lower tree-line, I can pick out several areas that promise gorgeous vistas.
Two Medicine Lake
At Two Medicine Lake, I’m rather surprised that there’s still a good amount of parking left. With a decent sized campground and well-stocked camp store, I’m rather impressed by Two Medicine.
On a last minute whim, we take a short trek to the small dock and decide to take a wooden boat tour. Our guide describes our vessel, the Sinopah, as the oldest wooden boat in their fleet. At $13 per person for a round trip, I feel that the price is decent. Some tours also include a guided hike up to Twin Falls. From there, it’s just a short reach to Upper Twin Falls. Due to the lack of time and proper gear, we skip the hike and just enjoy our boat ride.
As our boat putters along the lake, Rising Wolf Mountain towers above the lake as the most prominent features. The Native Americans of the area considered the valley of Two Medicine as sacred ground. Tribes such as the Blackfeet would perform vision quests here.
We also learned that before the construction of Going-To-The-Sun Road, visitors came the Glacier National Park by train. After spending a night at the main lodge, they would travel to horseback to Two Medicine. According to our guide, at the top of the pass, they would ring a bell a number of times equal to the number of guests in the horse-train. Workers in the chalets below would then prepare meals, just in time for the guests when they reached the lake shore.
Although withdrawn from the rest of the park, Two Medicine is far from being dull. There is a lot to see and do here, and I would recommend it as the first place to visit in Glacier National Park.