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Day 1-2: Hike Scenic Point & Bowman Lake - Glacier National Park, MT

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

Glacier National Park (GNP) is called the ‘crown of the continent’ for a reason. GNP is impossibly scenic, with every turn in the trail providing an amazing view of mountains, jagged peaks, waterfalls, glacier-carved valleys, lakes, wildlife, and, of course, glaciers. The 1.4 million acre park contains some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the west. These are the views you will never forget! Of the estimated 150 glaciers which existed in the park during the mid-19th century, only 25 active glaciers remained by 2010. Scientists estimate that all the active glaciers may disappear by 2030 if current climate patterns persist.

Our September visit to the park coincided with the Howe Ridge wildfire, which closed portions of the Going-to-the-Sun Road for most of our trip, making travel to some sections of the park more challenging. The devastation of the fires is hard to describe. If you hike in the park for any period of time, you’ll come to a match stick forest ... the remnants of a previous fire.

As a result of the fire we had to make last minute changes to our plans resulting in earlier wake-up times, since hikes in the eastern section of the park now required and extra 2.5-hour drive. We also changed our accommodations, spending half the week in Columbia Falls, MT (west entrance) and the second half in Browning, MT (east entrance). Moving to Browning made it easier to hike the trails in the Saint Mary and Many Glaciers sections of the park.

As a final note, we're not sure whether GNP or Iceland is the most amazing place we've visited. We hiked over 40 miles and barely scratched the surface of GNP.

lake mcdonald fire glacier national park
Howe Ridge Fire from Lake McDonald courtesy of the National Park Service

Activities included in this blog:

  • Scenic Point Hike

  • Polebridge Mercantile

  • Bowman Lake

Day 1: Hiking the Scenic Point Trail in the Two Medicine area

Hike Distance: 7.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,350 feet

The views on our first GNP hike were amazing. The picture don't do it justice ... a phrase we used throughout the trip. Here's our view after the first 30 minutes on the trail.

Scenic point hike trail Glacier national park

Gaining altitude and leaving the forest behind us.

Bighorn sheep grazing on the hills.

Krummholz forest of twisted tree trunk along the trail

No words to describe or capture this moment facing Rising Wolf Mountain (right of center) at 9,518 feet and the Two Medicine Valley.

Scenic point hike trail Glacier national park

These views defy description.

The final section of trail traversed alpine tundra. A lone hiker standing on Scenic Point.

Now you know why they call it 'Scenic Point'. The Point rises more than 2000 feet above the valley floor to an elevation of 7500 feet.

Scenic point hike trail Glacier national park

A successful hike and amazing start to our trip.

Scenic point hike trail Glacier national park

After the hike we drove to Two Medicine Lake. Even in misty and cloudy weather, the view of Sinopah Mountain (8,276 feet) rising above the lake was impressive.

Day 2 : We decide to take it easy today. We drove to Polebridge, MT located in the northwestern section of GNP and stopped at the Mercantile. The 'Merc' is an outpost dating back to the early 1800's and is famous for their huckleberry bear claws and other baked goods.

Polebridge mercantile glacier national park

Huckleberry filled bear claw. You can not believe how good they taste. Of course, Dave ate one and ordered another to go.

huckleberry bear claw pastry, polebridge mercantile

After 'filling up', we drove another 6 miles on unpaved road to Bowman Lake. Bowman is located in one of the more remote sections of the park ... only 1 in 10 visitors to GNP make it up to Bowman Lake. To our amazement, this was the view that greeted us.

bowman lake shore glacier national park

The Bowman Lake hike followed the shore for the first mile before heading away from the lake into the surrounding forest. We cut the 2-mile hike short after seeing signs of recent bear activity (a lot of grizzly bear scat) and hearing a pack of wolves howling in the distance. Imagine a horror movie - that's how it sounded!

We made noise to alert bears to our presence by playing a word game that involves lots of 'loud conversation'. Although I never told Dave, I kept my bear spray half out of the holster the entire hike back to the car.

hiking trail bowman lake glacier national park

Trusty bear spray, never hike in GNP without it. But did you know that drowning is the #1 cause of death among visitors to GNP?

bear spray protection

After a relatively quiet day, we planned to hike to Grinnell Glacier tomorrow. Click to navigate to the blog for Day 3: Hike to Grinnell Glacier.

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