Running Eagle Falls, Two Medicine Valley, Glacier

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After driving on the outskirts of Glacier National Park for a while, and staring at the jagged rocky peaks from afar, you’re rewarded with one final chance to drive back into the park, at Two Medicine Valley.

Just a few miles north of East Glacier on MT Rte. 49, a side road takes you into Two Medicine Valley.  There’s only one route, in and out.

At the center of Two Medicine Valley is Two Medicine Lake–three lakes actually.  In the above picture, you can see the upper lakebed of Lower Two Medicine Lake, which at the time of my visit, had shrunk to about half its usual size.  Beyond that is Running Eagle Falls, then the main Two Medicine Lake.  The road ends there, but if you wanted to hike further into the valley, you’d eventually reach Upper Two Medicine Lake, a smaller body of water just below the Continental Divide.

Aside from the lakes and the hiking trails in Two Medicine Valley, there’s one other attraction to see: Running Eagle Falls.  This waterfall seems to pour out of the face of the rock, rather than over the top of it.  The falls is also known as “Trick Falls” because in the spring, when more water is flowing, the creek cascades over the top of the hillside.  At times, there’s enough water flowing over the top to completely hide the lower falls.

Running Eagle Falls holds great spiritual significance for the Blackfoot Native Americans of the area.  Keep that in mind when you’re tempted to splash around in the water.

Beyond Running Eagle Falls, you come upon Two Medicine Lake (the middle one), and the road ends.  Although I visited in mid-September, I quickly learned that this must be a miserable place in the most brutal months of winter.  The chateau (which serves as a small snack bar and gift shop) was already boarded up, and the area was nearly empty.

A bone-chilling breeze blew through the valley, over the water, and directly through my thin jacket.  It was so windy, I struggled to open my car door, seeking shelter.  Not a single snowflake had fallen, indeed the temperature was still well above freezing.  But the sky was grey, the water choppy, the air damp and cold, and the wind brutal.  Snow could only make it slightly worse.  There was a reason no one was hanging out on this lake at this time of year.  The brutal Montana winter was already setting in, and I was more than happy to drive away.

Note: This trip was first published in 2006.  Much of the same area was covered in the Big Sky trip in 2014.

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