Glacier’s Cut Bank area: Worth the Drive?

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The east side of Glacier National Park is often overlooked by tourists enamored with Going-to-the-Sun Road.  And even if you do make an effort to see the east side, you’ll probably pass by the entrance to Glacier’s Cut Bank area, never giving it a second thought.  So what’s out that scenic dirt road that winds towards the mountains?  I had some time to explore, so I set out to find out.

Location

Glacier’s Cut Bank area is located on the east side of the park.  A dirt road provides access off of US Highway 89, near Starr School Road. The dirt road dead-ends at the Cut Bank camping area and trailhead.

My Visit

On at least a couple of trips to Glacier, I’ve stopped by the side of US 89 and taken this picture.  The road to Cut Bank couldn’t be more scenic, as it splits from the pavement and zig-zags into a valley, towards the mountains.  While the picture was nice, I always had some better place to be.  But not on this day.  I decided to drive out the road and see what was there.

Glacier’s Cut Bank

There is a sign to welcome you to Glacier’s Cut Bank area.  A small plaque proclaims that the sign was paid for with my tax money.  Well, that’s nice.  It does seem like a fancy sign, given the small number of visitors to this part of the park.  But, I suppose, there was a lot of extra tax money lying around.

It’s a dirt road, but it’s easy to drive all the way to the end, which is about five miles from US 89.  There’s a small parking area at the only trailhead, and then the road loops around a campground.

Want to hike?  It looks like your destinations are somewhat limited. The only reasonable destination for a day-hiker is Medicine Grizzly Lake, which is six miles away.  While a 12-mile hike sounds like a lot, a topographical map reveals that there is very little elevation change, so it might be doable.

And when you look at this trail, you’ll definitely want to hike it.  Could there be a more beautiful trail?

I only hiked the first few hundred feet of it.  My feet were still recovering from the Highline-Garden Wall-Loop hike the previous day.  A 12-mile round-trip was out of the question on this trip, but I might consider it, the next time.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive out to Cut Bank and back:

The Bottom Line

The Cut Bank area of Glacier National Park offers a campground, but just one hiking trail.  If you don’t have time for a 12-mile hike, there probably isn’t a good reason to detour out to this area.  Unless, of course, you want to take your picture with a very uncrowded park welcome sign.

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