A fantastic hike that leads from the St. Mary valley to the Cutbank area goes over a fantastic pass called Triple Divide Pass*. While it seemed that most people started at the St. Mary side, I started at the Cutbank trailhead on August 10, 2011. You start out walking in meadows on either side. The Cutbank side is more of a pine forest as it follows the north fork of Cutbank Creek and begins gaining elevation at the turnoff for Medicine Grizzly Lake. You can break your trip up by camping at Atlantic Creek campground if you wish, but it’s really just a campsite in trees. Once you begin climbing, you leave the trees and have views that just keep getting better as you look down on Medicine Grizzly Lake.
Once at the Pass, you have your pick of amazing views looking in each direction. Keep your eye out for bighorn sheep and make sure the local residents (marmots and ground squirrels) don’t make a meal out of sweaty pack straps and poles. From there you descend into more flowers, waterfalls and breathtaking views. Keep your eyes up on the cliffs for mountain goats.
When you cross over Red Eagle Creek, you are close to the head of the beautiful Red Eagle Lake. I think you’ll have a better chance of seeing big game at the head of the lake, but the foot of the lake is a prettier site as you’re looking into the mountains. Midsummer is fantastic with wildflowers and there are an amazing variety of birds. I was fortunate enough to watch an enormous moose frolicking in the water.
The walk out to St. Mary, by the old 1913 Ranger Station, is fairly level with burnt areas, flower meadows and aspen groves intermixed creating great habitat for a variety of animals.
Overall I loved this trip. It has all the things I love about Glacier National Park. Big game, birds, beautiful flowers, waterfalls and lakes, fantastic views and wonderful alpine settings.
*Named so because water that lands on the peak there will end up in the Pacific, the Atlantic or the Arctic Oceans depending upon which face it lands