Glacier National Park – Hike To Rockwell Falls

June 26th, 2016

If you’ve followed my blog, you probably already know that this past June, my wife Joann and I spent a week on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana doing volunteer work with God’s Grace Ministry. In our spare time, we had explored Glacier National Park. In addition to driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road, she and I had done a short hike together to Saint Mary Falls and Virginia Falls. I had also done the hike to Scenic Point, which was spectacular. On our final full day, we went back to Glacier to do one more hike together before leaving.

After studying a map, we decided that we would hike to Rockwell Falls and check out some of the points of interest along the way.

Our hike began at the South Shore Trailhead at Two Medicine Lake. A sign posted at the trailhead warned of recent grizzly activity in the immediate area. After hiking only about two-tenths of a mile, we came upon a huge pile of bear scat in the middle of the trail that appeared to have been deposited possibly just earlier that morning. Until now, virtually all of the hiking that I’ve done has been back in the Eastern U.S. where we don’t have any Grizzlies. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of scat from black bear. By comparison, this pile was at least two or three times larger than anything that I’d seen before. If the size of the scat is at all proportional to the size of the animal, then this had been left by a fairly large bear.

An open area near the start of our hike

For this hike, I had been able to borrow a can of bear spray from Pastor Joel of the Four Winds Assembly of God Church in Browning, Montana. We had had the honor to meet and work alongside Pastor Joel, his wife Erica, and members of their church during our stay. As it turns out, he is an avid hiker himself.

Even though I was carrying the bear spray, seeing the scat had made the presence of a large predator all too real. Joann was nearly ready to turn around and head back to our vehicle. Only the sight of other hikers had eased her concerns enough to continue.

Soon after continuing, we came to a junction and turned right onto the Paradise Point Trail. We followed that to a small sandy beach on the shore of Two Medicine Lake. At the lake, we had great views of Rising Wolf Mountain directly across the water.

We also had views back towards where we had begun our hike. Not far from where we were standing, there was an angler wading in the water and casting a line. We snapped a couple of quick selfies then hiked the short distance back to the junction.

Joann and I at Paradise Point

From there, we hiked until we arrived at Aster Falls, about nine-tenths of a mile further along the trail. To reach them, we had taken a side path off of the Aster Park Trail that led us to the base of the falls.

Wooden bridge over Aster Creek

The falls are twenty feet high and flow down the side of a large rock face. The rock face partially blocks your view and makes it hard to get a really good picture.

Aster Falls

After a few minutes, we resumed hiking. As we had gotten further and further away from the trailhead, we had been seeing fewer other people on the trails with us. Now we found ourselves alone in a fairly heavily wooded section. Perhaps feeding off of Joann’s concerns, I began to feel a little uneasy too. Although many people hike alone in Glacier without incident, it’s recommended that you not hike in groups of less than three, four, or even five people. After giving it some thought, we decided that we should turn around and head back.

The trail heading in the general direction of Sinopah Mountain.

Fortunately, not more than a couple of minutes after turning around, we encountered Jessica and Brad. As luck would have it, they were on their way to Rockwell Falls and were nice enough to let us join them. Jessica and Brad appeared to be in their early twenties and were both spending the summer in Glacier working seasonal jobs.

Beautiful Yellow Columbine in bloom

As the four of us hiked together, we passed through an open area that had a fantastic view of Sinopah Mountain, which towered in the distance. It’s hard to choose, but that may be my singular favorite view of the entire hike.

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Jessica, Brad, and Joann hiked on ahead while I stopped to take a picture of Sinopah Mountain.

Soon after that, we came to a swinging bridge over Paradise Creek. While the bridge is not rickety, it does swing side to side quite a lot. I tried to stay close to the center and I held onto the sides, but even then it was hard to keep my balance and I must have looked kind of awkward as I made my way across.

Joann trying to keep her balance on the swinging bridge

Eventually, we turned left onto the Two Medicine Pass Trail, hiked another nine-tenths of a mile and crossed a wooden footbridge. Just beyond that, to the right, is the base of Rockwell Falls. The falls are roughly 40 feet high, tumble over several different tiers and are simply awesome to behold.

Rockwell Falls

After taking some pictures, we said farewell to Jessica and Brad. They were planning to go further, which I would have loved to have done also, but Joann and I needed to be getting back. She and I still had to make the long drive from Glacier to Great Falls.

After recrossing the swinging bridge, we walked down underneath to the creeks edge.

Several hours later, after we had finished our drive, we caught up with Tony and Robin (of God’s Grace Ministry), and their daughter Madison to have dinner. Dinner consisted of pizza, pasta, and salad at the Mackenzie River Pizza Co., in Great Falls. The food and the service were both excellent. Afterwards, we checked into our hotel room and prepared for our early morning flight.

Here, Joann couldn’t resist posing amongst the wildflowers.

In all, we hiked 8.1 miles on this final visit to Glacier National Park. Our time in Montana had been very memorable. We met some wonderful people and saw lots of truly beautiful scenery. Lord willing, we’ll have an opportunity to return to visit our new friends and to do more exploring.

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