Scenic Point, 5 August 2019

Scenic Point (2286m; centre) with Lower Two Medicine Lake in the foreground.  This interesting massif in Glacier National Park features eight summits: Scenic Point, The Head, Bison Mountain, Medicine Peak, Mount Henry, Mount Ellsworth, Never Laughs Mountain, and Appistoki Peak.  To knock off all in one day would take a Herculean effort, but three or four are well within reason for a day trip – which is what I ended up doing.  I definitely plan to return and continue where I left off!

⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer⚠️

Ever since I first read Sonny Bou’s 2013 Scenic Loop report, I’ve wanted to make the quick trip down to Two Medicine in East Glacier and attempt all or part of the loop that encompasses Scenic Point, Medicine Peak, Mount Henry, and Appistoki Peak.  Then I happened on Andrew Nugara’s 2011 report where he also also tagged Mount Ellsworth as part of the loop and I was even more intrigued.  When Sonny returned in 2018 to summit Bison Mountain and The Head, I knew that it was time for this massif to move up my ‘To do’ list in a significant manner.  All of this information of course, was originally derived from J. Gordon Edwards’, A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park, where he lays it out as the Scenic Point Ridge Walk.

What attracted me to this trip was the sheer number of peaks that one could tag once you are on the massif – depending on how much time and energy you have to invest.  By my count, there are 8 summits: Scenic Point, The Head, Bison Mountain, Medicine Peak, Mount Henry, Mount Ellsworth, Never Laughs Mountain, and Appistoki Peak.  To knock off all in one day would take a Herculean effort combined with a VERY early start, but three are well within reason for a 6 to 7 hour day trip.  Extend that out to 10 or 11 hours as Sonny and Andrew did, and the number grows.  If you were to camp overnight you could keep going and potentially add in Bearhead Mountain as a ninth peak, but that would make for a couple of big days.

For me, I had a limited window of time that was further compressed by major road construction between St. Mary and the entrance to East Glacier.  What should’ve been a relatively quick drive saw southbound traffic delayed for 45 minutes while we waited for the pilot car to guide us through.  It was a little quicker on the way back, but ultimately this meant that I didn’t get started on the trail until 11 am.  Thus, my goal was revised to completing only 2 peaks: Scenic Point and Medicine Peak.  However, after hitting the summit of Scenic Point in under an hour and a half, I maintained a good pace as I set off for Medicine Peak and found myself standing on top only 55 minutes after leaving Scenic Point.  This meant that I could now add in an extra peak or perhaps two.  My choices were to head to the much lower Bison Mountain and The Head, or continue along the ridge and bag the highest peak on the massif, Mount Henry.  For obvious reasons, I chose the latter.

Thirty minutes after leaving Medicine Peak, I arrived at the exposed pinnacles that Sonny used to reach the summit of Mount Henry.  I sat here for quite a while before deciding that Sonny is a braver man than I. 🙂  I then made the tedious descent around the south side of the summit before ascending up an easy gully.  In the process, I inadvertently bypassed the gully described by Edwards and used by Nugara that would have saved me a considerable amount of time and energy – not to mention a potentially enjoyable scramble.  This ultimately added an extra 50 minutes onto my ascent and once on the summit, I looked at my watch and realized that I had to make a decision as it was now 3 hours and 50 minutes since I had left my vehicle.

Knowing that Sonny and Andrew had both described the descent off of Appistoki Peak as trickier (and more time consuming) than it appeared, I decided that in the interest of time, I would return to Medicine Peak and then descend using a gully that ran close to the lower section of the trail to Scenic Point.  It bothered me to leave Appistoki, but since it is much smaller than Medicine or Henry, I forced myself to live with it and enjoyed the quick walk back to my 4Runner.

Thus, with unfinished business still left, I look forward to returning and ascending more peaks on what Edwards calls a “remarkable route.” (A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park, 1995 edition, 315)

To get to Scenic Point  from Lethbridge, drive south on Highway 5 to Cardston, then take Highway 2 to the Piegan-Carway Border Crossing.  Once across, continue on Highway 89 for ~65 km until you come to the turnoff for MT 49 and East Glacier.  Follow MT 49 for ~12 km until you come to the junction with Two Medicine Road.  Turn onto it and follow it to the Glacier Park entrance gate.  From the gate, drive ~4.3 km to the Scenic Point parking lot (left side of the road) and park here.  The trailhead begins near the entrance.

The trail was easy to follow as it wound its way for ~6.4 km (653 m elevation gain) to the summit of Scenic Point.  To get to Medicine Peak, I doubled back along the trail for a few hundred metres before leaving it and hiking cross country for ~1.3 km to its col with a minor high point above Appistoki Creek.  To save time, I headed straight up Medicine Peak’s northwest slope and through several easy bands of red argillite.  Mount Henry sits only ~1.5 km away from the summit of Medicine Peak, but depending on your route to the summit, it could add more distance.  As I chose the easiest route via a broad gully, I also committed myself to an additional ~1.26 km in distance (one way) with a ~108 m elevation loss then a ~156 m elevation gain to the summit.  I should have used the first gully that I came to, but was so pressed for time, that I did not want to try it and then discover that it wasn’t viable – though in hindsight, this is the one Edwards mentions.  Oh well!

From Mount Henry, I followed my same route back to Medicine Peak and descended to its col above Appistoki Creek.  I then skirted the west side of the minor high point before dropping down a gully to the big hairpin on the lower section the Scenic Point trail.  From here it was a quick walk back to my 4Runner.

My total distance travelled was 21.5 km with total elevation gains of 1533 m.  My total roundtrip time was 7 hours and 9 minutes.

At the Scenic Point parking lot and looking towards Medicine Peak (right of centre).  The trailhead is marked by a sign located near the entrance.

Easy travel along the lower portion of the trail.

Approximately 1 km from the parking lot, the trail forks.  The path on the left leads to Scenic Point while the other leads to Appistoki Falls.

A pano after gaining a bit of elevation.  Appistoki Peak is on the right and Medicine Peak is in the distant centre.

A cool old tree with Appistoki Peak behind it.  It was a HOT day, with temperatures in the high 20s.

My first view of Mount Henry (right) from the lower section of the trail.  The trail will soon feature a large hairpin curve that leads to a series of switchbacks.  The hairpin is where I rejoined the trail on my way back.

Gazing back at Rising Wolf Mountain and Two Medicine Lake from above the switchbacks.

Another view of Medicine Peak (left), Mount Henry (left of centre), and Appistoki Peak (foreground) from the upper section of the trail.

My first look at the summit of Scenic Point.

Only a few more minutes of hiking to reach the summit.

Less than 1.5 hours after leaving my 4Runner, I arrived on the summit of Scenic Point (2286 m).

A pano to the west highlights Rising Wolf Mountain (centre), Red Mountain (right of centre), and Mad Wolf Mountain (right).

A pano to the north that includes Lower Two Medicine Lake.  Behind it are Looking Glass Hill (right of centre) and Two Medicine Ridge (right).

Looking southeast at The Head (left), Bison Mountain (centre) and Medicine Peak (right).

Looking to the southwest at my next two destinations for the day: Medicine Peak (left) and Mount Henry (centre).  Appistoki Peak is on the far right.  Click to continue to my trip report for Medicine Peak.

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