Stoney Indian Lake to Fifty Mountain
Total Mileage- 8.3 miles
Total Elevation Gain- 2280 feet
Total Elevation Loss- 0 feet
We had just finished a 33-hour marathon in our tents, as it rained non-stop at 45 degrees at Stoney Mountain Lake in Glacier National Park (Montana).
At 7am the rain finally subsided. We immediately began to break down the tents and pack up all of our gear. By 8am we were ready to begin our hike to Fifty Mountain, which would be all uphill. As we were waiting for a couple of the guys to tie up some loose ends… it began to rain. And then it began to pour again. We had no choice but to begin hiking… praying for some sun along the way.
Only about an hour into the hike we saw a small shack (probably used by the Park Rangers), but it was all locked up. We stood on the covered porch, ate a small snack, and watched it rain. Would it ever stop raining?
We continued traveling south on Waterton Valley Trail. It was a gradual ascent and not very taxing. The trail had a significant overgrowth of thimbleberry plants. Yes, we loved eating them but the plants were closing in on us, hugging our upper arms. In one sense it was humorous, but in another sense it was a bit overwhelming- pouring rain and overgrowth closing in on us. At one point I remember stopping and just laughing at how comical it all was. Sure we were “waterproof” but “waterproof” is relative. When you are hiking and moving around in a torrential storm… you are going to get soaked. And we were soaked.
After four hours of hiking through thimbleberries and pine trees we could see light at the end of the tunnel. Our view, which had been significantly limited by the wooded area and overgrowth, opened up into a beautiful alpine panorama. Welcoming us was a cloud covering that slowly began to open, teasing us with a few rays of light. While we were excited to see the sun attempting to break through, we were even more excited that the rain stopped. We approached what looked like an old stone foundation and began to shed our wet gear. We were beyond excited with the rain stopping and the sun breaking through, while standing in one of the most beautiful areas of the trip.
Our stop at the stone foundation lasted about an hour and a half… and we dried out as much as we could. I even stripped down behind the stone wall to dry out. The good news was that we were only about a half mile from our camp at Fifty Mountain. And the way the weather was changing, it looked as if we would have the best day yet.
The hike to Fifty Mountain campsite was a real treat, especially with blue skies making their appearance behind the retreating clouds. This is what we had been waiting for after 37 hours of rain. And it was the perfect place to have a beautiful day.
The Fifty Mountain campsite has the same three main areas as the other backcountry campsites: tent areas, food eating and storage area, and a single outhouse. You can begin to see some of the aftermath of the two forest fires that devastated Glacier a decade ago. This became even more evident on Day 8 as we hiked out of the park. You could tell that the undergrowth was rebounding but the pines looked like skeletons.
That evening we hiked into the open meadow area and sat on a large boulder and just took in the experience. After about thirty minutes we hiked up a small hill that presented the greatest 360 degree panorama that I have ever seen in my life. Pictures do not do it justice. If you are ever at Fifty Mountain do some short hikes and look for views. For the most epic view, take a hike up Mount Kipp for an experience you will never forget.
In the next post I will be detailing the final leg of our hike from Fifty Mountain along Flattop Mountain Trail to the parking lot at The Loop.