Glacier National Park: Twin Falls & South Shore Combo Hike

twin falls/south shore hike at two medicine lake

The Twin Falls and South Shore hikes at Two Medicine Lake in Glacier are moderate hikes amidst a stunning mountain landscape. This 9-mile combination loop hike starts and ends at Two Medicine Campground, circling the lake.

Watch the short slideshow below, then keep reading…

What’s So Amazing about Twin Falls & South Shore Trails

Just before an “out west” road trip many years ago, a friend recommended: “Don’t just look at the mountains…get into the mountains!”

South Shore Trail hike, two medicine lake
My daughter, Jamie ,and her husband, Sam, and I on the South Shore segment

These trails get you into the mountains—into the Glacier backcountry—with the only difficulty being the length of your hike. There isn’t the hundreds of feet of elevation gain that other trails have.

With good footwear (and maybe some ibuprofin afterwards!) and if you’re in relatively good shape (can you run 3-4 miles or walk 5 on a road?), you can do this combination trail.

Stunning Mountain Beauty

My favorite hikes are those that offer stunning views all along the trail—not just at the final destination. Twin Falls and South Shore trails give us this. Any combination of lake and mountains is beautiful. The lakes and mountains at Glacier are amazing. This area is no exception.

hiking the Twin Falls Trail at Glacier
The Twin Falls Trail has moderate climbs, but nothing hard

Because we were early enough in the season, the mountains still had a fair amount of snow cover. I love that—the snow adds texture and contrast to the stony peaks.

Wildflowers Galore

Of course, it depends on when you’re there—we went at the end of June when the wildflowers were in their full glory. There are plenty of mountain meadows on this hike that get full sun, as well as forest shade, which means a lovely variety of color and shape.

Beargrass, a signature flower in Glacier, is my favorite here with its tall, striking white blooms. Indian paintbrush, forget-me-not, columbine, lupine, primrose and harebell are others that bloom along these trails.

beargrass blooming near two medicine lake
Beargrass is very iconic of Glacier National Park

Abundant Wildlife

Besides its beauty, Glacier is known for its abundant wildlife. If you’re observant, there’s a good chance you’ll see some.

We saw a young bull moose in the trees on the connecting trail between Twin Falls and South Shore.

bull moose glacier national park
This young bull moose was just a couple dozen feet off the trail

We came upon a marmot on the South Shore segment, just a few feet away from us. He was quite curious, and we managed to walk by him without his hiding away under the rock—so cute!

hoary marmot, two medicine lake
This curious marmot was even closer—he didn’t run from us, though

The Lake, the Falls and Creeks

The views of Two Medicine Lake on these trails are constant and always beautiful. Besides the lake there are a handful of creeks you’ll cross, either by rock-hopping or foot bridge. Like all the water in Glacier, these creeks are crystal-clear and cold.

The coolest bridge is on the South Shore Trail. It’s a 50ish-foot swing bridge over Paradise Creek—limited to one hiker at a time. Thankfully it’s not more than 10-15 feet above the creek 🙂

swing bridge over paradise creek, glacier
This cool swing bridge crosses Paradise Creek on the South Shore Trail

Twin Falls is a popular area, with lots of hikers stopping to put their feet in the water, climb around the falls or eat a picnic lunch. Hiking early in the season ensures there’s plenty of water coming over them. I imagine later in the summer it often slows down to more of a trickle.

Twin Falls, Glacier National Park
Twin Falls, named for obvious reasons 🙂

If you want to shorten the hike, you can just hike out to Twin Falls and back…but it’s still almost 7 miles. Adding the extra 2 miles with South Shore Trail is definitely worth it! (More on that further on.)

What You Need to Know When Hiking There

Grizzly Bear Territory

While bear attacks are very rare, they do happen and you need to be aware. It’s important to carry bear spray (in your hand or accessible within seconds) and know how to use it. Hike with others and make some noise.

These trails are popular—we encountered many other groups during our hike. That’s good. Stick to mid-day rather than early mornings or later evenings and that helps, too.

We didn’t see any bears at all in our 5 days in the park this time, grizzly or black. Although we wouldn’t liked seeing one from our car, we were OK with not seeing one on these backcountry hikes!

Plenty of Mosquitoes

Fortunately for us, the day we hiked these trails there was a good stiff wind that kept the mosquitos and flies away. They’re there, though, in good numbers. Either carry bug spray with you or cover up.

At this intersection, follow the Dawson Cutoff Trail for Twin Falls…although there are more beautiful views on the Dawson Pass Trail, too! So many choices.

Good Chance of Sunburn

The clear mountain air and higher altitude (Two Medicine Lake is at 5,200 feet) mean direct sun and a good chance of sunburn. As I already mentioned, there are many sections of both trails in open meadows.

Either use sunscreen or cover up if that’s a problem for you.

Changeable Mountain Weather

The weather on the day of our hike was pretty constant: partly cloudy and windy. But three days earlier when my daughter, son-in-law, son and nephew hiked the 11-mile Cobalt Lake Trail the weather changed during their hike—clear blue sky when they started out and rain by the time they got back.

Mountain weather is always changing—sometimes quickly. It’s smart to be prepared with rain gear and layers.

Can You Go the Distance?

We started at the Twin Falls Trailhead on one end of the campground—walking from our campsite—and ended at the South Shore Trailhead on the other end—walking back to our campsite. So we guessed the entire loop to be 9 miles.

south shore trail at two medicine lake, glacier
Panorama of one of the flowering meadows along the South Shore Trail

I hiked with my daughter and son-in-law, who had just hiked over 11 miles three days before and are both in good shape, and a few decades younger! Could I make this distance? I hadn’t gone that far on foot since 2012.

I walk 3-4 miles several times a week, and knew I could go the seven miles out-and-back to Twin Falls. That was our original plan.

Once we arrived there, we decided to take the connecting trail over to the South Shore Trail, since we figured it wouldn’t be that much further back. It added about 1.5 miles, plus a bit extra to get back to our campsite.

I was REALLY tired when we got back! I had worn my Keen hiking boots (which worked great—light, comfortable, no blisters), but my feet were sore the rest of the night. I took a couple ibuprofin, though, and by the next morning felt just fine.

rock hopping across a creek, twin falls trail
One of several creeks we crossed—the one on the Twin Falls segment

While there are a few up-and-down stretches, the elevation gain is less than 300 feet, so no killer uphills. That helps!

If you know you’re heading to the mountains, plan ahead and use it as an excuse to “train.” Walk or run outside regularly for at least an hour at a time. Biking would work, too, as would squats or lunges to get your legs in good shape. You will NOT regret taking one or more of these hikes into the mountains!

How to Get There

The trailhead for both these hikes is at Two Medicine Campground:

hiking maps two medicine lake
Left: Map of Glacier Park; Right: Twin Falls/South Shore combo hike—about 9 miles total when starting and ending at the campground

On the left is Glacier Park, with Two Medicine down in the southeast section. The map on the right is Two Medicine. The campground is on the east end, where both trailheads begin The entire loop is about 9 miles, including walking from and back to our campsite—9 gorgeous miles!

Final Words

The Two Medicine area isn’t as busy as the other three main campgrounds: Many Glacier and Saint Mary (also on the east side), and Apgar (on the west side). But the lake and surrounding mountains are just as beautiful!

I highly recommend this combo hike as a super way to get into the mountains without the hundreds of feet of elevation gain some other hikes require.

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