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Photo by Patrick Colleran
Sep 15 2017

A Great Bear of a Hike

The trip to Tranquil Basin proves that nothing soothes screaming leg muscles so well as amazing views and lots of huckleberries

Exploring Montana, Featured

It is no secret that our world today is largely driven by social media, for good or bad. When it comes to hiking on public lands, I can’t help but think that’s a good thing. I found what easily became my favorite hike of the summer on Instagram. (Of course, you can’t beat hikewildmontana.org for suggestions as well.)

There are a few local hiking celebrities on Instagram, including @emilyhallemily. She posted a photo of a gorgeous lake and mentioned that it was in the Great Bear Wilderness. Upon some investigation, I found that this lake is located in Tranquil Basin. I had to see to this spectacular lake for myself.

The trailhead for Tranquil Basin is at the Bear Creek River Access on Highway 2, about 45 miles east of West Glacier. The trail begins with a steady upwards climb on one of the best maintained trails I have ever seen. The trail levels out and continues perfectly straight through a forest of lodgepole pines. This was one of my favorite parts of the hike. I had never seen a trail so perfectly straight running through such a picturesque forest. The trail leads you across the small Edna Creek and then comes to a juncture. At this point you have to turn onto trail 489 to get to the Tranquil Basin. 

This trail was no joke. From the moment we turned on to the other trail to the moment we reached Tranquil Basin there was not a single stretch of flat ground. It was the kind of steep uphill that makes you question who in their right mind would ever cut a trail like this. 

Right before arriving at Tranquil Basin, the trail opens up and offers gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. At this point the dense forest gives way to fields of beargrass and huckleberry bushes. I have never seen huckleberries so abundant. After a not-so-quick break to scarf some of them down, we continued on. 

Leg muscles screaming, we finally reached the saddle and looked down on two lakes (unnamed). They were a bright blue, even though the grey skies limited the reflection on the lake. My mom and I chose to climb up to Mt. Furlong to get better views. There we were met with a glorious 360 degrees of mountains, including Glacier’s craggy peaks.

I can’t list all of the reasons why this instantly became one of my favorite hikes. My mom claims it was the gallon of huckleberries I ate on the hike up that made this trail so special. Whatever the reason, this trail and the Great Bear Wilderness instantly stole my heart. 

Maddie Matarazzo is our summer intern and a student at James Madison University.