This long, strenuous hike, best done as a backpack, travels through some of the best scenery in the southern half of Glacier National Park.
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- Distance: 6.5 miles (one way) to Dawson Pass
17.4 miles (loop) to Pitamakan Pass
- Elevation: 5,170-ft. at Trailhead
7,600-ft. at Dawson Pass
8,138-ft. at Pitamakan Pass
- Elevation Gain: 2,430-ft. to Dawson Pass
2,968-ft. to Pitamakan Pass
- Difficulty: strenuous
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Two Medicine / St Mary / Glacier Natl Park, MT
Why Hike Dawson Pitamakan Loop
This terrific hike travels through some of the finest scenery in the southern half of Glacier National Park. Jaw dropping vistas accompanies hikers as they traverse two beautiful valleys, cross two view-packed passes and walk along a stunning section of the Continental Divide. Lakes, meadows sprinkled with wildflowers and opportunities to see bighorn sheep and mountain goats contribute to the sensory overload.
The loop trail, described in a clock-wise direction, starts with an easy traverse along the north shore of beautiful Two Medicine Lake or a boat ride to the dock at the head of the lake. Either option offers wonderful views of the peaks surrounding the Two Medicine Valley.
At the head of the lake the route ascends scenic Bighorn Basin to Dawson Pass with breathtaking views of the Lewis Range. The spectacular views continue as the trail travels along the western side of the Continental Divide to the Pitamakan Overlook. The trail then loops around the north side of Mt. Morgan and drops to Pitamakan Pass, featuring vistas of the Cut Bank Valley and the majestic cirque surrounding Old Man Lake to the south. From the pass the trail drops down the pretty Dry Fork Valley, circles around the east end of Rising Wolf Mountain and returns back to the North Shore trailhead at Two Medicine.
Power hikers, who are extremely fit and well acclimated, buzz the trail as a day hike. Do not underestimate the difficulty of hiking the trail in a day. In my opinion the trail is best done as a backpack to allow time to savor the scenery. Backcountry campsites are located at No Name Lake and Old Man Lake.
The trail can be hiked in either direction. If you are camping, the direction you hike may well be influenced by the backcountry camping permits, which are difficult to obtain due to the high demand for the limited number of sites.
The hike can be shortened by riding the tour boat that cruises Two Medicine Lake. The boat travels to/from the head of the lake at regular intervals where trails connect to the trail to Dawson Pass. The first boat typically does not leave until 9am. Hikers wishing to get an early start often hike up the Dry Fork Valley to Pitamakan Pass and then return via Dawson Pass. Make sure you know when the last boat departs from the west end of the lake and be prepared to walk back if you miss the boat. This is a very long and strenuous hike with fabulous scenery that will slow your pace. Plan accordingly.
Glacier Natl Park, MT
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