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Backpacker Magazine – March 2010

Northern Rockies: Dawson Pass Loop, Glacier National Park

See the best of Montana without the crowds.

by: Steve Howe

Twice voted America’s best park by BACKPACKER readers, Glacier’s most popular trails are predictably busy during the summer, and it’s no surprise why: The views-per-mile here can’t be beat. But you can get the scenery without the crowds on this 17.6-mile loop in the southern part of the park; it wanders along the ridgetops with superb views to some of Glacier’s highest and steepest peaks. In fact, it was this area, not the park’s northern regions, that first inspired naturalist George Bird Grinnell to lobby for the creation of Glacier National Park.

The Blackfoot Indians rightfully called these ridgelines mistakis: backbone of the world. From the trailhead bridge at Two Medicine Lake’s outlet, climb Pitamakan Pass Trail through wide-open Dry Fork to clifftop overlooks at the trail’s eponymous pass. Continue to nearby Cut Bank Pass, then run the balcony ridgeline trail (unnamed) south around Flinsch Peak to Dawson Pass. Descend the Dawson Pass Trail through Bighorn Basin, beneath the rugged cliffs of Pumpelly Pillar, and finish along Two Medicine Lake’s north shore. It’s possible to do the whole trek in an aggressive day, but better to savor it: Camp at Oldman and Noname Lakes, reserving the ridge run for day two of a three-day trek. Everywhere: Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep and grizzlies.

The Way
From East Glacier, drive 4.5 miles north on MT 49, then turn left onto Two Medicine Road and follow it 7.7 miles to Two Medicine Campground and the trailhead bridge at the outlet of Upper Two Medicine Lake.

Trails Illustrated Glacier National Park-Two Medicine ($12, natgeomaps

(406) 888-7859;

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