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April 2006

Adventure Guide: Glacier National Park

Explore six new routes through the most rugged, scenic, and wildife-rich mountains in the Lower 48.

2. Gunsight Lake to Almost-a-Dog Mountain

Journey past glacial basins and secret lakes to a summit with commanding views.

Open with a bang: Gunsight lake makes for a breathtaking first night’s campsite–especially if you take a dip in the always-chilly water.

The Piegan/Blackfoot tribe of the northern plains gave distinctive names to many Glacier peaks, and this 3- to 4-day trip climbs one of the most colorful: the straightforward but strenuous Almost-a-Dog Mountain. The broad summit offers postcard vistas westward across the polished glacial slabs of Jackson and Blackfoot Basins, with their elegantly twisted sedimentary layers and shrinking yet still massive icefields. Along the way, the route passes glaciers, waterfalls, and tundra slopes that occupy rarely visited country.

The 31-mile out-and-back starts on the popular Gunsight Lake Trail, then diverges southeast from the lake on a faded track to Blackfoot Basin. From here, you’ll cross steep moraine and tundra to Almost-a-Dog Pass, which in turn leads along talus ridgeline to the 8,922-foot summit. Gunsight Lake, at mile 8.5, makes an excellent first camp, though fit, determined hikers can make it an additional 3.2 steep and rugged miles to undesignated camping on the polished rock slabs of Blackfoot Basin. Scenic creeks, ponds, and waterfalls crisscross the vast slickrock bowl, which makes a fine destination in its own right. The climb to Almost-a-Dog Pass (mile 14.25) follows rocky ledges and glacial moraines before heading up tundra ramps to the broad saddle and its precipitous cliff-edge view. From there, a mile of steep talus takes you up Almost-a-Dog’s southwest ridge. This trip can be combined with our Red Eagle Pass route, but crossing airy Almost-a-Dog Pass to get there is recommended only for experienced mountaineers and scramblers.

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