Dawson Pass and Pitamakan Pass Loop

HARD 86 reviews
#19 of 135 trails in

Dawson Pass and Pitamakan Pass Loop is a 17.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near East Glacier Park Village, Montana that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and backpacking.

Distance: 17.2 miles Elevation Gain: 3,641 feet Route Type: Loop

backpacking

camping

hiking

forest

lake

river

views

wild flowers

wildlife

no dogs

Glacier Park Inc. P.O. Box 2025, Columbia Falls, Montana 59912 406-8922525

hiking
6 minutes ago

July 22, 2019. Great hike! We followed the app and went clockwise - and very happy we did. The opposite way would have been a long uphill. We had an easy walk to No Name lake, then switchbacks up the elevation to reach Dawson Pass. The elevation took us 75 minutes. From there we enjoyed the amazing walk along the ridge to Pitamakin Pass. Then 3.5 hours downhill to Old Man lake and the trail back to the trail head. Well maintained trail - thank you GNP! We had beautiful weather- no wind for us!

hiking
bugs
rocky
8 days ago

Great trail overall, but definitely an exhausting one. Me and a friend tracked this to be longer and more elevation by a good bit than stated on Alltrails so make sure to stock up on water and food. Also bug spray is a must. Despite this the views are worth every bit of the challenge as they are truly spectacular. Lots of wildlife on the trail too. We saw a few marmots and 6 long horned goats went straight by us.

hiking
11 days ago

Did clockwise loop after research. Would recommend that way for sure High winds and great views!

hiking
16 days ago

This is my third visit to Glacier National Park, and this hike is my favorite. We visited two years ago in early June and there was too much snow to do this hike. Just did this yesterday, 5 July, and the trail was clear (one ~50m length of snow to walk across). We went from the Two Medicine Lake Campground up the Pitamakan side and down the Dawson side, back to the campground. GPS said the loop was 19.3 miles. The first five or six miles up the Pitamakan side are pretty easy, doesn’t start to get steep until you hit the switchbacks. Going down Dawson was a steep downhill most of the way, but beautiful views to distract you!

hiking
muddy
over grown
19 days ago

Rainy and mostly cloudy day, much of trail is muddy but views at the top are spectacular. Long stretches of being exposed between pita and two medicine, but saw two moose on Dawson side.

hiking
20 days ago

7/1/19 - It’s difficult to contribute much to the existing conversation here. This looped proved to be the capstone of our Glacier hiking. We opted for the counterclockwise route, but could make just as much of an argument for the reverse. Either way, if you have the fitness, take the hike. The views after the climb (from either direction) are equalled by few others. The hike has it all mystical forest paths, deep valley sweeps, lakes, falls and endless peak views. It GPS’d at 18.4 miles with cumulative elevation gain of +4500. Take lunch and enjoy it at Pitamakan Pass (it was MUCH less windy than Dawson’s).

hiking
bugs
muddy
snow
23 days ago

This trail is over-rated and over-hyped. We had high expectations for this hike, but were somewhat disappointed. We hiked it counterclockwise getting to Pitamakan pass first. We were thinking of turning around there because the rangers had told us the path between Pitamakan and Dawson pass was closed off by snow, but we saw several hikers completing the loop, so we decided to continue on. The last mile and a half up to Pitamakan pass had very good scenery. The path from Pitamakan and Dawson pass is also very good as you look down on a part of the national park you probably won't get a view of on any other route. The path is very narrow, and I can imagine why it would be impassable if there was a lot of snow on it. We did not see any signs on Dawson pass and almost got lost before we found trail back to Two Medicine. That trail is very rough, and extremely steep. Lots of steps too. We were glad we did the hike counter-clockwise since if we had tried doing it clockwise, we would have probably given up after reaching Dawson pass. The scenery is good at higher elevations, but tends to be the same scenery for long stretches. Not one of these hikes where every turn opens up a new vista. At the lower elevations, it is mostly bug country with no scenery.

hiking
26 days ago

We set out to do the first part from the bridge to no name lake and maybe up to Dawson pass. Well we may as well do the whole thing and what a great trek it was. The goat trail you follow around the rim and all the snow fields that had to be crossed added to the experience. Saw not one animal the whole 18 miles but did experience 65 mph winds for a few miles at the pass. Breath taking the whole way. It was worth the effort. We ran into 6 people the whole day. In my opinion Clockwise is the way to go. Get the hardest climb out of the way and take a gentle stroll the rest of the way.

hiking
1 month ago

I am almost 50 years old, and I have been hiking since I was a kid. I've been to 49 of the fifty states. I hiked this trail when I was 41. It remains my favorite hike of all time. The scenery is spectacular! We hiked it counterclockwise. If you're in Glacier, hike this trail. If you're not in Glacier, go to Glacier and hike this trail. :o)

hiking
3 months ago

I have hiked and run the D/P loop at least 20 times going both ways. I was the backcountry ranger for 12 years and cg host for 10 years. I know the debate about which direction to go and definitely know from experience starting with Dawson is the better route. Going the North Shore to Dawson gives 3 miles of warm-up, 3 miles of up hill and the rest of the 18 miles is basically level or gradual downhill. If the wind is blowing it is mostly out of the sw so at your back from Dawson to Pitamakin and out the Dry Fork. Personally, I feel looking straight ahead toward Canada and the upper end of the park is more striking than the view the other direction. I also prefer a gradual hike out the Dry Fork at the end of the day to pounding down from Dawson to Two Med.If you start early morning you can be mostly in the shade until the last mile to Dawson. After that you stay fairly cool. This is opposed to hiking Pitamakin first which is very much in the open and 8 miles of gradual to steep uphill with a brutal downhill at the end. Either way it is breathtaking. Point of interest: on Pitamakin Pass, in a very small space, you can see portions of 6 lakes. Cautions: 1. Take plenty of water 2. Winds can exceed 80 mph 3. The weather can change remarkably quickly so be prepared

5 months ago

Without question, one of the best hikes in park. Take boat across lake and cut off a couple miles. It is still long and tough hike, but so worth it!!!

hiking
10 months ago

Did this hike as a part of the tail end of a backcountry hike starting in St Mary's. Started off at Morning Star and were scheduled to camp that night at Old Man Lake and head out the next morning out of Twin Medicine. Got up to Pitamakan Pass and was convinced by other hikers that we could NOT miss out on Dawson Pass. Ended up hiking to Dawson Pass and caught the last boat of the day across Two Medicine Lake. Made for a bit of brutal hike with multi-day backpack, but still absolutely epic. Favorite hike in Glacier by far. Even beats out Highline in my estimation. A definite bucket list hike.

hiking
10 months ago

Best. Hike. In GNP. If you are capable, you MUST do this hike. We did it from Pitamakan to Dawson, which is apparently reverse, but the views are much much better this way, and the elevation gain is way easier. I can not believe how beautiful this hike was. You get to see glacier from EVERY direction and I swear you can see every mountain peak in the park, along with tons of lakes and we saw bighorn sheep as well. The top was very very windy, but it didn’t matter to us because the views are what blew us away (haha pun intended). Anyway, if I could only do one hike in the whole world ever again, it’d be this one.

backpacking
10 months ago

We did this hike from Two Medicine to No Name lake for the first night and then from No Name lake to Oldman Lake for the second night. The trail was snow covered from Dawson Pass to Pitimakan Pass but manageable. Incredible views all along that stretch. Not a cakewalk by any stretch but the views are worth the effort.

11 months ago

We did the loop counter clockwise per recommendations but I’m not sure it really mattered. The trailhead starts in the campground of two medicines. We had great views despite the smoke, and it was an awesome hike! We started about 8 we were finished around 3. Tough day, but worth it!

hiking
11 months ago

My husband and I did an out and back to Dawson’s Pass today. Incredible views! This trail exceeded our expectations.

hiking
11 months ago

I wish I could give this hike 10 stars. The day before we did this, we were up on top of Siyeh Pass trail and met a couple that has been coming here since 1975. When asking them for hike suggestions to wrap up our last days in the park, they said that Dawson/Pitamakan was their favorite day hike in the park and that we absolutely have to do it. If there is anyone I trust in the world to give me a great hike suggestion for this park, it's this couple who has been coming here for 43 years and says that this one is their favorite. Upon their suggestion, we did the loop counter-clockwise because they said the views progress better this way. An they were absolutely correct. This was the most unbelievable hike I've ever done. I've never felt more on top of the world in my entire life. You're just completely out in the open with stunning peaks and passes in the distance. You feel like an ant. Every half mile or so seemed to be the new greatest thing I've ever seen. And that's after doing Grinnell, Siyeh Pass, Highline, Avalanche Lake, and Hidden Lake in the days before. We ended up seeing a big horn male sheep and hiked 17.8 miles in 9 hrs and 45 mins. If you're fast, you can catch a boat tour ride back on Two Medicine lake which will shave about 3 miles off of your trip. We were not quick enough but we got kind of a late start. The nice thing is that we snagged a Two Medicine first come first serve campground spot which is where the trail head is. So we finished the hike and went right into our tent. If you're fit enough, this is an absolute must do and bucket-list hike for everyone. Amazing.

hiking
11 months ago

My husband and I did this as part of a 3 day 2 night backpacking trip. We started the trail from two medicine and hiked counterclockwise (100% recommend starting this way). Starts out with a gradual incline and is very dense forest. Be aware of bears & make a lot of noise. About 3 miles In we turned a counter and saw a grizzly with 2 cubs. We backed off and waited a half mile down the trail for a few more groups of hikers then proceeded through the area making a lot of noise and they were gone. A couple other groups said they saw some bears on that side of the trail too. Once out of the tree line the incline increases until you reach the top. It was windy but the views are beautiful! Not a lot of people up there. We hiked down to no name lake where we camped for the night. There was a moose that was walking around the creek by our campsite. It’s a very beautiful lake about 0.2 miles off the trail to take a break or even a swim. Our last day we finished the last ~5 miles back to the campground. There are a lot of streams and beautiful scenery the entire loop. A lot of hikers do the loop in one day. We enjoyed breaking it up but carrying our packs was strenuous. Definitely recommend doing this trail, but definitely be in a group to avoid any run ins with bears.

hiking
11 months ago

A great hike! If I re-did it id come back in September to hike again. In the summer this trail can get hot if you aren't used to high temps. Coming from the SW I am used to it. This trail gives you a bit of everything and is a much less crowded trail if that is what you are looking for. I recommend doing the loop counterclockwise so after all the elevation changes you can stop in at no name lake and take a dip. Bring bug and bear spray!

trail running
11 months ago

Beautiful trail. It runs a little longer than listed, but not terrible. Tons of wildlife and beautiful views. We ran the trail, and for the most part very manageable with a few slower scrambling areas. The peak and saddle backs can be a little sketch if running. Keep an eye on the signs, a few spots can get confusing if you aren’t paying attention. We did see a momma and cub grizzlies, and had about 15 minuets of hail in an early afternoon storm. Go prepared! We went clockwise to knock out the climb earlier than later.

hiking
11 months ago

We loved this hike! It is no joke and will test you throughout, but the views are well worth it. We ran into a moose as well by Upper Two Medicine Lake. Would love to do this again when back in Glacier.

hiking
11 months ago

Started at 8:00 am and finished it around 5:00 pm including a long break at pitamakan lookout. I've heard about an option of using boat to cross the lake but my stupid ego didn't let me. I did it counter clockwise (from pitamakan to dawson) and recommend it. Yes elevation gain is tough but it's doable. It isn't as dramatic as it sounds. For some reason, dawson pass looked more difficult for gaining elevation in my opinion. The view is spectacular and very worth it. bring plenty of water and bug spray. wear long pants for potential poison ivy since you go through in forest for good miles. I wore shorts and didn't get poison ivy but there were lots of suspicious ones.

hiking
Friday, February 09, 2018

The view during mid summer is magnificent. By far one of the most challenging climbs for me due to the pace we were going at, but completely worth every second!

hiking
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

This trail is awesome. Counter-clockwise is the only way to go. Yes, you gain elevation quickly but the switchbacks aren’t bad and you save yourself miles upon miles of a slow slog of an uphill.

hiking
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I know it's at 5 stars, but this trail is still underrated. I went to Two Medicine to try and avoid the smoke elsewhere in the park, so was a little disappointed when I awoke to a haze. Not even the smoke could prevent this from being a great hike; I went clockwise, and it was nice to have the lake views under morning light. Added the No Name Lake and Old Man Lake spurs, since they are short and you are so close already. 17.6 miles is a short estimate -- park brochure lists at 18.8 mi, spurs made it close to an even 20. Took 7-7.5 hours. Keeping this on my to-do list for the future, because I'm sure it's even better outside wildfire season.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Worth the distance for sure! Make sure to hike up to Pitamikin Pass first so the wind is coming at you on the pass and the hike in between rather than feeling like you're going to be blown off a mountain.

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