On July 30, 2016 Dan and I hiked to Dawson Pass in Glacier National Park. The weather was fantastic and the snows had melted – prime season in Glacier.

The Dawson Pass hike is a moderately strenuous day hike that lacks the crowds present on other Glacier NP hikes and rewards you with views of rugged mountains as far as the eye can see. 

Dawson Pass Glacier National Park Map
Map via Hiking in Glacier website.

Trip Information

via Hiking in Glacier and Enjoy Your Parks – check out both for other great hikes in the park!

  • Round Trip: 13.4 miles out and back.
  • Start elevation: 5,150 feet
  • End elevation: 7,600 feet
  • Elevation gain: 2,450 feet
  • Park region: Two Medicine
  • Trail head: North Shore trail head at the Two Medicine Campground


Dan and I hiked the Iceline Trail in Yoho National Park and then drove the 4+ hours to the US-Canada border (Roosville). The border agent thought we were shifty characters and flagged us for further interrogation.

Maybe it was our car exploding with stuff? Or our haggard appearance? Whatever it was they decided that a bag of baby bell peppers warranted going into our car without us being able to watch them, and confiscated it. Just another example of how the man is trying to hold us down. I think we drove away in a blind rage or something.

US-Canada Border Crossing Roosville
I can smell the freedom/oppression mixture from here.

Darkness fell and we had a hard time finding somewhere to car camp for free. We like National Forest land because it’s typically free and crowd-less, but dangit if the National Forest in northern Montana had zero signage to tell us if we on someone’s property or not. We eventually parked on the side of a dirt road and called it good.

In the morning we found ourselves in a BEAUTIFUL forest. Not nearly as scary as it seemed the night before.

Car camping Montana
Car camping Montana-style. See the car-stuff explosion in background.

Since we couldn’t make a fire – which is the heating-style of choice for the cast iron skillet – we regrettably tried making pancakes on the backpacking stove. This is after pre-heating the pan:

Car camping breakfast
It heated very evenly as you can see. Fail.

We drove into Whitefish, Montana that morning. It is an awesome small town and I thought about moving there for about 30 minutes.

Then we drove to Glacier National Park via West Glacier. We took the Going-to-the-Sun Road and it was extremely scenic.

Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road

Glacier National Park Going to the Sun Road

We spent the night at a campground on Route 2. It was $15 – not $0 on the side of the road – but otherwise we really enjoyed it. Since we were kind of road tripping on the fly (ie, not planning too many things) and it was a crowded area, it worked.

Camping on Route 2 Montana
This fire ring meant business.

The Hike

Ok, time for the hike to Dawson Pass!

We arrived at the North Shore trail head located in the Two Medicine Lake campground. There is a boat shuttle that runs across the lake, and this shaves 4 miles off the hike. We did not take the shuttle but it seemed like a great idea on the way down..

We started out walking along the north shore of Two Medicine Lake – flat and easy miles through lush forest. After a few miles we reached the Dawson Pass Trail junction and turned right. The trail steepens and also presents you with better and better views.

Below is Dan with the 7,620-foot Pumpelly Pillar looming in the background. From the wonderful Glacier NP resource HikinginGlacier.com:

This glacially carved, cone-shaped rock is named after Raphael Pumpelly, leader of the Northern Transcontinental Railway Survey party that crossed Pitamakan Pass in 1883.

Kewl. Now you can promptly forget that information.

Dawson Pass Glacier National Park
Pumpelly Pillar.

We reached the junction for No Name Lake. It’s a short walk (~0.1 mile) to the northern shore. There’s also a campground at the lake that contains three individual campsites.

The hike from No Name Lake to Dawson Pass is strenuous. We hiked ~2,000 vertical feet in just over 2 miles. But the views from the pass are well worth the effort!

Dawson Pass Glacier National Park

Sweet phone pano:

Dawson Pass Glacier National Park

We spent some time eating lunch and enjoying the scenery. We briefly considered continuing to Pitamakan Pass to make a [~18 mile] loop – check it out on Backpacker’s website.

Pass! Down we go:

Dawson Pass Glacier National Park

Dawson Pass Glacier National Park

This was a fun day hike with incredible views. And while that’s not too unique for Glacier National Park, the lack of crowds in the Two Medicine region warrants a visit if you’re in the area.

We went back to the same campground and enjoyed another beautiful Montana evening. Dan chopped up some downed trees and we had a few hours of campfire time:

Route 2 Car Camping Montana

The end.


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