Dawson-Pitamakan Loop

Glacier National Park (USA)

A lengthy but epic hike over two passes.

Hiking Difficult

Distance
28 km
Ascent
1.1 km
Descent
1.1 km
Duration
7-8 hrs
Low Point
1.6 km
High Point
2.5 km
Gradient
10˚
Dawson-Pitamakan Loop Map

The Dawson-Pitamakan Loop is one of the longer day hikes in Glacier, but it's also one of the most epic. This loop is just south of 18 miles and will be one long, adventurous day. If you're looking for an all-day grinder with beautiful views, this is your hike. The route can be done in either direction, but starting over Dawson Pass and finishing over Pitamakan Pass makes for a good day. Beginning at beautiful Two Medicine Lake, the trail makes its way through lush forest along the north shore. There is a fantastic campground located at Two Medicine Lake—consider staying here for a night or two. It is one of the most picturesque campsites in the entire park.

Description

Note, this area is prime bear habitat. A few grizzlies have been spotted along this route so be bear aware! Once past Two Medicine Lake, you'll make your way past Twin Falls and No Name Lake. The wildflowers in this area can be marvelous, depending on the time of year. The ascent to Dawson Pass is steep at times but isn’t overwhelming. Take it slowly and then take in the spectacular views from the pass.

The route now changes to true alpine. You'll be above treeline and able to enjoy expansive views of the surrounding area. Even better, the views continue as the next few miles of trail are along a ridge with open vistas the entire way. Simply put, this is one of the finest sections of trail in the park. Be careful along this section as there are a few spots where there is a drop-off. Because of the vastness and pure beauty, this area is chill-inducing!

Eventually, you'll reach Pitamakan Pass, another great spot to take a break. Just past Pitamakan Pass, multiple lakes, including Oldman Lake, come into view. There are literally four to five lakes within view from this area. Following the pass, there is a steep decline to get back into the valley. Here you will return into a world of trees and streams. Again, the flowers return along with the chance to see more wildlife. Depending on the time of year, mosquitos can be bad in this section, so be prepared! Eventually, the trail wraps around back to the Two Medicine Lake trailhead. A few miles of the route could be shaved off by taking a boat ride across the lake. Overall, this hike is a must-do. It features not one but two passes, with each one providing a different albeit wonderful view. Being a loop hike, you also don’t have to retrace your steps. There aren’t many other loop day hikes in the park. The ridgeline from Dawson to Pitamakan Pass is also not to be missed. Do yourself a favor and pay the Two Medicine area a visit—you won’t regret it!

Difficulty

Difficult

Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area