Backpack to Waterton Lake

Rate this Adventure Montana Bowman Lake Campground

Added by Sam Patterson

This 5 day, 5 night adventure crosses over the Continental Divide of Glacier National Park and offers spectacular views around every turn. And don't forget your bear spray -- it's required.

Our trip started on Thursday evening, spending the night at the Bowman Lake campground. You can park your car here and it's where the hike will start and end. I recommend staying here the night before because day 1 is a doozy, so you'll want an early start.

Day 1 is the hardest day of the hike, both in terms of elevation gain and mileage. Starting at the Bowman Lake trailhead, you'll hike 16 miles and climb 2400 feet, hiking to the continental divide. Tough first day, but the views are unbeatable and every day after will feel like a piece of cake. Once you reach Browns Pass (13 miles), follow the sign to the 'Hole in the Wall' campsite (3 miles). This campsite is literally a slice of heaven, so soak it in after a long day.

Day 2 is the second longest day, but all downhill. Highlights include a beautiful glacial pond you can jump in, two kickass lakes just off the trail (make sure to stop at Lake Francis), and two huge waterfalls. Follow signs to Waterton Lake (10.5 miles), which is where you'll spend night two.

Day 3 starts the back portion of the out-and-back, meaning you'll have to climb back up that downhill from the day before :/ After 8.5 miles back up the trail, you'll reach the Browns Pass campsite. Straddle the continental divide and set up camp for the night.

Day 4 is 7 miles back down the divide to the north end of Bowman Lake. This is another killer campsite. Sitting right on the lake, you can walk out of your tent and straight into the water.

Day 5 is the final 7 miles back to the Bowman Lake trailhead. This stretch hugs the lake and doesn't go up or down much, making for a nice cool down on the last day.

You'll have to visit the Ranger office in Polebridge, MT before you start to get backcountry campsite permits.

Pack List

  • Bear spray
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove
  • Water filtration
  • Backcountry permit from the National Park Service to camp overnight
  • Headlamp
  • Camera
  • Food
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking socks (and extra socks)
  • Down jacket or fleece
  • Waterproof / rain jacket
  • Knife
  • First Aid Kit
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Backpacking, Camping, Fitness, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:




Trail Type:



50 Miles

Elev. Gain:

3600 Feet


Swimming Hole

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Added by Sam Patterson

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