Distance: 9.5 mile roundtrip. Elevation gain: 2,450ft. Panoramic mountain pass views. Chance to spot bighorn sheep and mountain goats.

This is a somewhat strenuous but extremely rewarding hike in Glacier National Park. It is much less crowded than the more popular Logan Pass and High Line trails, and in my opinion, more rewarding.

Dawson Pass is on the Continental Divide at an elevation of 7,598 feet. It sits between Mt. Helen and Flinsch Peak. You will get amazing panoramic views of Glacier National Park, but be prepared for very strong wind gusts. Be sure to bring extra layers because the temperatures at the Pass will be significantly colder than through most of the hike, even in the summer. Since you're in bear country, be sure to make lots of noise and carry bear spray, which you can buy at the lodge store by the lake.

The hike officially starts at the Two Medicine Campground at the North Shore Trailhead. Starting here would make the roundtrip total 12.5 miles. However, you can bypass the first (less exciting) 2.5 miles by taking a boat across Two Medicine Lake (about $12/person roundtrip).

Once on the west end of Two Medicine Lake, the trail starts easy on a small boardwalk. After about 3/4 mile you'll reach North Shore Trail junction, take a right to continue to Dawson Pass Trail. Then another mile takes you another junction, make a left to get on Dawson Pass Trail. This is where the climbing begins.

You'll go through some switchbacks, with huckleberry bushes lining the trail, and eventually reach a junction. If you take a left, you will reach No Name Lake after a super short 1/5 mile down. Its a good spot to stop for a snack. There is also a campground for backpackers if you'd like to camp.

Once back on the trail, continue to climb steadily. You'll pass beautiful meadows and wild flowers. You'll reach a spot called Bighorn Basin. Be sure to keep an eye out for Bighorn Sheep, you're almost guaranteed to see some on the ridge above. After climbing above the tree line, you can look back and get a view of No Name Lake, as well as Two Medicine Lake way beyond. You'll soon reach Dawson Pass and you won't regret the strenuous hike!

Pack List

  • Plenty of water
  • Lots of layers
  • Wind or rain jacket
  • Hiking boots
  • Snacks
  • Bear spray
  • Camera gear
  • Sun protection
  • Binoculars (optional)
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RT Distance 9.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 2450 Feet
Activities Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Summer
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

You can look down into 3 different valleys on this pass. It's incredible!!


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