One of the most intense day trips in Glacier National Park, the Dawson Pitamakan Pass loop eludes many, but it promises miles of incredible views for whoever can make the trek. Covering almost 20 miles with over a mile of vertical elevation change, it’s not going to be easy. There is a way to shorten the hike by about 2 miles by taking a ferry across the lake, so check the schedules and see if this option is for you.
Pitamakan Pass was named for Pitamakan, a female warrior leader of the Blackfeet Nation in the early 1700s that had a vision in the area and went on to lead her tribe through many successful raids. She was the only woman in the tribe to ever lead, or be given a man’s name, which translates to Running Eagle.
It is recommended to hike this loop clockwise in order to stretch out the climb to a more manageable grade and also to keep the sun on your back, which makes for better light for photography. Start by making your way toward Dawson Pass, making sure to check out No Name Lake (a perfect spot to turn this into an overnight trip) on the way up. For those who want to widen their view of Dawson Pass, nearby Mount Helen is a fairly non-technical scramble that provides 360-degree views that won’t disappoint.
Make your way along the slope northward toward Pitamakan Pass, climbing another 500 feet to get there, and ensure you have a spare memory card to record the 3.5 miles of exposed balcony trail with sweeping views into the surrounding mountains. After the long descent to Oldman Lake, keep an eye out for animals in the valley on your way back to the trailhead. The trail will curve around the flank of Rising Wolf Mountain to complete the loop. Much of the final few miles are forested, which in the high Montana sun will probably be a welcome change from the more exposed sections. The Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park will keep calling you back for more with the conclusion of this iconic hike.