Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
3,800.00 ft (1,158.24 m)
Trail type
9.70 mi (15.61 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail spans nearly 3,100 miles across 5 states from Mexico to Canada, traversing a vast array of different environments and landscapes along the way. The CDT can be completed as a single thru-hike that will take 4 to 6 months, or by section-hiking smaller segments. The Montana-Idaho portion of the CDT features nearly 1,000 miles of diverse mountain terrain. You’ll pass alongside the lofty peaks of the Anaconda, Bitterroot and Beaverhead Mountains; walk through the rugged and remote Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex; and finally arrive at the “Crown of the Continent” that is Glacier National Park. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at the Dawson Pass Alternate.

The Dawson Pass Alternate is a popular route that offers a bit more jaw-dropping scenery than the official CDT route. You’ll begin from the Two Medicine Campground and, instead of taking the Pitamakan Pass Trail, follow the Dawson Pass Trail generally westward.

The trail follows just above the shore of Two Medicine Lake for the first stretch offering scenic views and easy walking. At the far side of the lake there’s a side trail that leads to the water and boat docks (yes, you could have taken the boat ferry ride here if you wanted to!).

The trail then leaves the lake behind and begins climbing. Around the 6,000’ elevation point there’s a side trail to No Name Lake. This is the only camping along the Dawson Pass Alternate (permit required).

Continue ascending until you reach Dawson Pass. The views are stunning. Massive Mount Phillips (9,495’) looms directly in front of you. Many other impressive peaks can be spotted from here as well.

The trail then turns and ascends a bit before contouring around the west side of Flinsch Peak (9,216’). You’ll then come to a great viewpoint down to Oldman Lake. Continue as the trail contours around Mount Morgan (8,704’). Descend until you reach a trail junction just before Pitamakan Pass. Here you’ll rejoin the official CDT and continue northbound.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round



Stunning views. Better than the official CDT.



Trailhead Elevation

5,190.00 ft (1,581.91 m)

Highest point

8,049.00 ft (2,453.34 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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