gateway to the backcountry
The Pitamakan Pass Trail is an ideal jumping off point for reaching the Glacier National Park backcountry from the Two Medicine area. This trail provides an ideal looping option with the Dawson Pass Trail, or can be used to complete a more ambitions trek to the lesser traveled Cut Bank area and much further beyond, as it also doubles as a segment of the Continental Divide Trail. There are three backcountry campgrounds along the Pitamakan Pass Trail. They are located at Oldman Lake, Morning Star Lake and Atlantic Creek. There are two access points to the Pitamakan Pass Trail, one from the Two Medicine area (North Shore Trailhead) and one from the lesser traveled Cut Bank trailhead. There is no camping along any portion of the Pitamakan Pass Trail without a backcountry permit.
The trailhead for the Pitamakan Pass Trail is located within the Two Medicine campground along the edges of Pray and Two Medicine Lake. The trail begins with a quick crossing of a well built footbridge that spans the channel of water connecting the aforementioned lakes. After crossing the bridge, the trail climbs steadily through a forest, as it makes its way to the Dry Fork drainage. Upon reaching the appropriately named creek bed, the trail heads nearly straight to Oldman Lake along the creek's north side, with a modest gain in elevation. There is a backcountry campground at Oldman Lake. It is located about 6.5 miles in from the trailhead. From the Oldman Lake intersection, the trail begins an immediate climb up the steep north wall of the cirque housing Oldman Lake. From a distance the cirque's sheer wall seems too steep for a trail, however, it makes good use of a series of cliff bands and is constructed well. The climb to Pitamakan Pass is probably one of the more tame climbs in the park, be sure to take a few breaks to marvel at the scenic Old Man Lake. The views from the pass are outstanding and the perspective unique with Old Man Lake on one side and the perhaps even more scenic Pitamakan Lake on the other side. If not completing the Dawson Pass Loop, the .5 mile detour up to the overlook indicated on the sign is well worth the side trip before continuing your descent into Pitamakan Lake. Remember leaving gear unattended is illegal in the park and can draw a fine. But the sign is sturdy enough to hold a pack for those who like to live on the edge. It is an additional 450 feet plus of elevation gained to reach the overlook. The descent is quick and a little steep in spots, but pretty run of the mill for Glacier. The trail is generally pretty scenic and in good condition from Pitamakan Lake to the intersection with the Triple Divide Trail. Highlights along this portion include: the very scenic Morning Star Lake, a few sets of waterfalls cascading down from the west, a nice little flat rock and cascades section along the north fork of Cut Bank Creek and the quaint Atlantic Falls. Upon reaching the intersection with the Triple Divide Pass Trail, bear right to complete the final four miles to the Cut Bank Creek Trailhead. This section of trail may not be the most scenic section of the Pitamakan Trail, however, some nice views of Cut Bank Creek do appear on occasion along with views of the oddly named Bad Marriage and Mad Wolf Mountain to the south. The trail ends rather inconspicuously on a dirt road leading into the primitive Cut Bank campground.
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This hike is listed as One-Way.
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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