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Boulder Pass, MT

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Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List MT > North Central
4.5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Distance One Way 29 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,259 feet
Elevation Gain 3,205 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,937 feet
Kokopelli Seeds 42.12
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
19  2018-09-12 RickVincent
60  2017-08-12
Hole in the Wall to Goat Haunt
48  2017-08-11
Boulder Pass Camp to Hole in the Wall Camp
68  2017-08-10 tibber
61  2017-08-10
Boulder Pass via Hole in the Wall
36  2017-08-09
Goat Haunt to Lake Janet Camp
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
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Preferred   Jul, Aug, Jun, Sep
Sun  6:16am - 6:42pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby

Likely In-Season!

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This is a moderately difficult hike.

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One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Boulder Pass
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Hole in the Wall to Goat Haunt
after a lovely evening and a quick morning, we headed out in the shade of the mountains over the Hanging Valley. It was hard to leave but you can only get one nite in these camp sites in the Boulder Pass area; in fact that is the case for most of Glacier Park backcountry campsites. We had a long day ahead of us so we set out around 8 I think.

We crossed the beautifully flowing Bowman Creek and looked down the Hanging Valley and over to the mountains. The distant air would be smokey again today. It's a bit of a climb out of the valley up to the ledge and trail we would take to get around the base of Chapman Peak. It was in the shade though so it was nice. We started our "heh Molly" and would eventually change that up when we got down the Olson Valley headwall. And the names we came up with :lol:. I will share later in the report.

We looked back at the Boulder and Hole In the Wall Falls (1200 ft headwall) that fell straight down; Boulder Falls starts around 7500 and the Bowman Valley is 4000 feet. Still am baffled why Boulder Falls is not labeled on the topo. It was hard to turn our back with Boulder Peak behind us. We were now hiking into the morning sun being dulled a bit by the smoke in the air. We passed through much beautiful flora on our way toward Brown Pass. We were most looking forward to visiting the Beargrass again and it didn't let us down. It really is spectacular :y: .

And now it was down Huckleberry Hill as we counted 11 switchbacks and ate many berries. The next highlight was the beautiful Thunderbird Pond before finally getting to Francis Lake which would be our lunch stop. It is really steep getting down to the lake and it was starting to get a bit warm too. We went onto the rocky beach and set our packs down for an extended stay. We did the triple selfie of Wendy and in spite of the bad lighting and slight smokey haze, it turned out pretty good. We made our way out of there but not before checking out the campsite. It has an indoor pit toilet and while the campsite is nice because it's fairly close to the water, I think ours at Lake Janet was nicer. However, the ideal itinerary with easy logistics for this trip is from Waterton: FRA BOU HOL and back to Waterton. The likelihood of getting that itinerary is not very good but I came close. However, I had my request in the moment we could hit submit on Mar 15th.

This is where the fairy tale starts as Wendy decided to tell our story about walking thru the Thimbleberry Forest in her fairy tale voice. It was priceless. And that got us to Lake Janet campsite where we decided to take another break. We had plenty of time as the boat would not pick us up until around 5. From there, it once again was getting a bit monotonous as we were back in the forest with limited views, for us and for the bears. By this time you are getting a little tired of the same old "heh bear" click poles three times so we started coming up with other names for the bear, like big fur ball, hairy bear, etc. That provided us some entertainment as we came close to trying to remember the "Winnie the Pooh" story.

We took one last break right on the trail with a couple miles left. It was quite warm (we later learned 85 and it felt very humid since a storm was right behind us). I'm trying to remember now if we even ran into any hikers. Oh ya, at Frances there were a few guys that had come in as we were leaving. We continue our trek thru the forest trying to remember what it was like when we came thru a couple days ago. And when we got to the 1 hiker bridge, we knew we were almost done. At the border, the agents remembered us and didn't seem to care to check our passports or anything. They seemed to be on a break. We would later see them get off the next boat that had arrived in Waterton.

We headed for the VC where the boats come and took off our packs and washed up using the restroom. Wendy washed off in the lake. The boat arrived in about 45 minutes. Before boarding you fill out a form they will give to Customs later. The boat ride was pleasant though the weather was slightly threatening. We got to see the other side of Mount Custer where we had just been 8 hours ago so that was pretty cool. At Waterton Marina, they hand you a cell phone to give your passport information and how many days you planned to stay.

From the marina we walked back to where we had left our car in the hopes it would still be there. It was. We changed our tops and then headed back to Trappers Grill as I had a hankering for smoked trout. Let me tell you, between that whole smoked trouts and the fall off the bone ribs (their house specialties), that was one of the best post hike meals I've ever had. Plus we each had a big beer.
And now to check into the Prince of Wales that was celebrating its 90th year and some major renovations. Our reservation was on the 5th floor so you have the bell person take you up in the very small elevator to the 4th floor and you walk up the stairs to your very small bedroom and bath on the 5th floor. Gladly, the Lodge survived the Kenow Fire greatfallstribune.c ... 001/ that took out the Visitors Center just down the road that comes into the Lodge.

around Hole in the Wall Campground
Hole in the Wall to Brown's Pass
Brown's Pass to Lake Francis
Francis to Goat Haunt and boat ride

Wildflowers were substantial from Hole in the Wall to Brown's Pass and from there the berries were substantial to Goat Haunt
Boulder Pass
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Boulder Pass Camp to Hole in the Wall Camp
This is a guess at mileage being as Kemosabe's bottom third wasn't working so I used the route from the day before and then added a track at the junction.
Didn't have to be in a hurry as we had less than a 5 mile hike back up and down Boulder Pass to Hole in the Wall (HOL) Campground, our last stop on this incredible journey. We got up late and ate late and let our tent flys dry. Nice to linger at the privy a bit just to take in that view and wonder how on earth you got so lucky to see all of this. I filmed my way back to the Food Prep area where we shared an apple crisp for breakfast. Next we headed over to a little waterfall to water up for our hike. It was a beautiful area too with the wildflowers and views.

We hiked up and out of Boulder Pass Campground (BOU) via the bedrock taking a little different track then what we took in. Once you're back on the trail you continue hiking by falling water and lots of wildflowers with astonishing views in every direction including toward BC, Canada at the cool looking Akamina Ridge. Of course the view back to Gardner Point and Kinnerly/Kintla Peaks was nothing to sneeze at either let alone Boulder Peak to our right. After negotiating a little snow field and before you know it, you are hiking on a glacial moraine. We hiked over the Pass in much better weather this morning; no need to move quickly.

And down we go hiking by the moraine (I learned later we could have stayed on the moraine, darn!) and now next to the snow banks on a rocky basin. Still had to find dry spots to step to avoid the runoff from the melting snow. We came to the tarn where we saw a marmot enjoying the view from his pitch between some rocks. Sadly it was smokey so the view far into the Olson Valley in front of us was dimmed. We made our way up and around and down the rock outcropping to take us back onto the shelf above the Hanging Valley below. You could see the trail on the other side that we had come around yesterday and it looks like there is no way there is a trail there being as it's a serious drop into the Valley. Of course the trail is nice and fits very nicely on the side of the mountain.

We were overjoyed to get back into the ostentatiousnous of this shelf area with the falling water and wildflowers with views up, down and all around. Once again we were in slow down mode to soak it all in. This is a time when I'm glad I get the movies to re-live our hike through here over and over. It was just so beautiful all the way to our campsite below. I could go on and on about the beauty but the pictures and video will do a much better job of describing what we got to experience. We made our way off the shelf and along the scree field where we saw two waterfalls coming from a valley above us and below Mount Custer.

We had already decided we would have lunch at AW Falls (short for Angela and Wendy). We had the Mountain House Chicken Wrap with tortillas and with a little hot sauce, they were great. Sadly, near as I can tell, they don't make that Wrap anymore. What's great about it is you just add cold water. A couple backpackers stopped to visit with us for a moment (they like the name of the Falls :lol: ) and told us about the new privy they're putting in at Hole In The Wall. Wendy might be able to help with remembering the details. We would later run into the ranger as he would have to hike back 14 miles to go get some missing parts. Anyway, it's supposed to be the latest and greatest privy in the backcountry. I think he said there were a couple others like this one elsewhere.

After our break we continued our hike above the hanging valley and thru the beautiful wildflowers all the while yelling out "heh Molly". We were told that the momma bear and two cubs were wandering around HOL and Brown Pass so we stayed pretty vigilant in these areas. We decided instead of yelling "heh bear" that we would name the bear and we went with Wendy's mom's name cuz Molly had two kids. Good thing my mom had three as "heh Meradel" just doesn't have a good ring to it, ha! We slowly made our way around the east side of the cirque getting anxious to get to the junction with the Hole in the Wall Trail. Strangely at the very same time we had a "the hills are alive moment".

When you get to the junction, it does seem like a long way down and then across the Valley to where the campsite was. As we switchbacked into the Valley we enjoyed some more patches of beargrass and fireweed plus views over toward the smokey Bowman Creek area below. We were finally glad to be on flat ground where we saw a marmot scamper up a rather large boulder for his perch. We enjoyed the view of the waterfalls and up and out of the Valley to the mountains that almost surrounded us. We crossed Bowman Creek and a few minutes later we were at the Campground... the first ones in too around 2:15. We decided on the campsite with a view that was on the way to the food prep and privy area past that.

We broke out the wine and chilled before setting up our camp. We spoke to the ranger for a bit as well and then just wandered around camp until dinner time. Oh, and of course, checked out the privy with a view. Once again pretty amazing but I still think I like Boulder Pass's better. A few of the other campers were wandering in now so we got to visit with them and find out where they had come from and what kind of permits they had. We enjoyed this part of camping where we got to hang with others. People come from all around to hike in Glacier's backcountry and for the most part say, "haven't seen anything quite like it".

Videos from Boulder Pass to Hole in the Wall:
around our camp (BOU) and hike up to Boulder Pass
Boulder Pass (BOU) area to AW Falls
AW Falls to Hole in the Wall (HOL) Campground
around Hole in the Wall (HOL)

Playlist and the titles include the area we hiked.
Boulder Pass Playlist
Boulder Pass
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And now the biggest day of the 4 day backpacking trip begins :scared: . I was nervous about it as I wasn't able to get in good hiking previous; the disadvantage to an August trip. You can't get any sooner as the pass doesn't open until August 1 if then. I wanted to make sure it would be open for us, thus the later booking. This hike is one of the most iconic you can do in the park so I wanted to do it sooner than later, so this was it. I spent hours of Rx as to the most scenic route whether to come up from the west or east and decided on this route from the east. After reviewing the Kintla route on youtube recently, I'm thinking that's a good choice as well but the logistics are tricky.

I liked our Lake Janet site and after visiting the Francis site on our hike out, I think I prefer it over Francis which is considered a premiere camp location. We had a dusting of rain during the nite but not enough to get the tents too wet. We had a nice hearty breakfast before packing up the tents. We visited with some people who were on their way to the Goat Haunt from Lake Francis Camp.

And once again, you start making your way through the forest. It opens up from time to time and once you get to the Hawksbill it stays pretty open until you start up the 11 huckleberry laden switchbacks; talk about a great motivator. Even though you are surrounded by tall flora, you can still see the mountains and some waterfalls all around you with great views back to the Citadel Peaks and Porcupine Ridge but mostly we're trudging on trying to not trip as you can't see the trail sometimes due to the overgrowth... And, oh ya, because of the tall flora you can't see "da bears" but we were always trying to let them know we were coming. Although with our pants rubbing the overgrowth, you would think they could hear that.

We finally came to the beautiful glacially fed Thunderbird Pond that was being filled with Thunderbird Waterfalls coming from Thunderbird Glacier on Thunberbird Mountain. The lake was a beautiful shade of glacier blue and you hike right next to it and into the flora of the other side before making a u-turn and start heading up the side of the mountain and out of the glacial Olson Creek Valley. The trail is overgrown here as well but not as bad. We did encounter a couple hikers here.

Now these are my kind of switchbacks going up the Olson Creek Valley Headwall, loaded with huckleberry bushes and we imbibed all the way up. And of course, there were pretty decent views down the Valley and over to Thunderbird Falls. Toward the top we ran into a couple who told us about the sow and her cubs that were roaming about over by Hole in the Wall. They also told us a bear had ripped into the bathroom at Brown's campsite and some workers were trying to repair it.

Finally we made it to Brown's Pass and walked a little ways to the intersection with the Bowman Lake and Hole In the Wall Trails. Here is where we would have our lunch before finishing off the next 5 miles. It is also here that we cross from Glacier to Flathead County. There was a pesky marmot that wanted some of our lunch. As we were observing our environment, little did we realize we were looking right at Boulder Pass and Peak in the distance. Toward the direction we would be heading we could see large patches of beargrass, wahoo! And so off we went hoping we would be walking thru those patches of beargrass and we did, OMG! :y: and there were wildflowers on the way and the mountains. Needless to say we lingered here for a bit to soak it all in as it was definitely a "the hills are alive moment".

Once we started up again we encountered a grouse family out for a walk on the trail leading the way. Altho mom seemed a bit annoyed as we wanted to keep on keepin' on and I think she wanted to dawdle. We worked our way above the rock ledge so that we could scoot around this southern base of Chapman Peak. Soon we could see the edges of Bowman Lake and then a grander view of it. It was smoky but not enough to obstruct the view to the lake. We got by one of Wendy's nemesis, a gash in the cliff that drops straight down 1200 feet. We continued our way on the ledge and started north where we got closer to a look-see at the Hole in the Wall headwall where the 800 foot Hole In the Wall Falls fell into the Bowman Valley below.

We stopped at the intersection for a snack I think and saw a couple hikers coming out. We still had a few miles to go around the top of the cirque above Hole in the Wall and in the distance I could see a scree field we would have to climb. Wendy said it didn't look too bad. So off we were again to the far side below Mount Custer. And the wildflowers went into overtime wowing us with their abundance and color. I think I heard Wendy mumble something about being :pk: ostentatious. We decided we would take one more little break at the cascading waterfall before tackling the scree hill and the rest of our hike to Boulder Pass campsite. It was lovely here.

Next we crossed over a little snow and some more water as we started up the scree hill. It really wasn't too bad and as you got higher the views were even more spectacular. We eventually reached the high shelf and were now heading south. The wildflowers and little waterfalls, the Hole in the Wall Hanging Valley below us along with the views of all the mountains was just breathtaking. You sure don't want to rush this section. You eventually come to a large rock outcropping that you have to switchback up and around to get you to the Pass area. Your first view as you come around the corner is a full on frontal of Boulder Peak, Glacier and a tarn. The clouds came and went from here until we got to the campsite. Meanwhile, we enjoyed our time at the Tarn.

But, we still hadn't gone over the pass and we had to traverse over an area that was the trail covered in running water from the cascades above. This pass had only been opened for a week and I think in a less dry year (basically little to no summer rain), we would have encountered a lot more of that. But that's okay, we did the snow crossing thing in 2011 up here [ photo ] . On this hike, only a few patches to deal with. As we finally got to the top of the pass, a storm blew in. It had been getting chillier but no indication of a storm. So I had to struggle a bit getting my rain gear out (jacket was toward the bottom of my pack). But then the lightning and thunder began in earnest :scared: and here we are, the tallest things on the pass that was devoid of trees. Fortunately the fury of the storm saved itself for about 1/2 hour give or take.

Once you get to the top of the Pass you have an incredible view of Gardner Point (west) in front of you and Canada to the north of you including the Akamina Ridge. We did have to keep our heads down from time to time but that was okay because you had lots of wildflowers to smile at as the storm whisked in and out. Getting down to the campsite was no easy task in the storm but we made it. We had to go hang up our food first (it's a requirement), grab a snack bar and then rush over to set up our tents at an angle that would keep the rain out. I like my small easy set up tent but when you have to try and get everything inside including yourself in a hurry, it twasn't easy. Wendy didn't like the way my tent ended up with regard to water flow so after she changed she went out and was digging a little trench for the water to go and pounded my stakes in even further.

Finally after about another 45 minutes of whirling in and out fury and just sitting in my tent with my boots and jacket on, I should have filmed the storm on my tent, the sun would come in and out along with the sound of the thunder and then finally silence. Thank goodness it passed. We were able to come out and go over and make our dinner... oh and check out the most awesome location for an outdoor open air privy with views of Kintla & Kinnerly Peaks and Agassiz Glacier. I thot maybe the smoke to the west would have cleared but it actually looked worse thru the red and yellow glow of the sun. An elder couple who had gotten their earlier had been hunkered down as well. They had just got engaged (how awesome) up on Boulder Peak and made it down before the storm hit. They were on quite the backpack adventure all through the Park from west to east.

After our warm dinner and Fireballed peaches, it was off to sleep and lucky for us, no storms or critters. What a great day! Oh, almost forgot, a big shout out to Wendy for cheering me on. I was pretty tuckered by the time it was all said and done. I do think I used some of my whine tokens.

Little did we know the storm had sparked a fire over by Lake McDonald (Sprague) that would have sad consequences when it took out the Sperry Chalet. We would also learn the next night that the smoke was of such concern, the Park had been preparing plans to evacuate all hikers up here. As it was they stopped issuing permits for a couple days AND if you had permits, you were not allowed to use them.

FYI, Boulder Pass Trail is part of the Pacific Northwest Trail up to Brown Pass from Goat Haunt. I made 12 videos of our backpack of Boulder Pass up and back. I put them into a Playlist and the titles include the area we hiked.
Boulder Pass Playlist For this part of the hike it is Videos 2 through 5.

in the valley lots of thimbleberry and fireweed.
around the pond, mixed flora
Brown Pass to Boulder Pass, ostentatious
Boulder Pass
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Goat Haunt to Lake Janet Camp
The day before: after breakfast we headed out from the ranch for Waterton. We had to stop in Shelby to pick up the Fireball and some lunch at Cut Bank before making it to the park. I took the new route I found from Browning to Glacier Park, it's so much nicer plus we got to see the herd of bison up on the hill. We paid our entrance fee and then went to pick up our permit (tried to get a different campsite for our first nite without success), watch the required movie (it's the new version) and then head north. It was a blustery day and you could see the smoke from the BC and other fires. It was free to get into Waterton Park as part of Canada's 150th Year celebration.

Finally the day had arrived and despite a slight cold, we were off... well almost. I somehow forgot to bring either of my water tubes with me so I ended up having to buy a new bladder at Tamarack Outfitters the night before and we bot a couple Canadian MREs that we wouldn't eat this time but take with us back to Arizona.
We couldn't find a place to park at the marina so we had to park in town over by another motel and hope that our vehicle would still be there when we came back from our 4 day backpack. So now, off we went with our backpacks on, but wait, we needed to get sandwiches and some cold medicine so we stopped at the local convenience store, Pat's, to pick up what we needed.
And now, we're off, oh wait, we have to take the boat first (we had made reservations the previous day so we just had to wait in line).

And the boat ride started off with a bang as we got to watch a bear swim to shore and then walk along it for a bit so that was pretty cool. The narrator told us the lake is generally never this calm as we sailed south to the border, the USA border. The narrator's voice was not the best so we weren't able to hear a lot of what he said. We landed and finally we were on our way, but wait, we have to walk 1/4 mile via people traffic (started RS too soon as this was a slow walk) over to Goat Haunt and go thru US Customs. And now, we are officially on our way. Whew!

The trail was a little confusing at first as there are several in this area and they are not necessarily named Boulder Pass but after momentary review we continued on our way. The trail was nicely manicured at least for a short bit before the sides became overgrown which would be the theme for a lot of this hike in the Olson Valley. But at least it was non-sticky overgrowth and we plodded along. You follow alongside the mostly invisible Olson Creek for this hike except for the one bridge you have to cross unless you opted for the Horse Ford. It's tricky crossing this bridge; especially with a heavy pack and poles and a camera in your hand.

We continued through the forest that had a heavy surplus of berry plants before you start the uphill portion. We would stay at this uphill grade until we got to our camp past Lake Janet. Along the way you get some great views of the Citadel Peaks (especially if you zoomed) and then of Porcupine Ride before you finally arrive at the north edge of Janet Lake. I am not sure why we called it Lake Janet dam it but we did. There were some great reflections once we found a spot to get thru the brush to the limited beach of this glacially fed lake.

The hiking scenery opens up for a bit around here so you can admire it better until it closes down just as fast but the berries make you not care so much about that. The flora (mostly thimbleberry) is as tall as Wendy during a lot of this hike. We did encounter other dayhikers and a few backpackers and a forest worker and his ponies. I was glad it was a shorter day so that I could gain my hiking legs though I struggled with my right side for a couple days for some reason. We went right over to the food prep area as that is what they want you to do. Hang your food first and then go to the campsite to set up your sleeping quarters.

We had some wine and then set about trying to hang the bear bags. Wendy was the bag hanger and did a pretty good job. We then set up camp and came back to have our Pad Thai dinner. And come to find out, we think almost everyone on the Boulder Pass Trail had Pad Thai as it came up in our discussions. The couple that would join us later were having Pad Thai that night as well. After hanging out for awhile at the Food Prep area and talking with the other couple we all retired for the nite. There are two campsites here and we were in the upper site. We think this is the nicer site as you have open views vs the other in the forest.

Video including swimming bear, Waterton Lake, hike: [ youtube video ]

Lots and lots of berries; mostly thimble and huckle

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