It doesn’t take very long to get out of the trees on the east side of Glacier National Park. The loop, known a Dawson-Pitamakan, that goes through two passes in the Two Medicine area rewards you with breathtaking views mile after mile. One access to the loop is by the Two Medicine entrance station known as the Dry Fork, however, most people will start at the campground over by Pray Lake and the foot of Two Medicine. Taking a right at the first junction will have you going towards Old Man Lake and Pitamakan Pass first, which is my preference. If you go this route, you have the opportunity to take a boat ride to shave off the last three or so miles (if you get to the dock by 5:20pm) or a level walk out on tired legs. If you choose to hike Dawson Pass first, you’ll hate the little climb up the ridge coming off of Rising Wolf at the end. We’ll pretend you are going the “right way”.
You work your way up Dry Fork and come to Old Man Lake which has old stands of silver trees giving it a cool and haunted feel. Grizzlies frequent the area, so be on the lookout. There area a couple of places to have lunch at the shores. From there, you’ll climb to Pitamakan Pass and see loads of wildflowers on switchbacks that gain elevation quickly. At Pitamakan Pass, you’ll have amazing views of Old Man Lake on one side and Pitamakan Lake (with a couple of other small lakes) on the other. On this north slope of Mt. Morgan, keep a lookout for bighorn sheep. I don’t think I’ve ever been hiking there and not seen them. The trail forks to Cutbank Pass which we’ll leave for another time and head on up to Pitamakan Overlook.
When you reach Pitamakan Overlook, you start to run out of adjectives and realize that you can still be impressed… even after what you’ve already witnessed. Before you lies the beautiful wooded valleys of the Nyack with hanging lakes in Martha’s Basin saying hello. Lifting up your eyes, you see a sea of peaks that silently states your insignificance. You’ll also want to have a jacket on as well, as the wind frequently blows so hard, it will try and knock you off your feet… literally.
The traverse over to Dawson Pass makes you feel like a Mountain goat and gets interrupted by the flat saddle between Mt. Morgan and Flinsch Peak that gives you an eagle’s view of Old Man Lake and the west face of Rising Wolf. Continue over to Dawson Pass, take one last look at the Nyack region and head on down into the Two Medicine area.
As you turn the corner, keep an eye out for more bighorn sheep as you head on down to No Name Lake. You can stop in at No Name Lake and look up at the cliffs off the side of Pumpelly Pillar and Mt. Helen to see if you can spot some Mountain Goats. From there, head on down to Two Medicine Lake. If you’re arriving before 5:20, you can take the boat, otherwise, you can enjoy the walk along the north shore of the lake and back to your car. You will be tired and satisfied.
note: There are campsites at both No Name Lake and Old Man Lake if you wish to break up this almost 19 mile long journey.