Continental Divide Trail thru-hikers widely agree: The CDT through Glacier National Park is one of the trail’s very best sections. This guide to backpacking a 94-mile traverse through Glacier lays out a customized route that combines parts of the CDT’s official main route and the alternate CDT route in Glacier—and adds the high alpine traverse from Pitamakan Pass to Dawson Pass above Two Medicine, one of the most glorious mountain paths in America.
Besides avoiding the logistics of a border crossing, this combination of the main and alternate CDT simply hits much of Glacier’s finest scenery, including the Belly River and Saint Mary valleys, Many Glacier, gorgeous waterfalls and mountain lakes like Elizabeth, Helen, and Morning Star, the magnificent Garden Wall, and five of the park’s most stunning passes: Redgap, Piegan, Triple Divide, Pitamakan, and Dawson. Sightings of mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, and black and grizzly bears are likely. The route even delivers stretches of solitude. This e-guide also suggests six, mostly shorter alternative itineraries (and a dayhike)—making it a complete guide to several variations on backpacking the CDT in Glacier.
As of Jan. 11, 2023, Glacier National Park has posted at nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/backcountry-reservations.htm: “Changes are coming to Glacier National Park’s advance reservation system in 2023. Complete details are not yet available. Check back in mid-February when we should have changes finalized.” Under the 2022 permit reservation system at Glacier, backcountry sites for trips starting between June 15 and Sept. 30 could be reserved in advance at https://pay.gov/public/form/start/74000984 starting March 15 for parties of one to eight people and March 1 (with a midnight deadline) for groups of nine to 12. But that page is no longer available at pay.gov.
This e-guide will be updated as soon as Glacier announces the details of its permit reservation procedure for 2023 and The Big Outside will contact all people who’ve purchased this e-guide in recent months with the new permit information.
Watch the video below and read my feature story “Wildness All Around You: Backpacking the CDT Through Glacier” (which requires a paid subscription to read in full), about the trip described in much greater detail in this e-guide; or see my “Photo Gallery: Backpacking the CDT Through Glacier National Park” (which is free for anyone to read).
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Few wilderness backpacking trips in the country measure up, step for step, to a multi-day trek along the incomparable Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Variously 35 to 39 miles, depending on the route you hike, the TCT delivers a consummate backpacking experience.
With vertiginous cliffs and peaks, numerous waterfalls and cascades, crack-riddled glaciers plastering mountainsides, and raw wilderness where a range of wildlife long gone from most of the continent thrives in shocking abundance, Glacier National Park embodies the highest aspirations of backpackers.
What if you could do one thing to make every backpacking trip more enjoyable? Three decades of backpacking have taught me what that one thing is: keeping my pack light.