By Michael Lanza

After almost three decades of wilderness backpacking all over the U.S. and around the world, rarely does a new trip immediately leap into my all-time top 10. But that’s exactly what happened when three friends and I backpacked a north-south traverse of 94 miles through Glacier National Park last September, mostly following the Continental Divide Trail.

Backpacking for six days from Chief Mountain Trailhead on the Canadian border to Two Medicine in the park’s southeast corner, we enjoyed the full Glacier experience, from daily wildlife encounters to scenery unlike anything you can find anywhere else in America—as I think you’ll see in this photo gallery.

We saw bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bears, moose, and one grizzly bear (from a distance that was adequately safe, though we were wishing it was greater). It being September, we also heard elk bugling almost every morning and evening, and enjoyed mostly sunny, dry days and comfortably cool nights.

Get my expert e-guide to backpacking the CDT through Glacier.

Backpacker hiking from Pitamakan Pass to Dawson Pass in Glacier National Park.
Jeff Wilhelm backpacking the Dawson Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.

We also happened to meet a number of CDT thru-hikers on the final day or two of their months-long journeys, and it was kind of special hearing their stories and seeing their excitement over their imminent completion of an epic trek. Almost to a person, they all said Glacier is one of the two best sections of the CDT (along with the Wind River Range).

And then, of course, there were the views of skyscraping cliffs, waterfalls, and icy peaks looming high above deep, glacier-carved valleys. We made long climbs over five of Glacier ’s finest mountain passes—Redgap, Piegan, Triple Divide, Pitamakan, and Dawson.

Although the scenery really awed us every day of the trip, it seemed like the perfect culmination of it when, on the last day of backpacking, we followed the high, alpine trail from Pitamakan Pass to Dawson Pass. It delivered just maybe the trek’s best, long views of the glaciers and peaks in the park’s remote interior.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside, which has made several top outdoors blog lists. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip. Please follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


After the backpacking trip, we capped off our visit with an eight-mile, out-and-back dayhike from Two Medicine following the CDT up to Scenic Point—for yet more views of those lakes, valleys, and peaks that have reminded visitors for many generations of the Alps.

Click on the photo gallery below and scroll through these pictures from that trip—they’ll give you a strong sense of the inspiring majesty of this north-south traverse through Glacier. Then scroll below the gallery to find links to my stories about Glacier at The Big Outside.

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See my feature story about this 94-mile hike, “Wildness All Around You: Backpacking the CDT Through Glacier.”

See also my story “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips” and all of my stories about Glacier National Park, including these (some of which are premium content and require a paid subscription to read):

“Descending the Food Chain: Backpacking Glacier National Park’s Northern Loop
Jagged Peaks, Mountain Lakes, and Wild Goats: A 3-Day Hike on Glacier’s Gunsight Pass Trail
5 Perfect (Big) Days in Glacier National Park
Ask Me: What Hikes Do You Suggest For Three Days in Glacier National Park?

Want to take what’s arguably the best long backpacking trip in Glacier? Check out my expert e-guide “Backpacking Glacier National Park’s Northern Loop,” which tells you everything you need to know to plan and successfully pull off that 65-mile hike of a lifetime. And see a menu of all of my e-guides.

I can help you plan this or any other trip you read about at my blog. Find out more here.

If you want to plan a backpacking trip in Glacier or any other popular park for this year, be sure to read my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”


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