If you’re up for an adventure in Glacier National Park that includes a little bit of route finding with a couple creek crossings to a remote lake, then Dutch Lakes in the North Fork might just be your hike.
Starting out with the trailhead, things aren’t very obvious. At a bend in the road just north of the Dutch Creek crossing on the Inside North Fork Road between the Camas Creek trail and the Logging Lake trail lies an unmarked trailhead to Dutch Lakes. You’ll see a faint trail and have to walk by faith about 25 yards and then you’ll see a sign that says you’re entering grizzly country and lets you know you’re not just wandering.
The trail takes you up through an old burn giving you pleasant views at Rogers Peak and a few others in the Livingston Range. You begin to go in and out of unburned forest and cross some creeks along the way up and along Dutch Creek. At one point, Dutch Creek has decided that it likes your path more and you walk up the rerouted creek until you find the “walking only” trail again. You must keep your eyes out for certain objects as sawn logs and metal markers on trees to help you through those sections.
The trail gradually gains a thousand feet in the first seven miles, then gains over another thousand feet the last mile as it goes through some switchbacks and mountain goat feeling trail to get into the basin. All along, you get really great views of the creek as it bubbles and cascades down the trail.
Once you get into the basin, you have that great feeling of being in the middle of the mountains. Avalanches keep the views open and you meander through fir trees, alder and other vegetation and arrive at a beautiful alpine lake with Camas Ridge creating a wall to the south and a shoulder off of Longfellow Peak continuing the wall to the north. You have a sweet view of the feature called “Paul Bunyan’s Cabin” from the lake as well.
This trip is one that sees hardly anyone. For those looking for adventure, meaning you don’t mind downfall, route-finding, some overgrown trails and such, Dutch Lakes might be right up your alley. It definitely is pretty and off the beaten path and shows you that while approximately two million people visit the park each year, there are some parts that may see less than ten.
6 responses to “Dutch Lakes”
Feature article in today’s Missoulian (7/22) about Josephine Doody and the Doody cabin- maybe you would want to add a link to that blog?
I mentioned it on my Facebook page, but I might throw together a little blog about it too. 😀
On Hiking in glacier.com, they have a ” point system “on many hiking trials concerning the difficulty factor or how hard it is to travel a specific trail.
– what would be your guess of the difficulty factor for Dutch Lake trail ??Thanks, Mark
I struggle with systems that go easy/moderate/strenuous or try to math out an objective system. At some level, a long distance just becomes work no matter how level. The other and probably bigger issue would be not just how much elevation change there is, but how it’s distributed. This hike in particular spends much of its time fairly level, then gains its elevation more towards the end. The other part is that it is a poorly maintained trail which adds route finding and downed trees to the adventure. So I would say that it’s a long 18.8 miles and a majority of the 2,100ft happens at the end towards the lake. While it’s not the longest hike, it is more of a challenge. Does that kinda answer your question?
Yes, thanks. I tried this trail back in 1976,but only made it in about 9 miles in ??
It was our first hike. We did lose the trail too. heard a bear growl near by, and moved to another area quick.
It rained for 16 hours, and the bugs were bad. We decided to turn back the next day.
Considering it as unfinished business. Thinking of trying it again. Today’s weather reports are a better than back then – basically no weather reports back then ! national speed limit was 55 MPH back then. Montana would give you – not a speeding ticket – but a ticket for wasting national resources ! ( 1976 oil embargo – President Jimmy Carter)
Anyway, 63 years old now – I thought one way of 13 miles was a bit much.
In decent shape now and could train for 6 months ??.
But I also feel that there are so many other trails that are shorter and have better payoffs in scenery. Feel free to comment. Thanks, Mark
Well if you’ve looked at my list for recommended order, it’s definitely pretty far down there. Not that the lake is terrible or anything. It really is pretty. I would just recommend other hikes before it. That, of course, falls apart when you are taking into account hiking to get all of the trails, have a personal attachment or curiosity, or it has simply become your “white whale”. In any case, I’d look at my list if none of those apply and go about things that way.