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.