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North Fork Belly River
In the far northeast corner of Glacier National Park lies the Chief Mountain trailhead which gives you access to the Belly River drainage. Most visitors walk right past the fork in the trail that leads down to the Belly River about three miles in. While it looks just like an access to the river, it’s actually the beginning of the trail to the North Fork Belly River.
Listed in the trail status portion of Glacier National Park’s official site as the Miche Wabum Trail, this trail used to head on up the North Fork Belly River to Miche Wabum Lake. Now this trail only heads on out to the river.
From where the Belly River Trail forks, you ford the Belly River, cross a feeder creek and wander up a meadow finding, then losing, then finding the trail again. If you head up towards what looks like a draw in the meadow, you’ll find the definite trail, cross the same creek you crossed earlier and start heading north around Sentinel Mountain.
While on the east and northeast sides of Sentinel, views are limited or nonexistent as you walk through a lodgepole pine forest that gradually closes up. As you round the northernmost point, however, it begins to open up to a dryer forest and views into the drainage are great! The trail is a bit overgrown in parts as it’s rarely visited, but it was in pretty good shape when I walked it.
You’ll get to a big cairn in the trail right before a creek bed. The old trail went through the creek bed and continued with a few switchbacks. It no longer does this and from the cairn, you start to head straight towards the river staying high on the ridge and a trail will appear and disappear. The goal is to walk along the ridge often at the border of the flora. This will include a short stint in an aspen grove and eventually, a defined trail develops and you head into the trees, then pop out at the river.
In the flats where you meet the river, you have great views up the valley, of Sentinel and Sarcee Mountains. It’s a wonderful lonely place.
A large part of the reason for the solitude is that there is no campsite so, in order to get all the way to the river, you must hike a round trip of 18 miles. Those looking for a longer day in a remote valley where they won’t see another human for at least 12 miles of it will find it on this trail.