The Belly River area in Glacier National Park offers numerous rewarding backpacking experiences. The Belly River drainage heads up to Elizabeth Lake, passing the powerful Dawn Mist Falls. The trail passes right above the falls and gives you a great look down while a spur trail lets you see them from the bottom and get a little misted. Elizabeth Lake is beautiful and serves as a junction for Ptarmigan and Redgap Passes heading over to the Many Glacier area. A walk along the west shore of Elizabeth Lake is gorgeous and towards the head of the lake, you’ll come to its second campground. Beyond that, and at trail’s end, you’ll come to Helen Lake with it’s cathedral walls and view up to Ahern Pass.
Heading back past Elizabeth Lake, around Cosley Ridge and to the west, you will find the Mokowanis drainage heading up towards Stoney Indian Pass. A mellow ford of Cosley Lake and you begin walking parallel to lakes for miles. (The ford is only for those coming to/from Elizabeth Lake. A bridge awaits those coming directly from the Belly River Ranger Station) First lake is Cosley with its campground, then the much larger Glenns Lake with its two campgrounds. A third lake nestled up the valley at the base of Pyramid Peak is Mokowanis Lake with its own quaint, two site campground. A beautiful waterfall is on the other side of a poorly maintained trail, but worth the quarter mile-ish effort.
After the Mokowanis Lake junction, you begin ascending through the trees and very quickly, you break through to get a bird’s eye view of the valley you were just in. You follow Mokowanis River up to its headwaters which is essentially a collection of small lakes with streams and waterfalls connecting them. Each level affords greater views and more waterfalls until you end up in a high alpine basin.
You continue climbing until you reach Stoney Indian Pass with views down towards the Waterton valley. Stoney Indian Lake is nestled into the mountains immediately below you and a few switchbacks and you descend 600 feet to the lake. At the foot of the lake lies the campground with the tent sites on the south side of the trail and the food prep on the north in a little alpine treed area.
Past the camp, you follow Pass Creek down to the Waterton Valley Trail. This quickly changes to alders and you then get swallowed up in trees as you descend to the valley bottom where you can go north to Kootenai Lakes, Goat Haunt and Waterton Lake or you can go south and head on up along the North Highline trail.
Heading back up and over Stoney Indian Pass and past the lakes previously mentioned, you come to a little spur trail for Bear Mountain Overlook. The site of an old lookout, Bear Mountain Overlook gives you an incredible “bird’s eye view” of the Belly River area. You can see into Canada to the north, look down onto the Belly River Ranger Station and over that to Chief Mountain and Gable Mountain. To the south you have Cosley Lake in the shadow of Cosley Ridge and to the west you have the rest of the Mokowanis drainage.
On the way back to the Belly River Ranger Station, you have a little spur down to Gros Ventre Falls which has falls coming down to a very pretty pool of water.
Overall, this area is amazing if you like lakes, rivers, streams, waterfalls and amazing basins surrounded by towering peaks.
To Helen Lake
From Helen Lake to Mokowanis Lake
From Mokowanis Lake over Stoney Indian Pass and back again
From Mokowanis Junction out to Chief Mountain trailhead with Bear Mtn Overlook