Glacier Natl Park - Boulder Pass Trail

Jimmy

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Oct 7, 2014
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Group of us are headed to GNP in early August and are considering a 5-day trek on the Boulder Pass Trail. There seems to be a few routes we can consider, with varying degrees of difficulty for logistics in returning / getting to trail heads.
For those who have done this trail before, recommendations for getting to/from trailheads, permit obstacles, and route suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Also...and this is probably a dumb question, but as someone more accustomed to backpacking arid areas, my guess is that there is abundant water available throughout the entire trail, except for the high passes? I'm looking forward to not worrying about water so much!
 

Joey

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Apr 1, 2014
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1. Don't worry about water. There will be plenty of it in August, even if its another dry year. Even at the passes. Both Boulder Camp and Hole in the Wall Camp have plenty of water.

2.Take your time, and camp at both Boulder Camp and Hole In The Wall. There is a lot of off trail alpine exploring to be done at both camps, and in between. Boulder Peak is a must do, and nothing more than a steep uphill walk to a really spectacular view.

3. Upper Kintla Lake is a better campsite than the first Kintla Lake campsite. Its 12 miles in roughly, but fairly flat (with a few small bumps). Brown Pass is nothing special at all. Don't feel like you need to camp at the Brown Pass campsite, you won't be missing anything. The campsite along Bowman Lake is nice.

4. Drop down to Lake Francis to camp. One of the sweetest lakes in the park, and that's saying something.

5. Logistics for rides are the toughest part of this, especially if your trying to do a Kintla Lake to Bowman Lake (or vise versa) route. I've done it various ways, and it can be a huge pain in the but. The first thing I highly recommend is to check in on this website closer to your start date. If I'm up there, I may be able to shuttle you. Also, I know people working up there, and may be able to arrange a shuttle for you. Also check out the Glacier Park Forums, you can sometimes find someone on there to help you with a ride. You can also put a note up at Freda's Bar in West Glacier. Hitchhiking works, I've done it successfully. And you can also just hang out in front of the Apgar backcountry office and ask people for rides. There is usually a line at the backcountry office in the early mornings, and you want to be at the front of that line, so get there an hour before they open unless you have a reservation. But you get plenty of time to socialize with other people in line, and I've watched 2 different parties arrange rides for free just by asking.

6. If you can add a day, I would highly suggest making your route longer, and going from Kintla Lake to Waterton Lake, and then south along the Highline trail to both Fifty Mountain Camp and Granite Park Camp.

7. Again, ask me closer to next summer, and I might be able to arrange a ride for you. And if you have more specific route questions, ask away. There are several posters on here who have a good bit of experience up there. Boulder Pass and Hole in the Wall is one of the sweetest high country routes in the park.
 

Scott Chandler

Wildness is a necessity- John Muir
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What Joey said. All of it. I'm envious that your trip will be longer. It is sweet country up there.

I was up there early August two years ago and water wasn't an issue from Kintla to Hole in the Wall. You can get away with carrying a water bottle and a filter and just filling up as needed, not much need to pack it all with you.

I lucked out and got walk in permits for Upper Kintla's camp. Everything else was booked solid. The trails up there along the country border are super popular at that time of year. Definitely reserve.
 

pstm13

Auribus Teneo Lupum
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You will love it. I went a little early in the season a couple years ago and everything was snowed in. I need to go back. Be sure to post a trip report.
 

Jimmy

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Oct 7, 2014
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Really appreciate the advice - and very generous of you, Joey, to offer a potential lift! Believe me, I'll be stalking these forums as it gets closer. We will be applying the first day possible and are somewhat flexible on dates during the first 2 weeks of August.

Ideally, what we'd love to do is to complete the full Norther Traverse. Chief Mountain Trailhead > Cosley Lake > Lake Francis OR Janet Lake > Hole in the Wall (2 nights if possible) > UPK > Kintla Lake trailhead. Again, the only obstacle to this is logistics, which seem damn near impossible. I'm trying to convince my crew to add a night, in which we'll add Boulder Pass.

The other option that we're now considering is dropping a car at Kintla Lake parking area, and then either hiring a car service or hitching to Apgar, picking up the shuttle to the Loop, and doing a BRUTAL day either through Swiftcurrent pass to Fifty Mountain campground (or, taking the Flattop route). Day 2 would be Janet Lake, Day 3 Hole in the Wall, Day 4 Upper Kintla, back to the car. Day 1 looks intimidating - 16 miles on Swiftcurrent with some nasty elevation gain - makes the 11-mile Flatop route more attractive...better not skip leg day at the gym next year. If we can add a day, we'll add Boulder Pass campground.

OR, we'll just say *#$* the logistics all and do an out-and-back...Upper Kintla > Hole in the Wall > Boulder Pass > Upper Kintla. We would just do a ton of side hikes.
 

Jimmy

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Are you going to have a car out there? If so is it a rental or personal car?

We will have a rental, though I hate the thought of paying for one for nearly 5 days while it sits. If it's avoidable to have one, we will. There will be 4 or 5 of us, so hitching with all of us will be tough.
 

Joey

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I think you really want a car. If there is 5 of you splitting the cost, you should be able to get a cheap deal for a week rental.

I don't know if a car service will go into the North Fork section of the park. The road to both Kintla Lake and Bowman Lake from Polebridge is pretty rough (Kintla being the toughest since its much farther. Lots of potholes, sometimes wash boarding, and tight turns.). And NPS has been pretty strict about not allowing any local companies to offer rides up there. They are trying to keep it wild.

The logistics for getting from Chief Mountain TH over to Kintla Lake is even more difficult. Assuming the Going to the Sun Road is open, your still looking at a minimum of 5 hours driving each way. One thing that could help you is the hiker shuttle running from ST Mary up into Canada. I'm pretty sure (not 100% positive) they will drop you off at the Chief Mountain TH (for a fee). Which means if you have a car, you can drive up into the North Fork and drop it there, find a ride back down to Apgar, and from there you can shuttle your way to your starting trailhead. Just be prepared for it to take a while.
 

Joey

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As far as your route. If your planning to camp at either Lake Janet or Lake Francis, and then hike up to Hole in the Wall the next day to camp, I would probably suggest just staying 1 night at Hole in the wall, and the 2nd night up at Boulder Pass.

Hole in the Wall Camp is an awesome spot. Its also about 1/2 mile away from the main trail, about 300 feet down into the "hole". Its going to be a really short day of hiking coming from Janet or Francis, especially if your used to doing long days. Which would give you time after getting to camp to explore and loiter around camp. I would probably suggest only spending 1 night there, and then moving up to Boulder Camp the next day. Most of what you would want to explore off trail is "up", on the way up to Boulder Pass Camp. Keep in mind that you still have at least 1000 ft of elevation gain from Brown pass up to Boulder Pass.
 

Jimmy

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Oct 7, 2014
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Are there locals we can pay to shuttle us from Kintla to Agpar or the Loop? That route is looking more appealing than the logistics of getting to Chief Mountain. Much shorter commute and no,waiting on the East Side shuttle, which does not appear to be very dependable based on my research.

Again, I really appreciate your help!
 

Joey

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Are there locals we can pay to shuttle us from Kintla to Agpar or the Loop?
Yep. That's why I'm suggesting checking in here, and the Glacier Park Forums after you find out your exact route. The "locals" your most likely going to get help from are concessionaire employees working in West Glacier, Apgar, or Lake McDonald. It would probably be easier to have someone help you get to Kintla Lake to start, so you can hike back to your car along the Going to the Sun Road. There are frequent, free shuttles running from Apgar to the Loop and Logan Pass, so all you have to do is get back to the trailhead, and take the shuttle back down to where you leave your car.

Your going to love your route, which ever one you end up doing. You can't go wrong in that area of the park.
 

Jimmy

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Oct 7, 2014
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That is now the plan. Park at Agpar, hire a ride to Kintla and hike Kintla to the Loop with stops at the sites listed above. I'll be back to this thread in the coming months. So pumped!
 
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Realizing that your newer post suggests Kintla - GoatHaunt - Highline route (which I'll address below), if there is anyway to make the Northern Traverse happen, I would say we actually enjoyed the Mokawanis Valley & Stoney Indian even moreso than the Highline (FiftyMtn, Granite, Garden Wall). Both are awesome, but if you can make the [horrible!] logistics work out to do the Northern Traverse, make your first day the Lee Ridge to [nearly] Gable Pass, then down to Cosley Lake, rather than the shorter/easier Chief-Mtn to Cosley via Belly River.

If you do go up the Mokawanis Valley from Chief Mtn or Lee Ridge, and have the days to spare, Mokawanis Lake is one of our favorite campsites, and an easy scramble up that side valley to the waterfall, and up above it (I can't remember the lakes on the shelf above) are a nice dayhike from Mok Lake.

Now, that said.... if you take the Highline Trail (GoatHaunt to FiftyMtn, then to GTTS Road) instead of the full, Northern Traverse (Mok/Belly rivers), and IF you can get Granite Park as a campsite, do the Garden Wall segment to Logan Pass TH (instead of The Loop TH). The 4 miles between The Loop and Granite Park are nowhere near as good as the 7-8 miles between Granite & Logan Pass. And many people complain that the Loop Trail is a knee-buster going down.

I was actually considering doing the North Traverse myself this coming year - if for some reason we do, we could try to do a key swap midway. It'll be interesting to see how the new permit system works there.
 
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Joey

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Apr 1, 2014
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Realizing that your newer post suggests Kintla - GoatHaunt - Highline route (which I'll address below), if there is anyway to make the Northern Traverse happen, I would say we actually enjoyed the Mokawanis Valley & Stoney Indian even moreso than the Highline (FiftyMtn, Granite, Garden Wall). Both are awesome, but if you can make the [horrible!] logistics work out to do the Northern Traverse, make your first day the Lee Ridge to [nearly] Gable Pass, then down to Cosley Lake, rather than the shorter/easier Chief-Mtn to Cosley via Belly River.

If you do go up the Mokawanis Valley from Chief Mtn or Lee Ridge, and have the days to spare, Mokawanis Lake is one of our favorite campsites, and an easy scramble up that side valley to the waterfall, and up above it (I can't remember the lakes on the shelf above) are a nice dayhike from Mok Lake.

Now, that said.... if you take the Highline Trail (GoatHaunt to FiftyMtn, then to GTTS Road) instead of the full, Northern Traverse (Mok/Belly rivers), and IF you can get Granite Park as a campsite, do the Garden Wall segment to Logan Pass TH (instead of The Loop TH). The 4 miles between The Loop and Granite Park are nowhere near as good as the 7-8 miles between Granite & Logan Pass. And many people complain that the Loop Trail is a knee-buster going down.

I was actually considering doing the North Traverse myself this coming year - if for some reason we do, we could try to do a key swap midway. It'll be interesting to see how the new permit system works there.
I agree. Both the Mokawanis Valley and Stoney Indian Pass areas are awesome. The Sue Lake Bench, above Mokowanis Lake, is absolutely worthy of a day exploring. So are the lakes up creek from Mokowanis Lake.

I will also second the suggestion of going from Granite Park to Logan Pass instead of doing the loop trail. Its a much more scenic hike that way, and not such a steep downhill knee breaker.
 

Joey

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Apr 1, 2014
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Hey Jimmy.
Sounds like you have a great trip planned!
We did something similar a few years ago.
Below is a link to another informative site.
I was successful lining up a key swap thru the helpful folks on that forum.
If you can hookup with Joey, he is a reliable resource and and all around good guy.
Cheers
IRG

Check out this site
http://www.glacier.nationalparkschat.com/phpBB3/
The website Doug recommended has a great group of forum members who know the park. Definitely check it out, and see if anyone can help you with a ride.
 

Jimmy

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Oct 7, 2014
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Thanks, guys. Since it's backcountry permit "pre-load" application day (though it now appears to be starting tomorrow), I've got my trip planning hat back on. I've registered at the GNP forum you suggested and agree that it's a great resource.

Route now looks something like this (after dropping car at Kintla and getting ride back to Apgar). So doing our original itinerary in reverse. We'll arrive a day early to get the logistics taken care of and probably will camp at Apgar campground and will wake up to get the earlier shuttle to the Loop.

Loop TH > Fifty Mountain
Fifty Mountain > Lake Janet or Francis
Lakes > Hole in the Wall - Short hike day = plenty of time to explore / climb
Hole in the Wall > Upper Kintla
Upper Kintla > Kintla Lake TH / Car

In a couple months after we hear about our permits, I'll probably have some additional questions. Aside from the typical permit nerves, getting a ride from Kintla to Apgar seems to be the most daunting task, but it appears that there are enough folks who may be interested in getting paid to head up to Kintla and spend a nice day.

I'd love to make the full Northern Traverse work, but I've already negotiated a 6-day guy trip vs. my normal 4-5 days. With three kids under six, sacrifices must be made, and I"m just happy my wife lets me escape a couple weeks per year! May the permit gods be kind to me this year...
 
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Aug 31, 2015
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yeah, shuttling is your biggest isssue. Some acquaintances that do a lot in the park (especially climbing) say that people tend to be okay with hitchhiking in the park, but that's more of a guess rather than an actual ride.
Hope you enjoy your trip, sounds really awesome, good luck!
 
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Is your first day Loop TH to Fifty via Flattop (12 miles)? I'm assuming so..... Because Loop TH to Fifty via Granite Park (but not staying at GRN) then the upper Highline Trail would be insane, especially with kids: 16+ very strenuous miles. I've never done the Flattop route, but from all photos / trip reports I've seen, it may just be the least interesting 12 mile segment in the entire park. [ETA: if you can somehow spare the extra day, I'd strongly encourage the Logan Pass TH to GRN, then on to FIFTY, all via the Highline Trail. It would be a shame to miss it while paralleling it via the much inferior Flattop route.... just my 2cents.]

Good luck on the submission!! I considered doing Bowman - Francis - Kintla this year (ok, am still considering it....), but I think we'll probably be going back to the North Cascades / Glacier Peak again this year.
 
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