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||>|| Morning Star Lake
Includes Atlantic Falls, Pitamakan Lake, Pitamakan Pass, Cut Bank Pass
Trailhead: Cut Bank Area
Distance: 6.6 miles (one way)
Elevation Gain: 642 vertical feet
The hike to Morning Star Lake in Glacier National Park is an extremely scenic and enjoyable Glacier Park hike. In fact, if we could fit more hikes onto our "top ten list" of favorite Glacier National Park hikes, we'd definitely include the hike to Morning Star Lake. Located in the Cut Bank Area of Glacier National Park, this wonderful hike is always a treat, no matter how many times we've been there.
Finding the Trailhead
Again, the trailhead to Morning Star Lake in Glacier National Park is located in the Cut Bank Area, right next to the Cut Bank campground. The official name for this trailhead is the Pitamakan Pass Trail, but we simply call it the Cut Bank Trailhead because it is the only gateway to the entire Cut Bank backcountry area (such as Grizzly Medicine Lake, Morning Star Lake, Triple Divide Pass, Pitamakan Lake and beyond). The Cut Bank Area is a "less traveled" area of Glacier National Park, and the beauty of its scenery is remarkable and well worth the 5 mile drive on a gravel road. The Cut Bank campground is a primitive campground that attracts visitors who want to get away from a lot of people. This whole area is really amazing, and we love it. To learn more details about the Cut Bank Area and where to find it, click here.
The Hike To Morning Star Lake
The first section of the trail to Morning Star Lake takes you through a gorgeous meadow that during certain times of the summer season is literally covered in wildflowers. Bad Marriage Mountain dominates your view to the south (left) as this Glacier Park trail walks you along the north bank of North Fork Cut Bank Creek. This creek is a rather large stream and is really beautiful, and the trail follows it for 4 miles.
As the trail follows North Fork Cut Bank Creek, you will hike through opens forests of lodgepole pines and Douglas firs, and you will begin to notice some large peaks becoming visible to the west, such as the towering Mount James. Further along this Glacier Park trail the iconic matterhorn known as Flinsch Peak will show itself briefly to the southwest. Medicine Grizzly Peak will become more and more dominant to the west, which will begin to block Razoredge Mountain, which is located at the head of the Atlantic Creek Valley. Razoredge Mountain is easily identifiable by its permanent snow field below its summit. As you continue to hike along this Glacier Park trail, Medicine Grizzly Peak becomes more and more prominent, until you are almost directly underneath it.
This is a view from the trail to Morning Star Lake of Razoredge Mountain with North Fork Cut Bank Creek in the foreground.
Medicine Grizzly Lake - Triple Divide Pass Junction
At about mile 4 along this scenic Glacier Park hike you will encounter a junction. The trail to the right takes you to Medicine Grizzly Lake, Triple Divide Pass and beyond. These are the other two popular day hikes in the Cut Bank Area that we also highly recommend. If you have plenty of daylight and you're in good shape,
you can come back to this junction and then head off to Medicine Grizzly Lake, which is only about 2 miles (one way) from this junction. However, Grizzly Medicine Lake becomes covered in afternoon shadows, so this lake is best viewed in the morning. Therefore, this hike to Medicine Grizzly is probably best taken another day. Anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, when you reach this junction, make sure to stay left to keep moving onward towards Morning Star Lake.
Once you take this left at the junction, heading south you will cross Atlantic Creek and hike by the small yet picturesque Atlantic Falls. The trail then basically wraps around Medicine Grizzly Peak as you begin heading straight south towards Morning Star Lake.
About a half mile beyond Atlantic Creek you will encounter a large open valley of the North Fork Cut Bank Creek with a broad sub-alpine meadow. This meadow often teems with wildflowers during certain times
of the summer season, and is really a pleasure to hike through. Eagle Plume Mountain is directly to the east (left), and Red Mountain looms further to the southeast.
Directly above you to your right (west) you will see the huge cliffs of Medicine Grizzly Peak's east face, and there are several incredible waterfalls cascading off these shear walls due to a large snow-filled cirque that is high above you out of view. These cliffs are actually the south buttress of Medicine Grizzly Peak.
This is an incredibly scenic portion of your Glacier Park hike to Morning Star Lake, and you will very much enjoy it.
Morning Star Lake
Once you pass this large open meadow, this gorgeous valley begins to narrow, and there is a subtle climb in elevation as you hike through a sub-alpine fir forest until you reach the foot of Morning Star Lake.
You'll cross a foot bridge there, and this spot is a great location to take in the beauty of this small but wonderful mountain lake.
Shear cliffs rise above Morning Star Lake to the west, which gives this lake a "cathedral-like" feeling.
Morning Star Lake Backcountry Campground
The trail then wraps around the east shore of the lake, heading south towards the lake's head. Once you reach the head of the lake, you will see the Morning Star Lake backcountry campground. This backcountry campground is mainly used by overnight backpackers who are hiking from Two Medicine to Cut Bank, or vice versa, on a 16.9 mile multi-day backpacking trip.
Another view of Morning Star Lake in Glacier National Park
Keep going to Pitamakan Lake (additional 2 miles one way)
Once you've enjoyed spending time at Morning Star Lake and you'd like to venture further along this amazing Glacier Park trail, then we recommend that you keep hiking onward for two more miles until you reach Pitamakan Lake. Keep in mind that once the trail leaves the shores of Morning Star Lake, it begins to climb quite steeply. In just two miles the trail climbs about 1,500 vertical feet, so make sure you are in reasonably good physical condition before deciding to hike onward, and remember that once you get there you have to come back!
On your way to Pitamakan Lake, you will get a glimpse of Katoya Lake, which is nestled against large cliffs to your left. The only way to actually reach the shore of this remote mountain lake is to bushwack. We've never done it, but if you're interested- by all means have at it.
When you reach the north shore of Pitamakan Lake, you will get an incredible view of not only of this amazing high country lake that often times has icebergs floating in it, but you will also get a great view of Upper Pitamakan Pass and Cut Bank Pass far above the lake to the southwest. The "Upper" Pitamakan Pass is part of the Dawson-Pitamakan Pass Trail Loop. Located just below the "Upper" Pitamakan Pass along the same ridge, Cut Bank Pass gives you access to the Nyack Creek Area (see large photo below).
Above the sheer cliffs along the south side of Pitamakan Lake lies the same trail that you are presently on. Just to the east of this cliff ridge is the actual Pitamakan Pass (elevation 7,557 feet), which is 9.8 miles from where you started at the Cut Bank trailhead, and an additional 700 vertical feet. This incredible Glacier Park trail then descends down to Old Man Lake in the Two Medicine Area (which is home to the Old Man backcountry campground), and eventually ends at the Two Medicine campground.
This is a view of the Pitamakan Pass Area in Glacier Park. The actual Pitamakan Pass is out of view to the left. The "Upper" Pitamakan Pass is part of the Dawson-Pitamakan Pass Trail Loop. Cut Bank Pass takes you into the Nyack Area to the west.
Again, the "Upper" Pitamakan Pass is part of the Dawson-Pitamakan Pass Trail Loop. And located just below the "Upper" Pitamakan Pass along the same ridge, Cut Bank Pass gives you access to the Nyack Creek Area (see large photo above).
Note: The Pitamakan Lake Area gets a ton of snow each and every year, and this snow can linger late into the summer season. Therefore, make sure you ask rangers what the status is of this Glacier National Park trail before attempting it.
Cut Bank Area to Two Medicine Area via Pitamakan Pass (See Map Below)
As mentioned previously, the hike from Cut Bank to Two Medicine via Pitamakan Pass is a popular overnight backcountry hike that is 16.9 miles in length. If you're not too excited about carrying an overnight backpack
over 2,500 vertical feet (and then down 2,500 vertical feet), then we recommend that you set up two cars- one at the Cut Bank trailhead and one at your destination at the Two Medicine Campground. Then you can make this a 16.9 mile day hike instead.
By the way, an easier way to enjoy the Pitamakan Pass area is take the Dawson-Pitamakan Trail Loop that starts and ends at the Two Medicine Campground. This is one of only two Glacier Park hikes that are a true loop, and it is one of our all time favorite hikes in Glacier National Park. For more info on this "top ten favorite" Glacier Park hike, click here.
Most Glacier Park hikers will simply hike to Morning Star Lake and enjoy a nice lunch on the shore, then head back to the Cut Bank trailhead, and this is what we recommend for most visitors. This is the perfect 6.6 mile day hike that people can take their time and truly enjoy. We always enjoy hiking to Morning Star Lake, and we highly recommend this beautiful Glacier Park hike. If we could fit more hikes onto our "top ten favorite Glacier National Park hikes" list, the hike to Morning Star Lake would definitely be on it.
This large bull moose showed up along the trail just north of the foot of Morning Star Lake. This was definitely a nice bonus to a great day hiking to Morning Star Lake in Glacier National Park.
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