Glacier National Park
Belly River Trail Montana
DAWN MIST FALLS
Probably named for the Indian girl who was the lover of "White Quiver," in the Indian novel by H. F. Sanders. The original name of the waterfalls was "Morning Dew."
The Belly River meanders through the northeast corner of Glacier National Park before crossing into Canada. Due to its relatively low elevation, the Belly River Trail offers one of the best early season hikes in Glacier park. About 8.2 miles up the trail, the Dawn Mist Falls provides an amazing destination for a day trip. Trail crews work on clearing this trail early in the season. According to Glacier’s webpage, the Belly River suspension bridge was installed on May 19th, opening up access to Dawn Mist Falls and beyond.
The Belly River Trail begins at a small parking area along Highway 17, just south of the Chief Mountain border crossing. From the trail head, the route descends for two miles through thick forest into the Belly River Valley losing 809 feet in elevation. The loss in elevation is a pleasant way to start the trip, but recognize it will be a hard climb back up at the end of a long hike. After reaching the valley bottom, the trail changes little in elevation as it follows the winding river. The Belly River Ranger Station provides a nice landmark, about 6 miles into the trip.
The Belly River Ranger Station was built in 1925 and is a significant cultural resource, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The station has been in use since it was built, housing rangers, trail crews and others. It is an integral part of Glacier's cultural legacy, and contributes to the unique character of the park's back-country landscape. The Belly River Ranger Station complex retains the classic configuration of structures (combination residence and office, barn, woodshed and fire cache) with few intrusions and excellent physical integrity. The local legendary Joe Cosley, the first Belly River District Ranger, lived at this site in the early years.
Located near the ranger station, a group of back country campsites known as Gable Creek Camp, lays a short distance off the trail. If you plan on camping in the back country, you must obtain a permit at a visitor center or ranger station. Nearly two miles past the ranger station, the trail crosses the Belly River on an impressive suspension bridge. At 8.2 miles, shortly after crossing the river, a spur trail branches off to the left leading to Dawn Mist Falls. The beautiful Dawn Mist Falls rushes over a moss covered cliff into a tranquil emerald pool. Take a break and enjoy the falls before returning along the same route.
Have no doubt, this is bear country. While hiking to Dawn Mist Falls, it's not uncommon to find bear tracks along side the trail. Bring bear spray and make lots of noise to avoid surprise bear encounters.
6.0 miles to Stoney Indian Pass Trail Junction
6.1 miles to the Belly River Ranger Station
7.6 miles to Cosley Lake Cut-Off Trail
9.3 miles to Elizabeth Lake Campground
10.9 miles to Upper Elizabeth Lake Campground
13.6 miles to Helen Lake Campground