THE BIG DIVIDE
FIVE PASS-RED EAGLE LOOP GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MT
WHEN RAIN OR SNOW falls on Triple Divide Peak, it ultimately ends up in one of three very different places: the Pacific, Atlantic, or Arctic Oceans. The 8,020-foot peak sits at the junction of the Continental and Laurentian Divides—one of the only spots on Earth where three oceanic drainages meet. Hike through all three watersheds— and savor eyefuls of the near-perfect pyramid-shaped peak—when you circle it on a four-day, 44-mile loop.
From the Cut Bank trailhead, follow the Cut Bank Pass and Triple Divide Trails along Atlantic Creek (which drains into the Missouri River and eventually the Atlantic Ocean). Camp beside the creek near mile 4.3 to gear up for a big day two: Crest the 7,397-foot pass, savoring vistas down to jade Medicine Grizzly Lake and across the spine of Razoredge Mountain, before continuing across Hudson Bay Creek (which eventually empties into Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean). Camp at the south end of Red Eagle Lake with a view of Split Mountain’s distinct turret at mile 14.2. The next morning, backtrack 1.2 miles and bushwhack up Red Eagle Creek, keeping your eyes open for an abandoned trail at the end of the valley. (Note: Always travel in groups and practice bear safety; this is griz country.) Make sure it isn’t a game trail, then follow the snaking path over 6,400-foot Red Eagle Pass to the Nyack Creek Trail at mile 26. From there, it’s just over 2 miles east to the Upper Nyack Campground, tucked at the bottom of a long, wooded valley. The final day, cross Pacific Creek (which ends up in the Flathead River and Pacific Ocean) and climb Cut Bank Pass before descending back to your car.
Trailhead Cut Bank Season June to September Permit Required ($7/person per night); obtain at the St. Mary Visitor Center. Climb Triple Divide Peak Triple Divide Trail (class 2); 2,400 feet in 7.4 miles from Cut Bank trailhead Contact nps.gov/glac