If you’ve made it as far as Boulder Pass—host to the highest-altitude backcountry campsite in GNP, at 7600 ft.—the hardest part of the Boulder Peak climb is behind you. You can complete the rest—a pleasurable class II ramble from out the front flap of your tent—carrying nothing more than a daypack and in less than an hour, although you’ll probably be tempted to dally longer.
Boulder Peak does not reserve all of its splendor for the summit; as you ascend, you will no doubt find yourself ogling at teardrop-shaped Pocket Lake below, as well as peering back over your shoulder at the otherworldly rock formations along aptly named Boulder Pass below. Kinnerly and Kintla Peaks dominate the backdrop behind Pocket Lake, while Numa Ridge sweeps dramatically alongside them. To the northwest, Long Knife and its neighbors hulk just this side of the US-Canadian border.
The vista to the east is perhaps most exhilarating to backpackers bound in that direction; just beyond Boulder Pass are a series of cerulean melt-ponds to whose frosty charms more than one hiker has succumbed along the trail towards the near-perfectly curved Hole-in-the-Wall cirque. Before a staggeringly deep plunge from the cirque into the Bowman valley, the very impressive falls shoot through the eponymous hole in the wall. Mount Custer brings up the rear, easily identifiable by its westward-sweeping cap; to its east are the grassy slopes of Chapman Peak and, opposite the valley, Thunderbird Mountain.
Getting ThereThe Boulder Pass campsite is approximately 17 miles from the Kintla Lake trailhead, 14 miles to Goat Haunt (and a further 8 by foot or by ferry to Waterton townsite), and 20 miles from the Bowman Lake trailhead; all of these routes gain considerable altitude along the way.
While Boulder Pass is certainly the most convenient starting point for the climb, Boulder Peak is also a feasible day trip from Upper Kintla Lake, Hole-in-the-Wall, or Brown Pass.
Bear in mind that the Boulder Pass trail is typically one of the last in the park to open for the season, often remaining impassible due to snow conditions well into July or even August.
The RouteFrom the cairn marking the entrance to the campsite, the route is purely intuitive: wend your way up the broad, meadowed ridge until you reach the summit, which is just out of view from the pass.
A fee applies for entry into Glacier National Park, and advance permits are required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Permits for backcountry camping along the Boulder Pass trail are in high demand: if you aren’t able to reserve ahead, plan to arrive at the backcountry permit desk early in the morning and be flexible about alternative routes. If you plan to backpack into or out of Waterton Lakes National Park via Goat Haunt, additional procedures apply for backcountry border crossing; you will also need to pay a separate entry fee for the Canadian park. If you wish to spare yourself the 8 miles of trees from Goat Haunt to the Waterton townsite, carry some extra cash for the ferry.
Additional Views along the Way
Glacier National Park Homepage
Glacier Mountaineering Society
Non-government Glacier National Park Information
Goat Haunt-Waterton Townsite Ferry Schedule and Fare Information