Dancing Lady Mountain stands above East Glacier and provides a photogenic background for the historic Glacier Park Lodge. Though it is not particularly high, its location yields good views into the southeastern part of the Park, the ranges south of the Park and out onto the seemingly endless hills and plains of eastern Montana.
There are two summits. The southern point is the highest at 7,353 feet. The northern point is 7,333 feet. From below the notch between the two appears formidable, but it is easily negotiated if you wish to do so.
The climb of Dancing Lady is not difficult and can be completed in a day from East Glacier. If you have the time and energy, Edwards recommends a scenic walk along the long ridge that extends several miles to the southwest of the summit.
Dancing Lady was previously named Squaw Mountain and still appears under that name on most maps and in A CLIMBER'S GUIDE TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK; J. Gordon Edwards
The name change took place in 1999 (article).
In PLACE NAMES of GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, Holterman states that at one time the mountain had the Blackfeet name Íkalo meaning Small Lady. This, apparently in honor of the mother of Chief Curly Bear.
The Glacier National Park Administrative History Site attributes the name Squaw Mountain to the free standing pillar of rock on the east side of the peak known as The Old Squaw because from some angles it resembles an Indian woman wearing a shawl or blanket. This name was meant to be symbolic of Blackfeet women waiting for the return of the buffalo. Now, of course, the term squaw is considered by many to be sexist and racist.
To the best of our knowledge, the name of the rock pillar has not been changed.
Holterman states that the new name of the mountain is based on information from local tribe members and derived from the sacred dancing at summer powwows and Sun Lodge ceremonies.
The mountain is approached from the Autumn Creek Trail which is a section of the Continental Divide trail between East Glacier and Marias Pass. The shortest most reasonable approach is to start from East Glacier.
Even though this is seemingly a major trail, the trailhead in East Glacier is not marked at least as of August. 2007. Various descriptions have it starting at either the local Ranger Station or "just behind the Glacier Park Lodge".
To reach the trailhead, turn west off Highway 49 on the Midvale Creek Road. The road immediately curves to the south and in a short distance – behind the Glacier Park Lodge – you will cross Midvale Creek on a new bridge. Shortly past the bridge is the driveway to a new house. This driveway would be the logical trailhead, but apparently the owners object so the house must be gone around. The next road to the right accomplishes this – marked in 2007 by a small falling down building. This is the trailhead.
The trail is in fact a road from this point to the Park boundary. There are several places along the road with very deep ruts that would require a high clearance vehicle to get past. There are no signs saying that one cannot drive the road, but there are a couple of considerations. The road crosses Blackfeet tribal land and off road driving is frequently prohibited during times of high fire danger. Inquire locally before considering driving the road. Otherwise, most everyone considers this to be the start of the trail and from here to where one leaves it to climb Dancing Lady it is a very easy one to one and one half hour walk.
From the falling down building, follow the main fork of the road to the right through an aspen grove. There are occasional orange tags on trees. When you come out behind the house mentioned above, there are several signs (facing away from you going in) directing trail traffic back the way you came. This will confirm that you are on the correct track. Follow the main branch of road from here to the Park Boundary where there are trail signs etc.
The distance to the summit is approximately 5 miles (ground distance) with an elevation gain of about 2,533 feet.
TRAIL STATUS REPORT You are looking for Summit and Autumn Creek Trails Firebrand Jct. to Midvale Cr. Trailhead.
Red TapeAs per the National Park Service: "A $10.00 Blackfeet Tribal Conservation Permit is required by each person (regardless of age) who crosses the reservation at the East Glacier end of this trail. Crossing the reservation is unavoidable to get to or from East Glacier."
Current Entrance Fees
Registration for day climbs in Glacier National Park is recommended, but not mandatory.
Outdoor Activity Page Includes links to boating, bicycling, fishing, etc. and the regulations applying to each.
Climbing Dancing Lady
GUIDEBOOK: A CLIMBER'S GUIDE TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK; J. Gordon Edwards
The rock on most of the mountain is very bad even by Glacier Park standards. The Southeast Ridge as described in the Edwards guide is the most reasonable way to the top. We would rate this climb GMS II(2)MS.
Leave the trail where is passes close under the east side of the mountain and make your way through the timber and meadows to tree line then angle southwest to the Southeast Ridge. The ridge and adjoining southeast face are climbed easily on nothing more than Class 2 terrain. Edwards says Class 2 & 3, but we found no Class 3.
Much of the way is on very loose scree making upward travel a pain, but conversely coming down is great with a lot of scree running possibilities.
Coming down, we found a wonderful game trail that led from tree line to the trail mostly through meadows with little travel through the trees. It joins the main trail nearly at one of the orange tabs marking the trail. This tab is on a small dead tree – the photo to the left shows the spot – photo facing direction of travel on the way in. If you can find this it will make the trip to tree line more pleasant.
Summit ViewsClick on individual photos for the larger version and captions that include more detail and peak identifications.
Camping and Accomodations
There are campgrounds and accommodations available in the East Glacier area. The following links provide a good start and overview.
East Glacier Accommodation Guide
Lodging and Camping in East Glacier Park
Montana Travel Guide
There are also campgrounds within Glacier National Park. The nearest to East Glacier is the Two Medicine Campground.
Backcountry Camping Page
Car Camping Page
Conditions & WeatherWeather Page an overview with a link to the local forecast.
External LinksGlacier National Park Homepage
Glacier Mountaineering Society
Non-government Glacier National Park Information