At 8,580’ elevation, the High Point of the Dragon’s Tail is considerably lower than most of its nearby neighbors. However, it is an interesting and challenging climb as you will find if you fail to hit the correct route your first attempt. It can be climbed in 4 – 5 hours from the Logan Pass visitor center and provides some unusual perspectives of many more well known peaks surrounding it. Viewed from above (Mt Reynolds) it is easy to see where it got it’s name as it is an undulating ridgeline that makes up part of the Continental Divide.
Views to the west below the Dragon’s Tail are of beautiful Hidden Lake and for the adventurous mountaineer, a trip to the summit can be continued and linked with ridges that encircle the lake until dropping down near its shores beneath Bearhat Mountain and hiking out to the outlet where a good trail heads back up the lower flanks of Mount Clements for 3 miles back to the Visitor Center. The elevation gain from Logan Pass is about 1,950'. Distance to the summit is about 3.5. miles.
Glacier National Park is located in the NW part of the state and extends up to the Canadian border which it shares with Waterton National Park of Canada. The nearest airport is Kalispell. Amtrac stations are in Whitefish, W Glacier and E Glacier. Depending on your travel plans, it may be worthwhile to fly to Spokane, WA and pick up a rental vehicle. Some rentals there may be more user friendly on multiple state use and mileage allowances as well as price.
Dragon’s Tail is located in the Logan Pass area of the park which sits near the middle of the Going to the Sun Road atop the Continental Divide. You can access the Going to the Sun Road at the park entrances at West Glacier or at St Mary and from either location you head toward the opposite end of the road until reaching the Logan Pass.
Registration for day climbs in Glacier National Park is recommended, but not mandatory.
National Park entrance fees apply in Glacier National Park. See Entrance Fees
There are many camping sites available at Glacier Park; backcountry, as well as car camping. Due to the large number of grizzly and even larger number of black bears who inhabit the area, there are strict guidelines for storage of food. Most of the backcountry campgrounds have facilities for hanging your food from cables or bear proof poles, but you need adequate lines to hoist your packs, etc 15 or 20 feet off the ground. If you are seeking an “undesignated area” camping permit, the rangers may require you to use a bear barrel to protect your food. When we backpacked in to Buffalo Woman Lake, they loaned us a bear barrel since they did not think we could find adequate tree limbs for hanging our food, etc. Hanging your packs is a good idea, since I have seen damaged packs from chewing by rodents. The GNP rangers require you to view an informational video annually before you can purchase your first backcountry permit.
GNP Campground Status and Info
Backcountry Camping Info
Backcountry Camping Sites
Guidebook: A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park
Trail guide: Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks
Glacier Mountaineers Society
Start at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and hike up the trail to the Hidden Lake Overlook for more than a mile to where the trail hits a grassy
Leaving the trail
plateau beneath the east slopes of Mt Clements beyond the east face. This area is very fragile and be careful to find the path that is used to cross it on the way to the standard climbs of Mt Reynolds and Heavy Runner. Leave the Hidden Lake trail and head on a perpendicular bearing toward Mt Reynolds.
Saddle NW of Reynolds
This path gradually ascends on a long traverse to the saddle northwest of Mt Reynolds (approx 7,900' elev) and then continues south around the west side of
Route to saddle between Reynolds and Dragon's Tail
Reynolds to the saddle between Reynolds and Dragon’s Tail (DT). This is where it is easy to get snookered into a climb to the first summit of DT which at 8,492’ is nearly 100’ less than the true summit. The cliffs guarding both sides of a huge gap
Gap in ridge
in the ridge between the two will force your retreat back to the saddle where you started unless you want to turn this into a technical climb on rotten rock!
So, the correct route drops down on the southeast side of the saddle
gradually to skirt below the cliffs on that side of DT for about ½ mile until you reach the ledge that leads to a broad couloir that can be climbed to the ridgetop before you reach the true summit. I dropped about 100’ on the traverse from the saddle (7,900') before reaching the ledges. Once you find the correct ledge which is well marked with cairns initially, follow it for about ½ mile until you round a bend and see the broad couloir which will get you through the tough cliff band that follow DT for most of its length. (You will gain about 500’ gradually as you climb along the ledge)
From the base of the couloir be careful to mark your start so you can find the correct ledge upon return!
The climb here is the crux of the route and can be very difficult if route finding skills are not carefully exercised. In general, I found that staying to the right side of the couloir offered the easiest moves and none were harder than Class 3. After carefully picking your way up about 400’ you will top out on the ridge and should again carefully note where you want to start back down upon return.
Ridgetop view of summit
From this point, you can see the summit further down the ridge to your left and it is a nice hike up to it along the ridgetop.