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At 8,610 feet in elevation, Little Dog rises a little over 3,100 feet above Marias Pass on the southwestern border of Glacier National Park. Total distance to the summit is approximately 4.5 miles.
Little Dog Mountain is part of a trio of mountains located in Glacier National Park that are seen while driving across Marias Pass on U.S. Highway 2. To the northeast of Little Dog is Summit Mountain (8,770 feet) and further up the Continental Divide is Calf Robe Mountain (7,948 feet).
Summit, Little Dog and Elk Mountains from Firebrand Pass
This mountain is not a well known or even a destination climb. It is not mentioned in J. Gordon Edwards’ A Climbers Guide to Glacier National Park. The lack of publicity certainly has its benefits and Little Dog and its neighboring peaks, Summit, Calf Robe, Elk Mountain and Red Crow Mountain have been hiding some secrets. There are some fantastic climbs to be found by getting away from the crowds around the Logan Pass, Two Medicine and Many Glacier areas.
Challenging routes with spectacular views and few people; what more is needed?
Holterman writes that Little Dog Mountain is named for a Blackfeet chief who as a young man led war parties against white settlers and later began to understand the futility of a war against them and tried to promote peace between his nation, the Blackfeet, and white men.
It is believed that the name of this peak was once called Wolf Tail. Holterman writes that the peak in the Ole Creek drainage called Brave Dog was once named Little Dog and Wolf Tail was renamed Little Dog in honor of Chief Little Dog helping Isaac Stevens as he searched for Marias Pass. For more information on Marias Pass see A History of Glacier’s Passes: Part I.
It is reported that Little Dog and his son, “The Fringe”, who was also called “Never Tires,” were murdered by their own people in 1866 on their way home after returning some stolen horses to Fort Benton, Montana. Little Dog was regarded a tyrant by his own people and perhaps this was the motive for the murders.
Views from Little Dog Mountain into the Ole creek Drainage as well as the peaks along Park Creek to the northwest are similar to those on Summit Mountain which can be climbed in the same trip.
Google Earth Image
The Backbone from Lubec Lake Trailhead
Little Dog Mountain is located in the Clark Range of Southern Glacier National Park. It lies on the Continental Divide and is the first peak north of Marias Pass on U.S. Highway 2 between East and West Glacier, Montana. It lies approximately 2 miles from the highway and is easily seen as it abruptly rises from the Marias Pass area.
The Blackfeet Tribe believes this area is the backbone of the world. The Google Earth image to the right certainly illustrates how these mountains look like a backbone. It is from Little Dog Mountain and it's nearest neighbor Summit Mountain that the Continental Divide begins its march to the Canadian - United States border through Glacier National Park.
Trail access is located at Marias Pass. The Autumn Creek Trailhead, Marias Pass Access Point begins there and joins the Autumn Creek trail. At the junction the trail on the right fork continues for another 15.2 miles to to East Glacier, Montana. If you were to turn left at the junction you will arrive at U.S. Highway 2 west of Marias Pass in about 5.6 miles.
The trailhead is located across the highway from public parking lot at Marias Pass. Park near the Obelisk and statue of John Stevens and walk across the highway onto BNSF property. See this Trailhead Location photo for more help locating the trailhead.
The trail skirts through the pine and aspen groves while giving occasional glimpses up onto the incredible peaks along the Continental Divide as well as views into the plains of central Montana.
To visit Glacier National Park is to enter a place where Heaven touches Earth affording brief glimpses into the Wonders of Creation.
Vehicle single entry fee for Glacier National Park is $25.00 for 7 Days, $12.00 per person for single hiker, motor biker or bicyclist.
An "America The Beautiful Federal Lands Recreational Pass" goes for $80.00 which gives entrance to all National Parks, National Forests, BLM, US Fish & Wildlife, and Bureau of Reclamation sites for one year from date of purchase. See Plan Your Visit for other information regarding all of the National Park entrance fee information.
If you are planning on visiting Waterton Park make sure you have a passport.
You do not have to register for day climbs in Glacier National Park but it is recommended. Backcountry travel regulations can be found at Backcountry Travel. There is also information from the Park Service on Mountain Climbing in Glacier.
End of Grass Ramp
Scree Slog Begins
Solid Rocks- Finally
Little Dog from the Saddle
Summit of Little Dog
This is not an easy mountain to climb and therefore would be more challenging than many of Glacier's other peaks. Plan on a long day with plenty of challenged muscles on the ride home.
Routes up Little Dog are no more than Class 3 or 4 with good route finding.
A basic route to Little Dog Mountain, The Continental Divide Route, is to hike up the Autumn Creek Trail for 9/10 miles to the junction with a trail coming from near Elk Mountain and turn to the northeast (right). Follow this trail for about 1 mile until the second creek crossing that extends below the trail. The first creek crossing has a small bridge that has been built and is about ½ mile from the previous junction. At this point begin to climb along the stream bed following it as it winds its way to the open grassy slopes below the saddle between Little Dog and Summit.
Initially the footing is good on the vegetated slopes but as elevation is gain the footing becomes more difficult. The objective is to follow the grassy slope until above the yellow band of rocks. That is where the scree slog begins. See this Route Image for more visual details of the route.
Eventually, more solid rock is reached and the last 800 feet or so is much more enjoyable while ascending. Descending through this is less enjoyable so look for the more open areas with talus which aids in a rapid descent from the saddle.
Climbing to Little Dog from the saddle is straightforward until reaching a large block on the ridge. There are a few nice ways through that with some enjoyable Class 3 or 4 cliffs that are not difficult by any means. Another option is to walk along the base of the cliffs (to the right) and once pass them angle up to the summit ridge.
To descend we worked our way along the north side of the blockage and then traversed the scree field below the blockage. It is a quick trip down to the saddle from there.
Little Dog from Elk
View towards Little Dog and Summit from Firebrand Pass
There are also other routes available:
Southwest Ridge Route:
The Southwest Ridge Route can be climbed as well. Thanks to Fred and Moni Spicker for adding this great route.
Distance to the summit via the Southwest Ridge is about 4 miles. The descent via the Continental Divide Route is about 4 miles for a round trip of about 8 miles with an elevation gain of 3,400 feet from Marias Pass.
Most of the scrambling is Glacier Park Class 2 and 3 with perhaps a couple of places of 4 depending on the exact line chosen. The scrambling section covers about 1600 vertical feet over about 1 mile.
It is also possible to approach from Elk Mountain and walk along the ridge from there to the Little Dog Mountain.
J. Gordon Edwards also wrote that there is a goat trail that can be followed from Firebrand Pass to the top of Summit Mountain. There indeed is a goat trail that skirts below the northwest rib of between Calf Robe and Summit.
Looking down the route, climb up through the grassy ramps.
It would be possible to climb at any time of the year as access to this mountain is clearly available throughout the year due to its proximity to U.S. Highway 2. The highway is plowed year-round and the trailhead is easily reached from the plowed out parking area on the southern side of the highway.
Ideal times to climb are May to October. Climbers will experience a higher degree of challenge earlier and later in the season. Obviously additional gear is needed for climbs that are not done in the “normal” climbing season.
In the fall the Autumn Creek Trail would be an awesome place to come and listen to the elk bugle while they are in the “rut” or breeding season.
The Continental Divide in spring time splendor, KristinaAL photo
Bring the normal equipment and the USGS Glacier National Park map is sufficient for this climb.
The USGS quad maps associated with this area are Blacktail and Marias Pass.
There may be little water on this route after leaving the valley floor.
This is bear country! Bring bear spray and know how to use it.
As with all hiking and climbing in Glacier National Park use caution and practice good manners with the wildlife. You are in bear country. Carry bear deterrent spray, don’t hike alone and make some noise. For more information please go to the Park's website for Bear Information. The U.S. Forest Service also has helpful information on Grizzly Bear Management.
Crucial gear includes: water, sturdy footwear and a camera.
Get a Glacier National Park map from a local sporting goods store.
Camping is available at the USFS Marias Pass campground.
Looking into the Nyack region from Little Dog Mountain.