Backpackers revel in the Belly River. In this corner of Glacier National Park, deep lake-filled valleys divide immense red mountains. Waterfalls plunge down cliffs, and wildflowers bloom along paths. For anglers, lakes harbor hungry arctic grayling and wild trout.
Only trails wander through these mountains. No roads. Most who explore the Belly backpack for several days. But the routes are favored by local horseback riders, too. Tenting overnight requires a backcountry permit.
The historic Belly River Ranger Station commands a pastoral setting in wildflower meadows below the Gable Mountain. Views from its meadows take in Mt. Cleveland, the park’s highest peak. The three Stoney Indian spires flank its south ridge.
Adjacent to the ranger station, Gable Campground tucks into the trees. Most hikers launch from Chief Mountain Customs Trailhead to camp here on their first night.
From the ranger station, trails run up two Belly River valleys. In the northern valley, Mokowanis, Glenns and Cosley Lakes snuggle below Mt. Cleveland and Mt. Merritt. The southern drainage contains Helen and Elizabeth Lakes. Every lake has idyllic backcountry campsites.