“GLEN” – a secluded narrow valley (Merriam-Webster)
As far as glens go, this one checks all the boxes. The scenic two-mile stretch of the Dearborn River known as “Devil’s Glen” has it all – beautiful narrow canyons, waterfalls, deep clear pools, rapids, sunny meadows. I’ve visited several times on my way up to, or down from Steamboat Mountain, however this was the first time I’ve been there with snow on the ground. We’ve had an extraordinary amount of snow this winter, so my friends (Mark, Gerry) and I planned to wear snowshoes for our trip into Devil’s Glen this past Monday. As it turned out, the snow was so crusted over and hard that we were able to walk on top of it, making for a much easier hike than anticipated. We left Helena at 7 am, drove 70 miles to the trailhead, enjoyed our first hike of the spring (10 miles round-trip), and were home by 3:30 – in plenty of time for my 4 o’clock nap. (Photo Tour)
Lots of bang for your buck.
It’s an easy walk to the lower end of Devil’s Glen (~2.5 miles with less than 800 ft. of elevation gain). The trail starts at the end of the Dearborn Canyon Road 20 miles southwest of Augusta. The first part is nothing to write home about – It parallels a private road through an area with several cabins. However, things start to pick up at the 1.2-mile mark where a stock bridge crosses the Dearborn River. From there the surroundings become increasingly wild with every mile walked (prime grizzly and moose habitat). At the 2.5-mile mark the trail reaches the lower end of Devil’s Glen where the Dearborn flows out of a narrow canyon into a deep pool suitable for swimming on a hot day. Hikers can take in the view from the trail, or scramble down to the river for a much better vantage point – an ideal destination for novice hikers or families with children.
Pull up a rock and relax.
Those who want to see more should continue up the trail. There are several good places to wander a short distance off-trail and gaze at the river from cliffs, or walk down to enjoy river-views of the intermittent canyons. Mark, Gerry, and I hiked to the far end of Devil’s Glen, to a scenic spot along the river about 5 miles from the trailhead where we ate lunch before starting back. In the summer, this is a great place to relax on a rock, take a dip in the cold water, and enjoy some of the best that Devil’s Glen has to offer. This is also where you can go off-trail and follow a steep ridge to the summit of Steamboat Mountain – a difficult, but very rewarding hike (another 2.5 miles one-way with 3,000 ft. of gain – see link below).
Got a favorite river?
I haven’t seen them all, but my choice is the Dearborn. It starts at the base of Scapegoat Mountain along the Continental Divide, flows for approximately 70 miles, dumping into the Missouri River between Helena and Great Falls. The river has three very unique parts – The upper portion (including Devil’s Glen) flows through the rugged terrain of Scapegoat Wilderness and the Dearborn Canyon, the middle portion crosses prairie on the western edge of the Rocky Mountain Front, and the lower Dearborn winds its way through the remains of an ancient volcano. I’ve floated or hiked most of it, and have even explored its headwaters. Below are links to photo albums, etc. from days I’ve spent enjoying the Dearborn River (plus links to other resources).
- Photo Tour of our hike to Devil’s Glen on March 26, 2018
First hike of the spring – Still plenty of snow in the area.
- Map of the part of the Devil’s Glen area in the Dearborn Canyon.
Zoom in to see more detail.
- Photo Album: Hike to Steamboat Mountain via Devil’s Glen.
Completed July 1, 2015 (15 miles round-trip).
- Blog post: Backpacking through Dearborn’s headwaters area.
Completed in August of 2018.
- Blog post: Backpacking trip that included Steamboat Mtn.
Trip completed in July of 2018.
- Facebook Album: Float Trip on the Lower Dearborn.
Nineteen mile raft trip completed in June 2016.
- Article from The Missoulian.
More about the three unique parts of the Dearborn.
- Current streamflows on the Dearborn.
Hikers want less than 200 cfs to see the beauty of Devil’s Glen, rafters want at least 250 cfs to float the lower portion.
Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.
What a beauty! You had me a bit nervous…on some of the photos looks like you’re kinda close to the edge of that lovely river. I’ve never thought to look up “Glen”…now I know, thanks!
you don’t really mention where the trail head is other than 70 miles north of Helena.
Ron – I included a map in the photo tour that shows how to get there, and the second paragraph gives directions too.