Gunsight Pass Trail
Includes Gunsight Lake, Gunsight Pass, Lake Ellen Wilson, Lincoln Pass, Lincoln Peak, Sperry Chalet
Gunsight Pass Trail in Glacier National Park.
Gunsight Pass Trail
The Gunsight Pass Trail is one of the most spectacular hikes in Glacier National Park, and it's only for hikers that are in good physical condition because it's 20 miles long and over 7,000 vertical feet either gained or lost. Whether you choose to hike the entire trail in one day, or choose to make it a 2 or 3 day overnight backpacking adventure, every step of the way is beautiful and very diverse. You will see so many different landscapes that it will absolutely astound you. So if you're up for it, this famous hike is very much worth your while!
How to logistically do this is to park your car at the Lake McDonald Lodge, and catch the first morning shuttle up to Logan Pass. At Logan Pass, grab another shuttle (a big bus) down the other side toward St. Mary (east). Jump off at the Jackson Glacier Turnout, and begin your hike there. If you're day hiking, some folks choose to stay at the Sperry Chalet for the night, while others briefly visit the Sperry Chalet and then keep heading down the mountain to their car that is waiting for them at Lake McDonald Lodge.
Popular Overnight Backpack or Day Hike
The Gunsight Pass Trail is not only a popular day hike, but is also a very popular 2 to 3 night backpacking opportunity. With backcountry campsites located at Gunsight Lake, Lake Ellen Wilson, and near the Sperry Chalet, you can take your time and really enjoy this beautiful area!
We could write a book on what you'll see on the hike on Gunsight Pass Trail- the diversity and variety of the landscapes, wildlife and vegetation are unbelievable. But instead of giving you all the details, we'll let you discover them on your own. But we will give you an overview of what you'll see...
Jackson Glacier Turnout (mile 0.0)
The Jackson Glacier Turnout along the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier Park is where your Gunsight Pass Trail hike will begin. First, you'll walk DOWNHILL into the Reynolds Creek Valley, where you'll lose about 650 vertical feet. As you work your way back up the other side (crossing several foot bridges along Reynolds Creek), you will see the great Mount Jackson (10,052 feet) looming to the south. You will walk by beautiful marshes created by Reynolds Creek, and you will also get a great view of the Jackson-Blackfoot Glacier Complex to the left of Mount Jackson. The Gunsight Pass Trail takes you closer and closer to Mount Jackson, until you eventually reach the incredible, turquoise colored Gunsight Lake which lies under the west slope of this great mountain.
Mount Jackson will dominate the landscape as you head toward Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park. Gunsight Pass is located just to the right of Mount Jackson (west), and the trail will take you partially up the west face of Mount Jackson to get you there.
The hike between Reynolds Creek and Gunsight Lake in Glacier National Park is incredibly beautiful, with large open meadows.
Gunsight Lake (mile 6.2)
Gunsight Lake is a great place to have a snack while hiking the Gunsight Pass Trail in Glacier National Park. You can clearly see Gunsight Pass in the distance in this photo.
At mile 6.2 you will reach Gunsight Lake. This beautiful lake is the classic turquoise color due to the heavy glaciation occuring in the surrounding mountains. Near the lake to the north is the Gunsight Lake Backcountry Campground, which is where you'll stay for the night if you're overnight backpacking.
From Gunsight Lake, the Gunsight Pass Trail begins to work its way south, climbing partially up the west face of Mount Jackson. Gunsight Lake is below you to your right, and the views all around are breathtaking! This ascent is gradual, and it eventually leads you to Gunsight Pass. Each step of this section of the hike becomes even more spectacular as you climb higher and higher in elevation!
This is a view from the Gunsight Pass Trail in Glacier National Park. The trail is climbing partially up the west slope of Mount Jackson. The view of Gunsight Lake becomes more incredible with each step, as you climb higher and higher.
Another view from the Gunsight Pass Trail in Glacier Park. Directly above Shannon is Gunsight Pass, where the trail will eventually take you.
Gunsight Pass (mile 9.2)
The views from Gunsight Pass (elevation 6,946 feet) in Glacier Park are wonderful! You will see Gunsight Lake to the north, and Lake Ellen Wilson to the south. Gunsight Pass is directly between two giant mountains- Mount Jackson to the east and Gunsight Mountain to the west, so at the pass you are directly underneath both of these monsters. You will also notice a little stone warming hut at the top of Gunsight Pass. This historic warming hut is quite welcome if the wind is really blowing- and yes, the wind is quite often blowing on this famous pass. Along with the spectacular scenery, you will also likely see mountain goats hanging around Gunsight Pass as well.
At the top of Gunsight Pass (elevation 6,946 feet) in Glacier Park there is an old historic warming hut that is quite a welcome sight if the wind is howling! In this photo you can see a small portion of Lake Ellen Wilson to the south of Gunsight Pass.
There is almost always mountain goats hanging around Gunsight Pass, which is quite a treat!
This is a view of Lake Ellen Wilson from Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park. You are facing straight south.
Lake Ellen Wilson (mile 10.9)
From Gunsight Pass, the Gunsight Pass Trail begins to steeply descend down to Lake Ellen Wilson to the south. You will descend about a thousand vertical feet before you reach the Lake Ellen Wilson Backcountry Campground. At mile 10.9 you'll reach the junction that takes you to Lake Ellen Wilson Backcountry Campground (0.3 miles) where you may choose to spend the night, or you may choose to keep going up and over Lincoln Pass and stay the night at the Sperry Backcountry Campground. From the campground you'll begin the ascent up to Lincoln Pass.
We photographed this mountain goat kid on the way down to Lake Ellen Wilson from Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park.
Lincoln Pass (mile 12.1)
Lincoln Pass (elevation 7,050 feet) is the highest point along the Gunsight Pass Trail, and is a welcome sight because the rest of your hike is all downhill all the way to Lake McDonald Lodge. The climb from Lake Ellen Wilson is quite abrupt, as you gain over 1,000 vertical feet in a little over a mile.
The views from Lincoln Pass are terrific, but if you REALLY want an incredible view, hike up the well worn hiker's trail to Lincoln Peak (to your left). This short hike will take you to the summit of Lincoln Peak, and the views all the way around are absolutely fantastic. (If you are backpacking, someone needs to stay with the overnight packs as the rest of your group scampers up Lincoln Peak. NEVER EVER leave a backpack unattended- ever!)
This is a view to the north from Lincoln Peak. Mount Edwards is to the left and Gunsight Mountain is to the right.
This is another view from the summit of Lincoln Peak. Lake Ellen Wilson is at the base of Mount Jackson (to the left) and Lincoln Lake is to the right. Notice the amazing 1,344 foot Beaver Chief Falls between these two lakes!
Sperry Chalet (mile 13.3)
As you keep heading northward from Lincoln Pass along the Gunsight Pass Trail, you'll hike by the Sperry Backcountry Campground at mile 13.2. This is another place to overnight if you are backpacking this trail. Just about a tenth of a mile beyond the campground is the famous Sperry Chalet, which is always a treat to explore. The historic Sperry Chalet is an icon of Glacier National Park, and is a special bonus along the Gunsight Pass Trail. You are now only 6 miles from Lake McDonald Lodge.
Lake McDonald Lodge (mile 20.0)
From the Sperry Chalet, the rest of your hike (Now called the Sperry Trail) is all downhill. You will descend over 3,432 vertical feet in about 6.4 miles. Whether you chose to overnight this hike or simply did it all in one day with a light day pack, you'll be glad to finally reach the Lake McDonald Lodge and rest your legs at the lodge's famous fireplace.