ElevationAscent: 3,711' 1,131 m
Descent: -5,733' -1,747 m
High: 7,027' 2,142 m
Low: 3,232' 985 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 45% (24°)
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“A long hike from the Jackson Glacier Overlook, over Gunsight Pass, to the Lake McDonald Lodge.”— Jake Bramante
From here, the trail begins to gain some elevation. The higher the trail climbs, the more the trees thin out and the better the views of the peaks around you become. Continue for around 2.2 miles from the Florence Falls Trail, reaching the incredible shore of Gunsight Lake at the Gunsight Lake Campground. This is a great spot to take a break for lunch looking up to Gunsight Pass and the walls surrounding the lake as they roar with waterfalls coming down them.
At Gunsight Lake’s outlet, the trail crosses a wooden bridge and continues to the right ( Jackson Glacier Trail heads to the left). The trail begins to switchback up Mt. Jackson’s north face as the terrain begins to shift from dense vegetation to rockier, scree slopes. Be on the lookout for mountain goats and other alpine mammals like marmots in this rockier terrain.
The views of the emerald-colored Gunsight Lake get more incredible. The lake's color is due to the suspended particles of rock that were ground down by shifting glaciers. These small particles are referred to as "glacial flour." Across the lake, the south side of Gunsight Mountain features numerous cascades that plummet down its face. Be prepared for late-season snow crossings that require necessary gear such as an ice ax and crampons as you get closer to the shelter cabin at Gunsight Pass.
Coming to the top of Gunsight Pass, you'll get your first views of Lake Ellen Wilson and beyond into the west side of the park. From here, drop down the rocky slopes to a creek crossing at the base of a waterfall that can be flowing strongly, depending on the snowpack and time of year. The trail then bends around the north side of the lake and begins to climb for the final push towards Lincoln Peak and Lincoln Pass below it. This area has frequent mountain goats that can be aggressive. Give them room on the trail, and DO NOT feed them, as this leads to further aggressive behavior.
From Lincoln Pass, head down along the switchbacks for close to a mile until you reach the historic Sperry Chalet. This is another great spot to take a break before the final descent to the Lake McDonald Lodge.
After Sperry Chalet, the trail heads down for another six miles or so first paralleling Sprague Creek, then crossing over the ridge to Snyder Creek. It crosses Snyder Creek and then parallels it down to Lake McDonald Lodge. You can either leave a car here or use the park's shuttle to return to your car at Jackson Glacier Overlook.
This content was created by Jake Bramante of Hike 734. Visit hike734.com for more expert Glacier content and maps that help you decide which trail to hike.
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Land Manager: NPS - Glacier National Park