“A long hike from the Jackson Glacier Overlook, over Gunsight Pass, to the Lake McDonald Lodge.”
— Jake Bramante
Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Bring bear spray.
This incredible 20-mile hike from the Jackson Glacier Overlook to Lake McDonald Lodge
will take you past mint green lakes, incredible vistas, and sheer rock walls roaring with waterfalls.
Need to Know
If spending the night at Sperry Campground or Sperry Chalet, climb Lincoln Peak after dinner and hike to Sperry Glacier the next morning before coming down.
To access this hike, park at the Jackson Glacier Overlook parking area. Head to the east end of the parking area and look for the Gunsight Pass sign. The first four miles of the hike head mostly through the trees, descending into the valley from the overlook. After 1.2 miles, the trail comes to a "T" intersection. Turn right onto the Gunsight Pass Trail
where it roughly parallels the St. Mary River. The trail breaks from the trees at the scenic Mirror Pond then continues on in the trees, passing the junction with Florence Falls
at mile 4.3.
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.
Flora & Fauna
A little bit of everything that Glacier has to offer from thimbleberry and arnica to beargrass and low growing alpine shrubs in the scree. Tree squirrels, ground squirrels, pika, marmots and chipmunks are among the small mammals you'll see. Mountain goats, moose, deer, and bear may be spotted as well.
History & Background
Trail was used by the horse concessionaires well before the Going-to-the-Sun Road was built. The shelter cabin and chalets were built by the railroad, thus the GNR on one of the chalets. Note the "Going-to-the-Sun Point
" on the sign at the cabin is in reference to the modern day "Sun Point
" which used to house the Going-to-the-Sun Point
Chalet and was where the boats dropped guests off. They would get on horses there and take them over either Piegan Pass to Many Glacier or over Gunsight Pass to Lake McDonald.