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Gunsight Pass Trail [CLOSED] is a 18.8 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near East Glacier Park Village, Montana that features a lake and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October.

Length 18.8 mi Elevation gain 3,727 ft Route type Point to Point

Backpacking

Camping

Fishing

Hiking

Nature trips

Bird watching

Forest

Lake

Views

Wild flowers

Wildlife

Snow

Closed

No dogs

Description
Waypoints (0)

This trail is experiencing full or partial closure due to COVID-19. Please see the open trails nearby for alternate hiking options. The Gunsight Pass Trail starts on Going to the Sun Road between Logan Pass and St Mary Lake and ending at the Lake McDonald Lodge. With day hike access to 2 glaciers, stunning scenery and 3,000 feet of total climb, it is deserving of a multi day backpacking experience.

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (50)
Photos (236)
Recordings (21)
Completed (154)
Natalie C
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Oct 24 2019
Hiking

We only went to Gunsight Lake and back, on a backpacking permit for one night. This is definitely doable as a day hike, and was very pretty. Walking along the meadow with the peaks on the other side was gorgeous. The hike itself was surrounded by tall lush greenery—we were constantly making noise to detract bears since we couldn’t see anything through the vegetation. The trail is a lot quieter and peaceful with less people. We did hike a little past the lake, as a short hike after setting up camp, but it was getting dark so we didn’t make it far. The views were gorgeous and more unique than the rest of the trails I did at Glacier. I would love to go back and do the whole pass hike. Also, we went in mid July and I’ve never seen so many wildflowers in my life!

Kevin Miles
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Sep 12 2019
Hiking

Breathtaking views through the entire hike. Start out with wooded trails and glacial views. Very challenging to get over the pass, but views from the top...amazing. Camped at Lake Ellen Wilson and out the next morning past the almost completed Sperry Chalet and on to Lake McDonald. This is an amazing trail, but very challenging. I highly recommend it!

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sal s
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Aug 21 2019
Hiking

Awesome!

Eric Phillips
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Aug 19 2019
Hiking

What a beautiful and varied trail. We completed it as a three night trip, which made it fairly relaxed in terms of mileage. We parked our car at Lake McDonald Lodge and took the shuttles to Jackson Glacier Overlook to the eastern trailhead. This required two shuttle transfers and took 1.5 hours so make sure to budget this time into your planning if you are choosing to do the trail this way. The first day we hiked 6.2 miles from Going to the Sun Road to our campsite at Gunsight Lake. In general be prepared for late afternoon - early evening showers along the whole trail. We got a late start from Jackson Glacier Overlook (around 3:30) and although we made it to Gunsight Lake with daylight to spare, we got poured quite a bit. The next day we climbed up from Gunsight Lake to up and over Gunsight Pass to Lake Ellen Wilson (5 miles total). We had fabulous weather for this whole hike and perfect visibility of the entire valley. We had seen a trail posting that indicated there might be lingering snowfields along the route but by August 15 the trail was clear. There's a nice hut at the top of the pass where we stopped and ate some lunch. From Gunsight Pass we descended down to our campsite at Lake Ellen Wilson and again were treated to perfect weather and fantastic views. In the area between Gunsight Pass and Logan Pass we saw numerous bear droppings, many of them quite fresh by the looks of them. Ultimately we passed three groups of people who had seen bears in this area, but had noneventful encounters (ex: a bear looked at a hiker, and then went back to foraging). We were making plenty of noise on the trail and didn't see a bear. But something to be mindful of in this area. Once past Gunsight Pass we also started to see mountain goats. We were warned beforehand by park rangers that there were "problem/nuisance" goats in this area, and were advised to yell at the goats and even throw rocks if the goats became too aggressive. The rangers didn't lie -- these goats were aggressive! They are interested in anything you have or produce that contains salt, including your clothes and especially your urine. If you choose to pee in sight of a goat be prepared for it to essentially charge you or the area where you peed to consume your pee for its salt. After Lake Ellen Wilson we hiked to Sperry Campground (~3 miles). At Logan Pass we climbed up to the left of the path up to the top of Logan Peak. I highly recommend taking the time to do this, as you are treated to panoramic views of Lake Ellen Wilson, Lincoln Lake, and the surrounding area. If you have heavy packs, take off your packs and have someone in your group always stay down at the bottom with your packs (but that person may need to be prepared to fend off some pesky goats). There are gorgeous views from Sperry Campground but beware that it is at a fairly high elevation (maybe 6900 feet) and it was quite cold at night (dropped down to the low 30s). Make sure to pack your clothing accordingly. In addition, even though the Sperry Chalet is closed due to construction, there is a dining hall open where you can stop for coffee or lemonade or hot chocolate, and they will even serve you dinner and breakfast if you chip in. Even if you forget your cash, they will still serve you and just request that you make a donation later online. This is a great option if you happen to get stuck in some cold rain up by Sperry and want a place to warm up. Plus the people who run the place are incredibly nice and have been running the establishment for multiple generations. The hike down from Sperry is all downhill, and you lose over 3,000 feet over the course of 6.5 miles. Be prepared to be a bit sore in the joints after this descent. All in all a breathtakingly gorgeous trip.

Brittney Leeb
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Aug 06 2019
Hiking

3 days 2 nights. Hubs and I parked our car and started at Jackson overlook around 7am. Hiked all the way to lake Ellen which was perfect. The first part of this hike to gunsight is CAKE. So easy and got a nice pace of about 2.5 mph. The hike from gunsight up and around to lake Ellen wasn’t bad but our pace average slowed up a bit. We wound up getting to lake Ellen campground around 1:30! Super early so we could’ve taken our time a bit more and maybe hit Jackson trail. The campsight was beautiful- a couple of goats were following us around looking to get to some of our salty clothes but didn’t bother us too much. Decided to do a short trek to Sperry camp and drop our packs at the amazing chalet there so we could take our day pack up to Sperry glacier. HIGHLY recommend doing it this way. Sperry glacier was the highlight of our trip and the folks at the chalet were amazing. Ended the day around 7pm and in the morning dropped our bags off again to do a quick trek up to Lincoln peak which was super sketchy... if you don’t like heights you’ll probably freak out a bit because it really is the epitome of the tip of a mountain. You can see lake Ellen fall into lake Lincoln from here but would’ve been prettier at night, not in the morning because the sun is glaring up there in the morning. Finished the hike to lake Mcdonald ... the decent down was not pleasant and wrecked havoc on our knees. It’s like 3 straight hours of steep decline and after 25 miles or so... yea not fun. But wouldn’t do it any other way!! Highly recommend this hike of a lifetime.

Alan Miller
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Aug 05 2019
Hiking

We did this trail as an All Things Glacier meetup with six people on July 28, 2019 from the Gunsight Pass Trailhead to Lake McDonald. The first six miles to Gunsight Lake is level, and then it begins a steady but not steep climb for several miles. There was a snow field to cross that half of the members chose to hike below since it is on a steep hillside. I did it with diamond spikes and poles without trouble. We saw mountain goats from around the snowfield and for the next several miles, but they were not aggressive as they can be if you hike by yourself. The views are astonishing and there are many waterfalls. The hike down to and up from Lake Ellen Wilson is not too strenuous. You will reach Lincoln Pass at about mile 13.5 and Lincoln Peak is a fairly easy short scramble with views of nearly the entire Lake McDonald. You will also see Sperry Chalet (under construction at this time). The rest of the hike is downhill and we did not see any wildlife but we did see lots of people who were exhausted coming up from that direction. If we had instead hiked up from Lake McDonald, the miles would have been much harder with little scenery until the Sperry area, so if you have done 10-15 mile hikes before with some uphill I’d recommend taking the Gunsight Pass trailhead ... if you do, the last 6-7 miles will be unexciting but will be downhill and are not challenging other than adding to the total mileage.

Cherisse Biddulph
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSat Aug 03 2019
HikingOver grownRockySnow

Amazing hike! We started at Jaskon trail on the east side, stayed at Lake Ellen Wilson then out at Lake McDonald to catch a shuttle back to the east side. For anyone who is not an experienced back country hiker or may be taking novice hikers with you, break this up into two nights staying at Gunsight lake then Lake Ellen Wilson or at the Sperry camp ground it will make the hike that much better. The ascent and descent will kick your butt so make sure to factor in that time because it does slow your pace down a bit. Novice hikers should start the hike no later than 10 am you do not want to be at the top of Gunsight pass in the dark it was extremely scary. For the snowfield you dont need hardcore crampons but do bring some type of traction that can attach to your boot.

Laura B
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jul 31 2019
Hiking

I did the entire trail yesterday from the Jackson Glacier look out to Lake MacDonald. It was amazing. We encountered some mountain goats and marmots along the way. There was only one small snow field to cross along the way. The last 10 km were a bit of a slog not much to see. Did it in about 10 hours.

Deon Hua
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Jul 25 2019
Backpacking

Beautiful hike with amazing views of Gunsight Lake + Lake Ellen Wilson. Did this hike a couple days ago, starting at Jackson Glacier Overlook, spending a night at Sperry Campground, and continuing through to Lake McDonald Lodge. It would've been nice to stay at Lake Ellen Wilson on a 2 day itinerary but that campground was closed when we made the attempt. Passed by a few snowfields along the way, but all could be bypassed / crossed with trekking poles and/or microspikes. We passed by many mountain goats along the way. There were also some persistent ones at Sperry Campground. The Sperry Chalet is being rebuilt, but there's some limited food service at the dining room!

Nick O
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarTue Jan 01 2019

Hiked August 2017. Started at St. Mary’s trailhead and hiked to Gunsight Lake. Took about 6.5 hours round trip and was well worth it. Hiked alongside a river/ marsh almost the entire way surrounded by mountains above us. This was perfect habitant for many animals as we saw Elk, Deer, and signs of Bear and Moose. Also available were endless huckleberry bushes to snack on. Highly recommend for a moderate and medium distance out and back.

Doug K.
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Sep 17 2018

Awesome trail. Only took it to the lake, but up the pass would totally be worth it. Consider breaking it into a couple nights at camp or pressing on LEW

Michal Ďuriška
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Aug 08 2018

best hike in the park for me so far, we did it in 2 day and camped at Lake Elen Wilson

JT McEntyre
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Aug 01 2018
Hiking

Did this as a through hike from Jackson Glacier Overlook to Lake McDonald Lodge. An incredible hike with extraordinary views. Saw 3 moose, and 7 mountain goats along the trail. If you’re looking to get away from the crowded trails in the park, this is one to do as I saw 12 people in total, not counting the last 1.5 miles when approaching the lodge. Absolutely recommend doing either as a through hike, or backcountry camping at one of the 3 sites along the way.

Jennifer cooper
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSun Jul 15 2018
Hiking

We did part of this trail, we started at the gunsight pass parking lot and went as far as we could which according to my gps watch was 8.6 miles, and 8 on my husbands apple watch, before we hit a big sheet of snow that we could not cross, this was above the lake before the pass, we tryed to test out a couple of feet, and couldn't do it, it is slippery snow and you can't really make foot holes with the running shoes we had on, maybe with clamp ons :/ most of the hike was scenic, we saw a moose that heard us from probably half a mile away and took off running. The trail was pretty overgrown, your legs are getting rubbed most of the trail.

Rob Gomez
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Jul 13 2018
Hiking

Did this hike from Jackson Overlook to Lake McDonald in a long day. It was absolutely stunning to go from the crowds of the Going To The Sun Road to nearly complete isolation near the top of the Pass. Bear spray is the obvious thing to bring but I would highly, highly recommend crampons and an ice ax for traversing the multiple long snowfields. I did not have them and would've really liked the peace of mind of having them because one bad step would've sent me tumbling quite a ways. Also keep an eye out for territorial mountain goats near the high spots and keep an eye out for construction at the Sperry Lodge as they rebuild from the 2017 fire.

Katie Wolff
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarWed May 30 2018

We only did a portion of this hike, but definitely enjoyed it! A little strenuous on the way back if you're out of shape, like myself, but it was worth it.

Ashley McClement
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu May 03 2018
Backpacking

Beautiful and the fishing is amazing.

Heather Schneider
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarMon Apr 02 2018

Beautiful views. Had to re route our campsites due to grizzly activity, which made for a long second day. But the grizzly’s were amazing when we did see see them. Make sure to bring a lot of water, especially if the lake is closed as there as no other place to get water. The rain left us a little soggy. Would love to try again with better conditions.

Drew Christiano
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Aug 09 2017
Hiking

My wife and I did this hike across 3 nights as part of our honeymoon, starting at Jackson Glacier Overlook and spending the first night at Gunsight Lake, the second night at Lake Ellen Wilson, and the third night at Sperry Campground. This is an absolutely incredible backcountry adventure, beginning with a solid descent into the Reynolds Creek valley, then flattening out alongside the St. Mary River until gradually climbing uphill after the footbridge approaching Gunsight Lake. A lot of this area requires navigating thick underbrush, with limited visibility, so be sure to make lots of noise to avoid unwanted wildlife (read: bears) encounters. The campground at Gunsight Lake was wonderful and fairly compact, in a good way. The campsites are in a row along a tree line next to the lake, with easy access to the pit toilet (an outhouse) and food prep/storage area. There's also many small foot paths that move you between these areas, as well as to the shore of the lake. One tip: be sure to get up early (6-6:30 AM) to catch the mist rising off of the meadow/lake. From Gunsight Lake you climb significantly to Gunsight Pass, all the while taking in the views from above. It's a long climb, but it never feels overly strenuous. Arriving at Gunsight Pass comes with a great sense of accomplishment, as well as a spectacular vantage point of Gunsight Lake and Lake Ellen Wilson below. The descent to Lake Ellen Wilson is a series of steep switchbacks, but nothing too daunting. Just when you think you've reached the campsite, however, you're met with another winding descent down, which isn't too bad on the way in, but will add another layer of difficulty when heading back out. The Lake Ellen Wilson campground is gorgeous and it's no wonder that it's such a coveted location. Our only complaint is that the pit toilet is a decent distance from the campsites and food prep/storage area, which in the grand scheme of things isn't a big deal considering it's better than finding a log and digging a hole. **One thing to note is that the entirety of this hike (and its campgrounds) are in prime bear habitat. While we didn't see any during our entire trip, we did see scat and there have been countless reports of bears in this area, so don't let your guard down or travel too far without your bear spray.** Heading out of Lake Ellen Wilson to the Sperry Campground isn't nearly as difficult as the hike out of Gunsight Lake, and for that we were thankful. On the way over Lincoln Pass a blanket of grey clouds rolled in and treated us to a brief shower—it didn't fall too long or too hard, and we enjoyed the smell of the fresh rain. Only a short 2.7mi hike later, we arrived at Sperry Campground. The Sperry Campground is situated along a short ridge line with sweeping views of Lake McDonald below, each campsite privy to the view. The food storage/prep area and the pit toilet (outhouse) are at the far end and have the best view. This was the one campground during our trip that we didn't spend much time in, as the delightful Sperry Chalet was only another 0.4mi down the trail, providing such comforts as a table and chairs for reading comfortably, and a hot grilled cheese with a glass of lemonade for lunch (we'd be lucky enough to score walk-in reservations for dinner that night, as well as having breakfast in the morning). While we were eating dinner at the chalet, a strong thunderstorm swept in, a testament to the unpredictable and constantly changing weather patterns of Glacier National Park. As we took in the spectacle of high wind gusts, rain, and lightning strikes from the porch, we watched in awe as a single bolt of lightning fell from the sky and struck only a short distance away behind the ridge line—a few minutes later, we watched as a large plume of smoke began rising behind from behind the trees. Our exit to Lake McDonald blocked by a burgeoning forest fire, we were forced to wake the next morning and unexpectedly hike back the 14mi to Jackson Lake Overlook. While the hike was as beautiful as on the way in, the grueling distance and elevation eventually took their toll, and we simply yearned for its end. An impressive 6 hours later and we caught a ride with some friends we'd made along the trail back to Logan Pass, catching a shuttle back to our car, our journey finally coming to an end.

KELLI Hughes
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarFri Apr 28 2017

Its a really nice day hike if you are staying at Sperry Chalet. Do bring water; sperry has a spigot to fill your bladder. There are grizzlies who frequent the trail. Bear spray is a MUST. It is excellent "negative" reinforcement for the bears to NOT interact with humans. After all Glacier is a bear habitat where they shut trails down to protect the bears. The unmanned Gunsight Pass chalet is a good place to chill and have your hikers lunch and get out of the elements if it should turn blustery wet and cold (it does in a heart beat) at the pass. Being in pretty good shape helps alot and having the right gear for the back country does too. Enjoy !

Felisity Cordell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Dec 28 2016

Beautiful scenic area. Bring bear mace

Michael Barfield
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSun Oct 23 2016
Backpacking

Beyond spectacular! Completed this epic journey from Sept. 29 - Oct. 1 and caught near-perfect weather. Plenty of water along the entire trail, so I recommend traveling with little water as long as you have a good purification system. The most challenging portion of the hike is the ascent above Gunsight Lake to the pass. Mountain goats followed me from just above Gunsight Lake all the way to Sperry campground, posing for pictures along the way while begging for food. Someone seems to have been careless because the goats were extremely friendly and had no problem walking within inches from me. Saw 7 bears between Gunsight Pass and Lincoln Pass, mostly on eastern side of Lake Ellen Wilson. Juvenile black bear charged me on the very narrow trail/ledge near the waterfall on the eastern side of Lake Ellen Wilson below the pass. He decided to turn around after coming as close as 35 feet, standing on his hind legs and growling at me. Don't dally on this portion of the trail as there's absolutely no room to maneuver on little more than a 2-foot wide trail with a steep drop off to certain death. I carry a small air horn that worked well in keeping the bears at a distance. Spray should be a last resort. I highly recommend this trail late in the season as there were no ice fields and the colors made the view all the more surreal. You'll need to wade through 2 creeks because the footbridges had been taken down by then. Definitely the best hike I've had in Glacier or anywhere else on the planet.

Kent Bondy
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jul 27 2016
Backpacking

Amazing views. I hiked from the trail head all the way to Mcdonnalds lake. Very amazing hike! Watch for goats and bears! The ice fields were sketchy, so bring ice axes or trek polls.

Derek Jett
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMon Jul 18 2016
Hiking

Amazing trail. Great condition. Marked perfectly. Hemlock grove and shade for first 2/3. And then mountain views for final 1/3 into sperry chalet. Amazing experience having lunch and coffee at chalet. We climbed 3400 ft in 6.4 miles.

michael anfang
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Nov 28 2015
Hiking

Great backpacking trip - amazing views from Gunsight Pass after a great night camped at the lake. Lots of mountain goats, and a bear was wandering around camp on the way down. A few snow fields to cross, but in mid September it had not yet started snowing yet and was doable just with hiking shoes.

jennifer ryan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarWed Jun 10 2015

Always check conditions before going to see if you need an ice axe like we did, but absolutely gorgeous!!!! Mountain goats, bears and marmots.

Keith Perry
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSat Jan 04 2014
Hiking

We trained last spring in Austin to prepare for this great hike. This trail is only open about 100 days per year! The trail is in good shape except for the initial Portion of the lower trail which needs serious trimming. Be sure to bring bear spray as this is bear haven! The trail views are absolutely spectacular and can only be seen from a plane or on this hike. Bring lots of water in late summer or bring water filter as we used both. We hiked in late august and while cool in the morning it got very warm in the afternoon sun and we went through about 40-50 ozs of water. You will encounter very friendly Mt goats on trail and two followed us for over a mile! Best to acclimate to altitude before trying some of Glaciers hikes-- allow 3-4 days. This is a serious hike but not technically hard. Just a long slow climb on day 1 crossing two Mt passes and crossing a snow field. Plan ahead (by6-9 months) and stay at Sperry Chalet on the Mt. Well worth the cost for a great meal, entertainment by the staff and a comfortable bed! The hike out is all downhill and enjoyable. We did it at age 60 to celebrate!! We plan on going back and doing it again! We took 8 1/2 hrs on day one and 4 hrs on day two and maintained a nice but enjoyable pace.

Paul Balmforth
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarThu Jul 18 2013
Hiking

Very nice hike with wonderful views along the way along with some side trails worth of exploring. We hiked the trail in early June and only passed by one other person on the trail that day. Although we had to navigate through snow for the final 1 1/2 miles, it was worth it. As my wife and I stood by Gunsight Lake we were treated to; not one but two, avalanches that created snow falls that drained into the lake for almost 20 minutes; and only we got to see it, spectacular. I highly recommend this hike anytime you are in East Glacier

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