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Glacier National Park: Gunsight Pass Trail

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Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 19.3 miles


Ride Amtrak to Glacier's back door, then hike this 19.7-miler past glacial lakes and cascades and over two gorgeous passes.
  • Jackson Glacier
  • Deadwood Falls
  • Bear Grass
  • Thimbleberry
  • Falls
  • St. Mary Valley
  • Suspension Bridge
  • Mountain Goat
  • Mountain Goat
  • Gunsight Shelter
  • Trailside Falls
  • Sperry Pond
  • Sperry Camp

Stretching 19.5 miles and connecting St. Mary Valley with Lake McDonald, this 3-day trek begins at the Gunsight Pass Trailhead. Enjoy Jackson Glacier from the viewpoint before heading downhill toward Deadwood Falls and the St. Mary River valley. The trail turns west into the valley before climbing an open cliffside to the Gunsight Camp, a great spot to end day one.

Day two: Begin with a bouncy suspension bridge crossing that leads to a 2.9-mile ascent to Gunsight Pass. You’ll likely spot mountain goats as the trail traverses vertical cliffs of the Helena formation en route to the 6,947-foot pass. The steep, switchback descent on the pass’ west side ends near a towering waterfall at the head of Ellen Wilson Lake. The trail traces the hillside above the lake before climbing to the route’s high point at Lincoln Pass. Stop for the day at Sperry Campsite, just half a mile from the pass. For a backcountry treat, consider making an advance reservation for a room or meal at the nearby Sperry Chalets instead of cooking or sleeping under the stars. The final 6 miles of trail descend through the Sprague Creek valley toward Lake McDonald and the lodge, be sure to check out Beaver Medicine Falls on the way down.

Note: This point-to-point hike requires a shuttle, but the park service busses run regularly throughout the summer are a simple way to access both trailheads without parking multiple cars.

PERMIT: Overnight camping in Glacier National Park requires a backcountry permit. Check out the latest fees and more details at nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm.

MORE PARK INFO: Glacier National Park, (406) 888-7800; nps.gov/glac/.

-Mapped by Richard Menicke and Charlie Williams

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