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Backpacker Magazine – January/February 2010

Readers' Choice Mountain West: Gunsight Pass, Glacier NP

See the park's famed glaciers from a high mountain pass.

by: Midwest Reader Map Team

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Gunsigth Pass, Glacier NP (Chuck Haney)
Gunsigth Pass, Glacier NP (Chuck Haney)


See which other trips made it into our annual awards.

Santa Maria Spring, Grand Canyon NP | Mr. Bubbles, Yellowstone NP | West Maroon Pass, CO | Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain NP | The Colorado Trail | Gunsight Pass, Glacier NP

“The best view in the park, if not the whole country.” That’s what Jerry Kessler promises hikers who trek from St. Mary Lake to Lake McDonald via Gunsight Pass.

Day one Begin this 25-miler at the Jackson Glacier Overlook. Follow the Piegan Pass Trail for 1.3 miles, dropping gradually to Reynolds Creek and 30-foot high Deadwood Falls. Turn right onto Gunsight Pass Trail and ascend through moss-covered pines. At four miles, pass Florence Falls Trail and continue toward Gunsight Pass. Reach Gunsight Lake at 6.5 miles and follow the trail along its south shore to see 9,258-foot Gunsight Mountain reflected in its waters. Bounce across a suspension bridge before sweating up 1,600 feet over three miles to 6,946-foot Gunsight Pass.

Gape at the Lewis Range to the southeast, but keep an eye on the clouds. If thunderstorms threaten (common in summer after 2 p.m.), duck into the stone hut to wait it out (safety up high is better than the long descent to treeline). Then drop 1,000 feet in one mile to camp at Lake Ellen Wilson (permit required).
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Reader Rating: -


Aug 14, 2011

We could argue about the best hike in Glacier until the cows come home or the grizzles hibernate. The simple fact is there are so many spectacular hikes in Glacier that it's impossible to pick the best. There simply are no bad hikes in Glacier. It's truly a magic place.

Jon Jeffress
Feb 09, 2010

I've been to Glacier many times, and in my humble opinion, the best hike in the best park in the world is many glacier --> elizabeth lake --> glenn lake --> stoney indian --> 50 mountain --> out (or stop at the chalet if you have the extra day). I've hiked all over the US, and it just does not get any more beautiful and uniquely "glacier" than stoney indian and 50 mountain, particularly stoney. Backpacker rated this loop, which I've heard called "the Northern Loop," the best Alpine Hike in a recent edition, but other than that you don't hear much about it. What tells you everything is that this loop books up within just a few days of the April reservation deadline. So get your request in there early and enjoy!

Feb 04, 2010

I agree that this hike has great views, but Glacier has better hikes than this one. Also, as with most of the trails in Glacier, the actual mileage is up for debate. I've been on this trail, and done this hike many times, and I put it somewhere between 19-21 miles if you don't stop off at Florence falls or Lake Ellen Wilson. Lastly, that picture is of Mt. Jackson, Gunsight pass is not visible.

Feb 04, 2010

Another good one is the Old Man Lake/Pittamaken Pass loop in the Southeast corner of Glacier National Park. If I recall correctly it is a roughly 20 mile loop that traverses forest, alpine meadow and high mountain passes. Tremendous views and an incredible camp spot next to the lake. There is a lot of Grizzly activity in that area so make noise.


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