The long and wonderful hike over Gunsight Pass in Glacier National Park is traditionally done as a two day backpacking trip (or a nice stay at the alpine Sperry Chalet), but we decided to tackle it as an incredible day hike. It was a perfect day full of blue skies, stunning lakes, waterfalls, wildflowers, and a few moose to top it off.
I was hiking with some folks from the Glacier Conservancy as well as some generous donors and their friends. If you love Glacier National Park, consider becoming a member. They do incredible work to help our beloved Glacier National Park.
I’m not sure if you can order up a prettier day for a hike. We dropped off our cars at Lake McDonald Lodge and hopped into a van over to the trailhead at Jackson Glacier Overlook. A couple of the folks on the trip were just hiking to Gunsight Lake, then were going to hike back and drive the van back over.
We started out just before 9am in the cool morning. The birds were singing as we lost elevation down to Reynolds Creek. Just before crossing over the creek, we stopped at Deadwood Falls and watched an American Dipper couple bobbing and diving into the water and fly back to their nest hidden behind an arch along the creek.
From there we crossed over the creek and followed up along the lovely St. Mary River through the trees with occasional looks at the tall peaks across and up the valley. The trail then began to climb through dense shrubs and the views to the headwaters of the river opened up. Blackfoot Glacier and Jackson Glacier sat nestled below the tall, rocky mountains with Mt. Jackson towering above them all.
We followed the valley all the way to the shores of the lake where we had lunch and spotted a couple of moose. We then said goodbye to two of our party, then continued on up through more flowers towards the pass. As the taller foliage gave way to rocks and alpine vegetation, the views got more and more incredible. Another moose was spotted as we passed feeder streams and waterfalls towards the head of the lake.
A couple of snowfields made for some intensity as we traversed their steep faces. There were four in all which took us past more flowers and waterfalls to the shelter cabin at the pass. From here, views on both sides were inspiring and we stopped for another bite to eat overlooking Lake Ellen Wilson with the sounds of falling water in our ears.
We dropped down towards the beautiful lake, past a larger waterfall, then back up through beargrass meadows, passing six mountain goats keeping cool on a snowfield. The hike up towards Lincoln Pass is some work after you’ve already climbed up to Gunsight Pass, but it was worth it. Just before you get to the pass, the traverse through the alpine area is fantastic.
Once at the pass, you can see Sperry Chalet and the other outbuildings. We dropped down there and recharged for the long slog out. We passed more waterfalls as we descended with the trees eventually swallowing us up. At 10.5 hours of hiking and 20 miles later, we finally emerged at Lake McDonald Lodge with sore bodies and happy hearts.