One Photo, One Story: Dayhiking the Gunsight Pass Trail in Glacier National Park

By Michael Lanza

High above Gunsight Lake on Glacier National Park’s Gunsight Pass Trail, beneath a bluebird sky, I got this photo of my wife, Penny, standing on a ledge along a stretch where the trail makes a long traverse of a cliff face. A little while later, we passed a mountain goat grazing trailside. Popular with backpackers for its scenery, easy access, and relatively low commitment for distance, the 20-mile traverse of the Gunsight Pass Trail can be done in a day by fit hikers, because of its moderate grades and good footing. And what a spectacular day it is—an unforgettable way to sample Glacier National Park if you have the legs for it.

Highlights include Gunsight Lake and Lake Ellen Wilson, both surrounded by soaring cliffs where ribbon waterfalls pour hundreds of feet, and sweeping, alpine views for much of the way. You also have a good chance of seeing mountain goats. The 20-mile, point-to-point hike, with about 3,350 feet of uphill and more than 5,400 feet of downhill, begins at Jackson Glacier Overlook/Gunsight Pass Trailhead, about five miles east of Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and finishes at Lake McDonald Lodge, about nine miles east of Apgar on the Sun Road. The out-and-back to Sperry Glacier adds five miles and about 1,600 feet of vertical gain and loss, but it’s worth the effort to see the glacier-scoured terrain with its pothole lakes and the expansive Sperry Glacier and its environs.

Read my story describing my favorite long dayhikes in the park, which will help you plan your own adventure taking hikes of any length on these same trails. See also my stories and photos about a family trip backpacking Glacier’s incomparable Gunsight Pass Trail, a five-star, 90-mile hike through northern Glacier, all of my stories about ultra-hiking, and all of my stories about national parks trips.

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