Gunsight Pass - Glacier National Park

The Gunsight Pass trail is a 20 mile through hike through the heart of Glacier National Park. The trail offers huge views, multiple mountain passes, waterfalls, lake views, and old forests as you traverse the continental divide. There are multiple trail spurs to glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, and mountain summits to tailor the trip in whatever way you wish.

View of Lake Ellen-Wilson from Gunsight Pass

My Plan

The Gunsight Pass trail is commonly hiked as a backpacking route over 2 to 3 days. Most people will stay at either Gunsight Lake or Lake Ellen-Wilson for their first night and then move on to Sperry Chalet Campground. However, this was not my plan. My goal was to move light and fast in order to cover the whole distance in a single day hike. With this in mind my gear was trimmed down to the essentials. .

The gear above is a mix of items I regularly take out, ultralight gear, self-defense, and and extremely trimmed down camera selection. 3 items I never go without while hiking in Glacier NP are my bear spray, Sony A7III, and water filter. However, the piece of gear I would like to highlight is the Mountainsmith Lumbar Pack. If you want to move fast and you don't need much gear this pack is a great option. I would recommend buying the shoulder straps if you decide to load this thing up to full capacity.

What Actually Happened

I'll start off my saying that I succeeded in completing the hike in one day. I was even able to include one small summit detour up Lincoln Peak before the day was over. Starting on the east side at Gunsight Pass trail head, the trail dropped for a mile before coming to Deadman Falls. The first 4 miles of trail are pretty heavily forested and there is a rather large chance of running into wildlife in this area. After 4 miles the trail started climbing slowly to Gunsight Lake. The trees thinned out due to traversing the side of a mountain and views opened up to the south. Jackson Glacier was visible the whole climb up to Gunsight Lake.

Once at Gunsight Lake there are views of waterfalls, glaciers, and the pass. The trail snakes up the side of the mountain to the south of the lake. Once in a while make sure to look behind you as the trail climbs. Once of the greatest views along the trail is seeing St. Mary's Valley opening up in the distance. At the top of Gunsight Pass there is a weather shelter in the form of a stone cabin with some benches inside.

After reaching the top of Gunsight Pass and taking a well deserved break get ready for a quick descent followed up by a second pass. This was where my planning and research failed. I had no idea there were two passes that needed climbing and figured that once I made it to the top of Gunsight Pass it would all be downhill. I quickly figured out how wrong I was when I looked back and saw Gunsight Pass below me while about halfway up the second pass.

Once making it to the top of the second pass there is probably the easiest mountain summit in the park. Head up Lincoln Peak on a goat path that is very easy to follow to get 360 degree views of the heart of Glacier National Park. After this point it is all downhill to Lake McDonald Lodge on the west side of the park. Besides going through the burn area of the 2017 Sperry Chalet fire there isn't much to note besides the normal beauty of the park.

Helpful Information

  • Glacier National Park shuttle information -

  • Glacier National Park current conditions -

  • Mountainsmith Lumbar Pack -

If you have any comments or questions about the trail leave a comment and I'll get back to you.


Specializing in landscape and night photography in Montana, Evan's work focuses on grand views most people will never see.

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