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Gunsight Pass Trail

Intermediate/Difficult

Trail

19.0 mile 30.7 kilometer point to point
81% Runnable
Intermediate/Difficult

Elevation

Ascent: 3,670' 1,119 m
Descent: -5,079' -1,548 m
High: 7,022' 2,140 m
Low: 3,237' 987 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 47% (25°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Map Key

Trail shared by Jake Bramante

A wooded trail that climbs through a pass before dropping into Lake McDonald.

Jake Bramante

Features Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Bring bear spray.

Runner Notes

Snowfields near Gunsight Pass can be very dangerous. Check trail status reports before heading out.

Description

The Gunsight Pass Trail takes off from the Piegan Pass Trail where it roughly parallels the St. Mary River. The trail breaks from the trees at the scenic Mirror Pond then continues back in the trees, passing the junction with Florence Falls at mile 4.3.

From here, the trail begins to gain some elevation. The higher the trail climbs, the better the views of the peaks around you become. Continue for around 2.2 miles from the Florence Falls Trail, reaching the incredible shore of Gunsight Lake at the Gunsight Lake Campground. This is a great spot to take a break for lunch looking up to Gunsight Pass and the huge walls surrounding the lake.

At Gunsight Lake’s outlet, the trail crosses a wooden bridge and continues to the right ( Jackson Glacier Trail heads to the left). The trail begins to switchback up Mt. Jackson’s north face as the terrain begins to shift from dense vegetation to rockier, scree slopes. Be on the lookout for mountain goats and other alpine mammals like marmots in this rockier terrain.

The views of the emerald-colored Gunsight Lake get more incredible. The lake's color is due to the suspended particles of rock that were ground down by shifting glaciers. Across the lake, the south side of Gunsight Mountain features numerous cascades that plummet down its face. Be prepared for late-season snow crossings that require necessary gear such as an ice ax and crampons as you get closer to the shelter cabin at Gunsight Pass.

Coming to the top of Gunsight Pass, you'll get your first views of Lake Ellen Wilson and beyond into the west side of the park. From here, drop down the rocky slopes to a creek crossing at the base of a waterfall that can be flowing strongly, depending on the snowpack and time of year. The trail then bends around the north side of the lake and begins to climb for the final push towards Lincoln Pass. This area has frequent mountain goats that can be aggressive.

From Lincoln Pass, head down along the switchbacks for close to a mile until you reach the historic Sperry Chalet. This is another great spot to take a break before.

After Sperry Chalet, the trail heads down for another six miles or so in the trees first paralleling Sprague Creek, then crossing over the ridge to Snyder Creek. It crosses Snyder Creek and then follows it down to Lake McDonald Lodge.

This content was created by Jake Bramante of Hike 734. Visithike734.com for more expert Glacier content and maps that help you decide which trail to run.

Flora & Fauna

A little bit of everything that Glacier has to offer from thimbleberry and arnica to beargrass and low growing alpine shrubs in the scree. Tree squirrels, ground squirrels, pika, marmots and chipmunks are among the small mammals you'll see. Mountain goats, moose, deer, and bear may be spotted as well.

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Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 5 votes

#2

in St. Mary

#1540

Overall
  4.8 from 5 votes
5 Star
80%
4 Star
20%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#2

in St. Mary

#56

in Montana

#1,540

Overall
13 Views Last Month
1,255 Since Sep 3, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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33%
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Photos

The sun rising over Gunsight Lake on a chilly morning.
Oct 4, 2016 near Red Roc…, MT
Looking at Gunsight Lake from Gunsight Pass
Jun 9, 2016 near Red Roc…, MT
A pond hidden among the trees just past the Sperry Chalets.
Oct 4, 2016 near Red Roc…, MT
Gunsight Lake.
Jan 31, 2016 near Red Roc…, MT
Mountain Goat near Gunsight Pass
Jul 4, 2019 near Red Roc…, MT
Mountain Goats near Gunsight Pass
Jul 4, 2019 near Red Roc…, MT

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