Hike to the Mt. Brown Lookout

Montana Sperry Trailhead

  • Activities:

    Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

Lake
Scenic

Mt. Brown is a mountain in Glacier National Park located not far inside the main park entrance adjacent to McDonald Lake. .

The trail is accessible (though sometimes covered in snow) year-round because the trailhead lies in the lower elevation area of the park. It begins at the Sperry Trailhead, located directly across the street from the lake McDonald Lodge. Follow the Sperry Trail for 1.6 miles until you reach the Mt. Brown Junction and go left up the mountain.

Located on top of Mt. Brown is an abandoned fire lookout tower, which is boarded up, but still provides shelter and an excellent location for a mid-hike picnic. The hike from Lake McDonald begins in lush low elevation forests and quickly transitions into high-alpine forests as you traverse the steep switchbacks of which the majority of the hike consists. Roughly two-thirds of the way to the top you’ll need to throw on your snowshoes if you’re hiking any month but July or August. During the month of May snowdrifts of more than four feet can still be encountered and make the trail difficult to follow towards the top, but the fire lookout provides a useful landmark for navigation.

You start off at low elevation hiking along a beautiful creek through old growth forests bursting with all shades of green accompanied by specklings of a variety of native wildflowers. The strenuous trek over quickly ascending elevations adds a significant sense of satisfaction when you reach the summit, there you’re greeted by a 360-degree view of every part of Glacier National Park. Sublime mountains stand at eye level wherever you look and a complete view of Lake McDonald sits directly in front of you. The trail is unique in glacier for the fact that it provides a sense of isolation, which is becoming more and more rare in one of America’s most popular National Parks. The light use of the trail provides excellent opportunities for encountering wildlife, especially mountain goats, and even grizzly bears if you’re lucky (or unlucky).

The hike to Mt. Brown Lookout is not for the faint of heart; it ascends quickly from the beginning, gaining over 4200’ in just 5 miles. The sense of starting your hike in boots and t-shirts and ending in snowshoes and jackets adds to the wonder of the hike but requires extra preparation in order to stay comfortable and safe. It is highly recommended that you bring snowshoes and are comfortable using them, as well as hats, gloves and anything else you might need to stay warm in snow and possible high winds, even in warmer months. The possibility of encountering bears is very real; bear spray and knowledge of how to handle a bear encounter is essential. Extra water is necessary as the difficulty of the hike accompanied by the change in climate makes becoming dehydrated very easy. There is a $25 fee for each car entering the park, and need to make camping reservations in person at the Apgar visitors center.

Pack List

  • Boots (hiking and compatible with snowshoes)
  • Warm clothing for higher elevations
  • Snowshoes
  • Extra water
  • Hiking poles
  • Camera with wide lens
  • Bear spray
  • Sunglasses for snow glare
  • Sunscreen
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Reviews

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I just did this hike in June. There was still some snow on top, which made it even more challenging and picturesque. Expect to have some mountain goats follow you around looking for some pee puddles (they want the salt). It's a long strenuous hike, but worth every step.

3 months ago
3 months ago

This is my absolute favorite, challenging day hike in Glacier. I always start off the spring with my crampons and enjoy the snowy scenery and beautiful view from the lookout before fire season actually picks up. It's a burner, but worth ever step!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

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