- Trails Lake McDonald
- 10.6 miles (round trip)
- elevation gain 4,315 feet
- Google™ Map Mount Brown
- Shuttle Service
- No Water
- Very Strenuous hike
- Best view of Lake McDonald
Altitude Profile below starts 1,015 below Mount Brown Lookout. That was the point that I turned around when I made my first attempt this hiking season on June 6, 2015 to get to Mount Brown Lookout. For the record I have never made it on my first attempt of any hiking season. This is one of the steepest trails in Glacier National Park, It took me five hours to get up to this point and two hours to get down. Got to remember to Always bring electrolyte for this hike.
Hand tinted photograph taken from the Mount Brown Lookout in 1935 looking towards Lake McDonald. My photo at bottom of the page show the same view some seventy years later was taken a few years after the Roberts Fire of 2003 burned the forest on the western shore of Lake McDonald Photograph below courtesy of Glacier National Park archives
Mount Brown Lookout Trail
When you have reached Mount Brown Lookout you will have reached an altitude some 800 feet higher then Logan Pass. Mount Brown isn't the highest day hike in Glacier Park. Only a few day hikes gains more then 3,000 feet (other then Mount Brown) one is Sunrift Gorge to Siyeh Pass with an elevation gain of 3,440 feet, another is Swiftcurrent Lookout. The Swiftcurrent Lookout Trail end is 8,440 feet and is the highest day hike that I have done in Glacier Park. There are three ways to get there which results in three different elevation gains. Will add a web page for the Swiftcurrent Lookout Trail sometime during July of 2013. I use to think that Siyeh Bend ~ Sunrift Gorge was the highest day hike. Siyeh Pass is the highest pass in Glacier Park that has a day hike going through it. However the elevation gain from Siyeh Bend to Siyeh Pass is 2,000 feet less then the hike to Mount Brown. Siyeh Pass is on my hike every year list while Mount Brown is on my every five year list. The Mount Brown hike is easy to get to in the fall and is now on my list of hikes to do late in the season after the temperatures have started to drop. Sadly that does not link up with Sprague Campgrounds dates of operation.
If you are not an experienced mountain hiker then take a careful look at the Mount Brown topo map on the link below this is a steep trail. It is not technically difficult when there is no snow cover.
The Garden Wall Trail is steeper but it is only 0.6 miles long. The view from the Garden Wall Trail is at the top of my home page.
NPS Trail Crew Report
Mt. Brown Lookout Trail Sperry Trail - Mt. Brown L.O./ 3.7 mi.
Initial clearing scheduled for:Cleared 6/17/13.
Trail clear to around 7200ft.,
then trail has 95% snow cover and is under winter conditions (snow, ice, route finding skills necessary). 6/17/13
Sperry Trail - Mt. Brown L.O./ 3.7 mi. Initial clearing scheduled for: Complete 6/15/12.
Initial clearing scheduled for: 7/31/11
Trail Clear of snow 8-21-11
Mount Brown Lookout Trail is a tough trail, the best of the short tough trails.
The actual Mount Brown Lookout Trail is 3.6 miles long, from were it branches off of the Sperry Chalet Trail, that point is 2 miles from the Trailhead for Sperry Chalet. Mount Brown Lookout Trail gains over three thousand feet in those 3.6 miles. If your up for a steep, dry, trail with spectacular views then this the trail for you. The shared part of the trail starts across The Going To The Sun Road from the Lake McDonald Lodge parking area.
July 13, 2008 the snow-line was near the bottom of the last switchback before the lookout. As of July 2, 2011 the snow-line on The Loop Trail to Granite Park was 6,000 feet. The snow depth at Granite Park Chalet on 7-2-2011 was 8 feet. Mount Brown Lookout elevation is around 7,425 feet. Which means that the Mount Brown Lookout was covered in snow! The only reason you could get into the Chalet at Granite Park was that the Chalet staff had spent hundreds of hours shoveling snow. Temps for the last week and forecast for the next week are in the 80's to 90 degree temp range during the day in the low 40's at night. So snow will be melting fast, which means a very wet upper trail.
Mount Brown Lookout Trail is one of those trails that I never expected to hike. Unlike the Sperry Chalet Trail there are peeks of Lake McDonald from various locations along the trail. There are also four major view points along the trail.
Mount Brown Lookout Trail shares the first two miles of it's trail with Sperry Chalet Trail, Snyder Lake Trail and Fish Lake Trail. Mount Brown Trail, which is the first trail that branches off the Sperry Chalet Trail is the steepest of the day hikes in Glacier National Park! Once you start on the Mount Brown Lookout Trail from the junction with the shared Sperry Chalet Trail the trail starts to go UP! The steepest segments of this trail are the first five trail segments.
At the higher altitude bear grass was still blooming mid July. The rest of the wildflowers were past their peak. This trail dries out early.
The first overlook on the Mount Brown Trail Google topo map provides a good resting spot with a view of Edwards Mountain. It also marks the end of the steepest part of the ascent. The ridge shown in this picture is the right hand ridge forming the cirque of Snyder Lake Trail page. Edwards Mountain is to the south of 'Little Matterhorn' which is shown on the Snyder Lake page.
The second overlook on the Mount Brown Trail provides a great resting spot at 6,600 feet. Altitude wise you have just completed at this point the equivalent of hiking from Lake McDonald to Logan Pass. Similar view point looking towards Edwards Mountain which is 9072 feet in elevation. This view point is a thousand feet higher then the first view point. Edwards Mountain is the southern edge of the cirque forming Snyder Lake with Mount Brown forming the northern edge of that cirque. The Snyder Lake Trail is a pretty hike and a good conditioning hike for Mount Brown.
I hiked the Mount Brown Trail on Sunday July 13 2012, no snow on the trail. I didn't make it to the lookout this time but did hear that glacier lilies were blooming up on the plateau before Mount Brown lookout. This is a very steep trail, especially for the first five trail segments! On the downward journey these now, last five trail segments, can be treacherous!!! The downward journey on this trail is a real thigh burner. This is a good trail to bring hiking poles. I was very lucky to pick up a hiking stick at the start of the trail left by another hiker with a note to take me back to Sperry Chalet! Well I took it to Mount Brown Trail instead and was very grateful to have it! Bring extra water. Hiking in the mountains I figure one mile an hour up and two miles an hour down. For this trail on the first steep part it drops dramatically to one-half mile an hour up! Allow extra time for the ascent.
September 14, 2008 on my second attempt, reached Mount Brown Lookout, thanks to my youngest daughter carrying my camera gear up the trail. We made it to the lookout on a sunny, blue sky day. From the lookout you can see the entire length of Lake McDonald. At the last switchback there was a bald eagle circling above us, when we reached the lookout the bald eagle was now circling below us. There were only four other hikers on the trail, this is a tough hike but well worth the extra effort for the spectacular views.
Photo below of Lake McDonald from Mount Brown Lookout
This is how Lake McDonald looks from the other end of the lake.