Mt. Brown Lookout
|Trail Features:||Outstanding views, Historic|
|Trail Location:||Lake McDonald Lodge|
|Roundtrip Length:||10.1 Miles|
|Total Elevation Gain:||4250 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||842 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||7487 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||18.60 (strenuous)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||48.61686|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-113.87554|
I’m not even going to try to sugarcoat it - the hike to the Mt. Brown Lookout is a long tough slog. It climbs more than 4200 feet in only 5 miles, making it one of the toughest hikes in Glacier National Park. There are no easy parts on this hike; it’s a constant climb to the top. However, there is a huge payoff, as views from the top are simply spectacular, making the effort well worth it.
The hike to the Mt. Brown Lookout begins from the Sperry Trailhead, located across the street from the Lake McDonald Lodge. In a very short distance, after passing the horse path, the trail becomes known as the Gunsight Pass Trail.
Almost immediately the trail begins to climb, passing through an old growth forest of red cedar, western larch and hemlock in the lower elevations, to a dense spruce-fir forest as it ascends higher. Many hikers and horses will be sharing this heavily used segment of the trail as they head up to the Sperry Chalet, and other points in this area.
Upon reaching the Mt. Brown Trail junction, roughly 1.6 miles from the trailhead, hikers will have already climbed more than 900 feet. To continue on towards the lookout hikers should turn left here.
The Mt. Brown Trail starts off pretty steeply. In fact, the steepest section on the entire hike occurs immediately after turning onto the trail. Over the next three-quarters of a mile you will have climbed almost a thousand feet!
After awhile you’ll begin to feel like the hike is becoming more of a grind. It’s a constant climb with virtually no flat spots to regain your breath. The total elevation gain is very similar to the amount gained on many of the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. If there’s any consolation, however, you’re at an elevation that's only half the height of those “fourteeners”, therefore breathing is actually a little bit easier.
Roughly 2.5 miles from the trailhead you’ll reach a long stretch of huckleberry bushes. Make sure you make a lot of noise throughout this section, as you don’t want to surprise a bear while he’s feasting.
As you climb higher, vistas begin to emerge periodically through openings in the tree cover. At roughly 3.9 miles you’ll reach a bend in the trail that provides your first big views of the day. From this vantage point you’ll be able to see Lake McDonald, Fish Lake and many of the surrounding mountains. This is also a pretty good place for a break.
A third-of-a-mile later you’ll round another bend that offers some absolutely grand views of the mountains towards the north, including Heavens Peak. You’ll also have the first views of your destination. The lookout tower will be almost directly above you from this location.
At roughly 4.8 miles you’ll finally emerge from the treeline and will be on the ridge that leads to the fire tower, which is now less than a quarter-of-a-mile away. The tough part of the hike is finally over.
At an elevation of 7,487 feet, the lookout tower sits on an outcropping on the southwest ridge of Mt. Brown. The summit of the mountain rises almost 1100 feet above the lookout towards the northeast.
The Mount Brown Lookout, rehabilitated in 1999, is on the National Historic Lookout Register. It was constructed in 1929, and was last manned on a full time basis in 1971. From its perch you’ll have commanding views of Lake McDonald in the valley below, Mount Vaught, McPartland Mountain and Heavens Peak towards the north, and Sperry Glacier towards the east.
The mountain is named for William Brown, a Solicitor General for the Chicago and Alton Railroad. He and several other adventurers climbed the mountain during a camping and fishing trip in 1894, making it, in all likelihood, the first ascent of the peak.