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Glacier hiking guide book
Hiking Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Parks provides details for more than 60 hikes, including trail descriptions, best hiking seasons, difficulty ratings, average hiking times, GPS- compatible maps, and hikes suited to every ability.

Mt. Brown Lookout

Trail Features: Outstanding views, Historic Mount Brown Lookout
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

Trail Description:

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 either; 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.

Lake McDonaldUpon 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'll be climbing at an elevation that's only half the height of those "fourteeners", therefore breathing is actually a little bit easier.

At roughly 2.5 miles from the trailhead you'll reach a very long stretch of huckleberries. Throughout this section hikers should make a lot of noise to alert any bears that might be around.

View from Mt. Brown

View from Mount Brown

As you climb higher vistas will 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 short 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 point.

Mt. Brown LookoutAt 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 7487 feet, the historic lookout tower sits on an outcropping along 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 this perch you'll have commanding views of Mount Vaught, McPartland Mountain and Heavens Peak towards the north, Sperry Glacier towards the east, as well as Lake McDonald in the valley far below.

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.