Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
4,302.00 ft (1,311.25 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
10.00 mi (16.09 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

If switchbacks are your game and a 4,300-foot climb doesn’t intimidate you, the Mount Brown Lookout Trail offers incredible 360-degree views of the Lake McDonald area without the crowds normally expected on Glacier National Park’s west side.

Parking at Glacier’s popular trailheads during the months of July and August can be a nightmare. Conveniently for you, the trailhead for Mount Brown is across the Going-to-Sun-Road from the Lake McDonald Lodge complex, which has ample parking throughout the day.

The trail starts officially at the Sperry Trailhead and runs through thick and shaded larch forest. Gain elevation steadily on the wide dirt trail, beaten down by years of guided horse trips, and catch glimpses of Snyder Creek and Lake McDonald.

As you near the junction with the Mount Brown Trail, the black burn scar of the 2017 Sprague Fire becomes apparent. Ignited by lightning on August 10, 2017, the Sprague Fire rapidly consumed forest that had seen little precipitation and, by the end, burned almost 17,000 acres. The Sperry Chalet, a Swiss-style chalet and backcountry destination, succumbed to the fire on August 31st, despite intensive efforts to save the historic structure. The Mount Brown Lookout was remarkably unscathed that same day, thanks to park protection efforts.

However, the forest on your way up to the lookout wasn’t as lucky. Hikers post-Sprague Fire no longer have the shade along the way up—making this calf-stretching hike especially grueling in the hot summer months. But with the treeline all but a scarred memory, hikers are now offered views of Lake McDonald for almost all of the climb. Flowers like fireweed, indian paintbrush, and lupine blanket the mountainside in a vivid display of summer color. Edwards Mountain comes into view to the east. The Snyder Lakes Trail runs at the base of Edwards Mountain but is inaccessible from the recent fire.

Views soon open up to Glacier’s higher vistas, including a dramatic view of Stanton Mountain and Mount Vaught to the northeast. The Mount Brown Lookout looms tauntingly on the jagged ridge. But look down to see how far you’ve come! If you follow the southern shoreline of Lake McDonald, you should be able to spot the now miniscule parking lot and buildings around the lodge.

Crest the former treeline to a shelf on the mountainside for a commanding view of Edwards Mountain and Mount Brown, with the latter’s true summit accessed by technical ascent. Climb the narrow stairs of Glacier’s oldest fire lookout and enjoy the magnificent view and a well-earned lunch. Don’t forget to write your thoughts on the hike in the record book attached to the lookout.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Great 360-degree views. Wildflowers. Less foot traffic.

Cons

Hot with little shade.

Trailhead Elevation

3,108.00 ft (947.32 m)

Highest point

7,410.00 ft (2,258.57 m)

Features

Big vistas
Wildflowers
Horseback riding
Historically significant
Big Game Watching

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

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