Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
4,835.00 ft (1,473.71 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
18.40 mi (29.61 km)
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Glacier National Park delivers as one of the most stunningly beautiful natural landscapes in Montana. This is no small feat within a state defined by vast wilderness and wild rivers. But if you need evidence of this fact, hike the Sperry Glacier Trail and see for yourself. 

The hike begins at the Gunsight Pass Trailhead near Lake McDonald Lodge. A day hike to Sperry Glacier is no easy endeavor. It’s approximately 18.4 miles round trip to the Glacier overlook and back, with nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gained along the way. Only acclimated and experienced hikers who can push long distances uphill should attempt the route in one day.

The trail can be accomplished as a backpacking trip for those who prefer less swelling in the knees and ankles. The iconic Sperry Chalet and adjacent Sperry Campground are 6.2 miles up from the parking area, and both provide memorable overnight accommodations (reservations necessary).   

Staying at either the Sperry Chalet or Campground allows hikers to tackle the most daunting section of the route the following day. The 6.2 miles up to the Chalet is a steady uphill climb throughout a fairly well-shaded forest. This section of the Sperry Glacier Trail is detailed in our Sperry Trailhead to Sperry Chalet guide.

While the hike to Sperry Chalet is popular and filled with great views, the real adventures only begin from this high vantage point. Hikes to Sperry Glacier, or any high-altitude destination from the Chalet, may require equipment like spikes and ice axes early in the season. 

The remaining 2-3 miles to Sperry Glacier from the Chalet sees dramatic changes in landscape. Hikers quickly resume the journey on an upsloping talus field trail after departing the Chalet. When snowmelt is high, this open talus field offers great views of Feather Woman Falls cascading down the mountain.

The trail only goes uphill from the Chalet, first crossing through endless switchbacks in the talus field and eventually navigating through an Eden-like rock garden. Here, herds of mountain goats wander freely and claim much space as their own. False summits, rocky surroundings, and a steady uphill climb define some of the challenges of the route. 

The effort is quickly rewarded, though. The route passes by two stunning alpine lakes, and the imposing mountainsides become more accessible with each uphill step. Incredible views await around every corner, and no matter the time of year, snowbanks offer a refreshing handful to put down the back of your shirt. After roughly two miles of travel from the Chalet turn-off, hikers get their first glimpse of the impressive Comeau Pass. 

Like the Ptarmigan Tunnel within the national park, Comeau Pass on the Sperry Glacier Trail has been chiseled out of the mountainside. The stairs bored into the mountain at Comeau Pass are remarkable in both their steepness and trail-building ingenuity. Take your time traversing these steps, and like Alice emerging from the rabbit hole, expect a whole new world on the other side of the mountain pass. 

The top of Comeau Pass offers a brilliant alpine view and overlook of Sperry Glacier. Weary legs are forgotten as the trail continues through a large boulder field bounded by snow and the glacier. Large cairns constructed of rock lead the way. Conditions atop the mountain vary considerably throughout the season, and the National Park Service may close the last section of the trail for bear activity. 

If it’s not too windy or cold, the top of Comeau Pass is a great place to enjoy a much-deserved snack break before heading back down. It’s a long walk all the way back to the parking area, but expect to cruise the downhill distance in a much faster time. For those staying at the Sperry Chalet or Sperry Campground an extra night, the downhill walk can be taken at a more leisurely pace.

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round

No

Open from

July 01 to November 01

Days

2

Pros

Unbelievable alpine views. Sperry Chalet side trip option. Probable wildlife sightings.

Trailhead Elevation

3,228.00 ft (983.89 m)

Highest point

8,025.00 ft (2,446.02 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Glacier
Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Geologically significant
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

Yes

Permit required

No

Location

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