We were having some trouble getting overnight permits for this highly recommend hike, so we had to work the system and get our first night at the not-so-popular Snyder Lake and then linked it with a 2nd night at the extremely breathtaking Lake Ellen Wilson.
So after taking most of the day off on Wednesday to recoup, we left that evening around 7pm from the Lake McDonald TH and made the steep hike up the ridge. Once at the junction for Snyder Lake, the trail mellowed out and took us uphill thru a very lush and damp canyon before finally arriving at our campsite around dusk. We were able to get our tent up before it got too dark and since this was our first night in the backcountry, we gathered all our food and smelly items and hung them from the designated spot before retiring for the evening.
We woke up that overcast cool morning next to that amazing lake with a few curious deer running around. It didn't rain that night even though it looked like it would, but the air was very thick & moist & crisp which was quite nice since I don't get that very often down here in AZ.
We got little bit of a late start, we eventually got back down canyon to the junction and headed back uphill towards Gunsight Pass. The next few miles where thru the thick forrest but we eventually started climbing the side of the canyon and cool views down canyon opened up as we hiked past a waterfall in the canyon. We soon we able to see the Sperry Chalet up ahead and took a relaxing lunch break inside, buying a few reasonably priced items before heading back out with a storm brewing on the horizon. A hike up to Sperry Glacier would have been sweet but we just didn't have the time, energy, or fair weather.
We were almost to Lincoln Pass above the chalet when the rainstorm started hammering us. The hike down from Lincoln Pass to our campsite at Lake Ellen Wilson was wet & muddy but the views were still absolutely amazing and we lucked out with the food prep area having a huge overhanging rock for us to hide under and wait out the storm.
When the rain finally let up, we ran over to a site to setup our tent before going back and cooking up our dinner while another wet group camp rolling into camp. Despite the rain, this campsite has to be the sweetest & most spectacular place i've even spent a night out backpacking. It was surrounded by dark granites peaks & ridges shrouded by clouds & fog with loads of waterfalls trickling down from snowfields & glaciers alongside that amazingly blue reflective lake encircled by loads of lush greenery.
When it looked like the storm was coming back in for a second round, we packed up and hid in the tent.
This time the storm was a full on thunderstorm with lightning & thunder cracking above us, loads of heavy rain & hail, and of course plenty of wind but my cheap small BPing tent mananged to weather it pretty well and we somehow managed to still get some sleep that night.
Breaking down camp the next morning was a little tough with everything outside all wet, we hid our wet stinky packs under a rock but they still got soaked, and our shoes didn't dry from yesterday plus its tough to leave such an amazing place but we eventually started making the final uphill push for Gunsight Pass. The trail out has some interested creek/cascading waterfall crossings that made it kinna interesting with loads of marmot to run around and stare at us with sweet views back down at Lake Ellen Wilson before reaching the pass with equally amazing views of snowfields and waterfalls cascading down from high above. The pass has a nice hut to hide in during a storm but thankfully we didn't need it on that late morning. Michael had been eyeing a run up Mount Jackson but the mountain was covered with some new snow last nights storm and it was still up in the clouds so we wouldn't be able to see much anyways, not to mention our tired & sore legs would have had a tough time making the ascent.
As the trail drops down from the pass, we crossed a couple easy snowfields and the canyon opens up with a sweet view down below of Gunsight Lake. The trail slowly switchbacks down to and alongside the lake before crossing a bridge into the campground area where we first start running into loads of people again. The hike out from the lake was pretty cool the next couple miles with amazing views of Jackson & Blackfoot Glacier in the distance while hiking by the massive Citadel Mountain on the other side of the canyon/river. But the trail soon drops into the thick forrest with only an occasional view of a river or peak and we were soon counting down the miles back to the road while plowing thru loads of shrubbery & mud.
We had a final sweaty uphill push back up the road, but once back at the road we started striping off our wet & stinky shirts & muddy shoes before making the long super scenic shuttle ride back up Logans Pass and back down to Lake McDonald.
Such an amazing route to finish the week with! So many sweet views to soak in, loads of wildlife, plus loads of nice people to chat with along the way...
In hindsight, we choose the tougher way to reach the pass with an additoinal 2000ft of climbing up from the lake as opposed to starting from the other side.