Apgar Lookout – Spring 2023

The forecast called for a sunny, bluebird day in the high 40s, so we packed up and decided to see how far up the Apgar Lookout Trail in Glacier National Park that we could get. Imagine our delight when we realized that there was a decent boot pack all the way to the summit and the snow held (for the most part) so we could get the sweet views with some boots and micro spikes!

While an earlier start would have been better for two reasons (timing the summit lunch and having firmer snow on the way down), an 11am start was what we got. The benefit to the slightly later start was that we had warmer temps as it had dipped below 20 degrees the night before.

After parking near the corrals, we started down the hall of tall cottonwood trees on the gated road, passing some folks from the Glacier Institute leading a hike. Just after passing them, we got to Quarter Circle Bridge over McDonald Creek where the crystal clear water flowed from Lake McDonald into the Middle Fork Flathead River. We spied a couple Buffleheads feeding in the creek and enjoyed the sparkling water before continuing on.

With the daytime highs warming up to melt the snow, then the overnight temps staying cold enough, travel over the compacted “trail” was quite pleasant. We were glad to have on our Kahtoola EXOspikes for the icy bits and the sections of road in the sun still weren’t mashed potatoes.

Up we traveled along the gorgeous river, then past the Flathead Ranger Station trailhead, eventually arriving at the trailhead for Apgar Lookout after about a 2 mile walk.

The trail switched to an actual trail and we were excited to see that many had passed before us making for a firm trailbed instead of a post-holing nightmare. We kept looking for clouds but saw none and hoped that our sunscreen would hold, especially under our noses from the sun coming down from above and being reflected from the acres of white at our feet.

We passed pretty streams, stands of cedar and birch and eventually poked out to the post-fire stands of homogenous lodgepole pines. The long switchbacks to the lookout on the hillside visible from below beckoned us onward. After a bit of climbing up, we reached the steeper aspect of the hillside and the first switchback where we continued climbing up.

Our delight continued as we realized that our footing was (mostly) going to continue to be great as the views continued to get better.

Most of the hike is on a south-facing slope, so it will be melting out soon. Strained branches of trees and bushes made noise as they finally were able to free themselves from the oppressive weight of the snow, constantly making us think we had some small animal scuttling below.

After a few more switchbacks, views looking down onto West Glacier opens up and we began wrapping around to see frosty summits at the south end of the park. There is one little tricky section with a fairly steep aspect that collects a bunch of snow. In the past, I’ve found myself getting hip deep as I post-holed through, but it remained (mostly) stable for us as we approached the last little bit.

Once past the tricky section, it was an easy cruise past an almost completely buried horse hitch and up to the lookout. Panoramic views of Lake McDonald and the western front of mountains impressed with their white, jagged peaks. We stood in front of the webcam, staring at it for a bit, then checked our phone to see if we had captured ourself and ended up with a fun selfie.

From there, we hopped up onto the catwalk on the lookout, swung our feet over the edge and had a delicious lunch while the sun warmed our backs. We then packed up and headed back down.

The trip down was a bit more sloppy and we found ourselves punching through a little more, wishing we’d started earlier. Overall, no complaints though. It felt like we were able to steal a hike in as the mountains just start to thaw out.

View from Apgar Lookout

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One response to “Apgar Lookout – Spring 2023”

  1. Greg Hall Avatar
    Greg Hall

    Hello Jake. Is there still snow on the #75 South Boundary trail and #77 Lake McDonald trail? I’m trying to find a trail to hike before May 5th, when the gate opens to the west entrance. Thanks for all the great info buddy! I really appreciate it

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