The Apgar Lookout trail in Glacier National Park climbs 1,898 feet over 3.5 miles to reach an overlook and lookout tower high above Lake McDonald. The trail is suitable for rear-driven handcycles. The trail is entirely within Glacier National Park so bear spray is advised.
The trail begins at the Apgar Lookout trailhead along a wide trail (Adaptive Level 5) that rises at a moderate grade as it approaches Apgar Mountain. Shortly thereafter the trail breaks out into an area that burned in the 2003 Roberts Fire. The fire burned much of this area of the park, and the vast majority of the trail will be in open burn areas that have begun to regenerate. This provides wide open views but very limited shade on the trail.
Upon reaching the base of the mountain at approximately 0.6 miles the trail narrows and begins a steady climb (Adaptive Level 7-8) along the first of three long switchbacks needed to reach the summit. The trail is generally just wide enough for a handcycle, but several off-camber stretches (Adaptive Level 9) will test the stamina of even a seasoned rider to crank uphill while leaning to avoid tipping over.
Upon completing the final long switchback the trail rounds a small knob and dips through an area of forest spared by the fire. After passing the horse hitching area, a short steep section brings the rider to the overlook and lookout tower. Lake McDonald stretches away to the north and east with the peaks of Glacier National Park extending far beyond.
The return ride is almost entirely downhill, making for an easy trip on a handcycle. Please limit your speed on this portion of the trip in order to avoid startling animals, both wild and stock, and in order to keep off-road handcyclists on good terms with the park service.
SPECIAL NOTE: The Apgar Lookout trail is used by a Glacier National Park concessionaire for half-day horse rides. The only locations where the trail is wide enough for both a handcycle and horse parties to pass safely are at the switchbacks. In an effort to remain on good terms with Glacier National Park please make every effort to avoid meeting horse parties on the long stretches between each switchback. Check the Glacier National Park website to see what times horse parties leave. An ideal trip would start very early, reach the lookout, wait for the morning horse party to reach the lookout and then return downhill while the horse and rider groups are at the lookout.
Date Ridden: July 24, 2016
Trail Name: Apgar Lookout Trail
Location: West Glacier, Montana |
Type: Narrow trail (< 30"), Wide trail (≥ 30″), Start and end at the same point (Out-and-Back)
Rating: Adaptive Level 9
Steepest Section: Moderate – between 10-30º
Most Off-Camber Section: Moderate – between 10-30º
Terrain: Mostly hardpack, minimal loose sections
Obstacles: Root exposure, Deep ruts and erosion, Brush and/or other growth, Baby heads and/or rock gardens
Help Needed? Nope
Directions to Trailhead
From the town of West Glacier, enter Glacier National Park through the west entrance station. Shortly after passing through the entrance station turn left towards the Glacier Institute. At the ‘T’ intersection turn right. Bear left just before reaching the outfitters horse corral and drive another 1.9 miles on the single lane gravel road to the trailhead.
Drive a short distance to the next junction and turn right (away from the Glacier Institute), then almost immediately make a turn towards the left – just before reaching the Swan Mountain Outfitters horse corral. From here you’ll drive another 1.9 miles on a single lane gravel road to reach the trailhead.