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Hiking Highline Loop Trail

We tried hiking this trail on the second day of our trip. Logan Pass was slammed with people, so we woke up early the next day to try again.

We made it to the trailhead by 7am. Thankfully, our good friend dropped myself and my brother off at the trailhead to bypass finding a parking spot. We took a quick picture at the start with my cracked phone and began the hike on the backside of the Garden Wall in the shade!

Difficulty Elevation Gain

           11.8 Miles
  6 hr
  Hard     690 ft


Going-to-the-Sun Road

Established on May 11th, 1910, Glacier NP was America’s 10th national park. (1) Named the Crown of the Continent by early naturalist George Grinnell, waters from Glacier NP flow to the Hudson Bay, Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean. (2)

Constructing Going-to-the-Sun road_NPS Photo
Visitors most often recognize the park for the historic Going-to-the-Sun road. Engineers began planning for construction of a road as the automobile rose in popularity in the early 1900s. After nearly 20 years of difficult labor along sheer cliffs that limited the use of power tools, the Going-to-the-Sun road was completed on July 15th, 1933. (3)

Engineer George Goodwin and NP Service Landscape Architect Tom Vint proposed two different plans for construction of the road. George’s plan consisted of 15 switchbacks to make it up Logan Pass to save time and money. Tom’s plan, although more costly and time consuming, was more subtle. He suggested only one switchback and that parts of the road be made of materials found on site.

Tourists picnicking at Going-to-the-Sun road dedication_NPS Photo
Director of the National Park Service Stephen Mather chose Tom’s plan, and construction for the 10 miles east of Logan Pass began in 1931. The first car to drive the entire 51 miles of the Going-to-the Sun road did so in the fall of 1932. 4000 people gathered at Logan Pass on July 15th, 1933, to celebrate the completion of two decades of hard work and officially named this iconic route the Going-to-the-Sun road. (4)

Granite Park Chalet

James J. Hill, president of the Great Northern Railway, dreamed of building a network of lodges and chalets across Glacier NP before modern park roads existed. His idea was to attract wealthy tourists to the “Playground of the North West” by way of the GNR. (5)

James J. Hill
The Belton Chalet was the first chalet constructed by the GNR in 1910. Glacier Park Lodge soon followed in 1912. With the help of his son, Louis, James went on to construct many additional lodges and chalets within Glacier & Waterton Lake NP.

Constructed in 1914 by Samuel L. Bartlett, the Granite Park Chalet was one of the last chalets built by the GNR. Still in use today as a hikers hostel, the chalet consists of two separate buildings: a dormitory for hikers and the chalet itself.

Granite Park Chalet
The chalet is a two-story building with a gable roof. The first floor houses a kitchen, bedroom, dining room, storeroom, and bathroom. The second floor contains employee and guest rooms. Thomas D. McMahon constructed the 6 man dormitory behind the chalet in 1913. The majority of materials used for the chalet were locally sourced. (6)

Directions to the Trailhead

The Highline Trail begins across the street from the Logan Pass Visitor Center within Glacier NP. From Hwy 89, drive 18 miles west to the visitor center. It’s best to arrive early or take the free shuttle that stops at the visitor center and other prominent locations.

The Trail

After parking in the Logan Pass Visitor Center, hikers must cross the street to spot signs for the trailhead.

My brother and myself at Logan Pass near trailhead
From the trailhead in approximately a quarter mile, hikers will come across a steep ledge overlooking the Going-to-the-Sun road. Fortunately a rope system embedded into the cliff for extra support has been installed. Mt. Oberlin and Heavens Peak (both over 7500 ft.) stand out to the west of the trail. 
Rope system
At 2 miles, hikers enter the Big Bend, a section of the trail that loops to the east before heading back west.
Haystack Butte
At approximately 3 miles, you will begin the only set of switchbacks and the only incline of the day this side of Granite Park. At 3.5 miles, hikers will see Haystack Butte.

Grinnell Glacier
The trail then continues to follow the Garden Wall at a practically level elevation. At 6.8 miles, hikers will pass the trailhead for Grinnell Glacier Overlook.

Granite Park Chalet
At 7.7 miles, hikers will find the Granite Park Chalet. From the Granite Park Chalet, the “loop” hike continues on the Granite Park Trail. 

Granite Park Trail decline of 2,000 ft
From the chalet, hikers follow a series of switchbacks dropping from approximately 6,600 ft at the chalet to 4,400 ft at The Loop parking area. This is the most difficult section of the hike. The trail ends in The Loop parking lot for a total distance of approximately 12 miles.

Be sure to rehydrate. Water is available at the Chalet for purchase or by filtration from a natural spring situated a quarter mile from the Chalet. 

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