Jim and I love to visit national parks in the U.S. We have visited many national parks, including North Cascades, Yellowstone, Yosemite, but Glacier National Park, established in 1910 is one of our favorites for several reasons.
- With over 1 million acres, if you are willing to explore the 734 trails, you can escape the crowds. Check out Jake Bramante’s Day Hike Trails for inspiration https://hike734.com/
- Going-to-the-Sun Road was considered an engineering feat during its construction and is a great way to see the park if you have limited mobility.
- Fantastic wildlife viewing, including Mountain Goats, Big Horn Sheep, Brown and Black Bears, as well as the more elusive Cougars and Badgers.
- The diverse eco-systems, including mountain meadows, thick pine forests, prairies, and tundra.
It was a cool morning when we set out early from Logan Pass for our adventure along the Highline Trail. This is a fun trail, which totals 11.6 mile and a 1,300′ elevation gain from the Highline trail head to Going-to-the-Sun Road/The Loop. You actually will have a total elevation loss of 3,700′ on this trail, so make sure you lace up your boots tight to ensure a comfortable walk back down. From the loop, we caught a park shuttle back to our car at Logan Pass.
We like to bring lunch, snacks and plenty of water on our trail adventures. We also like to take our time, enjoy the views, wildlife, and abundance of wildflowers. For us, it is not about getting there faster, but finding joy during the journey. We also both carry bear spray that is easily accessible and we’ve pulled it out a few times, but never had to actually use it – thank goodness!
If you’re afraid of heights, you might want to check out the beginning of the trail, which starts cliffside along the Garden Wall. The trail along this section is plenty wide enough and also includes a cable to grab hold of for those who may be a bit nervous. Don’t worry, this part of the trail is not very long. There were still an abundance of wildflowers growing along trail, even during this visit in the Fall. There was also a Big Horn Sheep sitting above us, watching carefully as we passed below.
Vistas and Waterfalls
Next you will head across alpine meadows and through small sections of trees. This trail offers plenty to see, including streams, creeks, avalanche chutes, and wildlife. The stunningly beautiful views of the Logan and McDonald Creek valleys below, as well as the jaw-dropping summits of the Livingston Range make this trail one of the best in the park.
Grinnell Glacier Overlook Junction
If you are feeling great, you can add some time and miles to your trek by taking this side trail to straddle the Continental Divide and look down to Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier. From the Junction, you are just 0.7 miles from the historic Granite Park Chalet, which is a great spot to stop for lunch and refill your water bottle. We recommend you carry a lightweight water filter, which lightens your load and ensures you always have enough to drink.
Granite Park Chalet
As you continue your journey, keep a look out for Granite Park Chalet, as well as Brown or Grizzly bears, which are commonly seen in this area of the park. The stone and timber chalet was built in 1914 and 1915 by the Great Northern Railway to provide comfortable back country accommodations inside Glacier. It was the last of the chalets built by the railroad and one of the only two back country chalets that have survived. Today this rustic lodge is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and it continues to provide comfortable lodging to adventurers in this beautiful wilderness. You will need to be very lucky to snag a spot here, as reservations fill up within minutes when they become available every year.
After enjoying lunch and hopefully spotting a bear or two, you will travel four miles downhill through a burned forest area to The Loop. A hat to shield you from the sun comes in handy during this portion of the trail, as there are no shade trees. Wildfires are beneficial in many ways, including stimulating new growth. Among the burned trees, you will find one of the first things to pop up is the very pretty Fireweed wildflowers. Wildfires also promote biodiversity in animal and plant life. One seemingly counterintuitive benefit is that fire prevents fire, so small wildfires can actually prevent bigger, more destructive fires. The trail finishes at The Loop and Going-to-the-Sun Road, where you can catch the park’s free shuttle back to Logan Pass.
- Recommended Gear – Day Pack with waist straps, good quality hiking boots, hat, lightweight pants, water wicking top, button-down shirt, and a jacket. Having all these items ensures you will be prepared for all weather conditions. Don’t forget your bear spray!
- Pack lunch, snacks and plenty of water. Check trail information to see if there are water sources along the way. Don’t forget your water filter!
- Check the NPS website for the latest information on road and trail conditions https://home.nps.gov/glac/index.htm
- Where to Stay – There are lots of rentals, including VRBOs in neighboring towns, including Columbia Falls, Kalispell, Whitefish, and East Glacier. https://www.vrbo.com/search/keywords:glacier-national-park-montana-united-states-of-america
- How to Get Here – Fly into Glacier Park International Airport https://iflyglacier.com/
- For more information on Glacier visit https://majesticmeadows.blog/2018/10/05/glacier-10-reasons-to-visit/
Stay in Touch
Thanks for visiting! Look through my page for other trails to explore in Glacier, North Cascades, Yellowstone and others. I will be posting additional trails shortly, as well as information about our upcoming trip to Glacier this July. Enter your email below to ensure you never miss an adventure. I would love to hear about your favorite destination in the comments section.
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4 thoughts on “Highline Trail – Glacier National Park”
I’ve never been to the Glacier National Park, but I would love to explore it on foot one day as I’m a keen hiker. I love your photographs, especially the ones with wildlife – marmots are so adorable! Thanks for sharing and inspiring ☺️ Aiva
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Thank you, Aiva! If you enjoy hiking, you’d love Glacier.
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Great stuff Allison! You took us on a nice journey through a land we have never seen. Beautiful photos too!
Thank you, Randy!! You and Gail need to come out with us one of these days.