Glacier NP: Highline Trail

Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be. The thing to remember though is: that’s okay.

The highlight of Shawn and I’s trip to Glacier was to be us hiking to the Granite Park Chalet, spending the night, and hiking out the next day. This would be our inaugural backpacking trip both individually and as a couple.  We would be carrying 24 and 26 pound backpacks with our food, sleeping bags, enough water for two days, and extra layers of clothing.

I spent 7 months leading up to the trip doing a ton of research and contacting people who had been to Glacier or who had worked at the Chalet (thank you Perrin! – check out her blog Pretty Good for a Girl). I decided that it would be best to hike the Highline Trail 7.6 Miles from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet. The trail has minimal elevation change, traverses along the iconic Garden Wall, and there is also .8 mile (one-way) side trail that takes you to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. After dropping off our packs at the Chalet, we would continue 1.4 miles up switchbacks to Swiftcurrent Lookout – the highest point in Glacier National Park accessible by trail. We would then return back to the Chalet to cook our freeze dried dinners and look at the millions of stars when night fell. The next morning we would hike 7.6 miles down Swiftcurrent Pass Trail to Swift Current Inn. We would walk to Many Glacier Hotel and pick up the Hiker Shuttle, which would take us back to our car which was to be left at St. Mary Visitor Center so we could take the free park shuttle to Logans Pass to start the hike the day before.

Problem Number 1 with the Plan: We did not physically prepare. A “moderate hike” in Indiana is more of a walk in the park in Glacier.

Problem Number 2 and probably the biggest problem with the plan: We were packing too much stuff. The chalet offers bedding for $20 per person, which would have eliminated the need for carrying our sleeping bags. That alone would’ve bumped me down to using my normal day-pack instead of a backpacking backpack. The Chalet sells water bottles so we could have carried in less water, thereby reducing our weight by a lot. Granite Park Chalet also offers a pre-order menu, freeze dried food, and snacks for sale. So we also could have got by with just carrying our lunches and purchased our dinner from the Chalet. If we just carried day-packs and had taken our sweet time hiking into the Chalet, I think we could have overcome Problem #1.

Unforeseen Obstacle #1: Not enough sleep. The night before we were to hike to the Chalet we staid in a basement room at the St. Mary Lodge. I know, I know. Right there I should have known it would be bad, but I was trying to save money. The room was literally in the basement, with one of those teeny tiny emergency escape windows. It had a rock hard bed, a table, and a chair. The bathroom was so small you could have peed, washed your hands in the sink, and soaked your feet in the shower all at the same time. There was loud machinery running all night. We got no sleep. It was awful.

Unforeseen Obstacle #2: Stomach issues. ‘nough said.

So between the problems we brought on ourselves, along with the unforeseen ones, we nixed the plan and day hiked part of the Highline Trail and spent another night (not in a basement room) at the St. Mary Lodge.

Due to the late start we got because of aforementioned stomach issues, we still decided to park at the St. Mary Visitor Center and take the park shuttle to Logan Pass. While waiting for the shuttle we overheard a Park Ranger say that the parking lot at Logan Pass was full before 8:30.

People were everywhere at the Logan Pass Visitor Center and surrounding area. The solar eclipse was to start within an hour of us arriving and while it wasn’t a total eclipse, people were still excitedly waiting for it to start. We checked out the visitor center and then hung out and talked with an older couple till the Eclipse started. After watching for a bit, we decided to start hiking the Highline Trail.

We ended up hiking about 4 miles in and then turned around and returned to Logan Pass. Between the late start and my incessant picture taking, we weren’t sure if we would make it 7.6 more miles to The Loop in time to catch the last shuttle of the day.

The Highline Trail is definitely one of my all time favorite trails – and I haven’t even seen it all.

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there is a handrail along this portion of the trail in case anyone needs to steady themselves after looking down the cliff at the road

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looking down at the Going-to-the-Sun-Road

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you can see the smoke from the forest fires in the distance
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the views were spectacular even with the smoke

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the thin line about halfway up in the picture is the Highline Trail – the wider line in the bottom right hand corner is the Going-to-the-Sun-Road

We plan to return to Glacier in the future and this time we will plan smarter for a night at the Granite Park Chalet.

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