My guy M and I only had one day to explore Glacier National Park, and we were determined to make the most of it. We decided to hike the Highline Loop, an 11-mi trek along the Continental Divide, also known as the Garden Wall. This trail is known for its stunning views, alpine meadows and abundant wildflowers.
The ranger at the visitor center said it looked line rain, even though it was 80 degrees and sunny. The weather seemed all too perfect as we continued our journey on Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The Highline Loop is actually a one-way hike, ending at a sharp bend in the road called “The Loop.” The best way to approach this trail is to park at The Loop and then take the free shuttle up to Logan Pass.
The shuttle ride was our first look at the breathtaking scenery, from the valley walls covered in lush greenery and patches of snow to The Weeping Wall, a cascade trickling onto the road itself.
Upon arrival at Logan Pass, we secured our bear spray and ponchos where we could easily reach them and set off on the trail. After 1/4 mile, we reached the trail’s most dangerous spot, a 4-6 foot ledge along the Garden Wall, approximately 15 stories above Going-to-the-Sun Road. A few weeks earlier, a hiker came face to face with a grizzly here and climbed over the cliff to hide. A photographer captured the encounter here with a telephoto lens.
Fortunately, we made it across the ledge without any grizzly surprises. The trail crossed over trickling streams and through alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers in every color of the rainbow. The spectacular views transported me to a scene from the Sound of Music.
As I whistled along to the tune of The Lonely Goatherd, we actually encountered a group of mountain goats grazing on the mountainside!
From across the valley, we spotted some clouds building around the mountain peaks. Just as we reached a large patch of snow, the clouds began to swirl around us like smoke from a witch’s cauldron. We put on our ponchos just as the first few raindrops hit.
The walk through the rain and fog seemed to last forever. After about 7.5 miles, we reached Granite Park trail junction and made a quick detour to Granite Park Chalet, a hikers hostel built in 1914 by the Great Northern Railway. We ducked out of the rain for a few minutes and snacked on sweet peppers. Within a few moments, the rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. Perfect timing!
We peeled off our ponchos and began the long, steep descent back to The Loop. This section of the trail has been hit by several forest fires. Between every pair of dead stumps was a beautiful baby pine tree. We offered them words of encouragement as we passed by.
We made it back to the The Loop where we parked our car and enjoyed our last few moments in the park at golden hour. We treated ourselves to some ice cream before heading to our next destination. Later that evening, the sky opened up and unleashed an angry storm. As our clothes dried inside the cabin, we dreamed about our next adventure in Glacier National Park, rain or shine!
Highline Loop Trail
- About This Hike: 11.8 mi; 1950-ft climb; 7280-ft summit elevation
- Fitness Level: Intermediate
- Permits: Park entrance fee required. Free shuttle inside park.
- Trailhead Address: Going-To-The-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Browning, MT 59417
- Trailhead Directions: We parked at The Loop and took the free shuttle to Logan Pass to begin our hike.
- What to Bring: Bear spray, poncho
- No dogs allowed.