Big Sky Country 2009: Highline Trail Hiking

In this series, I document my adventures in Glacier National Park, Montana in 2009. For more in this series, check out this page
Highline Trail Hike-41Today I made my way up to Logan Pass to tackle the Highline Trail. It’s a easily accessible (and thus popular) section of the Continental Divide Trail with some spectacular views of the Lake McDonald Valley.

My route was from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet for 8 miles, then down the Granite Park Loop Trail for 4 miles to the Loop parking area on the Going to the Sun Road where I picked up the shuttle back to Apgar where I parked.  The trail runs just above the Going to Sun Road and gets precarious in spots

The few days I’ve been here have been unusually warm and today was no exception.  Since I was hiking almost entirely in alpine country, there was no shade from which to escape the sun. Even when I thought I might get some relief on the descent through the forest, I passed through 3 miles of recent fire area.

My first exciting find was of this ram grazing in the alpine meadow near Logan Pass and the Going to the Sun Road.  I found out later they hang out at Logan Pass all the time.  A glance upward at most points of the hike yields some interesting views of rock formations.  A glance downward gives the wonderful views of the Lake McDonald Valley and the Going to the Sun Road below.

The trail is only about 18 inches wide so you may have to do some creative things to get by someone headed the opposite direction.  There is little running water along the trail so bring plenty.  Depending on the time of year you make run into a snow field or two.  I did come across one even at the beginning of September.

Since I was pressed for time (shuttles quit running at around 7pm), I didn’t take the 2 miles roundtrip to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook near the chalet.  I made my way up to the chalet, staked out a piece of ground and had a my snack.

Highline Trail 49I had to cut short my break at the chalet when I spot a storm brewing and realize I need to get off the mountain, quickly.  I start down into the forest, grateful for a break from the sun.  That break doesn’t last long as the forest opened up into recent fire territory.  It was really eerie walking through 5 or 6 year old burned area.  The trunks of trees give the place a ghostly feel.

Stopping in the burned area was not very pleasant, as every fly in the state of Montana decided to check me out.

Finally I reach the treeline again, fill my water bottle (I was almost out) and make it out into the open just in time for the rain to pour out.  Thankfully I made it to the shuttle stop shelter in time and back to Kalispell for a lovely dinner with the Phillips family.

Posted:September 1st, 2009

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