Highline Trail, Glacier NP

Sunday, Sept. 7th, we got up early and left at 8 am with Harry to hike the Highline Trail. We drove to the Apgar Transit Center in Glacier NP and took the shuttle bus up to Logan Pass arriving around 9:30 am. The Highline Trail leaves from across the road at Logan Pass and follows the Continental Divide also known as the Garden Wall ridge for most of the way to Granite Park Chalet, 7.6 miles. We walked along the famous ledge of the granite cliff, hanging like a shelf on the Garden Wall only 4-6 feet wide and a drop of 100 feet or more down to the Going-to-the-Sun-Road way below. There are hand cables along this stretch of the trail incase you have a fear of heights. From here the Trail continues to hug the cliffs and slopes of the Garden Wall and with every turn there are spectacular panoramic views of the mountains, such as Mount Cannon, Mount Oberlin and Heavens Peak to the west. We rested in the beautiful glaciated-carved valley between Haystack Butte and the Garden Wall before beginning the climb up to Haystack Pass at 7,024 feet. What amazing scenery to sit and pause for awhile and enjoy the panoramic scenic beauty surrounding us. Bob saw a berry bush by the side of the trail and ate one of the berries thinking it was a Huckleberry, it tasted very bitter. Harry and I tried one as well, it was definitely bitter and unpalatable. I took a photo and showed it to the Park Ranger later, to find out that it is called Twinberry (Bracted Honeysuckle) and can be mildly toxic or poisonous to humans!  Beyond Haystack Pass the Trail continues a gradual climb along the Garden Wall reaching the highest point on the hike at 7,280 feet.

We decided to take the 1.2 mile round trip side trail up the side of the Garden Wall to the Grinnell Overlook, the top of the Continental Divide. It was a long .6 miles straight up to the overlook but well worth the effort, the views of the Grinnell Glacier, Gem Glacier and Salamander Glacier, hidden underneath the shelf, were incredibly beautiful. From 1966-2005 the Grinnell Glacier lost almost 40% of its acreage. The Glacier is in the Lewis Range and rests on the north flank of Mt Gould at an altitude of 7000 feet in the Many Glacier region of the Park. We had viewed all these glaciers from the Red Bus Tour at Many Glacier, the day before, so it was even more amazing to see them so close from the opposite side. Gem Glacier is one of the smallest remaining glaciers in the Park and Salamander, an apron or shelf glacier used to be attached to Grinnell Glacier, it is now separated. There used to be 150 glaciers in the Park and now there are only 25 left, what a shame. We finally ate are lunch, and rested so we could take in the unforgettable views. Then it was back down the trail to continue to the Granite Park Chalet, built in 1914 and 1915, one of only two remaining cabins still in the Park, Sperry Chalet is the other one. Built by the Great Northern Railway to provide comfortable lodging inside Glacier Park, it has 12 guest rooms each with 2-6 bunks and no electricity. The stone chalet was very welcoming and we would have loved to stay here the night but we had to get back to Pat waiting for us at the campsite.

It was a long 4 miles down the Loop Trail back to the Going-to-the-Sun-Road where we will get the shuttle bus back down to the car. This Trail is not grand but has a thereal beauty because the majority of the terrain the trail passes through was completely burned over by the Trapper Creek Fire in 2003. Despite the burn in 2003 the forest has regenerated and a good portion of the trail has extensive undergrowth with open meadows full of wild flowers, tall grass and low under brush. The trees damaged by the fire still standing shine like silver spires in the sunlight and make an impressive eye-catching sight to see. We could not see the Road far below but we saw the bridge on the trail near the Road, don’t be fooled by the sight of the bridge because it was almost 1 1/2 hours before we reached the bridge. I jumped on the first shuttle bus that came by and Bob and Harry got the next one, we met back at the car and finally back to the campsite where we enjoyed a fire and pasta dinner compliments of Pat. It was a great day having completed almost 13 miles of the most scenic one-day trail we have ever seen.