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The Loop - Granite Park Trail, MT

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Rated  Favorite Wish List MT > Western
4.5 of 5 by 2
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,276 feet
Elevation Gain 2,381 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.93
Interest Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
37  2016-08-08
Swiftcurrent Pass
29  2011-07-24 writelots
59  2011-07-24 tibber
64  2010-07-20
The Highline Trail - Garden Wall
47  2010-07-20 tibber
Author tibber
author avatar Guides 21
Routes 574
Photos 25,551
Trips 838 map ( 10,398 miles )
Age 63 Female Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
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Preferred   Jun, Sep, Jul, Aug
Seasons   Summer
Sun  6:21am - 6:33pm
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Fauna Nearby
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Named place Nearby
a transition coming and going
by tibber

Likely In-Season!
Elev start from the junction with the Highline Trail: 6656 to 4276 is used to access the "Loop" TH shuttle/parking lot via the Granite Park Chalet junction. It is a big u-turn that takes you all the way back down to the Going to the Sun Road (GTTSR). There is about a 2300 foot elevation drop from the junction but it's not bad. It is also a horse trail used to supply the Chalet. This trail used to be covered in forests... well it still is except the leafs and needles are missing from the trees as the area was burned over by the Trapper Creek Fire of 2003. There is very little shade. However, the silver lining is that your views are opened up quite nicely; especially of the awesome Heaven's Peak.

Since most hikers will be taking the Loop Trail as an extension of the Highline Trail back to The Loop TH, I will describe this hike that way. From the Granite Park Chalet Junction, you head west down the hill. But before you get completely down that first hill, take the opportunity to look back and up at the Highline Trail and mountains above and to the south. You can see the notch that is the overlook area for Grinnell Glacier.

The hill will take you down into a somewhat forested area where it levels off a bit. It is really quite lovely up here and you get great views of Heaven's Peak and the Livingston Range that stretches to the north. Before you know it, you've already dropped 500 feet in a mile or so. Now you will be leaving the forested area and entering the burn section.

Again your views are expanded and include more of the MacDonald Valley and glimpses of Bird Woman Falls. You now will start heading south where you get views of the mountains to the west of the Logan Pass area. The trail is flanked by greenery on both sides including lots of Cow's Parsnip. After about a mile and 1/2 you'll start to lose site of the a good part of the Garden Wall to the east as you will be switching back to the north and slightly west. But before you do, you will see where the burned area with lots of dead trees comes to a stop.

At about the 1.8 mile mark, look far down in front of you and you will see the bridge that you will be crossing to get to the TH. It is as far away as it looks since you still have another 2.2 miles to go. There now seems to be more and a variety of wildflowers along the sides of the trail; probably due to the sun exposure. At about the 2.5 mile you start getting deeper into the burnt forest area that rises above the greenery at its feet and in about another 1/4 mile you will switch back to the north.

From here you will meander up and down ever so slightly as you make your way through the forest looking for wildlife and spotting wildflowers along with running water here and there. You will reach the lower Granite Park Trail junction at the 3.4 mile mark. From there you will take the left trail (south) that says Sun Road to the Loop Trailhead. You are about 11.2 miles from the Logan Pass TH.

Once again you will be hiking some gradual ups and downs but nothing significant. Before you know it, you come around a little curve, there's a bridge over a nice waterfall and you are at the Going-to-the-Sun-Road. If you are planning to use the shuttle, be mindful that the shuttles coming through may be full or can only take so many passengers. There is a restroom at the TH and concessions and a restroom at the Chalet.

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2010-08-04 tibber
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One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
The Loop - Granite Park Trail
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We did this hike as a combination/variation of Logan Pass-Highline Trail-Grinnel Glacier Overlook-Granite Park Challet-Swiftcurrent Pass-The Loop.

Highline trail starts at the Logan Pass visitor center. Get there early, parking is limited. By 8am the parking lot gets often full. From there you take the trail down towards the Granite Park Challet. We took a side trip to the Grinnel Glacier overlook which has spectacular views. After getting to the challet, we decided to take another side trip to Swiftcurrent pass, which has also amazing views. You can see the Swiftcurrent lakes and Many Glaciers.
After retracing our steps back to the challet we descended 4 miles to the Loop, aka Sun road and took free park shuttle back to the visitor center.
The Loop - Granite Park Trail
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Day 4, July 24 Granite Chalet Day finally

I was so happy when I looked outside to see clear skies and nice weather :y: for the highlight of our GNP tour: the Granite Park Chalet. A lot of people cancelled their booked stay at the Chalet for various reasons, one probably being they couldn't come in on the Highline Trail which is the easier, though longer route to the Chalet and there was still a lot of snow. Many trails didn't open until late this year and I guess folks decided to stay home. Fortunately, I had been keeping my eye on the Granite Park Chalet availability calendar as well as the forum to see if there would be an opening; one appeared for July 24th that would fit my schedule. Well almost :roll: fit the schedule.

I decided I would have to change my flight as there was no way I was going to get back down the mountain and drive 3 hrs to Gt Falls to make a 5 o'clock flight so I paid nearly $300 to change the flight (on what was supposed to be my free reward ticket). In addition to the change fee :x the airline charged me additional miles (even if I was coming out of the same city but a day later). I decided to make the most of my money and extend my stay by two days which would give me a day or so to spend with my cousins in Kalispell. This all worked out great :) .

Oh ya, back to the trip report. I finished packing and checked out of the Rising Sun. We had a good breakfast at Two Dog Flats in the Rising Sun before heading up the Going to the Sun Road. I had planned a couple stops along the way and of course, there's always a stop for construction. Here is the VIDEO of our drive on Going to the Sun with stops at Sunrift Gorge, Jackson Glacier viewpoint and a construction stop just on the other side of Logan Pass (got to see some goats):

We were lucky to find a parking spot at The Loop since it appeared to be quite crowded. It was now around 10:30, we saddled up and finally got on the trail. I didn't like this trail so much last year as it descended 2300 feet in less than four miles so I'm thinking I'm sure NOT gonna like going up :sweat: the darn thing. Plus I was sad that Wendy and Gary wouldn't get to hike :cry: on the awesome Highline Trail.

The hike up The Loop trail starts off mildly through the tall standing trees that are now naked due to the ferocious Trapper Fire of 2003. However they are very pretty in mixes of greys and white; especially against the deep blue sky and greenery on the floor. We came to the one part of the trail where another trails goes down and to the southeast. Last year on our way down the trail Ambika and I debated as to which way to go as it seemed logical to go down that trail to the road. Well Wendy figured out that it was a horse trail or in this case, it was probably the trail for the mules :doh:. And that bridge we saw from almost 3/4 the way up was not the bridge hikers cross but the mules cross.

There was lots of water running which is always a refreshing sound :DANCE: and of course, way across the other side of the Valley, Heaven's Peak is watching over your every move. Before long the trees thin out and you're walking with foilage on each side of you and still more running water from time to time. There was tons of Heal-All (Self-Heal) along the trail where last year there was just a few areas with them. Speaking of flora, Wendy was trying to teach me the difference between white flowering elderberry (bigger leafs, elongated blooms) and mountain ash (thinner leaves, rounded bloom). I had to look it up again ](*,) today. I actually think she offered me different clues too and then I would have her quiz me; one of them was a pop quiz... I passed. ;)

At about the 1/2 way point we encountered some interesting drama :wrt: that involved a girl named Jennifer. She was coming down the trail while the rest of the family was going up the trail and pretty soon we encountered a gentleman, her dad, asking us if we had seen a girl. Apparently he didn't realize she had turned around. In frustration, he high-tails it down the mountain yelling "Jennifer" :tt:. Now you're probably asking, "Angela, why are you telling us?" Well don't you want to know how it turns out? And don't you want to know if we ever meet up with them again? :whistle: Stay tuned as this story is covered in this AND the Swiftcurrent Trail triplog.

Let's see, where was I? Oh ya. Like so many of those "up" hikes, the last mile is the killer : rambo : . Fortunately, we didn't have to be in a big hurry and we had many photo ops. Here is the VIDEO of our hike about to this point: We eventually get up to the area with the spruce trees which means you only have a little more than a mile to go. And about 1/3 mile later we hit pay dirt, I mean pay SNOW. We knew we would encounter it but we didn't realize how much or how deep. We could walk on top of it for the most part and would hit patches of dirt to re-group. You know, it takes a bit to acquire "snow" legs.

Finally we spot a Glacier Lily. I was afraid with all the snow, we might not get to see many of them. Fortunately, even on the last 1/2 mile of this hike, we would get to see mini-fields of the incredibly dainty but brightly colored Glacier Lily. I was so pleased :FG: . We continue to make our way on and off the snow. All of a sudden up ahead I see snow flying and think "what the..." and as we get closer, there are 3 guys shoveling snow off of snow... not down to the dirt but down to snow. :-k And of course, you would think they're shoveling a walkway for us but you would be wrong moose breath... or should I say mule breath. :lol:

Mules can only walk in a certain depth of snow. Mules supply the Chalet. No mules had been this way this year. So our hosts were shoveling out snow in the deeper areas to a level that the mules could trod and they would leave gaps so that the wranglers could judge the depth. Fascinating. I would like to have seen the mules walk that path. Anyway, I did film it. VIDEO from about the treeline to the Chalet: Quite the work out :wlift: for these young guys as it was a little warm :sweat: and by the looks of it the snow was wet and heavy.

We continued on our way trying to maintain our balance. Eventually we got to a dirt trail again with a little more than an 1/8 of mile or so to go but we're still going up. We intersect with the Highline Trail where you can see it is closed off and then make a u-turn and up the hill to the CHALET at last :DANCE: . We had given thot to trying the hike up to the Grinnell Glacier Overlook but the trail was closed. We gave thot to going up to the Swiftcurrent WatchTower but decided we should just enjoy the environs of the Chalet. Believe me, this was really the only choice. However, if you think we would be done with our hiking for the day, once again you would be wrong marmot breath ;) .

We put our stuff away in our room and then went and hung out by the Chalet until it was time for our tour. The hardest task would be to fetch our water. Normally this would not be difficult at all and normally you could go the 1/4 mile to the creek and back in a jiff. But yep, you guessed it, we are not in normal conditions in the Park this year. Sooooo, we gathered our hydration packs and our gallon jug from the Chalet and headed out down the snow.

By this time, the snow was getting really slippery and it was hard to stay up straight; altho Gary didn't seem to have the same difficulty as us. Wendy went down for a very quick count (and yes, I got it on video :D ) but bounced up like a : rein : . We came to a part of the trail that Gary decided we should go down [-( . Oops. Needless to say our 1/4 mile adventure became a tad longer and a tad difficult as we made our way to what they call a Patrol Cabin or something (no one was home). We thot the spigot they told us to look for was probably here somewhere but to no avail. So we ended up going over to where the water was running pretty aggressively down the mountain and filled our Chalet water jug (for boiling). Unfortunately, my water filter was pumping but not easily; we even back-flushed and it was still pumping hard but we got everything filled.

And so back up the hill we went. Once we got to the intersection, we see that we should have gone straight. We heard other folks did the same thing as we did. Our hosts said they should have been more clear [-X . Anyway, as we're walking along I heard someone come up behind me and I turn to look around and it is a deer trying to get by. Well ok. So I stepped aside for her to pass. It was the darndest thing. Wendy and I both got a pic of her. Here is the VIDEO of our walk up to the Chalet and around and then of our "water fetching" adventure:

Soon it was time for dinner and I was HUNGRY. Wendy made some beans and salsa to go with our leftover steak. YUMMY! During the dinner making process (it's done in shifts), Jennifer's dad showed up in the kitchen. They had made it up to the Chalet. We saw Jennifer a little later doing the Grand Canyon shuffle :stretch: down the stairs (she had made it most of the way back down the mountain before her dad retrieved her). After dinner, since this is one of the few places with cell service in the Park, I called my mom. I like to call her from unusual places. Then it was time to get some more photographs including of the sun putting light on Bird Woman Falls :D .

The Chalet hosts put together a hot beverage service and we got to sit back and enjoy NPS Ranger and Chalet guardian, Mike Sanger talk about the 2003 Trapper Creek Fire. 2003 was the big fire year in GNP ( Mr. Sanger was one of the two rangers :A1: responsible for saving the Chalet. He was a very good storyteller and we were glued to every word. I got some of it on video for you. I wish I had recorded more but I wasn't sure I was picking up the sound good enough. I've tried to enhance the sound for you but you may have to tweak the volume on whatever device you are using to watch the VIDEO that also includes the sunset and the not so good photo of the 3 bears out on the closed to humans Highline Trail:

We finally retired to our creeky and uncomfortable bunk beds in Room 15 of the Annex. And just like trying to sleep when on backpacking trips, I tossed and turned. I did open my eyes one time to look out of the Chalet at all the stars. But there was also the anticipation that we would get to take the Swiftcurrent Trail the next day. When we climbed to the Chalet, the last we had heard was the Swiftcurrent Trail was not open. However, in my eavesdropping mode, I picked up that indeed the trail was open :y: !!!! and we would have company.

The PS. The airline did give me a $150 voucher for travel to book travel in the next 365 days. However, I am still in dispute as to whether I should have paid anything additional, other than a small admin fee per the terms I read on the Frequent Mile Reward program.
The Loop - Granite Park Trail
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This trail was done in conjunction with the Higline - Garden Wall Trail.
We were on a mission to make that 6:20 shuttle. We had 4 miles to get down. It was 2 o'clock local time. I wasn't concerned. Ambika decided we would just keep a steady pace and judge our time based on Scout's report in a couple miles. So we didn't go to the Chalet and we ate our sandwich on the walk. Of course, it turns out we could have taken the time to go up to the Chalet and take a break. However, the good side is we got up to the pass early enough to walk a little on the start of the Highline Trail.

The sky was overcast with big cumulus clouds but had spots of sun to the west that would shine off and on over the Livingston Range further north. As we headed down hill it was hard to say goodbye to the beautiful environs of the Highline Trail. However, this area we started through was kind of nice and interesting too. The great views do continue though as you look west toward Heaven's Peak that sparkles a bit when the sun hits the snow just right. Before you know it, you've already dropped 500 feet in a mile or so where we start to enter the burn section of the 2003 Trapper Fire.

Again our views are expanded and include more of the MacDonald Valley and glimpses of Bird Woman Falls coming off of Oberlin Mountain. We now start heading south where we get views of the mountains to the west of the Logan Pass area. The trail is flanked by greenery on both sides including lots of tall Cow's Parsnip. Off to the south (toward Logan Pass) you can see where the burned area with lots of dead trees comes to a stop. After about a mile and 1/2 we start to lose site of a good part of the Garden Wall to the east as we switched back to the north and slightly west. We continued to walk through the tall stands of naked trees with the green underbrush that is interspersed with wildflowers here and there.

A couple folks hiking ahead of me pointed out the bridge that we would be crossing to get to the TH. It looks really far away even when I zoomed on it with my camera. It is hard to believe you are going to walk all the way down to the GTTSR. There are now more and a variety of wildflowers along the sides of the trail; probably due to the sun exposure. Ambika is staying ahead of me as she is fighting some bugs. I didn't find them to be too annoying except when I stopped to take a picture and even then, they didn't bother me that much.

A little ways after switching back to the north we stopped for a short 5 minute break from the constant down hill slog. It wasn't a slog really but you are dropping around 2300 feet in 4 miles... better than going up 2300 feet in 4 miles. Ambika kept saying coming up this trail would be her preference if she were to do the hike again; especially if she was to overnite at the Chalet with the expectations of hiking the SwiftCurrent back to Many Glacier. I don't know about that as the people we ran into coming up were breathing pretty heavy. In fact, one young gal backpacker said she was exhausted and she had only done the first mile and 3/4 or so. However, if you could take your time, this is definitely a doable option.

From here you will meander up and down ever so slightly as you make your way through the forest. I herded a deer for Ambika, we got some good photos of a grouse not too far from the trail and we saw our first fireweed as well as crossed a couple little bits of flowing water. From the lower Granite Park Trail junction at the 3.4 mile mark you start on the Trail that is marked with Sun Road. However, as we were going along I could see a trail below me and thot we might be going the wrong way as I didn't look close enuf at the sign I had taken a photo of just moments before. Ambika assured me we were going the right way and we were.

We hiked some gradual ups and downs but nothing significant and before I knew it, we came around a little curve where there's a bridge over a nice waterfall. Across the bridge is the TH/shuttle stop at the Going-to-the-Sun-Road. If you are planning to use the shuttle, be mindful that the shuttles coming through may be full or can only take so many passengers. Almost all of the dozen or so hikers we met along the trail were taking this free shuttle back up to Logan Pass.

We got on the third shuttle and enjoyed the short ride up to the Pass where we threw our stuff in the car and then headed right back out on the Highline Trail to find the goats that had been spotted. Well no goats, but we already had our goat show this day so we were content with some cute squirrels and nice wildflowers that had been shaded earlier in the day.

On our way back to the Rising Sun, we along with others spotted a pretty black bear on a tall bank above a pullout. So I did a u-turn. Ambika got a picture but the angle wasn't the greatest. Nothing like a little "bear" excitement for the day and our second bear on our second day in Glacier Park.

After our dinner at the Rising Sun's Two Dog Flats Cafe, we headed out to the Photographer's Lookout to get some great pictures of the sunset on Wild Goose Island around 9 pm. Interestingly enough, we ran into my 1st cousin-once removed that we had met out at the ranch three days previous. We told her we would be in Glacier Park but what a surprise to run into her at this precise spot.
The Loop - Granite Park Trail
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I actually did the hike description for this trail so you can reference it for more information about this "Jewel of the GNP (Glacier National Park)" hike: This mileage, AEG and time is for The Highline Trail to The Loop TH.

The first thing I did when I woke up was to check the weather. We were socked in by low fog and clouds probably created by the rain we had the previous nite; altho that rain was further north in the Many Glacier area. So it looks like our early start would have to be delayed. The one good thing is that we got to enjoy our breakfast before heading out as the fog started to lift. The other cool thing with the fog is that our drive on the GTTSR was very interesting and provided an incredible opportunity to take a photo (right like I would take A photo) of the infamous Wild Goose Island in St Mary's Lake. It was like magic in the daylight.

After a small traffic delay due to construction (I love the traffic delays on the GTTSR. You get to stop and get out to take pictures as the flaggers give you a time frame such as 10 minutes), we finally made it to the Logan Pass parking lot and got on our way to do the highlight hike of our trip. It was a beautiful day!

The TH is across the Going to the Sun Road (GTTSR) from the Logan Pass Visitor Center. It is at an elevation of around 6600 feet. The trail loses elevation gradually for about 1/4 mile. This is an area that is somewhat alpine meadowy and somewhat low foresty. We immediately got caught up in the little flowers on the raised bank along the trail before we headed toward our small snow crossing along the Highline Trail toward the Garden Wall.

Next up is the plank-way walk as you weave along just above the GTTSR. Looking down is pretty amazing as you are walking on a narrow cliff path. However, there is a hose railing that you can hold onto if you feel the need. As long as you don't look straight down, it's really not much of an issue as the path is plenty wide in my opinion. Ambika and I kept switching positions as we walked so that we could take pictures of each other going along this plank-way. You almost forget there is one heck of a drop-off just a step or two away.... something that would come to fruition on the last day of our hiking in Glacier Park.

Once you've walked the plank-way you start going down ever so slowly. You come in and out of some tall foresty areas and then have magnificent views of the Garden Wall up and to your right (east) along with Mt Oberilne and Mt Cannon (south) to your left as well as a few different waterfalls off of Mt Oberlin and Logan Pass. Ahead Haystack Butte is coming into view.

You continue on a slight downward walk, crossing 12 streams/falls of water coming out of the mountainside before you reach the saddle at Haystack Butte. It seems I tried to get a picture of every one... imagine that. They all eventually flow into Logan Creek that comes off of Logan Pass. A couple are pretty good size.

We seemed to interchange with a couple different groups of hikers quite a few times during the hike to Haystack Butte Pass because of the picture taking. You can even see the Weeping Wall on the GTTSR. Within a short time we encountered a mom and her kid (mountain goats) right next to the trail. They seemed unamused by us and of course, we were so excited to see them so close. As you cross a couple more snowfields, such fun really, eventually you know you have to start going up to get around that Haystack Butte. It just seems so irrelevant as you continue to soak in the views including the backside of Mt Gould.

It is interesting how the shape of Haystack Butte changes as you make your way around. This area has lots of Beargrass and during blooming years, it is a site to see let alone walk through. Before we climbed the switchback for about 1/2 mile and 400 feet, we took a quick re-fuel moment and walked slowly up to the saddle of Haystack Pass. We ran into a good deal of snow here; much more than we knew would be along the trail. Earlier I had pulled out one trekking pole as snow can be slippery :doh: and it's a long way down to the GTTSR.

The snow field around Haystack Butte was just massive and that along with very interesting clouds in the sky made for a most rewarding journey. We didn't spend much time at the Saddle (around the 3.5 mile mark) as Ambika was concerned about making the 6:00 "Loop" shuttle. It is at this point that many folks turn around. Good for us, too bad for them.

Pretty soon we're walking along and starting to huff and puff a little. We are a little surprised as we thot the elevation gain was supposed to be minimal, especially after the saddle at Haystack Pass. We had hiked 10 miles the day before so maybe it was catching up with us. So we took a quick break and I pulled out the description I had. I could see what I thot was the height of the trail not too far from where we were and that proved to be the case. We only had about another 1/4 mile to the max elevation at 7,286 feet.

We crossed a couple more snowfields and ran into another hiker on the trail. This one had four legs though. So we stopped and discussed proper trail etiquette and decided to let the mountain goat pass. It was a fun encounter that I got on film and video. As you continue for a mile or so you come upon some seriously incredible views of Lake McDonald (at almost 5 miles from the TH). Lake MacDonald stays in view for a whole mile along the Highline Trail while Mt. Cannon and Mt. Oberlin skirt the other side of the Lower McDonald Creek Valley.

In this same area you will come across what I call the "weeping wall" of the Highline Trail as you may need to negotiate around some water as it comes out of the mountain side just like the cars do on the "Weeping Wall" section of GTTSR. After you come around this ridge you get a pretty good look at Swiftcurrent Mountain ahead (slightly to the north and east) plus the Granite Park Chalet in the distance.

We came upon a large field of Glacier Lilys on both sides of the trail so we had to stop and snap some photos here. We were on a good pace but sometimes you just gotta go "whoa". We were not quite done with our wildlife encounters of the close kind as just a little further down the trail, after crossing a couple more snowfields, we spotted a hoary marmot. Now this wasn't just any ordinary marmot. This guy apparently has posed for photos before as he let us snap away. In fact, he was so docile, Ambika pet him. We know it's a no-no but he didn't seem to care.

Ambika was still high-tailing it. I had great faith we would make that shuttle so I would languish on occasion to snap a photo or two. The Highline Trail continues to gradually lose elevation flattening out in a short time. From the junction with the Grinnell Glacier Overlook Trail, the Highline Trail starts going up towards the Granite Park Chalet for .8 miles.

We did not feel we had time to run up to the Chalet (of course, we had plenty of time but just didn't know it) because we figured at a 1.5 mph or so pace on the way down, it would take us a little more than 3 hours to make the shuttle stop. Well we must have been kickin' some tail cuz we were at the TH in 2 1/2 hours. The Loop trip report will be posted separately. But in case you didn't know it by this trip report, this was a pumpkin WONDERFUL FABULOUS hike I would do over and over and over :y: :y: :y:


Permit $$

Glacier National Park
$30 per car(week), $12 bike/foot(week), $50 annual View Current Entrance Fees

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
The three most popular places to access Glacier are from St. Mary, East Glacier and West Glacier, Montana. St. Mary is located on Highway 89, one mile east of the Going to the Sun Highway. East Glacier is just east of the park at the junction of Highways 2 and 49. West Glacier is the western entrance to the park and is on US Highway 2, north of Kalispell

Within Glacier National Park, there is a free shuttle service that takes you along "Going to the Sun Highway".
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