Hiking the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park

I knew that with a new baby I would likely get one all day hike this summer; two if I was lucky. One of those hikes (which I planned to do in the spring) was the Highline Trail, also known as the Garden Wall in Glacier National Park.  This was one of the most memorable hikes I’ve done, and it’s not just because of the epic views!

The Hiker’s Shuttle

We started bright and early because the hike starts at Logan’s Pass visitor centre on the Going To the Sun Road. The small parking lot fills up fast and my guidebook suggested getting there by 8 a.m. to ensure a spot. Samara and I left Magrath at 7 a.m. and pulled into Logan’s Pass at 8:15 a.m., only to find the parking lot was already full!

A ranger suggested we drive down to The Loop where the Highline Trail ends and catch a hiker’s shuttle up to Logan’s Pass to start. Duh! Why hadn’t I thought of that? We drove the 11 miles or so down the road to The Loop and found a long line waiting for the hikers shuttle. After 20 minutes the shuttle pulled up but it only had room for three people. There were 11 people in front of us after those three got on, and we realized it was going to be a long wait.

I watched a group of three hikers walk up, see the line, and whip out their thumbs to hitchhike. The first truck that passed by pulled over and picked them up to take them to Logan’s Pass. I couldn’t believe how genius that was! I have never hitch hiked in my life, but in this setting I knew it would be fine. The guy who was at the front of the line and myself tried throwing out our thumbs at passing cars. A lot of cars would give us a thumbs up back (not what I was doing guys) or slow down and get our hopes up only to speed up. I gave up, but that guy kept at it and finally a car pulled over to get him. He turned around and yelled “They can take two more!”  I yelled “We’re in!” And Samara and I ran over to the car.

The car had a very nice young hippie couple from New York and their car was super full of stuff from their road trip. I squeezed into the middle and sat in a squat position as we headed up. We chit chatted and I learned that the other hiker was from Madison, Wisconsin and the three that had gone on the shuttle were his group.

When we pulled into Logan’s Pass, we thanked our lovely Good Samaritan’s and hit the bathroom before finally getting to that trail!

This is a hike that starts off amazing from the start and a lot of people just do a small portion of it. I think it would be a great one to take my step kids on as they are not hikers but this is more of an easy walk with epic views that we can turn around whenever.

Samara caught her thumb in her pack’s zipper and it was bleeding pretty badly. As usual we were not prepared with band aids (you would think we learned our lesson), so I fashioned her this one with a leaf and a sheaf of grass. Ha ha!

The Garden Wall

The beginning of the hike along the cliff is so amazing! There is a chain you can hold on to if you’re nervous.

For the first couple miles you walks along the mountainside and are able to look down on the Going to The Sun Road. It’s a busy road though and you hear a combination of the waterfall and the traffic for that first bit.

But those views! WOW! Incredible! We were in awe to be in such an incredible location.

I usually don’t like busy hikes, I go out to be alone and wild in nature but this time around it was a lot of fun! Everyone was so friendly and in such a good mood because of where they were. You could ask a group for a photo and they were more than happy to snap away.

At one point, we were passed by a group of guys who said “Hey! It’s the hitch hiking girls!” Apparently, they were in the line for the hikers shuttle with us and after we were picked up, they followed suit. A truck pulled over and piled 7 hikers into their truck bed to get them to Logan’s Pass. Surprisingly, this group of guys was also from Madison, Wisconsin! Funny coincidence right? Just wait!

There is nothing like an open hike in the mountains to awe and inspire you.

I captured a great shot of Samara that shows just how small we are in this very large world!

 

Grinell Glacier Outlook

Several miles in we could see the Granite Park Chalet way off in the distance and then we saw a ton of hikers going straight up the side of the mountain above us. I started to sweat, well, sweat more. I was already feeling a bit tired and I’m not in my usual shape. The thought of huffing up an ascent like that was a little stressful!

Tough to see, but the hikers are all going up this to the lookout

But then we got to a fork in the trail and the trail that went straight up was for the Grinell Glacier outlook. Phew! Samara and I already said we weren’t overly interested in this addition 1.6 miles to our day, but after seeing the climb I was definitely not interested.

It was funny because I was pretty vocal about how glad I was we didn’t have to go that way. Other hikers said the  view was so worth it and we should go. I was a bit of a brat and told them that I had done the Grinell Glacier hike last year and it just looked like a patch of dirty snow. LOL! In hindsight, I’m kind of wishing we had done it even if it meant my legs gave out before we finished.

Granite Park Chalet

We were so excited to get to the Granite Park Chalet for a lunch break and to check it out. I figured they may have electricity (solar panels or something) and we could buy a cold drink at the store. They don’t have electricity but they kept the drinks in a fridge so they were cooler than room temperature which made them AMAZING!

As we were signing the hikers register the previous group of guys from Wisconsin were chatting with the store employee and guess where he was from? Madison, Wisconsin! We were laughing about it on the deck when another hiker piped up “You guys are from Madison? I’m from Madison!” I responded “Who’s taking care of that city?!” Four different groups/individuals all from Madison, Wisconsin. Crazy!

Lush Vegetation

After the chalet, we began our descent toward The Loop parking lot. This is about three miles of all downhill and I’ll tell ya, my knees were angry.

But this part of the hike was so lovely! Flowers, flowers, everywhere!!

Samara and I enjoyed chatting as we went, especially as this was to be our last hike together for a while. 🙁

I was surprised at how many groups were flying past us on the way down. I like to tell myself that I was slow because I’m in bad shape after having the baby, but being honest, I think it’s my age! Samara could have gone much faster (she’s almost 10 years younger than me) and had to slow her pace for me.

Either way, we came toward the bottom of the valley into the remains of a burned up forest. I know forest fires are horrible for people, but they are really good for resetting nature.

The hike ended on a wooden bridge and we came out onto the Going to the Sun Road.

Hitchhikers

Samara and I decided to offer someone a ride so they didn’t have to wait for the hikers shuttle. We wanted to pay it forward and when we saw a group sitting by the side of the road we asked if they needed a ride. They said they didn’t, so we got into the car and headed back up the Pass to head for home.

As we passed Logan’s Pass visitors centre we saw huge crowds of people waiting for the shuttle and we were soooo glad we were able to drive away after our long hike. But before we passed the parking lot,  a couple was sitting on the side of the road hitch hiking and we were very happy to pick them up. Good karma!

Now where do you think these hikers were from? Yes- no joke- they were from Madison, Wisconsin!!! Samara and I couldn’t believe it! Every single person we talked to was from Madison, Wisconsin. It’s so crazy!

Sunrift Gorge

We stopped at Sunrift Gorge to check out the Siyeh Pass trail and the Gorge. I was under the impression that the hike ended IN the gorge, but actually it ends AT the gorge. Good to know!

It was seriously such an amazing day and it made me so grateful for Samara and all the adventures we’ve shared together. In fact, this girl deserves a post and I’m going to write one.

This is definitely a hike I recommend to anyone who wants a hike with incredible views!

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