In the hiking world, whenever you hear “hiker’s paradise”, Glacier National Park would be on top of the list. The park is home to over 700 miles of hiking trails in the wilderness. You can literally spend weeks hiking the dozens of spectacular hikes here. But if there is one hike that tops them all, it is the Highline Trail. It is to Glacier what Angel’s Landing is to Zion, or perhaps the Skyline Trail is to Jasper National Park. It has the most stunning views with opportunity to see plenty of wildlife like deer, marmot, bears and often wolverine. But it also is one of the most difficult hikes in Glacier. It is the reason many hikers come to Glacier National Park.
In this article, we will share with you some details about hiking the Highline Trail based on our own experience doing so during our epic road trip. If you are reading this, you are probably planning a trip to Glacier National Park soon. This will familiarize you with one of the best hikes you will do in the park. So let’s get started, shall we?
Basic Info About Highline Trail IN Glacier
Location: The trail starts from the parking lot at Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-sun Road and ends at Granite Park Chalet. If you spend the night camping overnight at the Chalet, you could continue the journey further and hike all the way to Swiftcurrent Pass in the Many Glacier area. Most hikers hike to the Granite Park Chalet and back. Alternatively, instead of heading back to Logan Pass, there is a trail that drops from Granite Park Chalet to the Loop Trailhead on Going-to-the-Sun Road. This route is 4 miles and many hikers prefer this option. Although, if you parked your car at Logan Pass, it does require you to figure out how to get from the Loop Trailhead on the sun road to Logan Pass. (You could take the free shuttle offered by the park’s management)
Length of the trail: Hiking from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet is about 14.9 miles round trip and takes around 5 to 6 hours to hike (depending on your speed).
Elevation Gain: 2,578 feet
BEst Time to Hike Highline Trail
People often ask about the best time to visit the Glacier National Park for hiking. Without a doubt the answer is July to September i.e. Summer. In fact, the Highline Trail in particular is not even accessible in winter as the Logan Pass and Sun Road close down in winter due to snow. Spring, on the other hand, is slightly cold and wet but is also a good time to visit.
Highline Trailhead at LOGAN PASS
The Highline trails begin at the parking lot of the Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-sun road. Right off the bat, after about half a mile or so, the trail starts to become a bit nerve wrecking. For the next mile, parts of the trail are basically a sort of a “shelf” carved into the mountain cliff. Hikers are literally on the edge of the cliff looking down at the sun road (see picture below). There is safety cable to hold, many tourists cross that path by grabbing that cable.
Beyond this point you go into the alpine meadows section which is quite picturesque as well. On your way, you will also see various streams, avalanche chutes, wildflowers, and even wildlife. The stunning views of the mountain range of Livingston and the valleys of McDonald Creek and Logan are undoubtedly breathtaking!
Grinnel Glacier Overlook
The point that separates the Haystack Butte from Mt.Gould is the steepest and pointiest section of the Highline Trail. People usually make this area a lunch spot, as it is ideal for people who are looking for a short trek or for people who want to admire the scenery.
If you move along the trail, about half a mile from Granite Park Chalet, you will reach a junction for the Grinnell Glacier Overlook. It is about a mile of steep uphill climb to get to the top. It’s a bit demanding, especially since you’ll already be exhausted from the 7-8 mile hike to that point, but the climb is well worth the effort.
At the top, you reach an overlook on the Garden Wall that has some mesmerizing views of the Grinnel Glacier and surrounding lakes. In total, you can see 5 different lakes from up there including the Grinnel Lake, Josephine Lake and Swiftcurrent Lake. You’ll also see icebergs floating on the meltwater lake formed by Grinnel Glacier and the Salamander Glacier!
GRANITE PARK CHALET
As you come back to the junction, you are only half a mile away from an iconic place in the park, the Granite Park Chalet. The park Chalet is a place for backpackers to rest for the night, and they offer fresh sheets, blankets and pillows with advance reservations that can be made on their website.
You can also pre-order meals from their retail menu or carry your own meal and cook in their shared kitchen (provided you have your own water to use or you buy water from the Chalet). Their kitchen is equipped for overnight guests with twelve burners, two oven stoves and pots, pans and utensils to help with the cooking. It’s a fantastic piece of back country hospitality in the middle of wilderness in the heart of Glacier National Park! Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to stay at the Chalet as we didn’t plan for it in advance. But if you’re into back country camping, this is an experience you DO NOT want to miss.
From the Granite Park Chalet, you can take the 4 miles of downhill hike going through the burned forest to “The Loop” on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Alternatively, you could hike back 8 miles to Logan Pass.
Some people prefer to start the Highline Trail at the Loop, and hike up to Granite Park Chalet, and end the hike at Logan Pass. Either way, the hike is one hell of an adventure.
Plan your hike well
We took this photo just about 30 minutes or so before sunset on our way back. And at this point we were still a few miles away from returning back to the Logan Pass parking lot! (i.e. we actually shouldn’t have stopped here to take this awesome photo and lose time). After this point, we looked at the map and realized we weren’t going to make it to the parking lot in broad day light. The idea of hiking in the dark with no head lamps with us, and stumbling into a black bear trying to rest for the night didn’t sound too appealing. We weren’t prepared or looking forward to that happening.
So we only had one choice – to run! We probably ran 2-3 miles on the hiking trail in almost dark conditions, took brief breaks when we were out of breath, and luckily we got to the parking lot at Logan Pass at around 8.45 pm. It was almost pitch dark by then but we were glad we were out of the trail (this was in summer so the sun sets quite late).
QUICK TIPS For HIghline TRail
- Pack and wear winter clothing i.e jackets, double-layered shirts, thick gloves, cardigans, boots, etc. The weather gets a little harsh at high altitude, even in the summer. It gets more cold as you go up the Going-to-the sun road and once you reach the Logan pass, you feel the real chills in your spine. You will need layers of clothing along the trail, especially at the Grinnel Glacier Overlook where the wind can be rough and cold.
- Plan your hike well and keep tabs on the timing. The parking lot at Logan Pass can get rather busy in summer and it can be difficult to find parking. Get there early (8-9AM) to secure parking. It also gives you enough time to do the 15 mile round trip in broad day light.
- Pack a lot of snacks and water with you, as you won’t be getting any food or beverages up there.
- Remember to wear comfortable hiking boots or shoes as cliffs are pointy and often steep. If you don’t wear firm sole shoes, it would be easy for you to trip or lose your footing.
- Be very careful along the cliff, especially on the first mile from Logan Pass in the narrow section of the hike. Stay away from the edges and grab the cable tightly. If someone is coming on your way from the opposite direction, lean against the wall and there will be enough space for them to cross you.
Are you Ready?
Hiking the Highline trail in Glacier can be a very rewarding experience, one you will remember for a very long time. If you just be careful and use basic sense, we promise that you will enjoy throughout! Check out or detailed guide on visiting Glacier National Park for more tips for your trip. If you’ve already hiked the Highline Trail in Glacier, let us know in comments what was your experience like. We’d love to hear from you.