The Highline Trail
Haystack Pass lies about halfway in-between Logan Pass and Granite Park
Chalet. The pass is also incredibly scenic, offering sweeping views in
all directions. And, to top it off, the pass is very open, pretty flat
and has a ton of large, flat rocks. As such, Haystack Pass has become
the undesignated “lunch stop” for hikers on the Highline
Trail. As a word of warning, guard your lunch. Ground squirrels are everywhere
up at the pass, and will happily and stealthily steal your food if you
are not careful!
From Haystack Pass, the Highline Trail makes one more short climb, most
of it very gentle, for about a half mile, as it nears the trails maximum
elevation on the hike, of 7,440 feet. The views of the Livingston Range
are incredible, with Heaven’s Peak dominating the skyline. Mt.
Cannon, Mt. Oberlin and Swiftcurrent Mountain also provide for some spectacular
views. Additionally, about a mile down the trail from Haystack Pass the
hiker is rewarded with some nice views of the entire Lower McDonald Creek
Valley, including views of Lake McDonald.
The Highline Trail continues to lose elevation as it passes through
an area burned partially over during a fire that occurred here in 1967.
While not too many trees remain, you can still see a number of dead trees
still standing – like monuments to a long, lost battle against
the forces of nature.
Soon, the Highline Trail makes a turn to the east as it goes around
a ridge. From here, views of Swiftcurrent Mountain and the beautiful
area around Granite Park Chalet open up. From here, it is about 2.5 miles
to the Chalet.
The Highline Trail continues to gradually lose elevation and then flattens
out. The terrain it passes through is very open and very rocky. At mile
marker 6.8 (as measured from Logan Pass), hikers who are feeling good
can take a short, but steep side hike up to Grinnell Overlook via the
Grinnell Glacier Overlook Trail. This trail isn’t very long, only
.8 miles, but it is awfully steep for part of its length. Yet, if the
weather is good and you’re feeling fine, it is a rewarding hike – as
from the top of the trail you’ll get a beautiful view of Grinnell
Glacier and the Many Glacier area.
From the junction with the Grinnell Glacier Overlook Trail, the Highline
Trail begins a gradual ascent towards the Granite Park Chalet for .8
miles, which is clearly visible and seemingly takes forever to reach.
At the Granite Park Chalet, a day hiker will find a place to buy some
water, soda or Gatorade, and to load up on energy foods like chocolate
bars and such. Granite Park Chalet, it should be noted, does NOT have
a well. So don’t plan on replenishing your water supplies here – at
least without paying for it.
A day hiker at the Granite Park Chalet has two choices. The first choice
is to simply go back the way you came, down the Highline Trail. However,
the most popular route (because it is the easiest), is to take the 4
mile hike down the Loop Trail. The Loop Trail will take a hiker down
a pretty steep descent to the Going to the Sun Road at the “Loop.” From
there, a hiker can either hitchhike back up to Logan Pass, wait for the
shuttle bus that runs about once and hour during the summer, or hop in
the vehicle that you were smart enough to leave there.
Overall, the Highline Trail is a “must do” hike for anyone
who wants to do a hike in Glacier National Park. The Highline Trail is
incredibly scenic, relatively easy, and is a wonderful trail to see wildlife
on. If you can only do one hike on your visit to Glacier National Park,
and you are in moderately decent condition, then this is a trail to give
serious thoughts to taking.
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the Highline Trail
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