The Loop Trail
The Loop Trail in Glacier National Park is a popular trail due to being
a “cut off” of sorts for people doing a day hike on the Highline
Trail. Generally, hikers hike the Highline Trail (beginning at Logan
Pass) to the Granite Park Chalet. From there, the Loop Trail is used
to access the “Loop”, which is a hairpin turn on the Going
to the Sun Road and where a small parking lot is located.
The Loop Trail is 3.8 miles in length and has a vertical gain (from
the Going to the Sun Road up to the Granite Park Chalet) of a little
over 2000 feet. As such, it is not the easiest of hiking trails for hikers
who begin their hike at the “Loop.” However, since most hikers
generally are heading “downhill” on the Loop Trail having
just completed the trip down the Highline
Trail, the vertical rise isn’t a huge issue.
The Loop Trail has never been the most scenic of trails, as up until
recently the bulk of the trail passed through thick forests. The view,
truthfully, hasn’t improved recently, either, as the majority of
the terrain the trail passes through was completely burned over by the
Trapper Creek Fire in 2003. While the canopy has been opened up allowing
for some nice views of the mountains, all the dead trees do take a way
from the view a bit.
Yet, although the area was completely burned over, it is still an enjoyable
hike – especially if you are heading downhill and want to learn
more about fires and the growth that occurs soon after. Despite the burn
in 2003, a good portion of the Loop Trail has extensive undergrowth – and
many areas that were once thick brush are beautiful open meadows full
of flowers. While hikers who enjoy “green forests” obviously
will not care much for the Loop Trail, if you are interested in flowers
and forest regeneration following a major fire, a hike down the Loop
Trail is most definitely worthwhile.
Loop Trail : Hiking Detail
As mentioned, the Loop Trail begins at the “Loop”, which
is a sharp switchback on the Going to the Sun Road. The “Loop” itself
is located on the west side of the park, and has an elevation of 4400
feet. In addition to having a parking lot (where hikers can drop their
car off), the parking lot also serves as a shuttle bus pickup point during
gear you will want take when hiking the Loop Trail is pretty straight-forward.
As water is not available on the trail (and not available for free
at the Granite Park Chalet), you will want at least 2 quarts of water,
carried either in canteens or preferably in your pack via the newer hydration
systems. A good pair of hiking
boots, sunglasses, sunscreen and bear spray round out the equipment
a hiker will want to have on the trail. A wind jacket that can double
as a rain
jacket also isn’t a bad idea, as things can get a bit windy,
and cool, as you approach the Granite Park Chalet.
Beginning at the “Loop”, the trail passes through thick,
burned over forests. The trail for the first ¾ of a mile or so
is a mix of flat walking and gradual ascents and descents. After the
first ¾ of a mile, though, the Loop Trail begins a steady, moderately
steep climb up towards the Granite Park Chalet. While there are a few
gentler parts, by and large, the climb up the Loop Trail could best be
characterized as moderately steep for most of the trails length.
At first, the trail passes through thick, burned over forests. However,
as the trail gains elevation, the forests were not as thick, and as such,
did not burn as “hot” as was found further down the trail.
Because of this, the undergrowth has made a remarkably recovery following
the fire. Instead of skimpy grass and lots of burned trees, the hiker
passes through areas full of flowers, tall grass and low underbrush.
The Loop Trail finally levels off a bit after about 3 miles. For the
hiker heading uphill, take heart when you finally leave the fire damaged
area behind, as the top of the most grueling part of the climb is behind
you. From here, it is just a short .8 mile walk up to Granite Park Chalet,
through a mix of forests and open area. The trail itself generally has
a gradual climb up to the Chalet from this point, with the exception
being a sharp climb uphill right below the Chalet.
Overall, the Loop Trail is not a “destination hike” like
the Highline Trail or other scenic trails in the park are. However, it
does serve one very important purpose – allowing hikers on the
Highline Trail to reach the Going to the Sun Road relatively easy without
having to turn around and go back the way they came. Thus, if you want
to hike the Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet and don’t want
to retrace your steps back to Logan Pass, the Loop Trail makes for an
appealing “shortcut” down to the Going to the Sun Road.
View the Loop Trail Photo Gallery
Hiking Gear & Equipment Guide for Glacier National
Jackets : Get
the right type of rain gear for Glacier Park
Top of Page