Highline Trail, Glacier National Park


After completing the six mile trip to Hidden Lake and back, I retreated to my car for peanut butter sandwiches, bottled water, and a quick recharge on my camera battery (and my feet).  The sun was already starting to hang low in the sky, and when you’re surrounded by towering peaks like the ones looming above Logan Pass, the sun sets early.

In fact, the sun sets directly behind Clements Mountain.

At any rate, I knew I only had about an hour or so to hike, so I set out down the other trail that begins at the Logan Pass visitor’s center: the Highline Trail.

The Highline isn’t really meant for short hikes.  The first destination listed on the sign at the trailhead is Granite Park Chalet, 7 1/2 miles away.  Even though it’s mostly level the entire way, that’s a long walk–far too long a walk for me, especially at this time of day.  So, I decided I’d start down the trail, hike for about 45 minutes, and see where I ended up.

The trail is steep for just a few hundred feet, then levels out, taking you through a flat meadow and a few trees.

Before long, you learn where the Highline Trail gets its name.  The path is only a couple feet wide, and winds along the edge of the Garden Wall arête.  Here, you’re just below the Continental Divide, and only a couple hundred feet directly above Going To The Sun Road.  I imagine most drivers have no idea there are hikers just above them, so close that a kicked stone could land on the road below.

On the most narrow parts of the trail, there’s a cable bolted into the rock wall, just in case you need to grab onto something quickly.

The ride down from Logan Pass might be fun, but I can’t imagine the bike ride up to it.

After walking for a while, and enjoying a great view down the valley, I turned around and headed back to Logan Pass.

I knew I was going to drive the eastern half of Going To The Sun Road on Day 5, so I didn’t worry with driving much further.  But I did drive east from Logan Pass about another mile, looking for a good place to watch the late day sun shine against the mountains.

There are a couple of places just east of Logan Pass where water flows down the side of the mountain, nearly showering the road.  It’s not especially safe to walk along Going To The Sun Road, but by this time of day, traffic had died down, so I walked over to one of those waterfalls, looking for a rainbow.  As you can see, I found it.

After that, I headed west once again, back over Logan Pass.

At a parking area just below Logan Pass I stopped for this shot of the Garden Wall.  With the sun nearly set, the arête lit up brilliantly.

I made just one more stop on my way back downhill, heading to Kalispell.  There was barely enough room to turn off at the side of the road, but the orange light shining on the mountains directly above me was too great to miss.

The view to the west was also incredible, as the sun sank below the mountains.

After this, an hour of dark driving awaited.  Unfortunately, I had seen my last sunlight for a couple of days.

Note: This trip was first published in 2006.  Much of the same area was covered in the Big Sky trip in 2014.

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