St. Mary, MT
On our final day in St. Mary, outside the east entrance to Glacier NP, the sun finally came out! We had to extend our stay here two days to take advantage of this day so we could do one of the best hikes in the park, the Highline Trail. For this hike we drove up the Going- to-the-Sun Road to Logan Pass, the highest point on the road. We parked the Jeep there to begin our hike. The trail follows along the Continental Divide, also known as the Garden Wall, for almost eight miles to the Granite Park Chalet, then goes steeply down hill for four miles, where it ends at “The Loop” on the Going to the Sun Road. There we hopped on a park shuttle for a ride back up the mountain to Logan Pass.
As soon as you begin the hike the views are awesome.
The trail quickly becomes a bit narrow as it runs along a steep cliff. In most places the ledge, hanging like a shelf on the Garden Wall, is only four to six feet in width, and has drop-offs of a hundred feet or so down to the Going-to-the-Sun Road below. Fortunately the National Park has installed a hand cable along this stretch of the trail.
Small waterfalls frequently crossed the trail in this section.
From here the trail continues to hug the cliffs and slopes of the Garden Wall. This is a very popular hike and we met many hikers along the way, some in groups with a guide. The picture below shows one of these groups but . . .
. . . a full zoom shot is needed to see them.
The first part of the hike was in areas shaded from the sun, so it was a bit cool. But finally we broke out of the shade to experience our first bit of sunshine on the trail in the last four days!
As we stopped for a brief rest the guy below put on a little show for us.
He found a nice site on a rocky ledge for a little nap, but the site needed a little landscaping.
Once that was complete he settled in to watch the hikers below.
Finally, as we scanned the horizon, the Granite Park Chalet came into view.
The Granite Park Chalet was built in 1914 and 1915 by the Great Northern Railway to provide comfortable backcountry accommodations inside Glacier National Park. The rustic lodge was the last of the nine chalets built by the railroad, and today is listed as a National Historic Landmark. The Chalet is essentially a simple hiker’s hostel, with virtually no amenities. It has 12 guest rooms, each with 2 to 6 bunks. There’s no electricity, but the common-area kitchen does have a propane stove. Reservations are necessary for an overnight stay.
After enjoying lunch and a rest outside the chalet, we began the hike down the mountain.
We finally made it down the trail to The Loop where, fortunately, a shuttle van was waiting, so we were able to quickly return up to the Jeep at Logan Pass.
After a long 12 mile hike, a good meal was just what we needed. A few days earlier we met with Rick and JoAnne, who are camp hosting in the Apgar Campground. They suggested we stop at a quirky little place just north of St. Mary called “Two Sisters.” We thank them for the tip as we had passed the place earlier and it didn’t look too inviting. But we found it to be a neat, off-beat place to eat and the food was very good!
While waiting for our food we enjoyed looking at all the “stuff” on the walls, particularly a display of all types of bumper stickers next to us.
We were pleasantly surprised to spot a Wake Forest sticker in the middle (we have an alumnus in our immediate family). Go Deacs ! ! !
The Highline Trail is definitely a “must do” hike if you visit Glacier NP. It is a long one but since you start the hike at a high altitude, it is fairly level, and the views are fantastic!
That’s it for our stop at Glacier NP. Next up is a trip to an exotic foreign country!
More on that later . . .