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Glacier’s Highline Trail

By Ann Driggers

We had it all planned out. Four days in Glacier National Park, where to camp, where to hike, when our rest days would be. All so our visit who be maximized to the full. We would enter from the west side, drive through the park and spend a few days on the east side. But we didn't factor in the National Park Service who threw a wrench in the works by deciding our truck camper was just a weenie bit too tall, long and wide to drive over the Going-to-the-Sun (GTTS) Road. Now, in Colorado, I think we know narrow, windy, mountain roads pretty well. Independence Pass and Red Mountain Pass, to name just a couple, make the GTTS Road look like I70! But the Park Service turned us around and we had to drive the southern perimeter of the park to reach the eastern side. Consequently we arrived in Glacier in the wrong place (per our plan), way late and with no campsite. Campsites are first come, first served and the most popular ones fill up early morning after a serious rugby scrum. The glacier gods must have been smiling on us as despite it being late morning we did score on a campsite and we then set about salvaging our plans by going on a hike. It was already noon but we figured we had just enough time to catch a shuttle bus up to Logan Pass, hike the 12 miles of the Highline trail past the famed Glacier Park Chalet and on down to the Loop to catch another shuttle bus back, all before they shut down for the evening at 6 pm. Logan Pass is the highpoint of the GTTS Road with towering peaks, snowfields, meadows, wildlife and lakes and it was from here the Highline trail began. It was a zoo. The first mile or so because of the masses of people but once we motored through the melee it was a wild animal wonderland. The trail clung to the side of an arete named the Garden Wall, and passed through meadows of wildflowers. Eagles, goats, deer, very fat marmots and ground squirrels greeted us along our way.

The Highline trail with beautiful views through the smoke/haze drifiting from wildfires in British Columbia.

hazy views.jpg

Several miles from Logan Pass we finally felt as though we were truly in wild country. As we turned a corner I glanced down into the meadow 150 yards below and saw a large grizzly sow and her two cubs. They did not seem to be aware of our presence and as we were a safe distance away we watched them for a minute before quickly carrying on our way. It was a gift to see the bears in their own habitat, though I had my hand close to my pepper spray for the rest of the hike.

A very friendly goat. I DID NOT get anywhere close to the grizzlies, hence no photos of them.

goat.jpg

Before reaching the Chalet we decided to take a detour to the Glacier Overlook, adding 1.2 miles and 1,000 feet climbing to our original plan. We realised that we might be hitch hiking back to camp but couldn't pass on the view over Grinnell Glacier and into the west side of the park. We made the right decision - it was stunning.

glacier overlook.jpg

Speed marching we arrived at the Glacier Peak Chalet and slammed down some water before setting off for the Loop on the GTTS Road. The hut warden looked a little doubtful as we left saying we intended on catching the last shuttle bus. We were now well over 10 miles into our short little afternoon stroll and I was having foot problems having forgotten to use by beloved Injinji toe socks. But the thought of sticking the thumb out kept us moving. The 2,400 foot descent was through areas of forest and thick vegetation and we raised our bear alert noise even higher. We made it just in time and caught the last bus back into camp. Suffering from sore feet and tired legs that night, I hoped I hadn't jeopardised the next three days of our trip as we planned several other substantial hikes. The next morning however the clouds quickly rolled in obscuring all views and within an hour rain started falling. The weather forecast was more of the same and worse for the remainder of the week as a low pressure system moved in. We hung out at Many Glacier for a day hoping the weather would improve but it did not. Glad that we had hammered out the Highline hike the first day and made the extra effort to add on the Glacier Overlook, we decided to head south in advance of the cold front.

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