Highline Trail

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Highline Trail
United States

The Highline Trail is a hiking route in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA.

This popular hike has stunning scenery of geological interest, as it follows a continental divide that rises up as a sheer wall of rock, known as The Garden Wall.

An out and back hike with several options for length, the Highline Trail is a great trek that you can tailor to your abilities and fitness levels.

Wonder at snow-capped peaks, get great views over shifting glaciers, and spot wildlife along the way. Not only that, you can stand on top of the continental divide!

Highlights
  • Wildlife such as mountain goats and bighorn sheep
  • Wild flowers and alpine meadows
  • Pine forests
  • Geological features and rock formations
  • Views of mountain summits on the Livingston Range
About the route

The trailhead begins on the north side of a road called Going-to-the-Sun, near Logan’s Pass. The full route is from Logan Pass to The Loop, however you can shorten the hike and stop at Granite Park Chalet.

Starting from Logan Pass, the first two kilometre section of this hike is not for the faint-hearted. There is a ledge with 100 foot sheer drops to one side. While the path is fairly wide, and there is a rail to hold on to, it makes for a nerve-wracking experience that you’ll never forget!

This is a fairly busy route, so don’t expect to find solitude on the trail.

You can hike this route in either direction. Starting from Logan Pass, there are more downhill stages than uphill, however many hikers prefer walking uphill as it is better on the knees. If that sounds like you, begin your trek from The Loop.

The scenery is beautiful, and there are option to hike spurs of the path that take you to some amazing viewpoints.

  • Travel

The nearest airport to the Glacier National Park is the Glacier National Park International Airport, 48 kilometres from the west entrance and 19 kilometres from the town of Whitefish.

There are car parking facilities at either end of the trail.

There is a free park shuttle within the Glacier National Park. If you hike from Logan Pass to The Loop, the shuttle will be able to bring you back to the trailhead.

  • Length

The highline Trail runs from the trailhead at Logan Pass to The Loop. It is a point-to-point hike, with other options for side trips.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

This hike is graded at 3. The terrain is easy to moderate, with some steep inclines and decents.

Highline Trail

Confidence is key to enjoying this hike. There may be bears in the area, so learning how to behave around them and how to scare them off the trail will make you feel less nervous.

  • Experience

You do not need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy this trail, but beginner hikers should make sure they are well kitted out for the trek. Proper footwear and light layers is essential when hiking mountain passes.

There are both black bears and grizzly bears in the area, so leaning what to do should you meet one, and carrying bear spray, is a must on this hike.

You should be at a level of fitness where you can walk over a variety of terrain for several hours. As this is a point to point hike, you do not need to carry camping equipment unless you choose to stay overnight.

The trail is clearly marked for most of the way, the only time where it might get a little confusing is through a boulder strewn avalanche field. Due to the amount of people on the trail at any one time, you are not likely to be stuck for assistance should you need a point in the right direction.

  • Permits

There is an entrance fee for the Glacier National Park. You do not need a permit to hike the trail.

  • Guided or Self-Guided

This is a well-marked trail, and most hikers opt for a self-guided hike.

There are tour guides that offer guided day hikes. You might prefer this if you are fairly new to hiking or prefer to hike with a group.

best time to walk

The best time to hike this trail is during the summer. July, August and September bring the warmest temperatures.

Spring and autumn can also be a pleasant time to visit the Highline Trail. In spring there is a flush of alpine flowers, and in autumn the colours make the scenery even more stunning. There may be snow on the trail in places in spring and autumn.

There are times when the trail may be closed. Grizzly bears are known to be in the area, and the path may be closed if there is increased bear activity. It is a good idea to check for any closures before heading the Glacier National Park.

Caution is advised if you want to hike in winter. The trail can be icy and slippery, and there is a high chance of snow. Only experienced hikers should attempt the trail in winter.

A typical itinerary would be:

The Highline Trail can be done as a day trek, or there is camping if you wish to further your route.

Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet
12 kilometres

Granite Park to The Loop
6.5 kilometres

Another option is to hike 5 kilometres to The Haystack, a popular picnic spot, before returning to the trail-head.

Accommodation

Accommodation on the trail is limited to camping, but you may be able to stay for the night at Granite Park Chalet.

This historic building was built in 1914-15 by the Great Northern Railway, and one of the only back country chalets to still survive. It has 12 rooms for guests. To stay here, you will need to book in advance.

If you don’t manage to book a bed at the chalet, there is also a campsite.

The nearest towns to the trail are Columbia Falls and Whitefish, and you will find a range of accommodation from simple B&Bs, motels and larger hotels.

What to do

Take lots of photos! From the trail, the view of Mount Oberlin is awe-inspiring.

Take a 2 kilometre spur off the path to visit Grinnell Glacial Overlook. It climbs over 300 metres to amazing viewpoint of the Grinnell Glacier below. Here you are standing on the continental divide, or the Garden Wall.

If you have energy to spare, take a 5 kilometre hike from Granite Park Chalet to the summit of Swiftcurrent Mountain.

If you want to walk further than the Highline Trail, at Granite Park Chalet the route turns into the Northern Highline Trail. Instead of taking the route to The Loop, there is a further 48 kilometres to explore before the trail finishes at Goat Haunt Montana.

At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking, Walking
Difficulty 3/5
Starts at Logan Pass, Montana 59936, USA
Finishes at Going-to-the-Sun Rd, West Glacier, MT 59936, USA
Length of route 18.5 Km
Average time to complete 1 - Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsYes
Highest point 2225 metres
Permit requiredNo
Equipment neededPoles if preferred, walking boots, Water Supplies
Countries visited United States

Gallery

Walk Map