The Highline Loop hike starts at the north side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road at Logan Pass. The name of this hike can be very misleading because of the name. Although there is the word “Loop” in the name, it is actually just a one way hike. The “Loop” part of the name derives from a bend in the road on the other side of the part where the hike ends. According to Hikinginglacier, the best way to do the hike is to park at the Loop, and then take the shuttle up to Logan Pass.
This trail is an extremely popular hike due to its incredibly beautiful scenery. The trail follows along the Continental Divide, also known as the Garden Wall. While hiking this trail, be on the lookout for different types of wildlife, wildflowers, as well as many other incredible things. If you own a GoPro I would highly recommend bringing it with you on this beautiful hike. GoPro Hero 5 allows you to capture any breathtaking moment with crystal clear videos and pictures. When re-watching the videos it’s almost as if you’re really there.
About one-quarter of a mile down the trail you will encounter the famous ledge that is known for terrifying people with a fear of heights. This ledge is around 7 feet in width with a drop off of roughly a hundred feet, but only lasts for about three-tenths of a mile. At the bottom of the drop off you will find the Going-to-the-Sun road. The National Park Service has now installed a hand cable along that stretch of the trail for those that need it. Even if you are afraid of heights, do not let this navigate you from going on one of the most breathtaking trails in the country.
After conquering that intimidating ledge, the trail continues next to the cliffs and slops of the Garden Wall for the duration to Granite Park. All throughout the beginning of the trail you will be able to see Mt. Cannon, Mt. Oberlin, and Heavens Peak in the West.
2.5 miles into the trail is when you’ll begin the one major climb that takes you straight up to Haystack Pass. This climb is around 275 feet up a switchback. Hikinginglacier says “At an elevation of 7024 feet, the pass forms the saddle between 7486-foot Haystack Butte and the Garden Wall, which at this point is technically the southeastern flank of Mt. Gould.” Most people find Haystack Pass to be a great spot for a snack or lunch break due to the incredible panoramic view.
The highest elevation of the trail is around 7280 feet. Once you reach that point of the trail, unfortunately that means you have to begin your decent towards Granite Park. On your way down, if you look towards the north you will be able to see 8436-foot Swiftcurrent Mountain.
There is also an optional trail on the side that goes to the top of the Continental Divide. This trail climbs 900 feet in only six-tenths of a mile and provides hikers with an bird-eye view of opposing mountains, The Salamander and Grinnell Glacier.
At 7.6 miles hikers will come to three different paths called Granite Park Trail Junction. If you go to the left, that will take you back down to the Loop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you take the right path, in two-tenths of a mile, the Highline Trail takes you to the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail or you can continue on for 12 miles towards the Fifty Mountain Backcountry Campgrounds. If you continue on the straight path, this will take you to the Granite Park Chalet.
The Great Northern Railway built the Granite Park Chalet in 1914-1915 to provide backcountry accommodations inside of the national park. This was the last chalet of all nine that were built by the railroad. This chalet was the most basic one built compared to all of the rest. This lodge has no amenities at all except a propane stove in the kitchen. There are 12 bedrooms each with 2 to 6 bunks. There is also no electricity anywhere in the lodge.
You can purchase packaged food, drinks, snacks, and bottles of water from the chalet, but if you do not want to purchase water, there is a stream a quarter-mile away along a trail. It is not recommended to drink the water straight from the stream, you should treat it before ingesting.
The spur trail is located a half-mile from the chalet, which will take you straight to the Granite Park Backcountry Campground. This campground includes 4 individual campsites.
If you wish to head back towards the Loop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you should follow the Granite Park Trail, also known as the Loop trail. As you head down this trail, you will pass through sections of pine forest. Continue on this trail, just below the chalet the terrain will open up again. You will now be able to see Heavens Peak. This enormous mountain is nearly 9000 feet tall. The McDonald Creek Valley is located under the mountain. Near the same area, you can see the devastation from the 2003 Trapper Creek Fire. There are thousands of dead trees that still remain alongside the trail.
Before the fire, the Granite Park Trail passed through the wooded area, but the fire opened up vistas of the surrounding mountains. This fire was ignited by lighting and burned more than 19,000 acres. Thankfully, the forest is in the process of regrowing.
After a long 11.2 mile hike, you will finally reach the bottom of the decent, which lands you at Packers Roost Trail Junction.