The Highline Trail was the first trail we hiked while in Glacier National Park. After driving around the park for half the day our first day there, we decided it was time to get outside. Since it’s right in the middle of the park and on one side of a very large valley, the Highline Trail is known for its beautiful vistas, wildflowers, mountain top views, and seas of alpine meadows. You might even see a mountain goat or two!
The Highline Trail is awesomely deceptive – by the looks of it, you’d think it was a very strenuous hike. I mean, how else are you going to get to see alpine meadows and scree like that? But since this trail doesn’t have much elevation gain, it’s actually a pretty moderate hike. With only gradual inclines and many flat parts of the trail, this is definitely not one you should miss.
Trailhead: The visitor’s center at Logan Pass
Distance: 11.8 miles one-way
Time: about 5-7 hours
Total elevation gain: 1950 feet
Best time to go: July-August
Starting at Logan Pass, you’ll park at the visitor’s center and cross the road towards the trail. You’ll be hiking alongside a mountain and above but parallel to the Going To The Sun Road (the main road of the park) for a while. At about mile 2.5, you’ll have a couple of pretty long uphill climbs, including one long switchback (and some amazing views), but after that it’s a gradual downhill from there.
The only real difficulties you’ll face on this hike are the narrow trails, steep drop-offs, the scree (small loose rocks), and the high winds.
WHAT YOU NEED TO BRING ON THE HIGHLINE TRAIL:
Hiking boots/shoes. Because of the scree, you’ll want shoes with a very good grip.
Plenty of water. Bring at least 2 quarts per person.
Lunch. Hiking the entire trail will take you about 6 hours, so if you don’t bring food, you’ll be pretty mad at yourself.
Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc. Since this is an alpine (i.e. above the treeline) trail, there won’t be much shade at all. Protect yourself from the sun on this long hike.
Bear spray. You’ll want to take bear spray with you everywhere in Glacier. You probably won’t ever use it, but you’re never too sure! (You can sell it back or donate your bear spray to many outdoor stores in the area if you don’t use it.)
A light jacket. Since I’m assuming you’ll be here in the summer*, a light jacket will do. It can get cold on this trail because of the wind. I suggest bringing a rain jacket since any good hiker knows that hiking this close to the Continental Divide at this elevation often promises a few unforseen thunderstorms.
Hiking poles. They aren’t necessary for everyone, but if you’re like me and don’t trust your own balance, go ahead and bring them for peace of mind while on the narrower sections.
*If you’re visiting in the winter you’ll need a whole slew of other things, so go find another blog post about Glacier in the winter! 🙂
Lastly, this is a great hike if you want to do just part of the hike. If you’ve only got a couple hours, hike 2 miles in and 2 miles back. The beauty of this trail starts at the trailhead, so you won’t miss much!
I miss Glacier National Park so much – especially the Highline Trail. I can’t wait to go back to Glacier to do all the things I loved over again!