Those who read my trip reports on previous trips to the Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park in 2009 and 2011 may recall tales of blisters, blizzards, fog, rain, hail, sleet, rock slides and close encounters with grizzly bears. This report will have none of that. This trip was all about blue skies, clear views that extended for miles and miles, a glorious profusion of wild flowers, and mountain peaks showing off.
The members of the group this year included my husband, my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece and myself. We started out divided into two groups — the hares and the tortoises. Stacy and I are the tortoises. I had advertised my intention to take my sweet time along the Highline Trail and Stacy and I did just that. The distance from Logan Pass to the Granite Park Chalet is 7.6 miles with a net elevation gain of 800 feet. Of course, along the way you lose and have to re-gain some of that elevation, but that is to be expected on any hike, even a “relatively flat” one, in the Rockies. The average hike time for the Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet is 5-6 hours. It took Stacy and me almost 8. Unfortunately, that did mean that the last couple miles were in the heat of the day (something I never deal well with), but it was well worth it to take the time to smell the flowers. It took the hares somewhere between three and four hours.
Stacy and I passed the trailhead around 9:45 on Saturday morning. The hares didn’t pause at the trailhead, so there was no group photo. Here’s Stacy:
A friend commented, upon seeing this photo, that the trail looks like it would accommodate a wheel chair. It doesn’t take long for that wide smooth trail to change considerably. More on that later…
I don’t think Stacy and I made it 50 yards before we had already stopped for several photos.
A patch of pleated gentian
The obligatory photo of the garden hose encased steel cable anchored to the cliff wall where the trail hugs the rimrocks
There was such an abundance and variety of wild flowers, that it seemed we were stopping every few yards.
And yet more flowers…
The trail becomes a little more rugged, and the views even better. I’d be sorry to have missed the beargrass bloom, the remnants of which is seen in the seeds on stalks, but I can’t regret the profusion of wild flowers we did enjoy.
Mount Oberlin, Mount Cannon and Heaven’s Peak (left to right)
If this looks different to you from my previous reports on trips along this trail, believe me, it looked different to me, too. Doing this trip without fog or low-lying clouds was a totally different experience.
I’d never seen this view like this before here where the trail hugs the cliffside (no handrails on this side – I guess they figure those uneasy with heights have turned back by this point).
I’ve never gone early enough to see Lewis’s Monkeyflower along the trail and bumblebees were never out on prior trips in wet to freezing weather.
Like so many others did that day and every nice day, we stopped atop Haystack Butte, roundabout the halfway point of the hike, for a break and to enjoy the views. The trail cutting through the photo below goes to an overlook.
Can you see the trail we’d continue on in the photo below?
We continued stopping frequently for flowers like this trio of paintbrush…
…and this rainbow array of paintbrush
Oh! Look up! The backdrop of the paintbrush was the Purcell lava of Cathedral Peak.
Continuing along the trail at our tortoise pace…
… slowly but surely, we reached Granite Park and were able to look back with satisfaction.
We were just in time for a rib-eye steak dinner. We ate our fill, but some steak remained. We could have found room to stuff it in, but my husband offered it up to the Chalet staff. He didn’t have to extend the invitation twice.
In the morning, my brother-in-law and niece had to leave us, as they had obligations back at home. My husband, sister and I enjoyed spending Sunday hanging out at the Chalet…
…and enjoying the views, sometimes from our room window, feet propped up in the window sill, looking up the Highline Trail to Logan Pass, and enjoying the breeze.
Yes, those are my boots. :^)
Even into the evening twilight, the view remained spectacular – a sweeping view of Mount Gould, Cathedral Peak, Haystack Butte, Logan Pass, Mount Reynolds, Mount Oberlin, Mount Cannon, and Birdwoman Falls.
In the morning, Stacy and I headed out on The Loop, while my husband headed to Logan Pass along the Highline Trail.
The Loop trail makes a steep route down 2200 feet over 4.2 miles from Granite Park Chalet to a hairpin curve on Going to the Sun Road.
The flowers were different along The Loop, but there, too, we enjoyed wild flowers, like this pearly everlasting…
…and goldenrod, just to show and tell of a couple.
The Loop Trail was once a tunnel through the trees in sections. Now only skeletons of the Trapper Creek Fire of 2003 stand sentinel along the trail.
Our last photo stop along The Loop trail was on the footbridge to enjoy the cascades.
More photos from the trip are here: http://www.bigskycountry.net/graniteparktrip_2012