Highline Trail and Granite Park Chalet (point-to-point: 11.4 miles 1,475′ gain, out-and-back: 14.9 miles, 2,575′ gain)
The Highline Trail winds around the cliff bands below the Continental Divide ridgeline at Glacier National Park. To one side tower imposingly steep peaks, to the other, a sheer dropoff to the Going-to-the-Sun Road. It’s an epic adventure, but there will be crowds and possible bear (and other animal) activity like the Hidden Lake Trail. However, the epic views and ability to utilize the park shuttles make the Highline Trail a Glacier “must-hike” for any semi-serious hiker.
There are two basic strategies to tame this trail, point-to-point from Logan Pass to The Loop or out-and-back from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet. If you don’t mind a 15-mile day, just hike the out-and-back. My knees complained about that even at my peak, so I usually opted to utilize the park shuttle and hike the point-to-point route.
If I could, I would park at The Loop and head uphill to the Granite Peak Chalet. This lets me tackle the grueling Granite Park Trail in the cool morning hours, plus, my knees like hiking uphill better than down. Also, the shuttle service works better at Logan Pass because it’s first-come, first-serve, and there’s a shortage of seats at The Loop stop. However, there’s very limited parking at The Loop, so I would just head on up to Logan Pass if there isn’t a space.
What I love about the Highline Trail is how the nature of the trail radically changes every couple of miles. The first little bit out Logan Pass is deceptively flat, then you round a corner and, BOOM! You’re teetering high above the Going-to-the-Sun Road. A couple of miles later, you reach the mid-trail highpoint of Haystack Butte Pass, which is an animal playground with bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and a plethora of marmots. As you work your way around the sheer cliffs of the Garden Wall, you might find wildflowers or huckleberries, depending on the season. As you approach the outpost of the Granite Park Chalet, you reach the junction with the Garden Wall Trail. This short and steep trail (1.8 miles out-and-back, 900′ gain) takes you to the ridgeline, where you can look down onto the Grinnell Glacier.
So you see, there are plenty of reasons for people to challenge the Highline Trail. Plus, if you have any gas left in your tank, you can tack on a trip down the Hidden Lake Trail once you reach Logan Pass. However, I would plan on doing this AFTER you finish the Highline Trail.