Glacier National Park 4

Logan Pass, Highline Trail & the Garden Wall

Tuesday, August 10, 2021


When we were planning our trip to Glacier National Park we learned that some people who wanted to drive Going to the Sun Road but did not have a reservation to have access would go through the entrances before they were staffed. This meant that even though we had reservations, we may not get a parking spot a Logan’s Pass to do one of the park’s most popular hikes: Highline Trail and the Garden Wall.

To prevent this from happening, we got everything ready the night before so all we would need to do is get in the car and go; we would change into our hiking clothes once we secured our spot in the parking lot. We set the alarm for 5 a.m. but were awake before the alarm went off. We were out of the campground by 5:05.

As we pulled up to the intersection with the West Glacier entrance, we saw a long line of headlights; our competition. John thought I faked the stop, but I actually fully stopped, it was just before the sign.

Going to the Sun Road was very busy considering the hour. On one section of the road – way in the distance – we could see red tail lights snaking along the mountain. Some cars were coming from the other direction; we thought surely that the parking lot was already full and that’s why they were leaving.

We arrived at the Logan Pass parking lot at 6 a.m. and easily got a spot. By 6:40 a.m. the lot was completely full. It was freezing. I needed to change, but we were parked next to a vehicle that was occupied by a family with kids in the back. They were probably eating breakfast and staying in the warm car as long as they could, but it was hampering my progress. Eventually I just had to do what I had to do.

beginning of the trail

It’s a 16-mile “hike” to get to the Garden Wall and back via the Highline Trail and about 3,500 feet of gain. A great amount of people were starting the same time as us. Despite this, we were able to have significant portions of the trail to ourselves.

Words cannot describe the majesty of this place. These mountains were formed by sedimentation, uplift and folding, and the u-shaped valleys were carved by glaciers. How can a place with so many faults be so perfect?

one of the waterfalls on the trail
yes, this is the trail
the Garden Wall

It’s .6 of a mile and 1,000′ of gain up the Garden Wall Trail. We did it without stopping; it felt amazing to get my heart rate up.

Once we reached the “window,” we layered up and found a spot that blocked the wind. We snacked and enjoyed the view of the teal-colored Grinnell Lake and the Grinnell Glacier. I would have loved to have hiked to Grinnell Lake from the Many Glacier side of the park; next time…

We left the pack of fellow hikers and followed a herd path farther up the Garden Wall that presented us with an even better view of Grinnell Glacier.

heading back the way we came

On the return trip we got several views from different vantage points of a mama grizzly and her two cubs in the meadow, a good distance from where we were on the trail. At other spot we saw a mountain goat climbing up the wall high above us. What a great day it was!

We briefly discussed going to Hidden Lake, which you access from the Logan Pass parking lot, but it was a mad-house of people; we just wanted to get out of there.

We drove to West Glacier and got food: a sandwich and huckleberry ice cream for me, a hamburger and beer for John. Back at the campground, I witnessed a kid throw his empty can into a vacant campsite. I picked it up, and (kindly) asked the kid if he knew where he could recycle it. Luckily his older brother came, was apologetic, and took him to where he could properly dispose of the can. Perhaps I overstepped, but I think it’s important to not let things like that slide. I’m just happy it went well…

It was a day full of beauty and also of frustration. We felt like we needed a break from all the people that were around, as is typical in our great national parks. There were a couple ideas of what we could do the following day but nothing was set in stone. We went to bed not knowing what tomorrow’s plan would be.

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