Glacier National Park’s Epic Grand Loop

Glacier National Park’s Epic Grand Loop

Postby smokymtnhiker » Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:37 am

Thanks to its topography, trail system, and a favorable location of accommodations, hikers have an opportunity to experience an epic three-day grand loop in Glacier National Park that includes the absolute best scenery Glacier has to offer. And, it doesn’t require any backpacking equipment or camping under the stars. This “grand loop” starts from Logan Pass and goes out to Granite Park Chalet, down to Many Glacier, over Piegan Pass, and back down to Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Every step along this trek provides awe-inspiring beauty!

The best way to do this hike is to park your car at Rising Sun on the east side, or Apgar on the west, and take the free shuttle up to Logan Pass. From there you’ll hike 7.6 miles along the Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet. As a result of its exceptionally beautiful views, the Highline Trail is likely the most popular backcountry trail in the park, and should be on the bucket list of any self-respecting hiker. With an elevation gain of only 975 feet, the hike to the chalet is also relatively easy.

If you feel this first leg of the loop is too easy, and you still have a little gas left in the tank, I highly recommend taking the 0.6-mile Garden Wall Trail up to the top of the Continental Divide. From this perch, 900 feet above the Highline Trail, you’ll have commanding views of Grinnell Glacier on the other side of the divide.

That night you’ll stay at the Granite Park Chalet. The Chalet has 12 guest rooms, each with 2 to 6 bunks. Although very basic, and virtually no amenities, it’s still much better than camping if you’re not a fan of sleeping in tents. Be forewarned though, you will need to make a reservation several months in advance.

The next day you’ll make the short climb over Swiftcurrent Pass before making the 2300-foot descent down to Many Glacier. From the top of the pass, down to the head of Bullhead Lake, the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail drops nearly 2000 feet in just three miles. Once in the Swiftcurrent Valley the trail flattens out substantially. As you proceed down the valley you’ll pass Redrock Falls, Redrock Lake, Fishercap Lake, as well as several alpine meadows. In all, this leg of the trek is 7.5 miles.

Before leaving Swiftcurrent Pass, however, you do have the option of visiting the Swiftcurrent Fire Lookout. The lookout sits atop Swiftcurrent Mountain, which will require a climb of more than 900 feet in roughly 1.4 miles. As you might expect, the panoramic views from this outpost are quite spectacular.

Once in Many Glacier you’ll have several options for overnight accommodations, including staying at the historic Many Glacier Hotel.

Your third day of hiking will be the longest and the toughest. Hikers will climb roughly 2700 feet up to Piegan Pass, before dropping back down to Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The climb out of the Many Glacier Valley is 8.4 miles by itself, and then from Piegan Pass to Siyeh Bend is another 4.4 miles. Although Piegan Pass isn’t nearly as popular as the Highline Trail or Swiftcurrent Pass, it’s only because it’s overlooked by too many people. Roughly 2.4 miles from the road, if you still haven’t had enough of the mind-blowing scenery, I would recommend taking the short and easy side trip out to Preston Park. I would rank this as one of the beautiful alpine meadows I’ve ever seen.

Upon returning to the Going-to-the-Sun Road simply take the shuttle back to your car.

The exceptionally beautiful views, the excellent opportunities for spotting wildlife, and the proliferation of wildflowers along most of the route, all combine to make this a hike you'll remember the rest of your life.

I apologise for not being able to create links (BBCode wasn't working), but if you want to check out some photos, as well as more details on the trails described above, you can visit these links:

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