Chalet Plaque

Granite Park Chalet

*Update: Hiked in 2012 and 2015*

Now this is a hike. If you’re ever planning a trip to Glacier National Forest, you have to start planning in October. That is when the Granite Park Chalet opens for reservations. The Chalet is a leftover icon of the days of the railroad barons. There are two Chalets in Glacier; this and Sperry Chalet by Lake McDonald. The┬áChalet has rooms for rent, giving visitors a rustic night out. It’s all self-serve and self-supplied at the Chalet. You could pay to have your dehydrated food packed there for you, but why?

To reserve your spot at the Chalet (no private rooms, sorry), you need to register at GraniteParkChalet.com in October. It goes fast, so be prepared. It’s not exactly cheap, considering the accommodations, but it’s a fantastic memory to make. If you want to know even more of the Chalet (past history), read “The Night of the Grizzlies,” about bear attacks at and near the Chalet in the 1960s. You will be amazed.

From the Chalet, you can hike around the area, like the Grinnell Glacier overlook, or a grueling Swiftcurrent lookout tower. If that’s what you want to do. Or just hang out at the Chalet, enjoying the wonder of nature.

If you have good weather, it is simply amazing. The views are breathtaking, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see wildlife, too. Mountain goats and marmots are commonly seen. Bighorn sheep have been sighted as well.

The Trail

This hike is pretty flat, with very few inclines. The fun part is the 7.5 mile trek at the “roof” of Glacier National Park. You start at Logan Pass and hike North to the Chalet (the easiest of the three routes to the Chalet). The Highline Trail follows some sheer cliffs, but don’t worry, there’s a cable handrail if needed. It’s only a short bit, then the trail traverses over and between some peaks. Some snow was on the trail, making it a lovely jaunt. There was rain as well, so it is crucial to bring the right gear and just-in-case gear.

The Highline Trail is above the Going to the Sun Road, one of the most beautiful and terrifying mountain passes. The view of the road above from the trail shows the tight corners and altitude changes of the pass.

The trail itself is very well traveled and maintained. It goes from packed dirt to flat rocks. There’s nothing that’s difficult on the trail.

If it’s possible to hike 15 miles in one day, it’s possible to hike to the Chalet and back to Logan Pass. Or, if you stay at the Chalet, take the Loop Trail down. We hiked the Loop Trail, which is only 4.2 miles, but a steep descent. It’s a nice trail, mostly packed dirt. The bottom half of the trail winds through old wildfire land. There are bees in the area, if being stung is a concern. At the end of the Loop Trail, a bridge over a stream offers a great cooling spot. The trail dumps out at “The Loop,” a sharp hairpin near the bottom of Going To The Sun Road. Glacier National Park runs a shuttle service that’s free, and it stops at The Loop. It was handy, as we hopped a shuttle from one side of Glacier, and it dropped us off on the other side in St. Mary. Apologies to the other passengers of the shuttle. Two days of hiking and no shower.

Gear

Sturdy hiking boots, considering the distance and the weight of the backpack. I used my Osprey Atmos 65 pack, loaded with my camera, Kelty Cosmic 20 degree bag, Thermarest sleeping pad, Jet Boil, and fresh clothes for the next day. Water was 4L, and we are able to get water nearby the Chalet, it does require filtering and purifying. Trekking poles are necessary for the snowfield (if any), and probably the way down, if going via the Loop Trail.

The Highline Trail is fully exposed, so sunscreen and sun shade is needed. The Loop Trail does go through trees, but it was very sunny and hot.

Other Notes & Musings

In 2015 I went prepared. I hauled the majority of our food and supplies to the Chalet (pack weighed over 50 lbs.) for the wife and I. In addition, I brought excellent camera gear. A MeFoto Backpacker Tripod and a rented Canon 100-400mm f/5.6L IS lens from LensRentals.com. This lens is awesome (and just a little heavy). We got some great night shots of the Milky Way and the Chalet. It was pretty rough photo conditions as the numerous wildfires in the west produced a bunch of smoke that obscured our views.

If you bring bear spray, please make sure you’re safe with it. Apparently the canisters can “just go off” if they’re old or whatever. Unfortunately, one of the canisters in the Chalet went off while a group (including my wife) was in the kitchen. The Chalet was evacuated and aired out. But hey, it was a memorable experience.

Life finds a way...
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