The Highline Trail in Glacier National Park is legendary. On any list of the best hikes in the park, you can bet that the Highline Trail will be at or near the top. The trail is along the Continental Divide and provides near constant incredible, panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Hiked: Early July
Best time to hike: June-October
Accessibility: Entirely paved highway and road
Length & elevation: Varies, depending on how much of the trail you complete. One way, it’s 11.8 miles.
Difficulty: Moderate – strenuous depending on how far you go
Crowds: Highly trafficked
Trail views: Mountains, waterfalls, meadows
The morning of our hike on the Highline trail, we were up at 5 am and in the car by 5:30. Coming from Fish Creek Campground in West Glacier, it was about a one hour drive to Logan Pass. The route takes you along the incredible Going-to-Sun road; the second half of the drive is incredibly scenic and is really an experience in and of itself.
While we didn’t stop to take pictures and take in the scenery on our way to Logan Pass, if you have time, it’s worth making some stops. There are multiple parking pull out areas just for this!
We arrived at Logan Pass around 6:30 am and it was already very busy. We ate breakfast at the edge of the parking lot and watched the sunrise. To our surprise, we got to see a whole herd of bighorn sheep there!
After eating, we headed to the back area of the Logan Pass Visitor Center to check out the views.
After enjoying a relaxing morning at Logan Pass, we set off on the Highline Trail at around 8:00 am. The first part of the trail descends quickly to the cable portion of the trail, perhaps the “line” portion of the trail name.
While it looks a bit hairy, don’t let it deter you. The section isn’t too long, and it was easy to pass people by simply leaning right up against the rock face.
As you can see, the expansive views start right at the beginning of the trail.
Beyond the cable section of the trail, it gets a little easier for those fearful of heights, but you’re pretty consistently on a bit of a ledge as you make the trek. That’s what makes this hike so incredible!
We saw a bunch of animals along the trail, including mountain goats, deer, and marmots. Hikers have also seen bear here; as always in Glacier National Park, it’s a good idea to carry bear spray. You won’t ever be bored on this trail between the incredible mountain vistas and the animals!
One of the nice elements of the Highline Trail is that you can hike as far as you’d like and simply turn around when you’re tired. While one popular option is to hike from Logan Pass to the Loop from point to point, this wasn’t a feasible option while we were visiting due to the fact that the shuttles were not running at the Loop at the time, due to covid. We were aiming to instead head to Haystack Butte and then return, but ended up stopping at the meadow right before the ascent to the Butte.
I actually made a compilation video of our Highline trail experience on Instagram, so I’m sharing it below.
Tips for Hiking the Highline Trail
- Get to your starting point early. Logan Pass parking lot was busy when we arrived at 6:30 am and was basically full by 7 am. The shuttles are an option as well; you can find more information here.
- Check the trail status updates online if possible or at the trail area when you arrive. Trails in Glacier are regularly closed due to bear activity. It’s best to always have a backup plan for your hikes in case your top choice trail is not open. For example, Hidden Lake, one of the most popular trails, was closed much of our time in the park.
- The Highline section we did was pretty flat, so in that sense it’s very family friendly. However, if you have small children, I’d suggest exercising a lot of caution and putting them in your hiking pack during many parts of this one.
- The great views come at a cost – the trail is extremely exposed. Starting out in the morning was great (and I’d argue essential if you plan to hike several miles). The morning shade helps enormously. Our return hike was much more challenging with all the heat and sun. Be sure to wear appropriate sun protection. There were also sections with insects like mosquitoes, gnats, and bees. We wore high DEET bug spray and had no issues.
The Highline Trail is truly epic. As my new hiker husband commented, “Even I think this is spectacular!” We had a marvelous day and I’m sure you will, too.