The Grand Loop, MT, USA
19 August 2017
HIKING DISTANCE: 33.5 Miles
VERTICAL: +/- 4,950'
TIME: 12 Hours 17 Minutes
This is one that's been on my life list for quite some time. Stoked to finally hit the trail early this morning. Given that the last time I hiked alone in Glacier National Park, I ran into a grizzly, I was hesitant to start before dawn. Instead, I got to the trailhead early and napped until twilight when I stepped into the chilly air and started the climb up Piegan Pass. Elated. Of course I was the only one out there, so I was singing aloud trying to avoid surprising any big wildlife that might- ya know, kill me. Piegan Pass was incredible, and I had it all to myself. Still can't believe how often this gorgeous pass is overlooked except that there are so many special places packed into this wonderful park. Bound to be a few under-appreciated nooks. And Piegan Pass above Siyeh Bend is one of those.
Next, the descent into Swiftcurrent Basin. Excited to climb a much more popular, and at least equally beautiful, pass. And of course, this is where the trail got busy. The views back into the Swiftcurrent Basin from the Continental Divide, there's a reason this place is so popular. And then at the start of the drop down the backside of the pass, the Granite Chalet is prominantly perched overlooking what feels like a neverending sprawl of forest and mountains. And looking out toward Logan Pass, I could see the steep climb up to the Garden Wall and the overlook above Grinnel Glacier. The freakin' trail may as well have been a ladder, it was so steep. And I may as well have been an inch worm making my way up it. I was totally spent and entertained the thought of skipping the climb, but quickly called that thought what it was- stupid. Effing sick overlook. Totally worth the extra couple hours. (Hahah, couple hours for a mile and a half side trip.) The rest of the hike was a fairly steady downhill except one fairly brief climb. The Highline Trail, the section of The Grand Loop that runs from the Granite Chalet to Logan Pass is stunning. The last half mile or so traces a sheer cliff above the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Absolutely incredible trail.
I think most folks would plan to hike this one clockwise starting at Logan Pass; however, I chose to hike it anti-clockwise because - naturally - I wanted to have good light. I don't mind doing a little extra work- miles, pounds, gain. It's just a challenge, right? Loved it. Well, all except the part where I approached Logan Pass in time to watch the last eastbound shuttle pull out of the parking lot. Seriously? Seriously?! Hahah, classic end to a great hike. At least the weather was on point! I'd hoped to avoid those last three road miles, but no such luck. After about 20 minutes of trying to hitch, I just sucked it up and started jogging. At least it was all downhill. Lost about 850 feet over those three miles. Pretty satisfying to finally be back at my car. Another epic hike ticked off my life list. I love this place. By far my favorite national park; worth all the traffic, all the crowds, all the...just, all. Public lands are our greatest national treasures.