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Glacier – Northern Circle

Specs

Location Glacier National Park, MT. Logan Pass/Highline Trailhead.
Distance 80 miles
Total Elevation Gain 16k ft
Topographic Map


Description

Glacier National Park is a backpacker’s park. More than 700 miles of trail, tons of NPS resources, a top notch trail network, and amazing scenery come together to make this a backpacker’s paradise. In some circles, this route is considered the best in Glacier National Park.

On the first day, you’ll take a park shuttle up to Logan Pass and head out on the Highline trail. This follows the Garden Wall on a somewhat narrow ledge and offers expansive views across the mountains. You’ll likely end your day at the Granite Park campsite, but if you’re looking for something different you could try to nab a bunk at the Granite Park chalet.

After Granite Park and the Garden Wall, you’ll continue following the Highline trail–dipping in and out of valleys just below the continental divide before eventually crossing it. The views here are incredible and will likely make you understand why folks often refer to this trail as one of the greatest in the lower 48. After crossing the divide, you’ll hike up Stoney Indian pass. The scene at the top is stupidly gorgeous and remains one of my all time favorite views while backpacking.

If you can, try to get the Stoney Indian campsite. If you’re unable to get it, you could instead hike down to and camp at Kootenai Lake. The trail down to Kootenai is pretty scrubby and sucks in the rain, but there is usually an abundance of wildlife, including moose, by the lake. While the park permitting system can be a pain to work within, it pays off once you’re in the backcountry. You’ll usually see a handful of folks in the designated campsites, but somehow you seem to barely run in to anyone on the trail.

After Glenns and Cosley Lake, it’s back south through the Ptarmigan Tunnel. After you get to Many Glacier, you can continue through the Swiftcurrent trail, which will bring you back to where you started, or you walk in to the main town and shuttle, bus, drive, or train to wherever you’re trying to get back to.

Either way I’m certain you’ll have difficult time convincing yourself to leave at all.


Notes

  • Put in your permit request ASAP. This route is incredible, which also makes it incredibly popular.
  • The area around Ptarmigan Tunnel frequently has bear activity. It’s smart to print off topo maps for Redgap Pass in case you get redirected.
  • Many Glacier is a town worth a visit. It is frequented by a bunch of backpacker bums and has a town-adopted herd of stray dogs.
  • This is a great trip for newbie backpackers. The trails are immensely easy to follow and the views are first-class.

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