Loop Trail Glacier National Park ~ a slow hiker's guide™


Loop Trail to Granite Park Chalet

The Trapper Peak Fire almost made it to Granite Park Chalet.
The front entrance to Granite Park Chalet is built near a cliff which drops off into an often muddy meadow so without a drone it is not possible to get a front view of the chalet.
Since the Trapper Peak Fire of 2003 this is a good trail to experience up close the effects of a large, hot, fast moving forest fire. 2010 was a great wildflower year, by 7-8-10 wildflowers were blooming on the lower parts of the trail. Once you get back into the forested, unburned section of the Loop Trail you will be hiking through fields of glacier lilies. Glacier lilies bloom shortly after the snow melts, so the first fields are now blooming, higher up on the final meadows below Granite Park Chalet the snow is still 4 feet deep in places so once the snow melts there the glacier lilies will be blooming. Brings extra socks, the higher part of the trail can be wet and snow covered. Once you get to Granite Park Chalet there was no snow on that bench.

Glacier Park Chalet outbuildings photo on right.
The chalet was designed by architect Samuel L. Bartlett and was built in 1914. From what information I can gather these outbuildings were built later.

The Loop Trail starts at the Loop. If you get to Apgar between 7:30 am and 8 am you can use the Free Shuttle to the Loop and not be rushed for time. Otherwise you will need to park at the Loop, the Loop parking area fills up quickly. This is a hot, exposed trail, great views, lots of wildflowers but bring a water filter or LOTS of water.

Logan Pass Trail Map

Clear of snow to Chalet from Loop as of June 15, 2015

Highline Trail opened June 20, 2015 ~ one of the earliest opening dates!

Clear of snow to Chalet as of June 28, 2013

Logan Pass opened on July 19, 2012
Logan Pass opened on June 21, 2013 to through traffic
I hiked this trail in August 9 2012 to the Garden Wall Trail. Access to The Loop closed to motor vehicles on 9-19-11.

There are 6 trees down on the trail. 09/25/2011
Trail DEPOSTED: 9/27/11
Trail POSTED: for bear frequenting 9/7/11
Trail is clear of snow as of 8-30-11 with one tree down, BUT snow is predicted for 8-31-11 above 6,000 feet. Trail as of 8-30-11 is dry no creeks running along trail except at bridge!
Granite Park Chalet Staff reports bears along the Loop Trail as of 8-30-11.
Wildflowers blooming in meadow around Chalet 8-30-11.
9-5-11 More reports from hikers of bear activity on the Loop Trail and near Granite Park Chalet.

NPS Trail Report 8/31/11
Loop - Granite Park Chalet ~ 4.0 mi. Snow Cover: 0%, 08/09/2011
Trees Down: 1, 08/09/2011
Initial clearing scheduled for: Trail is clear of downfall and debris from the Loop Trail head to the second switchback (approximately 2.5 miles) Snow line is within a quarter mile above the second switchback. Depths range from several feet to more than 8 feet at the Chalet and Campground. Caution should be used as water is running under the snow, causing bridging. 6/29/11

According to the latest NPS Trail Crew Report the Loop Trail as of 8-8-11 is clear of snow. Not sure when the snow melted in the meadows below the Chalet but there is a chance for large glacier lily blooms on this trail just below the chalet. Granite Park Chalet opening was delayed from June 28, 2011 till July 2, 2011.

The Loop Trail used to be a heavily wooded trail up to Granite Park Chalet until the Trapper Peak Fire of 2003. There is a poster out showing a wall of flames at the Loop. Now the Loop Trail has underbrush but little in the way of shade.

A slow hikers guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers
Available on iBooks wildflower book cover

A slow hiker's guide™ to Glacier National Park Wildflowers

Whitefish Pilot article on my Wildflower Guide.

The positive side is that you have great views of Heavens Peak. This is another one of Glacier Parks horse trails masquerading as a hiking trail. It is a steep climb with lots of switchbacks up to Granite Park Chalet. One of the traverses seems to be endless. The Granite Park Chalet opens July 2, 2011 through September 9, 2011, you can buy snacks and water at Granite Park Chalet.

cow parsnip ~ Herculean maximum. Caution "The juices of all parts contain a photo toxin that can act on contact with skin and exposure to ultraviolet light, causing anything from a mild rash to a blistering, severe dermatitis, depending on the sensitivity of the individual." (wiki) There are sections of the Loop Trail where cow parsnip is already 6 feet tall as of 7-8-10. I normally wear long sleeve shirts but on this hike I was wearing a short sleeve T shirt and now have a rash on my left arm.

Heavens Peak from Granite Park 6-22-15

The end of the long switchback marks the half way point to Granite Park Chalet. It also marks the start of more alpine wildflowers after you enter the woods above this switchback. The lower portion of the trail used to have lots of small waterfalls into mid July that is no longer the case with the much higher night times temps resulting in a quicker melt of the alpine snow.

For the west side of Glacier Park this trail frequently has lots of wildlife, deer, a various assortment of birds and bears. It is important to make your presence known when going around blind corners.

Granite Park Chalet is a major trail junction.
The Highline Trail runs north and south from the Chalet.
Swiftcurrent Pass Trail goes east over the pass and drops down into the Many Glacier Valley.
The Loop Trail goes west down to The Going To The Sun Road.
The main branch of the Highline Trail goes south to Logan Pass.
The northern branch isn't a day hike but eventually ends up in Canada.
The junction to the Swiftcurrent Lookout Trail is a short distance to the east along the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail.
The junction to the Grinnell Garden Wall trail is a short distance to the south along the Highline Trail.